From a CNA to a CRNA, DNP or Nurse Practitioner. A Detailed Summary on How to Become a Nurse. Be a Nurse!
Becoming a nurse can be a very rewarding aspiration. I get this question posted online all the time in nursing blogs and forums. Unfortunately, not so many nursing bloggers address this question exhaustively…
…. How to become a nurse.
I feel like answering how to become a nurse, one should address nursing in all levels from Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) & Ph.D. in Nursing. This is what I am going to address in this article. Because even a CNA is a crucial level of nursing that requires preparation.
I have put together a sketch diagram of how to become a nurse at all levels. This flow diagram only mentions the commonly known nursing positions but nursing is so broad that it cannot fit in a single blog post.
Polite request…if you like this post on how to become a nurse, feel free to share it on social media and leave a comment at the bottom.
In a nutshell, here are the subtopics covered
- Basics of becoming a nurse
- Pathways of starting your journey of becoming a nurse
- Different levels of nursing
- Becoming an accredited (certified or licensed nurse)
- Nursing specialties highlights
- Jobs outlook for Nurses
- How much each level of nursing pays.
- Nursing as self-employment or business
Basics of becoming a nurse. Is nursing a career or a calling?
Certainly, nursing is one of those careers where you must really like, love and feel so right about what you do. Nursing is a business of caring for those who needs to care the most. There is a common saying in nursing world that says
“Nurses are born nurses, not made by nursing schools”
“I made a post on our Facebook page about this very sentiment that nursing is more about your heart than going through nursing school…and the responses speaks volumes.”
In other words, it is better to evaluate yourself and make sure you have a caring heart. You have a heart of compassion, love and caring for others at any cost. This is what makes the core DNA of a nurse.
How to Determine if Nursing is the Right Career for You.
Like I said above, it shouldn’t be a matter of if becoming a nurse if the right thing to do, it should be a matter of when to become a nurse. There are many people who realize they have a caring heart after life events. It is not uncommon to hear nurses give stories like….
I always knew I wanted to become a nurse ever since I was little
It was until I took care of my loved one that I knew I was born to be a nurse. There and then, I changed my career path
Step #1. Be like me….
I became a nurse after my first job as a pediatric Occupational Therapist… I hated what I did for living at a tender age of 22. I really hated my OT pediatrics job. So I decided to change careers and become a nurse…and I was broke, and becoming a nurse needed me to go back to the drawing board and do some seemingly endless pre-nursing courses.
Luckily, with my pre-OT classes, I only needed about 1 semester in community college to have all I needed to get into an Associate degree in Nursing (ADN). But there was an immediate opening to join Licensed Vocational Nursing (LVN) school. Without thinking twice, I hoped into Pamela Farley’s office and I was admitted to the program.
…So you hate seeing blood? I hated it too….I passed out the first time I saw a scalpel cutting through the flesh like butter in the operating room at VA hospital. You can get over that.
…So you hate poop/ Sputum and such? I hate them too even after being a nurse for 15 years, I would rather see a piece of chocolate cake than poop. You can get over that too and take care of poopy patients!
….So you think you must be born compassionate with a calling to become a nurse? Yes, you can but again, compassion can be faked and so many nurses fake these every day…but there are some things you cannot fake Y’all!
….Nursing requires more than A student (Most nursing schools in the USA will not take you in with less than 4.0 GPA, just like medical school. Besides being a bookworm, becoming a nurse requires you to…
- …. Be a critical and a fast thinker, almost like a reflex. This is what nursing schools cannot teach you, together with compassion. A true nurse can detect an imminent medical emergency, perform at 1000% and still appear calm and collected to the patient and loved ones.
- …. Memorize complicated medication doses, side effects, interactions, compatibility, memorize a thousand and one algorithms, deal with rude family members and doctors and still have time to give a loved one a hug and go home and be a Mom, a Dad, a sister or a brother. We are wired in a complex way.
You have a calling? Go for it…but there are some things you must prove over and over again to become a nurse.
Feels like something you can do? Let us become that nurse
Pathways of becoming a nurse from Bottom up:
Forget about my crazy story from how I started as an LPN/LVN upwards. There are many pathways of becoming a nurse. You do not even have to be straight A student to become a nurse.
How to Become a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA)
Every nurse in acute care hospitals and even non-acute care areas knows that the most important friend you can have as a nurse is a CNA. I probably would not have been a nurse for 15 years, were it not for very great CNAs I worked with in my early career as a critical care nurse.
Each state has its own requirements on how to become a CNA. Almost all states require formal training in s State regulated school of Nursing assistants. Notice there is a clear difference between a CNA and a Patient Care Technician (PCT).
- Step#1: Before you even head out of the door, make sure you have a minimum of GED and a clear criminal record. Make sure you have legal presence in America as all employers are required to verify that you can legally work in America
- Step #2: Find CNA schools around you and choose the one you wish to join
- Step #3: See if your state provides financial aid or scholarships to pay through your CNA school. Most states can pay, FYI.
CNA schools take about a month in most states but different programs may have different terms of completion.
How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
LPN nursing program requires core nursing prerequisites at the college level in most states. Here is a list of LPN Nursing Schools by State. Having said that, in some areas, with GED, they can let you get started the LVN program but with deadlines to complete core prerequisites.
Example, with Biology completed, some schools may let you get started but have Anatomy & Physiology 1 completed by the end of the first semester, and have anatomy & Physiology 2 completed before the end of the second semester.
LPN Program Prerequisites required in most schools
- Biology classes with lab
- Anatomy & Physiology 1 and 2 (science or non-science major)
- English writing
- English speech
- Average GPA of 3.0 and above
Life in LPN school
I have not heard anyone yet saying that any level of nursing school was a walk in the park. Nursing schools are intense, difficult, demanding and requires you to be laser focused.
It is not unusual to hear nurses talking about how their hair was falling off during nursing program. Others may talk about how their relationships went sour while in school. These stories confirm that the program is intense. Graduates of LPN programs from accredited nursing schools are eligible to take National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) exam offered by National Council of State Board of Nursing
LPN Online programs:
There are a few, very few online accredited LPN programs. There are a whole lot more out there claiming that they are accredited but their approval is provisional, meaning, there is no telling if your completion will guarantee you a seat to test for national board exams.
LPN Nursing Pay comparison
Virginia and Mississippi pays LVN the lowest per year, just over $30,000. Arizona, Alaska, Connecticut and California are on top of the scale with LVN making well over $50,000 a year working for 40 hours a week, some 36 hours.
Please note that these posted salaries are averages, not actual. Once you have your license in the pocket, you determine if you want to only work 36 hours a week or if you want to work extra hours for time and a half pay.
I only worked one job because I was working on getting ready for Associate degree bridge program from LVN – RN
LPN – AND Nursing Bridge Program
Luckily, most nursing schools that have LPN and ADN programs also have LPN-ADN bridge programs. Most nurses will tell you that this was not as bad as the first day they stepped into the nursing school. Most bridge program only takes a year
LPN – ADN Online Bridge Programs
Here we go again about LPN online programs. Once you have your LPN license, it is much safer to be on an online bridge program while you are still working. Self-paced online schooling is not for everyone and it requires a lot of self-discipline. Make sure and be sure that you are enrolling into an accredited online program.
Pros of LPN – ADN Online Bridge Programs:
- You can get financial aid
- Scholarships available
- You can work while still in school
- You control your own pace
Cons of LPN – ADN Online Bridge Program
- It is difficult to get clinical facilities
- Tend to take longer than offline structured bridge programs
- Some employers prefer Registered Nurses educated in offline programs
- You have limited scholarships available in online programs
LPN to BSN Bridge Programs
Good news, you can bridge from LPN to BSN online or offline once you have all your prerequisites completed. There are hundreds of schools out there doing LPN-BSN bridge programs. These programs are especially a good fit for those with an existing bachelor’s degree in another field.
LPN – BSN Bridge Program Prerequisites:
LPN – BSN programs on average take 4 years to complete but depending on what classes you have completed, it might take a little less. Here are common prerequisites you must have for LPN – BSN programs.
- Anatomy & Physiology 1 and 2 with lab
- Chemistry 1 and 2 with lab
- College Algebra
- Statistics (depends on the school)
- English writing 1 and 2
- English Speech communication
- Psychology 1 and 2 (for healthcare professionals)
- History and Government 1 and 2 (depends on the state)
- Nutrition (Depends on school and state)
- Some schools/states require physical education class to graduate
How to Become a Registered Nurse – ADN Nursing program
Assuming you want to start at RN level, this is a good point to start. So far, we have covered how you can get to RN level from CNA > LPN > ADN.
As outlined above those prerequisites are required by most schools but make sure you contact your local academic advisor for specific courses required by your nursing school.
