From CNA to RN, here’s how to become a nurse
So you’re thinking about becoming a nurse. That’s a smart career choice! The demand for nurses is expected to keep rising. Between 2006 and 2016, employment of registered nurses will rise by 25 percent; jobs for LPNs (licensed practical nurses) will increase by 13 percent; and the need for nursing aides will increase by 18 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurses make good money, too. On average, licensed practical nurses make $19.28 per hour, while registered nurses earn $31.31 an hour.
It’s not easy to become an RN, however. You’ll need a nursing degree, certification and years of experience. (If you work full-time, some online nursing degrees are available.) Here’s how to start your nursing career.
Step 1: Ask yourself if nursing is the right career for you.
What word describes all successful nurses? “Organized,” says Janeen Dahn, MSN, who is the Assistant Dean of Nursing at the University of Phoenix. “You have to be organized. Very task-oriented.”
Nurses need to be able to follow directions to the letter, Dahn says, while also having good critical thinking skills. Other important traits are empathy, attention to detail and self-motivation.
Step 2: Visualize what you want your nursing career to look like.
“Most people think of the nurse as the bedside nurse, and it’s so much more,” Dahn says. Nurses are educators, school nurses, office nurses, in-home nurses, traveling nurses… the list goes on. Would you rather work with infants or older people? Would you thrive in a fast-paced hospital or in a small doctor’s office?
Step 3: Become a CNA or LPN.
There’s more than one way to become a nurse, but many would-be nurses begin their career as a CNA – a certified nursing assistant. You don’t need a nursing degree to become a CNA, just a high school diploma and completion of a 6-week to 6-month certification course at a community college or vocational school. CNAs do the hands-on work of nursing: basic care such as bathing and feeding patients, assisting nurses and checking patient vital signs.
Dahn began her career as a CNA. It’s a good starting point, she says, because “it doesn’t take you four years to figure out if you like it or not.” CNA jobs are available through nursing homes, hospitals and companies like Home Instead Senior Care and ComForcare.
Another place to start is getting your LPN certification. These training programs usually take about a year, and the work is more complex (and better-paying) than CNA jobs. You have to be licensed by your state before you can practice, however.
Step 4: Plan to get your nursing degree.
Once you know you enjoy the work of nursing, it’s time to plan your advanced education. Where LPN training is focused on skills – injections, administering medication, monitoring patients – an RN’s role is more analytical, Dahn says. RNs create care plans for patients and teach patients how to manage their illnesses or injuries. They may specialize in fields like pediatrics, gynecology or oncology.
You can become an RN by getting a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a four-year bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN). The latter is available online through University of Phoenix and other accredited schools. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a different field and you are a licensed registered nurse, you can enter an accelerated MSN program, which lasts about 18 months.
Once you’ve mastered all the hands-on work of nursing, you can further your education with online nursing degree programs. Online programs offer flexible schedules so nurses can take classes outside work hours. At University of Phoenix, the ADN to BSN and BSN to MSN programs are available online. For additional options, be sure to choose accredited programs before enrolling.
Get started on your nursing career! Get free information about campus and online nursing degrees today.