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How to Become a Registered Nurse

Nurses are the unsung heroes of the healthcare industry. As one of the most versatile and in-demand roles in the field, becoming a registered nurse (RN) offers several benefits. If you’re interested in becoming an RN, then this article is a must-read to learn how to become a nurse.

In this guide, we’ll answer every question you have about becoming a registered nurse. How long does it take to become a registered nurse? What are the best educational programs to become an RN? What kind of job opportunities can you obtain by earning a BSN? Here at CareerKarma, you can find the best academic and professional advice on the Internet.

What Is an RN?

There are several kinds of nurses, such as LPNs and MS nurses. However, employers usually look for registered nurses, since they can specialize in several roles in a variety of healthcare settings. An RN must complete an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Moreover, RNs usually earn dynamic clinical experience before taking the NCLEX-RN test in order to earn their credentials.

Nursing is a very rewarding profession. The job outlook for nurses is booming for many reasons. Moreover, training to become an RN does not take a very long time when compared to other medical professions.

Registered nurses are coveted in many medical settings and becoming one can act as a stepping stone for several other exciting careers. Read on to discover why a job as an RN is so significant and whether it’s the right career path for you.

What Does an RN Do?

Registered nurses are considered by many as the most resourceful and multifaceted workers in healthcare facilities. RNs work a career built on caring, though they have different roles depending on their professional setting.

Duties in a Hospital

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most RNs (about 60 percent) typically work in hospitals. RNs in hospitals may work in several positions, including cardiac care nurses, preoperative nurses, and labor/delivery nurses. Depending on their specific title, hospital nurses have various roles. As their shifts begin, RNs write reports about relevant information regarding patients and inventory, such as admissions, discharges, and medication counts.

Other roles in this capacity include administering medication, dressing wounds, and handling patient care records. From helping doctors during surgery to providing emotional support for patients and their families, RNs are integral components of any hospital.

Duties in Critical Care Units

Perhaps the most serious of settings, critical care units involve patients who face life-threatening conditions or injuries. As an RN in this setting, you may have a position of trauma nurse, ICU (intensive care unit) nurse, or neonatal ICU nurse. Critical care nurses assess, plan, implement, and evaluate health care services for patients that may lose their lives without proper treatment.

Critical care nurses help patients that face cardiac, medical, surgical, burn, and neurological issues. The duties of RNs in this capacity deal with administering oxygen, feeding tubes, wound care, respiratory treatments, and medication management, among other things. As scary as it may seem, working in critical care is perhaps the noblest profession that one can pursue.

Duties in Clinics

Working in clinics generally entails a more slow-paced schedule, since you deal with patients who possess non-threatening conditions. Clinic nurses still have a variety of important roles, from helping their doctors to the patients.

A typical shift begins by getting exam tables ready and in position, setting up tests, turning on computers, and getting charts ready for the day. Clinics may have anywhere from five to 30 patients a day, so schedules may vary.

RNs are responsible for reporting the patients’ medical information to their doctors. Clinic nurses handle follow-up tests like MRIs, X-rays, and setting up meetings with specialists. They may also administer blood tests and are able to answer most questions that patients may have. RNs are vital workers in clinics.

Duties in Ambulatory Care

Registered nurses working in ambulatory care deal with patients outside of hospital settings. These include outpatient facilities, such as same-day surgery centers, rehabilitation centers, and home hospice. Critical-care nurses may also work in ambulatory care, dealing with patients who may require oxygen, catheter care, or intravenous medication. Positions in this capacity include dialysis nurses, telehealth nurses, and palliative care nurses.

Ambulatory care RNs have several important duties involved in providing care. They ensure proper medications are ordered and manage medical equipment. Moreover, they conduct assessments to make sure the patient is safe and comfortable at home, and educate the patients and families on medications and their side effects. RNs in this capacity provide optimum care to patients at a physical, mental, and spiritual level.

Essential RN Skills

A successful nursing career is not just defined by the necessary degrees and certifications. The ability to juggle hard clinical skills with soft skills is essential for any RN. With the skills mentioned below, you can make a positive difference in any healthcare organization’s future.

Compassion and Communication

As mentioned, soft skills such as effective communication are essential for nurses. As an RN, you’ll face patients and fellow workers from all kinds of cultural and social circles. Being compassionate and helpful will naturally make you excel in your line of work. Having good interpersonal skills will help you care for patients, make you relay information to other workers more efficiently, and make your job easier.

If you wish to pursue a nursing specialty or become a nurse educator, then you should definitely hone your communication and networking skills.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Keeping a level-headed approach to work and being a quick thinker are extremely desirable qualities for any career, especially nursing. Nurses are often relied on to deal with stressful situations and juggle multiple responsibilities, from handling several patients to managing medical equipment. Whether you’re a nursing school student or a nurse practitioner, being a gifted problem solver will help you immensely.

