How to Become a Nurse
How to Become a Nurse how to become a nurse Are you interested in learning how to become a nurse? The information is meant to be a starting point for understanding the wide array of choices available to you in the nursing field. Take a look at the information, then consider filling out some information to help us match you with the right nursing school and nursing degree.
Career Path to Becoming a Nurse
A great way to start out in the nursing field is to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). As a CNA, you'll work along side nurses to provide daily care to patients in a variety of settings. CNAs are the eyes and ears of a nurse, and often report to nurses regarding a patient's status. As a CNA, you'll take vital signs, assist with bathing, dressing, Most CNA programs can be completed in as little as a few months through a private company or community college.
The next step up from CNA is licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). These programs are usually a year long and prepare you to work under an RN doing more advanced care. The scope of practice for LPNs and LVNs varies by state, but your duties may include things like enemas, passing meds, suctioning, feeding tubes, wound care and catheters.
The next progression is to become an registered nurse. Registered nurses have a full scope of practice and more responsiblity, as they oversee CNAs and LPNs.
Lastly, there are advanced practice nurses, which include nurse anesthetist, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners. These generally require a masters degree, or some form of graduate study in the area of specialty. Read about the difference between a nurse versus nurse pracitioner or take a look at our Nurse Practitioner Requirements by state.
A minimum of an associates degree in nursing is required to be eligible to take an examination to become an RN. Many of the types of nursing listed below require additional training or certification. Advance practice nurses require a masters degree in nursing. This includes nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners.
Types of Nurses
Once you have an RN, there are many types of nursing careers to choose from.
- Ambulatory care nurses assist with prescriptions for care and teach patients and caregivers ambulation activities.
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) are advanced practice nurses who provide anesthesia to patients before, during, and after surgery or child birth.
- Cardiac rehabilitation nurses work with cardiac patients in their recovery and rehabilitation by providing education and rehabilitative care.
- Nurse case managers provide support to patients from the time they check in to the time they are discharged. They are responsible for creating a plan of care for patients and assuring that plan is carried out for the well-being of the patient while keeping costs for the hospital in mind.
- Critical Care nurses provide care for patients and families who are experiencing life-threatening illness.
- Emergency room nurses work in a high stress, fast paced environment providing care for a variety of traumas.
- Flight nurses provide care to patients in transit from one location to another on planes and helicopters. This may include transport from one hospital to another, or from a remote location where an accident occured to a hospital for treatment.
- Forensic nurses provide medical care to crime victims and collect evidence to help arrest and convict the perpetrators of crime.
- Gastroenterology nurses provide care to patients with gastrointestinal problems, including things like cancer, ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Geriatric nurses care for elderly patients in nursing homes and hospitals.
- Holistic nurses use non-traditional methods to treat patients, and consider patients’ physical, mental, and spiritual health in their treatment plans.
- Home health nurses provide care to patients within their home. Home health nurses may have one or several clients they visit in a day, and those patients may have a variety of healthcare needs.
- HIV/AIDS nurses provide healthcare for patients with HIV or AIDS.
- Legal nurses work to influence the legalities of the practice through the legal system, or may work with an attorney to provide expert testimony in medical cases.
- Nurse Midwives are advanced practice nurses who work under the supervision of a doctor, and alongside other nurses, nurse midwives, doulas, and birthing coaches to offer care during birth, as well as prenatal care during pregnancy and postnatal care after birth. Read our article on how to become a midwife.
- Military nurses have a wide scope of practice and may work on a military base as a family pracitce nurse or in the field during war time to provide a variety of different types of care to patients.
- Neonatal nurses provide care to newborns including the care of healthy babies, preemies, and newborn babies in need of critical care.
- Neuroscience nurses care for patients with neurological dysfunction.
- Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who work under a doctor to provide primary care to patients. Nurse practitioners often have the ability to prescribe medication, but scope of practice varies from state to state.
