If you’ve decided to pursue nursing, your services in the United States are poised to in serious demand. While nursing was once a common career path for young high school graduates to follow, there are fewer young people today than ever interested in nursing. So how can we determine the demand for nurses in the future, and what are the critical steps to help you enter nursing school?
Why Do We Need Nurses?
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the projected shortage of nurses (RNs) is related to the aging of baby boomers and the growing need for more healthcare professionals to care for them. In 2012, the American Journal of Medical Quality reported that a nurse shortage is predicted to spread amongst the United States. Similarly cited by the AACN, many nursing schools today actually cite a nursing faculty shortage as the cause for lower admittance rates for qualified applicants.
Staffing nurses appropriately in both schools and hospitals is incredibly important. For example, appropriate staffing of registered nurses (RNs), as well as nurse assistants (NAs) has been associated with fewer patients deaths, shorter terms of stay, fewer instances of infection and fewer instances of nurse burnout. A nurse shortage leads to a decrease in quality of patient care. Patient care technicians (PTCs), nurse assistants (NAs), and medical assistants (MAs) all contribute to a well rounded and high functioning healthcare experience for patients. Increasing awareness about the shortage of healthcare professionals in the United States can help encourage more people to consider careers in healthcare.
A nurse shortage means more opportunities for employment in the workforce, and readily available opportunities to train on the job. Many will find nursing a rewarding experience knowing that your skills are valuable to an increasing community of elderly adults who need more staff for care. If you’ve already decided to become a nurse, where do you start?
High School Diploma or GED
While every school maintains different standards and requirements for admission, a high school degree or a GED equivalent is required to become a registered nurse. Already have a bachelor’s degree? There are even fast track programs that allow people with college degrees to earn their nurse certification faster.
2. Choose a Path
Before you research the requirements for your application, you’ll have to research exactly which nursing path is right for you. Many people don’t realize that there are actually a few unique options:
- Registered Nurse (RN)
- Licensed Practical Nurse or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)
- Nurse Assistant (NA)
LPN/LVN healthcare professionals work under physicians and RNs and assist with bedside care, lab testing, medication administration, and general patient comfort. LPNs don’t handle the same degree of responsibility that RNs will. To become an LPN, you take a course from an accredited school that takes around one year to complete, followed by a certification exam.
Like LPNs, NAs perform similar duties including basic patient care including medication administration and taking vital signs. Nursing assistants also working under registered nurses to keep patient care running smoothly and on track.
All of these positions are assets to the healthcare community. Each vary in terms of salary, work-life balance, responsibility and demand. The best fit will be unique for you—the good news is that you can become an NA or LPN first, and return to nursing school later if you choose. Doing this will even help you qualify for admission to nursing school. If you do decide you wish to become a fully registered nurse, there are actually a handful of degree paths you can take to become an RN. These include:
- Associate of Science Degree in Nursing (ADN) – A two year degree.
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – A four year degree.
- Nursing Diploma/Certificate – Diploma programs depend on the hospital or provider. The duration of this degree path will vary.
3. Application Requirements
If you’ve decided to apply to become a registered nurse, you’ll want to consider application deadlines, admissions statistics for your school, prerequisites for the program, as well as entrance exams that might be necessary. All of these factors vary by school, so it’s important to research which schools are the best fit for you.
Nursing entrance exams are commonly required. The Test of Essential Academic Skills, or the TEAS, is one. The TEAS has 170 multiple choice questions and four sections: Reading, Math, Science, and English and Language Usage. You can register for your test through contacting the school you intend to apply to, as many host the tests on campus. Alternatively, the school may host the test via a local testing center.
Your nursing school choice may also request a copy of your high school transcript, and it is helpful to have volunteer experience in a hospital or environment you desire to work in. Admissions counselors at your desired school can also discuss your chances of admittance with you.
Once you’ve submitted your application, probably online, you may also be required to do a face to face interview as well. At this point, you’ve done all you can do. Sit back, relax and wait for your results! Don’t forget: if you aren’t accepted, you can always reapply. You can also take some time first to earn your medical assistant certification, patient care technician certification or nurse assistant certification to increase your chances of admittance later.