How Long Does it Take To Become A Nurse?
So, you want to save lives and make a difference in society as a nurse. But how long will it take you to get registered?
That’s probably the first question that pops into mind for students who want to take up nursing. And since health care is a growing sector, nursing has become all the more popular as a profession.
In fact, according to Gallup’s annual “Most Honest and Ethical Professions Poll,” nurses bagged the first position as the most honest professionals in 2022. Interestingly, the result for the first position has been the same for the past two decades.
What Is A Registered Nurse (RN)?
A registered nurse (RN) is one who is licensed to work in the health care sector. These nurses can offer their knowledge, expertise, and compassion to patients of all ages.
After graduating from a nursing program, nurses must pass additional tests and coursework to get registered. Thereafter, they may work with medical professionals, doctors, and patients. Note that RNs must offer hands-on treatment and care in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, rehabilitation centers, and more.
The duties of a registered nurse are as follows:
- Giving medication, treatment, etc.
- Getting patients ready for treatments, examinations, consultations, therapies, or results discussions
- Discussing health conditions with patients and their families
- Checking patients’ health
- Taking vital signs
- Knowing how to use nursing tools
- Instructing patients about managing conditions and post-treatment care
- Working together with doctors, fellow nurses, and other medical professionals
How Long Does It Take To Become A Registered Nurse?
On average, pursuing a nursing program can take three years to finish. The most it’ll take for one to get registered is four years.
Registered nurses go through extensive training compared to other nursing professionals like licensed nurse practitioners and certified nursing assistants. Thus, they enjoy the most clinical autonomy.
However, the exact time required to become a registered nurse depends on your location, level of education/program, area of interest, and more. Regardless, one must start off with the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). If you don’t crack the exam in the first go, you can definitely retry. But keep in mind the 45-day waiting period between testing.
How To Become A Registered Nurse
1. Bachelor’s Degree
The most common route to becoming a registered nurse is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). In fact, most employers prefer applicants holding this degree, as it emphasizes clinical experience. As such, the bachelor’s program may take 3-4 years to complete.
Some of the courses included in this program are:
- Nursing assessment and advanced terminology
- Health care policy and regulations
- Population-based health care
The shortest route to becoming an RN, a diploma program can take anywhere between 16 months to two years and may include clinical experience. However, that depends on your choice of college/hospital since not all may offer hands-on training with classroom and coursework.
In a nursing diploma program, you’ll be learning the following:
- Health care needs
- Common health issues
- Holistic care
3. Associate Degree
Completing an associate degree in nursing usually takes between 20-24 months. The program teaches students about the clinical skills and expertise required for nursing. If you opt for more advanced courses while pursuing an associate degree in nursing, the program may include:
- Medical terminology
- Health assessment
4. RN Licensure
Those who have completed the aforementioned bachelor’s, associate degree, or diploma program in nursing are eligible to appear for the NCLEX-RN. After cracking this exam, you get a nursing license, thereby making you a registered nurse.
The exam consists of four sections – multiple-response, fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice, and other types of questions from the following topics:
- Psychosocial integrity
- Health promotion and maintenance
- Physiological integrity
- Safe and effective care environment
You can further choose your area of specialization and pursue certifications accordingly. Doing so may take another year or more for you to complete your nursing program. However, depending on the certification/specialty, you’ll have the competitive edge over others and may even be able to demand a higher salary and position.
Some specializations in health care that you may pursue as a nurse are as follows:
- Mental health
- Cardiac care
- Emergency room care
- Surgical care
- Critical care
- Management and administration
How To Choose The Right Nursing Program?
1. Know The Prerequisites
Every nursing school/college/university and its programs have different requirements, so you must check those beforehand. Usually, most nursing programs require candidates to hold a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Other prerequisites are:
- Outstanding grades
- Regular attendance
- Recommendation letters
- Experience in a health care setting, like volunteer work
- Health-related classes in high school
2. Assess Your Personal Life And Career Goals
Think about your life commitments and goals, and choose a program accordingly. For instance, you may be working to fund your college fees, so part-time studies may be a better alternative.
Similarly, check the location of the nursing school/college/university you’re eyeing. If you can’t travel, you may want to look for online programs.
Further, if you want to choose nursing as a profession, select programs that align with your long-term goals.
3. Calculate The Costs
If your budget allows, of course, go for whichever program suits you. In all other cases, it helps to research the prices of nursing programs and look for scholarships or financial aid programs accordingly.
Note that some nursing schools offer guaranteed employment opportunities once you become an RN. As such, you may be able to cover your student debts, enjoy health care facilities, and earn generous sign-on bonuses.
Recommendations For Nursing Education
We recommend opting for schools and programs recognized by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) like Idaho State University. At the end of such programs, you’ll be licensed by your state board of nursing.
Moreover, your chances of getting into reputable programs for higher studies will be higher after graduating from the aforementioned nursing schools/colleges.
Lastly, connect with your fellow classmates and medical professionals, who can keep you updated about nursing opportunities and employment. Consider your time in a clinical setting as an interview, so always perform your best!