Generally, there are three educational approaches to becoming a nurse. Students interested in pursuing careers as nurses may choose to become Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) or Registered Nurses (RNs). CNAs, LPNs and RNs are required to complete a formal education program so they can be licensed to practice as nurses.
The path to becoming a nurse is not extremely difficult, but aspiring nurses need to have an inclination towards serving all types of medical patients and addressing their needs, even the seemingly unpleasant ones. Individuals looking to become nurses should also demonstrate a genuine interest in the health care field and interacting directly with patients as well as their families and loved ones, especially in those times of distress.
The job duties of a nurse can be physically demanding, since they have to spend shifts on their feet and help lift patients on a daily basis. In addition, it can be emotionally demanding, since nurses are often required to make life-and-death decisions. Unlike other workers, these health professionals must be on call or work night and/or weekend shifts.
Pursuing a nurse’s education allows individuals to obtain the requisite knowledge and develop skills necessary to handle the responsibilities and challenges that are involved in the provision of quality patient care, and also be prepared for leadership roles in the nursing profession. Depending on a person’s career goals and level of care they hope to provide, there are several educational options that are available for aspiring nurses.
Education requirements, therefore, differ by type of nurse. Becoming a CNA requires the least amount of formal education, while students interested in studying towards becoming RNs and LPNs need to complete at least a diploma or degree program. Certified nursing assistants work under the supervision of RNs, LPNs or other certified medical professionals to provide basic patient care to patients in healthcare facilities.
CNA in brief
- CNA certificate programs are offered through high schools, community colleges, vocational schools and some healthcare facilities,
- Usually take about 6 weeks to complete.
- The cost of CNA training can be anywhere between $500 and $1000, but the overall cost varies by the state, as does the length and content of the course.
- A number of organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Job Corps and some hospitals offer free CNA program
LPN in brief
To become a LPN, also called LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse),
- Student must complete a diploma or an associate’s degree program in nursing.
- Diploma and associate degree programs often take 1-2 years to compete,
- Training is available at a number of healthcare facilities, community colleges, vocational or technical schools and some universities.
- The cost of LPN programs range from $1,000 to $15,000 depending on the program and the school.
- American Red Cross, Job Corps and some hospitals offer free LPN programs, allowing those interested in becoming nurses obtain free or affordable training necessary for moving into the field.
RN in brief
Those interested in becoming RNs can pursue an associate degree from a nursing program or complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.
- Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree programs prepare candidates for a hands-on career, for RNs are offered by community colleges and nursing schools in coordination with healthcare facilities like hospitals, and often take 2-3 years to complete.
- BSN programs prepare prospective RNs for nursing jobs as well as teaching, research, managerial and clinical roles in the profession. The traditional BSN program is a 4-year course which is typically offered by universities. It can cost $20,000-$100,000 or more, depending on program and the school.
- All these nursing courses require that students complete coursework, lab work and clinical practicums.
- RNs can undertake graduate study in nursing (master’s and doctoral degrees), which prepares them to assume advanced roles as clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nurse administrator, nurse anesthetist, or nurse midwife.
Hybrid online CNA, LPN and RN training program that allow students to complete some of their academic coursework online are also available. These courses are convenient, flexible, and more cost-effective compared to traditional programs.
Nursing certification process
After completion of the nurse education program and meeting other state requirements, graduates may sit for the licensing exams, administered by the state and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Students who pass these tests are eligible to become licensed nurses through the states in which they reside.
Nursing career opportunity
Obtaining licensure in the field of nursing will provide individuals with unlimited career opportunities in a range of settings without geographical limitations. With employment in this field predicted to grow by over 20% – which is faster than the growth rate expected for all occupations in general, it’s no secret that this field is booming and there will be always a greater demand for nurses than the supply; meaning nurses will find it easy to get work and a good salary. Some of the facilities or areas in which nurses are in high demand include: hospitals, clinics or physician offices, nursing homes, public health, home health, occupational health, industrial nurse, and leadership positions and teaching positions at universities, colleges and hospitals.