Registered nurses (RNs) are licensed health care professionals who provide direct care to patients. Individuals who have become RNs are graduates of a formal nursing education program and are responsible for providing direct care to patients on a variety of levels that may include assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating nursing care of the sick and injured.
Registered Nursing Schools
Numerous programs at the undergraduate level are available to help students gain skills to become an RN, but a college education is necessary to be eligible for the NCLEX-RN exam and to seek state licensure. The truth is that the scope of registered nurse training programs vary significantly in terms of time commitment and number of required courses, but just a few of these many available programs include:
- Lone Star College: This college's campus in North Harris, Texas offers an associate degree in nursing (ADN) to help students prepare for RN licensing and a nursing career. It also offers a transitional program for those already working in the field as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), but who want to complete the coursework necessary to obtain their ADN degree.
- Western Nevada College: The nursing program available at this school, which has campuses in Carson City, Fernley, Yerington and other Nevada locations, leads to an associate of applied science degree in nursing and encompasses 75.1 credits in all, including several labs and clinical experiences. The program also is approved by the Nevada State Board of Nursing.
- DeAnza College: This college, located in Cupertino, Calif., also offers an ADN degree as well as an LVN transition program to help nurses who are LVNs work toward becoming RNs. Three application periods are available each year for studentsto seek enrollment into either program.
- Tulsa Community College: Not only does this Oklahoma-based school offer an associate of applied science degree in nursing, but also provides an articulation agreement with Northeastern state University, in Tahlequah, Okla., so that students can complete a bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN) degree if they are interested. Some of the upper-level courses may even be available online.
- Arizona State University: Students who already are working as RNs, but want to advance their education from an ADN to a BSN degree can seek enrollment at this school, which has four campuses throughout Phoenix. The university's RN-to-BSN program can be completed within 15 to 18 months with many of the courses being available online.
Registered nursing schools generally help students to learn about nursing fundamentals, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and more. At the upper levels, particularly a bachelor's degree, students may explore evidence-based practices, clinical skills, and professional theory in greater depth and even complete a nursing capstone project.
Registered Nurse Degree Programs
There are three primary educational paths to becoming a registered nurse:
- Bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) - Typically a four-year program, the BSN is the most versatile of the registered nursing training options. Programs include valuable training in communication, leadership, and critical thinking. This background offers expanded career opportunities, both in clinical nursing practice and administrative roles. This degree could qualify you for case management, research, consulting, and teaching as well as supervisory-level clinical positions.
- Associate degree in nursing (ADN) - Typically a two or three year program, the curriculum emphasizes practical instruction and applied training and is the quickest route into the profession.
- Diploma from an approved nursing program - Typically a three-year program administered in a hospital, the curriculum is closely tied to clinical practice, with rotations and hands-on training. This option is becoming increasingly rare, as hospital programs are phased out in favor of college training.
It's also possible to advance from an associate's degree or diploma to a bachelor's degree through a special accelerated RN-to-BSN program. Bachelor's degree graduates can also qualify for advanced practice nursing or higher-level research and administrative jobs by completing a master's degree in nursing. Finally, career changers who already have a bachelor's degree in another field may be able to complete an accelerated BSN degree, which qualifies them for an RN position in 12 to 18 months.
Registered Nursing Coursework
Students who pursue bachelor's degrees usually take a full slate of liberal arts courses, as well as many nursing and health care classes such as:
More specific coursework in nursing programs could include many of the following classes:
- Medical vocabulary
- Concepts of professional nursing
- Health assessment
- Leadership in nursing
- Nursing theory
- Health promotion in nursing
State Registered Nurse License
The majority of nurses complete associates and bachelor's degrees before sitting for the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, to earn a nursing license. This test is developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), and examines an applicant's knowledge, skills and abilities at the RN level of nursing. The exam is computer based and can be taken through many PearsonVue sites located across the U.S.
Licensing requirements can vary state by state. More details about licensing can be found through your state's board of nursing.
Resources for Registered Nurses
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses
- American Nurses Association (ANA)
- American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
- American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA)
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA)
- Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses (APHON)
- American Society for Pain Management Nursing (ASPMN)
- May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#00-0000
- Registered Nurses, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm
- Registered Nurses, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-6
- Nursing Program Degree, Western Nevada College. http://www.wnc.edu/academics/degrees/aas/nur/
- LSC-North Harris Nursing Department, Lone Star College. http://www.lonestar.edu/nursing-dept-nharris.htm
- Nursing Department, DeAnza College. https://www.deanza.edu/nursing/programs.html
- Nursing Program, Traditional RN Track. Tulsa Community College. http://www.tulsacc.edu/campuses-and-centers/metro-campus/metro-divisions/nursing/degree-programs/adn
- Nursing (RN to BSN), Arizona State University. http://asuonline.asu.edu/online-degree-programs/undergraduate/bachelor-science-nursing-rn-bsn