Adaptability and Strong Work Ethic

Being an RN is a rewarding career path, but it is definitely demanding, too. Nurses have to deal with a variety of issues, such as unpredictable emergencies, unruly patients, or staff conflicts. Nurses often work long hours and grueling shifts that are physically taxing.

However, being flexible and ready to face any problems head-on will make your job much easier. From day one, RN licensing programs cultivate a good work ethic in nursing students. This is essential in order for you to become a hardworking and resourceful worker.

If you possess such skills, then a career in nursing might be perfect for you.

RN Salaries and Job Growth

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earned a median salary of $73,300 in 2019. This is much higher than the national median salary of $59,700.

Since it requires a short yet intensive amount of training, RNs can expect to earn a relatively high salary. There are several opportunities to advance in your career path and your earning potential may exceed $85,000.

Moreover, the job growth of registered nurses is expected to grow by 12 percent (much faster than average) by 2028. This is due to a variety of reasons, such as:

  • An increased emphasis on preventive care
  • Increasing rates of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity
  • Demand for healthcare services from the baby-boom population, as this group leads longer and more active lives.

There are several other factors that may influence your salary, such as location, experience, and individual performance. In sum, a career as an RN entails excellent job security, good pay, a rewarding career, and a chance to help thousands of people.

How To Become An RN: A Step by Step Guide

Becoming an RN is a challenging yet exciting process. We’ll boil it down to four comprehensive steps below. Read on to find out how you can start your journey as a registered nurse.

Step #1: Research Nursing Options

You should look up what kind of degree you want to obtain, the nursing school you want to attend, and when you want to take the NCLEX. First off, you must decide which degree program you want to pursue: an ADN or a BSN.

An ADN refers to an associate degree in nursing, which is only two years in length. However, most students choose to pursue a four-year BSN program (bachelor of science in nursing). RNs who hold the BSN credential are qualified for more jobs than nurses with ADNs, including jobs in research, consulting, or administrative positions.

However, pursuing an ADN isn’t a bad option, since you save time and money. Also, some hospitals will help pay for their ADN nurses to become baccalaureate-qualified. Several online BSN programs may allow you to earn your credentials for a lower price, in as few as 18 months.

Step #2: Enroll in Nursing School

Once you’ve decided which degree path you’d like to pursue, you should find a nursing school that aligns with your career goals. Along with submitting applications, you’ll also need to take the TEAS test and prepare for your entrance interview. Once you’ve been accepted into the right nursing program, you’ll be ready to receive the training needed to become an RN.

In nursing school, you’ll spend the next few years learning the tools of the trade. The nursing programs will help build and strengthen the foundational knowledge and skills required of successful nurses. You can expect to encounter coursework relating to chemistry, biology, anatomy, nutrition, and more.

Step #3: Earn Clinical Experience and Graduate

You will also be expected to complete a series of nursing clinicals to gain hands-on experience and witness what it’s really like to work as an RN. Clinicals provide students with an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in a real-life healthcare setting, serving as a critical capstone to your education as you learn how to gain your footing in the world of nursing.

After graduation, you’ll almost be finished on your journey to becoming a nurse. All the challenging coursework and clinical experience will finally be over. The only thing separating you from a rewarding career as an RN now is the NCLEX.

Step #4: Pass the NCLEX

The NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) is a required exam for any prospective nurse. With either an ADN or BSN, you would be qualified to sit for the NCLEX-RN. All nurses must pass the NCLEX to become a licensed registered nurse.

The NCLEX-RN contains 75 to 265 questions that test all areas of nursing, although critical thinking and memorization are key. Expect to spend some time preparing and prepping for this exam, as it’s one of the more important tests you’ll take. However, the resources provided in your degree programs, along with the ones listed below, will be more than enough to make sure you pass.

Should You Become An RN?

To summarize, becoming an RN is a very fulfilling career path that offers several benefits. Not only is it a highly in-demand profession, but there are several opportunities for career advancement. The coursework and clinical experience may be challenging, but you can expect to earn a good salary as soon as you start working.

If you aspire to pursue a career in helping others, then there are few options as fulfilling and dynamic as a registered nurse. The best time to start your journey is now. We here at CareerKarma wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors.


Is there a faster way to become an RN?
The fastest way to become a nurse would be taking the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) route. You could launch a nursing career in as few as 12 months. Keep in mind, you wouldn’t technically be an RN. However, this would allow you to start gaining experience with the option to work toward RN status later on.
Where can I find the best nursing schools and programs available today?
This website can help you find the best ADN programs that offer hybrid programs. This website provides information regarding the best BSN programs.
What kind of nursing job/internship opportunities are available?
This website can help you find several jobs and internships in nursing in order to give you work experience or rewarding full-time careers.
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