Saturday, October 6, 2007

Becoming a Registered Nurse

Data released by the U.S. Department of Labor point to a faster than average growth in the demand for nurses. This growth is brought about by changes in the population, such as a growing number of elderly people, and by structural changes in health care delivery.

New technology, advances in treatment programs, as well as pressure from insurance providers are moving many health care services into physicians offices, community health centers, and even the home.

Nurses today are assuming greater responsibility for health care delivery, and employers are seeking a better-educated nursing workforce. The traditional hospital setting will continue to employ many nurses, but there is also a growing demand for nurses in non-traditional health care settings.

How do I become an RN?
There are several basic nursing programs that prepare students for the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX -RN), all of which include theory and clinical experience in nursing.

Registered nurses must graduate from an approved school of nursing and then pass a rigorous national licensing examination (NCLEX). The path to this exam leads through one of three educational areas: hospital-based diploma programs, associate of nursing degree programs, and bachelor of nursing degree programs. Each prepares the student for the licensing exam and includes hands-on clinical practice, and courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy, psychology, and nutrition. It is important for students to discuss their nursing career goals with their guidance counselor before choosing a nursing education program.

Hospital-Based Diploma Programs
Diploma schools of nursing, typically associated with hospitals, provide the core science support courses, nursing theory and clinical practice. These programs generally take two to three years to complete. Successful students receive a diploma from their school.

Associate Degree Programs
Two-year associate degree programs (ADN), often offered through community colleges, provide a general studies curriculum, nursing theory, and clinical practice opportunities. Graduates are prepared to practice in a number of institutional and community settings.

Bachelor of Science Programs
College bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree programs are four-year programs that combine nursing theory and clinical practice with a traditional liberal arts education. Communication and critical thinking skills are refined. More and more, nursing job descriptions state “BSN preferred”.

Continuing Education
Opportunities for degree completion are offered by colleges and universities for the associate degree and diploma RN graduates to complete their bachelor of science degree. They are called RN-BSN Completion Programs and are tailored to the working professional.

Beyond the bachelors degree program, nurses with masters and doctoral degrees hold positions in advance practice, institutional administration, college and university professors, health policy consultants, and researchers.

Expected Salary?
Nursing salaries are influenced by the region of the country, the setting in which the nurse is employed, and the nurse’s specialty. According to a survey by RN magazine, in 1999, registered nurses in the Mid-Atlantic States earned an average of $23.20 per hour; registered nurses on the West Coast averaged $27.35 per hour. The average annual salary for a hospital registered nurse is $40,150; the average salary for registered nurses working in a school setting is $40,065; physician’s office registered nurses average $35,160.

At its core, nursing remains a helping profession. Nurses work closely with individuals and their families during exciting times, such as the birth of children, and hard times, such as the death of a family member. Throughout the life cycle in multiple settings, nurses provide compassionate, competent care and are the backbone of the health care system.

Provided by Karen Thacker, RN, MSN, Dean of Professional Programs, Alvernia College.

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