nursing: the basics
here you'll find everything you need to start or continue your nursing career, including information on nursing programs
, scholarships, and schools.
you need a high school diploma to enter nursing school. you may wish to learn more about what kinds of high school courses might best prepare you for nursing school
, or you may want to consult your high school guidance counselor, a prospective nursing program, or a practicing nurse. some nursing schools require a pre-admission test called the national league for nursing (nln) pre-admission exam. you can find out more about this exam from the nln
here's some extra information on what it takes to become an rn
, and list of which personal traits fit best with a career in nursing
see the national student nurses association
for more information.
see some profiles of nursing students
entry level education/degrees
bachelor of science nursing:
(bs/bsn) a four-year program offered at colleges and universities that prepares nurses to practice across all health care settings. bsn graduates have the greatest opportunity for advancement. for instance, a bsn is required for entry into a master's program, which may in turn lead to a career in management, or on to more specialized nursing positions such as clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner, nurse educator, or nurse researcher. a bsn is preferred and often required for military nursing, case management, public health nursing, overseas/development nursing, forensic nursing and school nursing. some countries (the european union, australia, and new zealand) require a bsn before being able to sit for the rn exam.
associate's degree in nursing:
(adn) a two-to-three year program offered at junior and community colleges, an associate's degree trains and prepares nurses to provide direct patient care in numerous settings. some hospital nursing schools, colleges, and universities also offer adn programs.
a two- to three-year hospital-based nursing program that prepares you to deliver direct patient care in a variety of environments. many diploma schools are affiliated with junior colleges, where you may also take basic science and english requirements, thereby earning an associate's degree along with a diploma in nursing.
licensed practical nurse:
lpns, or licensed vocational nurses (lvns), as they are called in texas and california, care for the sick, injured, convalescent, and disabled under the direction of physicians and registered nurses. they provide basic care, taking vital signs, temperature, blood pressure, and pulse, and assist with bathing patients, monitoring catheters, and applying dressings. most lpn or lvn programs are about a year long and are offered by technical and vocational schools. (in some states, this position is also know as a certified nurse assistant, or cna)
(accelerated bsn, accelerated msn) many universities offer nursing programs for students who already have a bachelor's degree or even a master's degree in a field other than nursing. these programs, which are often of shorter length than generic programs, are ideal for individuals who are looking to do something more meaningful with the education that they already have, or for those who have graduated college and found that their degree does not afford as many opportunities as they had hoped, but are unenthusiastic about returning to school for four additional years.
once you complete your education and training, you will need to be licensed as an advanced practice nurse, a registered nurse (rn), or as a licensed practical/vocational nurse (lpn/lvn). as in many other professions, nurses must be licensed in the state where they work. after graduation, you must take the nclex-rn® or nclex-pn® license examination to become a licensed nurse. for more information about nurse licensure and public protection, consult the national council of state boards of nursing
degree completion programs for rns:
(rn to bsn/rn to msn) hundreds of bridge programs are offered for nurses with diplomas and adn degrees who wish to complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree program in nursing. many programs are offered online and in flexible formats designed for working nurses.
(msn) master's degree programs prepare nurses for more independent roles such as nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse-midwife, nurse anesthetist, or nurse psychotherapist. master’s-prepared nurses serve as expert clinicians, in faculty roles, and as specialists in geriatrics, community health, administration, nursing management, and other areas.
(phd, edd, dns) doctoral programs prepare nurses to assume leadership roles within the profession, conduct research that impacts nursing practice and health care, and to teach at colleges and universities. doctorally-prepared nurses serve as health system executives, nursing school deans, researchers, and senior policy analysts.
post-doctoral programs provide advanced research training for nurses who hold doctoral degrees. currently, 24 research-focused universities across the country offer post-doctoral programs in nursing.
rns can become certified in their specialties as a measure of clinical competence. here's a list of the different types of certification available
though only mandated in some states, all nurses are expected to keep current with nursing practice and advance as health professionals after graduation. continuing education credits can be earned through short classes at professional conferences, on the internet, or in journals.
learn more about it!
read the code of ethics for nurses
the following publications focus specifically on the field of nursing and have many helpful links, as well as information about the profession:
here are some links to many other nursing web sites