Most nursing programs requires a pre-nursing entrance test to be considered for RN school. This pre-nursing entrance test is on top of meeting all the required prerequisites. Different nursing schools call it different names.
In Texas, you will hear terms like Health Education System Incorporated Exam (HESI) and Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS). Again, different schools might use different terms to describe the same thing.
Please make sure you have a clean background history with no criminal issues. DWI/DUI is a big issue with Texas Board of Nursing and you may not be able to sit for nursing licensure exam with DUI issues.
Graduates of ADN nursing programs (usually 2 years) are eligible to take National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
It is important to note that all RN level, (ADN AND BSN) takes the same NCLEX-RN exam. There is no difference.
How to Bridge from ADN – BSN online and Offline programs:
Once you have your RN program, a good job awaits! I do not care what you may have heard that there are no jobs for RN. You may not be immediately hot without any experience but it is just a matter of time.
The best way is to get into an externship program while still in nursing school in a hospital of your choice. If externships are not available, get into an internship program after you graduate from nursing school. Most hospitals will require you to sign a 2 – 3 years agreement to work for them.
There is a national wide movement to make all facilities nursing magnet hospitals. This means hospitals must maintain 80% of BSN educated nurses with specialty certification. Magnet status is regulated by American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
Here is the good news…
Most hospitals will pay for your way to BSN. You may not have to pay anything from the pocket so long as you continue working and maintain a achieve grade B or better in your exams. This is Free education.
At BSN level, nursing school scholarships are many. I qualified for every scholarship I applied for at Texas Tech University
RN to MSN Bridge Programs, Online and Offline Programs:
There are some nurses who bridge from ADN to MSN, especially online but the cost can be hefty. If I were you, I would get a job in a hospital and bridge while getting paid to work and getting a free education.
There are also many BSN – MSN online and offline programs available. It depends on which school you choose and which MSN program you want to get into.
Besides meeting all BSN requirements, most master’s degree programs requires you to take and pass GRE exam. Some schools may not for some courses but once it gets to post graduate courses, Expect GRE to be a requirement.
MSN Nursing Programs
- Msn Education
- Msn Midwifery
- Clinical Nurse specialist
- Masters of Nursing administration
- Masters of Nursing Leadership
- Masters of Nursing Informatics
You can also choose to take dual (double major) MSN degrees and graduate with 2 master’s degrees.
5 Dual Nursing Degrees at Masters Level
- MSN and MPH (Masters of Public Health)
- MSN and MPA (Masters of Public Administration)
- MSN and MBA (Masters of Business Administration)
- MSN and MHA (Masters of Health Administration)
- MSN and MPM (Masters of Project Management)
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner:
Most nurse practitioner programs take anywhere between 2-4 years. Most nursing schools offering nurse practitioner programs allows self-paced learning where you choose how fast you want to graduate. Some nurses take dual programs or double major nurse practitioner programs.
Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Pediatric nurse practitioner
- Family nurse practitioner
- Adult family practitioner
- Psychiatric nurse practitioner
- Trauma/Surgical nurse practitioner
- Geriatric Nurse Practitioner
- Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP)
Examples of Dual Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult Nurse Practitioner (FNP & ANP)
- Family Nurse Practitioner & Emergency Nurse Practitioner
- Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Family Nurse Practitioner (ACNP & FNP)
How to Become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are master’s prepared advanced practice nurses who enjoy a high degree of autonomy and professional respect. CRNAs provide anesthetics to patients in every practice setting, and for every type of surgery or procedure. Source: American Association of Nurse Anesthetist.
7 Steps to Become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Earn a Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) and maintain high GPA
- Obtain State licensure as a Registered Nurse
- Gain experience as a critical care nurse
- Take and Pass Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification exam
- Take and Pass Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
- Earn Master’s Degree in Nurse Anesthesia
- Take and Pass National Board of Certification & Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA)
How much does a CRNA Make?
CRNA can make anywhere between $150,000 a year to $250,000 a year depending on where they are working. Some states pay much more than others based on demand and supply.
Highest Paid CRNA Jobs in USA
How to Become a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
DNP programs are relatively new and gaining popularity very fast. Some CRNA programs like TCU has DNP options for CRNA. Same thing with Nurse practitioner programs. This depends on which schools surrounding you.
There are a thousand and one ways to become a nurse. There are so many nursing specialties that if you only worked each specialty for 1 year only from age 22, work and live to be 100 years old, you cannot exhaust working in all nursing specialties
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