You have established that becoming a nurse and helping people for a living is your ultimate dream and goal. The question now is, what is the path that you will need to walk in order to turn that dream into reality? How do you go about becoming a registered nurse and working in a clinic or hospital in the USA?
Here is everything that you need to know about studying nursing and kick-starting your career.
What does a RN do?
The duties of a registered nurse in the USA will vary in terms of where they are employed. Having said that, the basic duties of any RN may include:
- Administering medication
- Monitoring and working with patient monitoring equipment
- Monitoring and recording patients’ vital signs
- Caring for patients
- Assisting doctors with examinations and various medical procedures
- Providing information and support to patients’ families.
- Studying towards becoming a RN
If you would like to give your career a boost right from the get-go, it is definitely worth it to study towards becoming a registered nurse, as opposed to a vocational nurse or a licensed practical nurse. You will earn more money as a RN or ASN and will usually be granted a lot more responsibility.
Plus, you will have the opportunity to further maximize your career by signing up for ASN to BSN nursing programs. The majority of these programs can be completed online, offering you enhanced flexibility and affordability. Furthermore, it is possible to complete these courses while you are already employed as a RN.
Having said all of that, in order to become a nurse, you will generally have three main options:
- Obtain a diploma in nursing
- Obtain an associate degree in nursing
- Obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing
Deciding which route to take
Most prospective nurses will opt to study towards an associate degree as opposed to a nursing diploma. This is due to the fact that both nursing diplomas and associate nursing degrees generally take two years to complete, and the latter usually opens more doors for you in terms of maximizing your career prospects.
When studying towards an associate degree in nursing, you will also have the option to register for an accelerated program which will allow you to obtain your degree in a shorter space of time. In some cases, you will be able to obtain your ADN in as little as nine months. However, it is important to keep in mind that these accelerated courses are often substantially more expensive, and the curriculums are much more difficult. You will often need to work twice as hard as a person who is studying a traditional associate degree in nursing, so be sure to do all of your research before opting to take this particular route.
Alternatively, you can opt to study your bachelor’s degree in nursing right from the very start. If you do, you can expect to have to study for four years before you are awarded your degree and can start working. If you get your associate degree in nursing first, you may then wish to take an associate-to-bachelor’s RN program after you have qualified and have racked up a bit of working experience. Your RN to BSN degree should take you approximately two years to complete and you can progress towards it while you are working – no need to take time off from nursing in order to do so.
Most educational institutions that offer bachelor’s degree nursing programs will require students to complete general classes along with their existing nursing coursework. The reality is that the nursing industry is becoming more and more competitive, which means that more employers are insisting that the nurses they choose to hire hold a bachelor’s degree, as opposed to just an ADN.
Luckily, if you are still only an RN, as mentioned, you can obtain a diploma or an associate degree first and then work towards obtaining your BSN at a later stage when you have some job experience and are already bringing in money. No rush.
When studying nursing, you can expect to learn about various topics, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Patient care
- The law and ethics regarding healthcare
Everything you need to know about the NCLEX-RN exam
Whatever course or program you are registered for, the ultimate goal will be to take and pass the NCLEX-RN examination. The exam has a maximum 265 questions which will need to be completed in under six hours. The six hour span of the exam includes the following:
- A tutorial that provides instructions and commentary about the examination before you begin so that you fully understand what it is that you need to do;
- You will also have two optional breaks throughout the six hours that you can take if necessary. The first break will be available to take two hours after the start of the exam, while the second one will take place three and a half hours after the start of the exam. You will be notified via your computer when you may take these breaks, and will then have the choice in terms of whether or not to do so.
There will be a minimum number of questions that you will need to answer and it is recommended that you do not spend more than one or two minutes answering a single question. The test is divided up into four different categories which are as follows:
- Safe and Effective Care Environment
- Physiological Integrity
- Health Promotion and Maintenance
- Physiological Integrity
Once you have answered the minimum number of questions, the exam will stop automatically when one of four things happens:
- When it is certain that you have passed the NCLEX-RN examination.
- When it is certain that you have not passed the NCLEX-RN examination.
- When you have answered all 265 questions.
- When you have reached the six hour cut-off.
Once your exam has been completed, you will be provided with a short survey questionnaire that you will need to answer. This questionnaire is supposed to provide the relevant authorities within insight into your overall experience with regard to taking the exam. You will be asked how smoothly the check-in process went at the testing center, and how comfortable you felt in the testing room, whether or not you felt the testing administrator was friendly and helpful etc.
When you are done with your exam as well as the questionnaire, you can raise your hand to let the testing administrator know. They will then collect all of your equipment with which you were supplied at the beginning of the exam, such as your note board and earphones, and you will then be free to leave.
Unfortunately, if you do not pass the exam the first time you take it, you will need to wait a specific period of time before you are eligible to try again. This time period is usually about a month and a half, but this is subject to change so be sure to enquire before you leave the venue.
The good news is that you have a pretty decent chance of passing the NCLEX-RN exam on the first time, especially when you take into consideration the pass rates from previous years.
- 2018 – 163.238 Takers, 88.29% Pass
- 2017 – 157,720 Takers, 87.11% Pass
- 2016 – 157,073 Takers, 84.57% Pass
- 2015 – 157,882 Takers, 84.53% Pass
- 2014 – 157,372 Takers, 81.78% Pass
- 2013 – 155,098 Takers, 83.04% Pass
- 2012 – 150,226 Takers, 90.34% Pass
- 2011 – 144,583 Takers, 87.89% Pass
- 2010 – 140,889 Takers, 87.41% Pass
Remember, when you arrive at the testing center, there will be a certain amount of admin that will need to be done before you can get started. You will need to:
- Provide the test administrator with a valid form of personal identification that they can confirm your identity before you proceed.
- Give your palm vein scan and digital signature to the relevant parties.
- Stand for a photograph.
You will also need to pay an examination fee in order to be able to take the exam. Currently, the basic registration fee for the NCLEX-RN Examination is $200.00, although this amount is subject to change, so be sure to confirm with the relevant authorities. Along with this basic registration fee, additional fees will be required in the instance that you change the state board of nursing that you want to apply to after you have registered or if you change the language that you choose to use for the examination.
Once you pass, you will then be required to obtain a state license before you can begin looking for a job as a RN. Each state has its own requirements and criteria in place, so be sure to do your research before taking this next step.
From there, it is up to you to make the most of your new vocation. Enjoy every moment of your blossoming career.