How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

Becoming a registered nurse is one of the most empowering career moves a nursing professional can make. RNs have greater career flexibility, more options and higher pay rates than any other type of nurse, and can move into other areas of healthcare with greater ease.

Although you can sometimes become a registered nurse through a hospital-administered nursing program, most registered nurses earn their RN degree through either a four-year bachelor’s degree (BSN) program, or a two-year associate’s degree (ADN) from an accredited nursing school.

A BSN is preferred in many nursing positions, and an ADN degree holder will often continue to pursue a BSN while working in an entry-level registered nursing position. A master of science degree in nursing (MSN) is also available, and may be valuable for certain specialties.

Registered Nurse Curriculum

The course load for registered nurses varies by school and specialty, but typical classes for registered nursing students can include:

  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Physiology
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Health care delivery systems
  • Electrocardiograph analysis
  • Psychology and understanding grief
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Communicable diseases
  • Laboratory and diagnostic testing
  • Intravenous infusion therapy
  • Transcultural and spiritual issues
  • Nutrition assessment
  • Injury prevention
  • Administering medications
  • Triage skills

After the classroom-based portion of a registered nurse program, nursing students usually gain real-world experience through an externship in a hospital or other healthcare facility. The externship may last anywhere from a few months to a year, and nurses are sometimes placed at the externship site as a full-time employee upon graduation.

RN Licensing and Certification

After graduation, nursing students must complete a national licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN, in order to earn a nursing license. Nurses may be licensed in more than one state, but some states allow nursing licenses from other states.

After becoming licensed, RNs sometimes choose to pursue further post-graduate education in order to become one of several types of nurse specialist. Some of these specialists include:

  • Nurse Anesthetists
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Nurse Midwives
  • Public Health Nurses

In general, job opportunities are wider for nursing school graduates who hold more advanced degrees, such as the BSN or MSN. Students looking to specialize in a particular field should research to find out if a specific degree is mandatory for entry.

Also see: How to Become a Registered Nurse (eHow)

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