There are many paths and requirements to be a nurse. Therefore, this requires thoughtful planning in achieving your final goal.
1. First, ask yourself if nursing is compatible with your personality and the type of work you enjoy. In my opinion, the nursing field is so vast that any one of the many specialties is compatible with different personality types and interests. An introverted personality, who may enjoy one-to-one care, would work well in a home health care setting, where personal interactions are focused and fairly predictable. An extroverted personality, who may enjoy organizational dynamics, would work well in a management position, which requires skillful interactions involving employees, families, and clients.
So get familiarized with a specialty that interests you, but it is also necessary to do a character self-assessment.
2. Make sure you maintain a moral character, since nurses work with the most vulnerable populations. Be certain you don’t have a record during your student or professional career. This will prevent acceptance into a nursing program or denial /revocation of licensure by the state, for obvious reasons.
If you qualify at this point, then you can think about the educational level you want to achieve in nursing.
3. Decide what type of nurse you want to be and understand the amount time it will take. The following is a summary of the approximate time a full-time student will take in order to finish different nursing programs. This does not include the amount of time during prerequisite classes.
Please refer to the end of this section for an explanation of the different nursing acronyms.
a. Licensed Practical Nurse / Licensed Vocational Nurse: 1 year + prereq’s
b. Registered Nurse:
i. LPN-to-ADN: 1 year + prereq’s
ii. ADN: 2 years + prereq’s
iii. BSN: 2 years + prereq’s
iv. MSN: 2 years + BSN
v. PhD: 4 years + BSN
c. Nurse Practitioner / Clinical Nurse Specialist/ Nurse Anesthetist:
i. MSN: 2 years + BSN
ii. PhD: 4 years + BSN
LPN: Licensed Practical Nurse
LVN: Licensed Vocational Nurse
ADN: Associate’s Degree in Nursing
BSN: Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing
MSN: Master’s Degree in Nursing
PhD: Doctorate’s Degree in Nursing
Now that you have an idea of how much time it will take to finish your nursing education, let’s move on to what resources you will have available.
4. Plan on how you will pay for your education. These are a few of the sources that are available to fund your nursing education.
a. Personal / Family / Work:
Are you going to use personal savings, credit cards, or pay as you go with money earned from work?
b. Scholarships / Government Financial Assistance:
This involves filling out a lot of applications in order to increase your odds. Be sure to only apply to the programs you will qualify for.
c. Military, Enlisted:
The US Army will pay qualified enlisted soldiers to become Licensed Vocational Nurses. The US Navy does train sailors to become Corpsmen (or Corpswomen), but they must meet additional requirements in order to sit for the LVN/LPN NCLEX exam
The GI Bill is available to military personnel who have completed their service contract, which varies greatly from 2-8 years.
d. Military, Officer:
ROTC is a scholarship for high-school students. However, the age limit to become a Military Nurse Officer in is 42, so don’t feel left out if you didn’t get an ROTC scholarship.
For an advanced nursing degree seekers, the military has special programs to become Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, or Nurse Anesthetists.As your goal to be a nurse becomes clearer to you, be sure to share them with others.
5. Prepare your plans and goals, write them down, and discuss them with your partner, children, and/or other family members. Get their feedback, remember that they have to buy into this, because they will have to make sacrifices as well.
Set your plan into motion by researching and preparing applications to the schools that interest you.
6. Plan to apply to several vocational, technical, college, and/or university programs. Have a back-up plan ready if you don’t get accepted into the program of your choice.
You will need to have competitive exam scores to get accepted into the school’s program.
7. Study for the placement exams for the prerequisites classes and the entrance exams for the nursing schools. Not all schools have the same exam requirements. Consult with the nursing and other advisors at the school to make sure you are studying the right materials.
Once you have applied, got accepted, and enrolled in the prerequisite classes, study as best as you can order to increase your odds to get into a nursing program.
8. It is absolutely necessary to maintain your grades in order to be accepted into the nursing program and to graduate! Make sure you have competitive grades in your prerequisite classes in order to get into a nursing program. After completing your prerequisite classes and taking the entrance exam, apply to different nursing programs of your choice. Make sure the nursing school you apply to has NLNAC (National League of Nursing Accreditation Commission) or CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) accreditation. Once admitted into a nursing program, you will need to continue to maintain your grades in nursing school.
This will help you to meet graduation requirements and it will help you to prepare for licensure.
9. Study for and pass the licensure exam. For LPN’s, LVN’s, and RN’s, this requires passing the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) exam. Advanced practice nurses will take a more specialized exam in addition to the NCLEX exam.
Once you have passed licensure, it’s time to go from a student to a professional.
10. Just like maintaining your grades in school, maintaining your professionalism is a must in your nursing career! You will need referrals from your professional relationships when applying for nursing residency programs, applying for jobs, or applying for more advanced nursing degrees.
These referrals will open doors for you or it will prevent you from obtaining an interview.
In summary, the 10 simplified steps to be a nurse has many paths and requirements. Therefore, detailed and careful planning is necessary. At this point, don’t be too overwhelmed. Take a deep breath – remember that achieving your final goal requires you to take the first step.