- Occupational Health Nurses are tasked with preventing illness and maintaining safety for employees within a variety of companies, from construction companies to manufacuring plants.
- Oncology nurses provide health care for cancer patients.
- Pediatric nurses specialize in the care of children.
- Perioperative nurses provide care to patients in need of surgical procedures.
- Psychiatric nurses provide care for patients with mental illness and provide support to their families to help the deal with the condition.
- Public health nurses work within the community to educate people on healthy lifestyles and preventative medicine.
- Radiology nurses provide diagnostic testing to patients, such as ultrasounds, CT scans, x-rays, gamma imagine, and MRIs.
- Clinical research nurses are involved with providing care to patients in a clinical setting where research is being performed to develop and implement new nursing procedures and protocols.
- School nurses work in schools to provide students, teachers and faculty with medical care.
- Transplant nurses assist with organ transplant surgery, including pre and post-operative care.
- Trauma nurses care for patients in the emergency room or critical care unit who have suffered severe trauma. This may include physical trauma from gun shot wounds or care accidents, as well as things like poisoning, cuts, contusions, broken bones and skin infections.
- Travel nurses work in a variety of healthcare settings across the country. As a travel nurse, you may enroll with an agency that provides you with assignments that may last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. As a travel nurse, you will generally make more money than regular nurses, in addition to receiving perks like paid travel, paid housing, sign-on bonuses, and other benefits.
- Urology nurses provide care for patients with cancer, infertility, sexual dysfunction, kidney stones, incontinence, and a variety of other urilogical dysfunction.
- Women's health nurses specialize in providing healthcare to women, including the areas of OB/GYN, mammography, reproductive health, and general women's health.
- Wound, Ostomy and Continence nurses provide care to patients with wounds and surgical openings in their body for the removal of fluid. This type of care helps prevent infection and helps the wounds to heal faster. Common wounds may include those from injuries or bed sores. In the latter, preventative care measures are taken to ensure the wound does not get worse from daily inactivity.
As a nurse, you can work in a variety of settings. These may include:
- Family practice clinic
- Urgent care
- Surgery center
- Birthing centers
- Emergency Room
- Critical Care Unit
- Minor Injuries
- Labor and delivery
- Day Surgery
- General Wards
- M.R.I. Unit
- Administration Block
- Pediatrician's office
- Community health centers
- Rehabilitation centers
- American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing
- American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
- Society of Gastroenterology Nurses Association
- International Association of Forensic Nurses
- American Association of Critical Care Nurses
- American Case Management Association
- Emergency Nurses Association
- American Geriatrics Society
- American Holistic Nurses Association
- National Association of Neonatal Nurses
- Association of Nurses in AIDS Care
- American College of Cardiovascular Nursing
- American College of Nurse-Midwives
- Oncology Nursing Society
- National Association of School Nurses
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
- American College of Nurse Practitioners
- American Society of Perianesthesia Nurses
- The Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses
- National Institute of Nursing Research
- International Transplant Nurses Society
- Society of Urologic Nurses and Associates
- American Nephrology Nurses Association
- Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
- American Nursing Informatics Association
- American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants
- American Association of Neuroscience Nurses
- American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
- Association of Pediatric Oncology Nurses
- National Association of Pediatric Nurse Associates and Practioners
- International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses
- Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society
Your nursing salary will depend on the type of nurse you choose to be, the area of nursing you work in and our education level and years of experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010 median salary for nurses was $64,690 per year, which comes out to be $31.10 per hour.
In addition to your salary, you may also want to consider the complete salary package, which may include healthcare benefits, paid time off, sick leave, retirement, and disability insurance. When you add those items into the mix, your salary is much more than just how much money you make as a nurse.
When searching for a nursing job, there are a variety of websites that specialize in nursing jobs. Two are nursingjobs.org and nurse.com. In addition, Becker's Healthcare came out with the 100 best places to work in healthcare.