The nursing profession is very fulfilling but very demanding, and so it requires someone who is caring, hard-working and dedicated to be able to move up the ladder and be successful. For many, the ultimate goal is planning to become a registered nurse, since this is one of the top jobs in the field and allows you a good amount of authority, control and a stable position and salary. Look into what it takes to become an RN and decide if the benefits outweigh the challenges.
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Benefits of Becoming a Registered Nurse
There are many advantages to being a licensed registered nurse, so considering the effort and difficulty it will take to get your registered nurse degree, think about the outcome and if it will lead to the career of your dreams.
1. Job Environment
Being a licensed RN means that you have a lot of flexibility in terms of the type of nursing you go into and the environment you work in. You can choose to specialize your registered nurse programs in the field of geriatrics, pediatrics, diabetes, surgery or psychiatry, and you can choose to work in different settings like a hospital, doctor’s office, school, care center or the military. There are a lot of options granted to you in this profession.
The studying may be long and gruelling, but the average salary of a registered nurse is worth it. On average they make about $68,450 a year, but depending on the amount of education and experience you have, as well as seniority in your location, the place you work in, and your job role you can earn up to about $133,000 a year.
3. Sense of Fulfillment
The biggest benefit to wanting to become a registered nurse is the people you will help. An RN performs many services, including educating patients on proper nutrition and health care, teaching people about the medications they should take and exercise or therapy regimes, administering care and treatment and providing emotional support. The work that you do will be very rewarding and be worth all the hardships.
How to Become an RN
Working as an RN requires a specific level of academic achievement and certification, so be sure to fulfill all the requirements.
1. Take as many science courses in high school as possible to get the upper hand. Focus on calculus, biology, chemistry and algebra. Keep your GPA at a minimum of 3.0.
2. Apply to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program. You can start with the 2 year associate and then take a bridge course to get your BSN later.
3. Pass the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN Examinations, National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) or the Medication Aide Certification Examination (MACE) exam. This is a national certification exam that you must pass before working in the field.
Once you complete the necessary requirements to become a registered nurse, you will need to take continuing education credits to maintain your license, and you can take additional training to get a higher degree and be awarded more opportunities.
It is a great career choice, so you should learn the steps needed to get there.
Becoming a registered nurse is demanding, and the training period can be gruelling, so look into your options to see what kind of RN programs are right for you. You must complete the minimum requirements, but you do have various options to consider and you can always continue studying while you are already employed in the field to better your position, so consider which path is most appropriate.
Types of Degrees
Associate’s Degree and Diploma
The 2-year associate’s RN degree is the minimum possible degree you can earn to become a registered nurse. There are many accredited RN schools that provide training for this degree, and courses include anatomy, physiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychology and microbiology. The 3 year diploma is another option that is offered in hospitals and will offer the same basic courses. Both these degree options are ideal for entry level positions but will require additional studies for advancement.
A 4-year BSN is not necessary to enter the field, but if you want to go on to teaching, research or administration positions, or simply have more opportunities for higher salaries and advanced positions, you will need it. It will cover the basic coursework, but it will add extra studies in communication, leadership, and additional clinical practice.
Online RN programs
If you are already working and can’t spare the time to go to school full time, you can take an RN online degree. It is available at all levels and will provide the same coursework as in a classroom. There are also many online bridge courses like LPN to RN or RN to BSN to either transition from another nursing level into becoming a registered nurse, or advancing your registered nursing education. These bridge courses take less time since they will not repeat the studies you have already completed for your current position, and you can fulfill them while working at the same time. They are an ideal option for someone wanting to get started working quickly.
The bottom line is that after your course is done, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam which will grant you certification, so as long as your course fulfills the necessary educational requirements to prepare you, you will have the chance to work in the field. So, look into the different RN programs and decide which level and which method suits your lifestyle best. Preparing in advance by doing your research will benefit you and facilitate your choice.
Although it only takes a minimum of an associate’s degree to be eligible to sit your national certification exam in registered nursing, going further to achieve BSN degrees can be very beneficial to you.
A bachelor’s of science in nursing BSN is a 4-year degree that can open many doors for you, especially if you want upper level positions. Working in research, teaching or administration will require it, but even if those are not your goals, having this degree will favor you over others for promotions in your field and offer you the higher range of a registered nurse’s salary.
You don’t need to go for your BSN right away but can complete your studies while starting your career, but consider completing it in order to gain advantages in the field.
BSN Degrees and Programs
The 4-year bachelor’s degree will give you an ideal balance of clinical training, nursing theory and leadership skills, that will be useful in many careers. You will take basic coursework in physiology, anatomy, chemistry, psychology, microbiology and health care, but you will also take more detailed nursing classes in pathopharmacology, nursing informatics, acute health problems, geriatric care, caring for chronic adults and end of life care.
You will complement these studies with leadership, communication, interpersonal skills, ethics and management courses which will give you a balanced perspective of the nursing field. Having this background is essential to anyone who wants to get ahead in their career, and is necessary if you want to pursue a master’s in nursing afterwards.
If you don’t want to take your bachelor’s course right away, do what many others do and start by simply earning your associate’s degree. This degree will allow you to become licensed and start working, and then you can look into taking RN to BSN degrees.
This option is ideal because many hospital programs will pay for this additional education for their staff, you can do it online and on your own time, and you can already start developing your career and experience that you can apply to this additional degree.
It will take an additional 2-3 years to get this degree, but you don’t have the stress of studying full time without an income, and you can apply your studies to your current position. The great thing is that it will not repeat the courses or studies that you already completed in your associate’s degree course and will simply fill in the additional material that you are missing.
When you are considering your educational path, if achieving BSN degrees is a goal for you, consider this option since it is an ideal solution for most people.
RN to BSN
Getting your bachelor’s degree in nursing is recommended for anyone who either wants to move up the career ladder or simply be able to take advantage of the highest salary levels and best positions. Going to school for your bachelor’s degree could cost you 4-5 years though, and if you are studying full time, that means a long period with no income and lost time in developing your professional experience and seniority.
Luckily, there is an ideal option for people to get into the field quickly but still have the opportunity to get top education. If you start off with the minimum requirement which is the associate’s degree, you can already become licensed and start working, and then when you are ready you can enrol in an RN to BSN program to complete your studies.
There are many BSN schools to offer these bridge programs and they will give you the same education as BSN programs would without any repeated coursework. They are popular courses for many registered nurses who want to move up.
Most RN to BSN programs are offered online to accommodate professional working registered nurses who already have a very busy schedule. The programs allow you to log in in your free time and complete the coursework at your own pace while still maintaining your regular schedule. You usually have a maximum of 5 years to complete the coursework, which mostly includes studies in critical thinking and developing communication and leadership skills.
It is meant to prepare you not for the clinical aspects of nursing, but for the administrative and research side of the field, so you need to be able to manage a team, delegate duties and be in charge of staff efficiently. You can also take this opportunity to use your bsn studies to concentrate on a specific area of nursing, like psychology, pediatric or surgical. The RN to BSN programs are designed for a busy worker in mind, so you can take advantage of a flexible system but still benefit from earning a higher degree.
If you are currently working as a registered nurse and are assessing your career objectives, consider taking an RN to BSN program. They are flexible and easy for anyone to take and the advantages of having a bachelor’s degree will be valuable for your career.
Once you get comfortable in your job, look into your program options and find one that accommodates your life best.
Online RN to BSN Programs
As in any field, the higher your degree, the more advantages and better salary that becomes available to you. Nursing is no different. A registered nurses is pretty much at the top of the nursing ladder, supervising lower levels of nurses and taking care of many responsibilities, but if you truly want to advance in the field, you should earn a bachelor’s degree. This degree gives you access to more jobs, better salaries and more responsibilities, and if you want to slowly transition from mostly clinical tasks to a teaching or administrative position, this degree is essential.
If you didn’t get it the first time you went to school though, making time for a full time course can be impossible, so there are convenient online RN to BSN programs that allow you to take your studies from home. At the end of your busy day, you can go home, take care of your family responsibilities and then spend as much time as possible on your computer to train for your degree.
There is no sacrifice to make, and you will only have to study the courses remaining to complete the BSN without repeating the ones you already took in your ASN. On top of that, many hospitals will cover the cost of an online BSN course to encourage nurses to take it. Working from home is the best solution to better yourself, so find out how to complete your RN to BSN online.
How to get the Degree
1. You must have already completed your associate’s degree course with a minimum average GPA of about 2.8 to be eligible. You don’t need to be a working registered nurse as long as you have your transcripts supporting your previous studies.
2. Browse for some of the top schools that offer bridge courses to suit your requirements. Compare prices, curriculum and make sure the school you choose is accredited.
3. Decide if you will study full or part time. You will have about 5 years in total to complete your work, so manage your time.
4. Take courses like health assessment, nursing research, health care systems and policy, and leadership and management. You will also have a clinical practicum to fulfill.
5. Your courses will be a variety of online lectures, discussions and readings to supply the complete theory you need.
When you graduate from your course, you will have a bachelor’s degree that you can use to better your career. It also provides a stepping stone for getting a master’s degree, which can also be done online.
Online RN to BSN programs allow hard workers to still have the opportunity to further themselves without sacrificing their jobs or their families, so they are valuable programs to consider for your future.
Accelerated BSN Programs
If you have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field but are hoping to switch over to nursing, you don’t need to start over from the beginning. The credits you have already earned in the bachelor of another field can be applied to make you eligible to take an accelerated BSN program, which is a means to earn your bachelor’s of science in nursing quicker since it will take from the university education you have already completed.
These are mostly full time programs, but you can find schools to attend or online programs to look into that will give you the same curriculum. You should be able to complete this intensive course in about 1 year or 3 full time semesters and then be prepared to take your NCLEX-RN exam to work as a registered nurse.
In order to be accepted into an accelerated BSN nursing program, you will need to demonstrate your previous educational achievements. You must have completed a bachelor’s degree in another discipline, but you also should have maintained a high GPA while doing it.
You also need to submit your GRE scores and ensure you have completed all the proper prerequisite courses, which will include science courses like anatomy and physiology, microbiology, psychology and pathophysiology among others. If these courses are not completed, you can take them at any university as a non-degree student before becoming eligible for the accelerated BSN.
Most accelerated bsn programs require you to take 3 consecutive semesters, so you will study in the fall, spring and summer to complete your bachelor in a year.
Your BSN nursing classes will include nursing care for older people, mothers, newborns, families and psychiatric patients, as well as pharmacology, nutrition, chronic health care, research methods, ethics and clinical problem solving. It needs to combine the most important elements of a bachelor of nursing degree into intensive classes that will cover in 1 year what you normally do in 4.
It will be based on the fact that you have already completed your elective courses and you should have a disciplined command of study methods, writing skills and drive to push through these packed courses. An accelerated BSN program is very difficult since it pushes you to complete more in less time, but it is designed to give you everything you need to adequately prepare you in a short amount of time.
An accelerated BSN is hard work, but if you have finished university already once before and have taken all the prerequisite courses necessary, you are equipped to handle the pressure and intensity of the program.
It is a great way to switch careers without dedicating another 4 years, so if you can focus on a year of intensive studies, becoming a registered nurse can be in your near future.
When you are looking into becoming a registered nurse, don’t assume that all your job opportunities will only come from hospitals. While hospitals are one of the leading settings for a registered nurse to be employed in, there are many RN careers that can take you to different locations and have you handling different responsibilities. Look into all the possibilities to know which type of RN employment is most suitable for your interests.
RN Career Options
Hospitals provide the most common and busiest settings for registered nurses, but for different environments, consider the following:
1. Home Health Care
You can work with patients who have recently been discharged from the hospital by going to their homes and helping them with recuperation and rehabilitation. This could be for patients recovering from illnesses, accidents or even who have recently given birth.
2. Travel Nurses
You don’t need to be trapped in one location at all. With this type of RN nursing assignment, you will travel the country and take different assignments that could last from 8 months to 2 years. The travel nurse agency arranges all your transportation, housing and expenses, and you can work different parts of the country that need you most.
3. Retirement Care Facilities
Working in a nursing home is a common choice for many RNs and will involve different responsibilities. You will need to assess the elderly patients and develop treatment plans for them. This area of nursing is experiencing the most amount of growth due the number of the ageing population.
4. Doctor’s Office
Unlike working in a hospital, working in a doctor’s office will mean you have a regular schedule and far less stress. You will have basic duties like helping the doctor in exams, tending to wounds, administering medication and doing some lab work.
RN careers does offer a lot of room for growth, either with further education or with enough seniority. You will begin as a staff nurse but can then become a supervisory nurse or head nurse. If you have a bachelor’s degree, you can also move up to director or chief of nursing.
There are also ways of moving up by choosing one of the 4 advanced practice nursing specialties, which are clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives or nurse practitioners.
They will focus on only their area of specialty and assist doctors or work on their own in it. For any of these 4 specialties, you will need to hold a master’s degree to be eligible. There are also advanced teaching or research positions to consider if you have the appropriate education.
Other career options might also include Dialysis RN and Pediatric RN.
Although there are different medical environments that will provide different levels of opportunity, in general the prospects for a registered nurse are very good. Until 2018, the industry overall is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, but in certain areas, like in doctor’s offices, the growth can be as high as 48%. The salary range is also quite good, with an average earnings of about $68,450 going up as high as $100,000.
RN careers of all types are a lucrative profession to get into and with the right education, you can excel to great levels and positions within the field.
RN Registered Nurse Job Description
Working as a registered nurse can encompass many different duties according to the environment you choose to work in, but in general a RN registered nurse job description is diverse and busy.
There is a possibility of working in a hospital, home health care center, nursing homes, doctor’s offices or even in the military. If you are caring, patient, good with people and organized, look into the specific duties of a registered nurse to see if you want to pursue training for that career.
General Job Duties
In the fast pace of a hospital, a registered nurse could be faced with many responsibilities as part of the RN registered nurse job description, and if you have a supervisory role, you have to combine those duties with supervising other RNs or LPNs.
Patient care is your first mandate, and that comes in many forms. You will be required to educate your patients and their families on their conditions, proper treatments and nutrition, exercise regimes and medications. You will also be in charge of recording any symptoms you observe in the patient’s chart, advising treatment plans, provide basic treatment and medication and order and analyse various lab tests.
You also need to be skilled in operating certain machinery, inserting IVs and performing some diagnostic tests. Some RNs may also be required to give educational lectures on general health, run blood drives or set up vaccination clinics. The duties could vary greatly from place to place, but all registered nurses need to be equipped to handle all of these tasks.
Some RNs choose to specialize their work in a particular area like geriatrics, psychiatry or surgery, and others may decide to take jobs in different settings that require different tasks. Some of these specialized areas include working with particular illnesses, like treating patients with diabetes or cancer, or concentrating on certain body parts, like skin care, or even providing massages and acupuncture when working in holistic practices.
Home health care duties include follow up reports and assessment of a patient once they leave the hospital, and geriatric care includes establishing nutritional and treatment plans and implementing them to promote the well-being of the elderly.
There is such a wide range of duties that you need to look into all the specialized fields to determine if you want the fast pace of emergency room care or something calmer like infusion nurses that focus mostly on administering medications and fluids. Once you know the specialty that interests you, you can determine the wide range of duties you need to be prepared for.
A RN registered nurse job description is very diverse and extensive, proving that they play crucial roles in a medical setting. Most education and care comes from nurses, so they are busy and must be skilled in diverse areas to succeed.
If you can handle the pressure, look into the different branches of nursing and learn about the specific tasks of the role.
Working as a registered nurse is a stable and lucrative position, but there are different levels within the profession that change the range of RN salary you are eligible for. Not all registered nurses will make the same amount of money, so you need to do your research to establish the various factors that could put you at the bottom or top end of the pay scale.
Although the salary of a registered nurse is quite attractive regardless of the level, by knowing the impact of different elements, you can work towards gaining more money as you excel in your career.
RN Salary Levels
The RN pay scale has a wide range since there are so many contributing factors, but it is still good to be aware of what range you can expect to fall into. The lowest level of RNs make about $67,920 a year, although $68,450 is the average. The top 10% make in the $90,000 range, but they are nurses who have achieved the top level of a specialized path.
The pay range of an RN is vast, so you need to consider what someone with your level of qualifications should be earning and what it takes to move up the scale.
Conditions Affecting Salary
As with all professions, the RN salary you earn could be very different from someone else in the same position, so you need to know how to control what you make.
Education is the first major factor to consider. An associate’s degree is the minimum requirement for all RNs, so you know everyone will have at least that, so to boost your earnings, go for your bachelor’s degree, or even your master’s degree.
Not only will those degrees open more doors for advanced positions, even if you stay in the same position, you could be awarded additional responsibilities and certainly a higher salary.
The second major aspect that can affect an RN salary is the number of years of experience you have on the job. This is why it is beneficial for people to get their associate’s degree and start working right away, and then earn their bachelor’s degree on the side.
Achieving your education in this way means you can develop your experience level at the same time, and it has a large impact. Employees with less than a year of experience earn between $19-25 an hour compared to $23-31 an hour for 5-9 years on the job and then compared to about $26-35 an hour for more than 20 years. These are average ranges, but it is clear that simple seniority can play a big role.
Additional aspects like the facility you work in and the area you are focused on play roles as well. Nursing care facilities might earn you a lower salary since it comes with fewer responsibilities, while a surgical hospital could boost your earnings by almost $5000 a year.
Also, if you choose to specialize in an area or if you stay in general nursing, there will be an impact as well. Finally if you are employed in a small town or a big city, there will obviously be a change in the salary you can expect.
An RN salary is good no matter what level you are at, but there are things you can control to change it. To develop experience, get started on your job as soon as possible with the minimum degree, but to achieve the educational requirements, keep studying from home to advance your degree and earn more. Consider specializations and the field you want to work in to further impact your income.