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Start Your Medical Career by Becoming a Nurse

The path to becoming a nurse is challenging, but leads to a rewarding and exciting career. Some rewards of nursing include the satisfaction of helping people, the knowledge of medicine and the human body, a competitive salary, and job security.

The responsibilities of a nurse can be described as multifaceted, as nurses are often called on and looked at as leaders, caregivers, and also clinicians. A great nursing career starts with earning a nursing education from the program of one's choice. There are many tools available to help students not only to select programs, but to help them be successful in earning their education and beginning their careers.

Getting into Nursing School

For those who have not enrolled in nursing school, there are some things that can be done to prepare oneself and to become more marketable to nursing school programs. One way to do this is by earning impressive grades in high school. Like other post-secondary education programs, nursing programs are likely to admit those who have a proven record of academic success. Taking courses in relevant fields, such as biology and chemistry, is likely to be advantageous to future nursing students. In addition to grades, some programs require certain SAT/ACT scores. Depending on the program or school, extracurricular activities and volunteer experience might be important factors in determining whether or not applicants are admitted. Nursing schools are likely to look more favorably on applicants whose activities demonstrate evidence of personal qualities like compassion, willingness to help others, teamwork, and the ability to multitask.

Earning a Nursing Degree

Whether an individual is looking to become an LPN/LVN or RN, and regardless of the degree level he or she is pursuing, nursing school is challenging. It is important to research programs prior to applying, and to choose the one that seems to be the best fit. Fortunately, the broad range of nursing education programs available means that applicants have many different options to choose from, varying in length, geographic location, degree outcome, cost, and reputation.

As far as cost is concerned, tuition varies from the relatively low cost to attend a LPN or RN diploma program to the high cost of earning a bachelor's degree at a private university. There are many price points in between, and each school or program sets its own tuition rates. There are also scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid available to assist potential nurses in paying for school.

Once enrolled in a program, failure to study is not an option. There are many resources available, including instructors, study groups, books, and online tools, to help students academically. Students are encouraged to find a study method that fits their individual learning style, as this might be a more effective way of learning and retaining information. Regardless of learning style, taking proper notes and reading the text is encouraged, as instructors are known to pull questions from both the lecture and the reading.

What Happens After Graduation?

After graduating from a nursing program, an individual must take the national licensure exam and apply for a license to work as a nurse. LPNs/LVNs must pass the NCLEX-PN, and RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN. It may be helpful to join an NCLEX study group or to purchase a prep book or study guide. The number of times one is able to take the exam before passing is dependent on the state in which he or she is to be licensed by exam. In addition to passing the NCLEX, nurses must become licensed. In most cases, one must become licensed in the state in which he or she plans to be employed, but this is made more complicated by the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). Under the NLC, those who reside in compact states must become licensed in their own state of residence, and can obtain multi-state privilege for other compact states. More information on licensure is available on the LPN program and RN Program state pages.

Choosing the Right Employer

After graduating and becoming licensed, it is important not only to find an employer, but to find the right one. Nurses work in many different environments and specializations, not limited to hospital settings. Nurses also work in physicians’ offices, outpatient care centers, patients' residences, nursing homes, occupational health services settings, and a number of other environments. Nurses must decide in what type of environment they are likely to enjoy working.

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