Nursing Degrees: The Different Methods Of Entry Into The Nursing Profession
People who are thinking about becoming nurses in the US have plenty of options at their disposal. The intended purpose of this article is to discuss the multiple ways in which interested persons may enter the nursing profession.
Two distinct levels of nursing coexist in the United States. Registered nurses (RN) and licensed practical nurses (LPN) are integral members of today's healthcare delivery system. Registered nurses deliver patient care, manage the provision of care, offer psychosocial support to patients and families, and provide health education to various entities such as patients, family members, students, and the public. Licensed practical nurses, also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVN) in California and Texas, deliver direct patient care through the use of nursing skills, contribute to the plan of care, and work under the supervision of physicians and registered nurses.
A person who would like to become a registered nurse may select from four different points of entry. Diploma programs, associate degree programs, bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree programs, and direct-entry master of science in nursing (DEMSN) degree programs are all respectable paths to entering the nursing profession. Graduates of any of these nursing programs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) before they will legally be allowed to secure employment as a registered nurse.
The diploma program is the oldest method of training registered nurses in the United States. Diploma programs are usually three years in length and tend to be offered by hospital schools of nursing that have teamed up with local colleges and universities to provide a wide breadth of coursework. Prior to the 1970s, the overwhelming majority of registered nurses had graduated from hospital-based diploma programs. However, less than 100 diploma programs exist today because nursing education has shifted from the hospital to colleges and universities.
The associate degree program is the second way of educating registered nurses in the United States. Nursing programs that result in associate degrees are typically two years in length and are offered by community colleges, technical colleges, private for-profit schools, and some state universities. The curriculum includes a mixture of theoretical coursework and hands-on clinical time to produce minimally competent graduates upon completion of the program.
The baccalaureate degree program is the third path that an individual may take in order to become a registered nurse. Nursing programs that lead to the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree are four years in length and are offered by colleges and universities. The curriculum incorporates a wide breadth of theoretical coursework and hands-on clinical hours that are designed to produce minimally competent graduates upon completion of the program.
The direct-entry master of science in nursing (DEMSN) degree is the final path that a person who wishes to become a registered nurse may take. These programs are designed for people who have attained previous baccalaureate degrees in non-nursing majors and/or concentrations. Nursing programs that offer the direct-entry master of science in nursing degree are normally eighteen months to two years in length. The curriculum includes a mix of theoretical courses and hands-on time in clinical settings to produce minimally competent graduates upon completion of the program.
On the other hand, an individual who wants to become a licensed practical nurse may choose from three different types of training. The first method of entry is the completion of a state-approved program that leads to a certificate or diploma upon graduation. Certificate/diploma programs are offered at community colleges, vocational schools, technical colleges, adult education centers, and private for-profit schools. The second method of entry involves graduating from a state-approved program that grants an associate of applied science (AAS) degree in practical nursing. Associate degree programs are normally offered at community colleges, state universities, and technical colleges. The final way in which one may become a practical nurse is through successful challenging of the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) in lieu of completing a practical nursing program. Only people with acceptable healthcare experience as former military medics or certified nursing assistants can challenge the boards, and only a couple of states allow this option.
Licensed practical nurses who have graduated from approved programs and wish to become registered nurses do have the option of enrolling in completion programs that render them eligible upon graduation to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The practical nurse may enroll in a LPN-to-ADN (associate degree) program or a LPN-to-BSN (bachelor of science in nursing) program. The registered nurse who has been educated at the diploma or associate degree level may enroll in a RN-to-BSN completion program to earn a bachelor of science degree upon graduation. RN-to-MSN programs are also available; these educational programs award the master of science degree upon completion.
So, do you really want to become a nurse? Well, the great news is that you have plenty of options to reach the end result that you desire. Multiple ways of entering the nursing profession exist, and at least one of them is a right fit for you. So, what are you waiting for?Last edit by Joe V on Jun 19, '12
About TheCommuter, BSN, RN Moderator
TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.
Joined: Feb '05; Posts: 38,034; Likes: 69,275
CRRN, now a case management RN; from US
Specialty: 11 year(s) of experience in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych