The field of Registered Nursing is a growing field with a projected national growth of 15% in the next 8 years.  By the year 2026 there will be an additional need for around 400,000 more Registered Nurses, 88,000 Licensed/ Vocational Nurses and 56,000 Nurse Practitioners.  The Home Healthcare Services sector will be the fastest growing industry in the United States with a 54% projected growth by 2026. The need for nurses is greater than ever before.

What does it take to become a nurse? The Core Attributes.

  1. Critical-thinking skills. This attribute is probably the number one quality nurses should possess.  From the beginning of nursing school to everyday tasks, thinking critically is driven into your psyche.  To think critically means “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment”.  As a nurse, you are constantly evaluating and making judgments on the best course of action to save lives and improve patient outcomes.
  2. Communication skills. Nurses communicate!  They communicate with other nurses, doctors, patients, families, other departments and administration.  Effective communication is essential when taking care of patients in order to understand their concerns and assess their health condition and educate them on taking medications.
  3. Organizational skills. To be a good nurse organization is a must!  Your shift will require flexible shifts in priorities and tasks that require one to be very organized to provide effective care.   Organizational ability is one of the most important characteristics a nurse can possess.
  4. Detail oriented.  Along with organization, comes being detailed.  By incorporating the two, medication errors and potentially damaging actions to patients can be avoided.  The devil is truly in the details and lack of being detailed oriented will be hell for any nurse.
  5. Emotional stability.  This is an attribute that can be hidden in some that only comes out after a stressful situation or be something that people think they possess until something happens on their unit that shakes it.  Unfortunately, nursing can be a depressing field for some.  People in hospitals are generally not at the best and not everyone gets better.  Those who are already emotionally unstable might find nursing a very difficult field that leads to nurse burn-out quickly.  Make no mistake, nursing is rewarding and emotionally draining.
  6. Physical stamina. Nursing is physically demanding.  Spending hours on your feet, lifting patients, and bending over are just a few of the many tasks a nurse does every shift.  Of course there are some nursing jobs behind a desk, however, these are generally not obtained before floor nursing, which is extremely physically draining.
  7. Compassion.  This is last but not least in this list of attributes.  If you look at nursing as just a job or money-making enterprise, you won’t last long.  You need compassion and a real desire to help others.  Many times it is all that keeps you going in a field as demanding as nursing.  Compassion is a trait that is discussed over and over again in nursing education and throughout your career.

What education is needed?

Registered nurses usually take one of two major education paths: a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN), an Associate’s Degree in nursing (ADN).   The major course of study for all nursing programs in the United States includes a core curriculum in anatomy and physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychiatric, gerontological and adult health, pediatric, maternal and newborn, nursing informatics, as well as liberal arts.  Most BSN programs typically offer more courses in nursing theory, nursing research, and nursing informatics, communication, leadership, and critical thinking.

The main difference between getting a BSN vs.ADN is the length of time and the number of credits required to complete the nursing program.  An ADN typically takes 18 months to 2 years to complete while a BSN will take 3-4 years to complete.  Generally, there is around one semester to one year of additional classes of pre-requisites.  There are also accelerated BSN programs which take 18-21 months for students who have already obtained a previous Bachelor’s degree.  There are also various ADN to BSN programs and LPN/LVN to BSN programs out there to choose from.

Pay is generally the same whether you obtain an ADN or a BSN.  However, many hospitals require a certain number of BSN prepared nurses to maintain Magnet Status, and New York has recently passed a law requiring a BSN to be obtained within 10 years of receiving an ADN, and many states are watching NY closely looking to do something similar.

Advantages of choosing an ADN program:

  • It is usually less expensive
  • It is less time consuming
  • Faster potential to earn money

Advantages of choosing the BSN program:

  • You will have more opportunities to advance to higher positions in nursing
  • Greater potential for employment choices once graduating
  • You will be prepared to enter an advanced degree program

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In all states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, registered nurses must have a nursing license. To become licensed, nurses must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Here is a list of other things needed to become licensed in most states and territories:

  • Appropriate fees, including fingerprint and interim permit fees, if applicable
  • Completed “Application for Licensure by Examination” some require notarization.
  • Completed fingerprint processing with a local agency and/or FBI.
  • Background check on a state and possibly national level.
  • One recent 2″ by 2″ passport-type photograph.  Some states require very specific size and other picture requirements.
  • “Request for Transcript” forwarded directly from your nursing school(s)
  • If applicable, documents and/or letters explaining prior convictions or disciplinary action and attesting to your rehabilitation.
  • Some states require a Jurisprudence Exam you take online by The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and register with Pearson Vue who administers the test.  This is before the NCLEX where you will get your ATT (authorization to test).
  • Generally, certification in CPR or BLS(basic life support), PALS, ACLS are also sometimes required.
  • Once getting the RN, you might be required to get certified through professional associations associated with your first job such as, pediatrics, gerontology, ambulatory care, psychology etc.

For state by state, requirements check out the NCSB state board of nursing page:

What to expect on the Job.

Most Registered Nurses begin as staff nurses in hospitals or community health settings.  It’s important to become a floor nurse in some capacity to develop the core attributes discussed above.  What you learn in nursing school is a good base, however, you learn most of your nursing knowledge from on the job training.  Within a year of working on a floor, many times you can transfer to other specialties and fields, begin travel nursing, and begin management training programs.  Others move from patient care into the business / administrative side of nursing.  However, this usually requires a BSN or MSN degree.  Other Registered Nurses opt for jobs in health planning and development, marketing, consulting, policy development, or quality assurance.  You can check out some other lesser known nursing jobs here.



Nurse Nirvana

Nurse Nirvana is breaking the mold in what constitutes a community of nurses, recruiters and students banding together for change in the nursing industry. Through reviews of recruitment companies and hospitals, helpful blog articles, groups, forums, and more, we can band together to enact change and find resources that will help advance your career.

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