Individuals interested in nurse training programs typically enroll in a year-long certificate, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree program in the field. Nurses in all fields of healthcare must have college-level training. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are typically required to have an associate's degree in nursing, while registered nurses (RNs) must have at least a 2-year degree, but a 4-year bachelor's degree in nursing is more common. Advanced nursing professionals, such as nurse practitioners or nurse specialists, are usually required to have a 2-year master's degree in nursing.
Nurses should have experience communicating with doctors and other medical professionals, caring for patients and performing various diagnostic medical tests. Experience is typically gained through clinical opportunities in undergraduate degree programs. There are several specializations available in the field, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, and mental health.
Students in a nursing certificate program learn basic patient care techniques. Certificate programs typically train students to pass the licensing test to become LPNs or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs).
Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)
An associate's degree in nursing is generally considered the minimum educational requirement for RNs. These programs include basic courses in medical terminology, patient care, and life sciences. Students receive classroom instruction and clinical training in hospitals and other medical settings.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Although ASN programs provide students with adequate nursing training, a bachelor's degree provides greater clinical experiences and a stronger general education. A BSN program allows students to study specialized areas of nursing, including pediatrics, geriatrics, and mental health nursing. Students may also study allied health topics outside of nursing through elective courses.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
The master's degree is intended for nursing professionals interested in supervisory positions. Nurse practitioners, nurse specialists, and nursing instructors are often required to have a master's degree. MSN programs typically focus on nursing research methods, nursing leadership, and trends in healthcare.
Entry-level nursing positions are available to new nurses with no professional experience. Employment prospects are best, however, for nurses with at least 2-5 years of experience. Because nursing training programs include clinical training opportunities, most nurses gain some experience while still in school. Advanced nursing positions may require more than 5 years of experience or knowledge of specific fields, such as pediatrics, geriatrics or community health.
Licenses and Certifications
Nurses must obtain licensure from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. LPNs and LVNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination - Practical Nursing (NCLEX-PN), while RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN to receive licensure. These licensure exams cover all aspects of nursing, including patient care, public health, and medication administration. Additional licensure and certification requirements vary by state. Nurses are also required to have CPR certification, which is typically obtained during training.
Nursing workshops, seminars and short-term training opportunities are available from colleges and various nursing associations. Colleges and universities typically hold seminars lasting 1 or more hours that focus on specific issues within nursing or healthcare. Seminars may focus on practical nursing strategies or more abstract nursing theories.
Associations like the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the National Student Nurse's Association (NSNA) often hold workshops for nurses of all professional levels. Training events and conferences may last several days and include individual seminars or workshops that address different aspects of nursing. States and regions also have associations that offer nursing workshops, for example, the New York State Nurses Association and the Texas Nurses Association.
Nursing professionals can find continuing education and professional development opportunities through associations like the ANA. Typically, online and in-person continuing education programs allow nurses to keep abreast of changes in the industry and trends in nursing. Graduate certificate and Ph.D. programs in nursing can also provide an excellent source of professional development for nursing professionals.
In order to become a nurse, students must undertake education at the certificate, associate's, bachelor's, or master's levels. All nurses at any level of education must be licensed and CPR certified, with continuing education workshops and the like to help improve skills without earning a graduate certificate or Ph.D.