The basic requirement to become a nurse is to have an aptitude and attitude to work with love and patience for ill people. In the profession of nursing, there are no fixed working hours; one needs to work both during the day and at night. He/she must be well versed in offering medical treatment and also needs to be emotionally involved in their work. If you find yourself capable enough to lead such a challenging life, then here are the requirements to become a nurse.
For the entry-level training program, you need to enroll yourself for courses like LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses) also known as RNs (Registered nurses) or LVNs (Licensed Vocational Nurse). Duration of these courses is one year. These formal education programs include lectures and hands-on clinical practice. As these courses are the most basic for nursing, they include first aid, physiology and anatomy.
Degree/Diploma in Nursing School
Both degree and diploma holders are eligible for the same post. Following are various degree programs for nursing.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Getting a Bachelor of Science in nursing or an associate degree or diploma in nursing from an accredited nursing school is the most important requirement for beginning your career as a nurse. The nursing degree can be three or four years long, while a diploma generally lasts three years. The entire nursing course consists of both theory and practical classes. The first year of the course involves the Common Foundation Program to make you aware of the fundamental principles of nursing. While gaining education, you will be working in local hospitals and community settings by your nursing school. This will give you the experience required for this particular field. Some of the most common courses are infant care, healthcare, human development, etc. You can also go for a nursing degree online.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
For advanced course one can opt for Master of Science in nursing. These are specialized courses and some MSN colleges accept applications only from the registered nurse license holders. After this course, one can go for PhD programs which are completely research based. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs can also be opted for. DNP is mostly about clinical practice.
To practice as a nurse, you need to have a nursing license. In the US, you are required to clear an examination called NCLEX-RN to obtain a license for the state you want to work in. NCLEX-RN is the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. The minimum score to pass this exam is 70%. The eligibility to appear in this exam is to have a Bachelor's degree/diploma in nursing and 40-80 hours of clinical experience in various fields of nursing.
Even if you have a nursing degree from a different country, you will still need to pass the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) certification exam. The certification exam is divided into three parts: evaluation of credentials, qualifying exam to check nursing knowledge, and proficiency test in English language. It is held four times a year. The questions in both the above examinations are based on the knowledge of nursing practices, clinical care guidelines and laws of the state. You can take the assistance of preparatory classes to prepare for these exams.
Sustaining the License
You are required to follow all the guidelines issued by the state for sustaining the license. Most states require nurses to continue taking higher education for this. Pursuing higher education would help you in career growth and progress as well. In case you are a Bachelor's degree holder in nursing, then opt for a Master's degree. Your main responsibility as a nurse will be to look after the patient. You will need to ask questions about the patients' ailments, note down the symptoms, assist the technicians with the diagnostic tests, and administer the treatments prescribed by the doctors. Your work will also include supporting the patients and their families during recovery and giving them the necessary knowledge about medications and precautions. You can specialize in a particular medical branch such as oncology, pediatrics, psychiatry, dentistry, woman's health, or any other.
Apart from your degree/diplomas and license, many hospitals and institutions prefer people with additional certification. These certificates can show your ability to work under special conditions. Organizations such as the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC) and National League for Nursing offer various certifications which may be very helpful. You can also get advanced certifications in different areas of nursing.
The nursing career is no doubt challenging, but it provides you with various career opportunities for advancement, higher studies and immense job satisfaction.