How to Become a Nurse
Why a nurse?
Are you a recent high school graduate? Perhaps you are a certified nursing assistant that wishes to further their career. Or maybe
you are someone wishing to get out of a job that just doesn't make you feel as if you are fulfilling your destiny.
Nursing is one career that gives back as much as you put in, sometimes more. Make no mistake, working as a nurse is a demanding career.
You will be involved in life changing situations for some patients, be a core of comfort for others, and sometimes you will be the
only family left in an elderly person's life. The personal growth that nurses experience seep into every aspect of their lives and
change the way they view the world.
Education and Requirements
Every state in the U.S. has college courses for the differing levels of nurse available. These courses all must be approved by that
state's board of nursing or department of health. Most states have a dedicated board of nursing, but the authoritative government
division may differ. All state nursing boards are regulated by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. This entity is
responsible for assuring that all state boards are in compliance with federal regulations.
Federal regulation allows state boards to designate the length and intensity of courses per nursing degree. There are federal
minimum requirements, but some states have stricter rules. The general rule across the nation: Licensed Practical Nursing has a
course length of one year, an Associate's Degree (ASN) in Registered Nursing has two years of related training and coursework,
and the Bachelor's Degrees (BSN) requires four years.
LPN training may not have a core of prerequisite courses. Prerequisite courses are typically science based since nursing is a science career.
PNs, LPNs, or L:VNs (licensed vocational nurses) all report to a Registered Nurse supervisor and do not provide the same in depth medical
services; hence LPNs will not need the same education.
RNs have a larger scope of practice and perform medical treatments that are not allowed or are illegal for LPNs to perform. These
services vary by state, but RNs are most often found in surgical settings, supervisory roles, or teaching positions. These degrees
all have prerequisite credits associated and are listed by school.
Examination and Licensing
Every nurse that has a license has taken and passed what is known as the 'boards'. The 'boards' are actually the National
Council Licensure Examination. This exam is given in all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) and is identical in the
way it is administered. The test is computer based and every test taker will complete a minimum of 75 questions before their
test ends. The test is unique, as it is automated...the NCLEX software gives questions to test takers based on their ability
to answer them. If the test taker is having trouble answering the questions, the program will give easier questions. In contrast,
test takers that can answer easy questions will find they become harder. When the programs determines the aptitude of the person
taking the test, it ends with a passing or failing grade.
A license is issued when the potential nurse completes the NCLEX with a passing grade. The license is mailed to the new nurse.
The license will need to be renewed every two years in most states and the board of nursing will mail a notification, along with
the fees required for that particular level of licensure.
Some states participate in the National Licensure Compact. This compact allows nurses that are licensed in 'Compact States' to
work over state lines without applying for a new license. A new license must be applied for if a nurse moves into a new state or
decides to work in a non-Compact state.