Welcome to the RN Careers Programs Guide
Welcome to the RNCareers guide to Registered Nursing Programs. Our nursing experts help with everything you need to know from best-ranked RN programs to financial aid options, accelerated and online degree options, and how to improve your nursing school application.
Welcome to the Registered Nurse’s guide to finding RN Programs (ADN and BSN), passing the NCLEX exam, formatting your RN Resume, career advice and more. Our nursing experts help with everything you need to know to succeed at your RN career including ranking the best RN programs, applying for financial aid, evaluating accelerated and online degree options, learning how to improve your nursing school application and more. Continue Reading . . .
With the resources provided by RNCareers.org, nurses can learn how to increase their current career opportunities for career growth and advancement, find better paying nursing jobs, or use our Guides to confidently find, apply, and survive your ADN or BSN Program. Then, go on to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to finally reach your goal of working as an RN.
Nursing is a profession that requires a very special individual; an individual that is patient, kind, helpful, trustworthy, dedicated, motivated, and, well . . . we could go on for a while! Nursing requires a well-rounded individual that may wear many hats and play many different roles while taking responsibility for the lives of others. Nurses may find themselves being caregivers, teachers, advocates, decision-makers, managers, communicators, and so on. Possibly all during the same twelve-hour shift.
Of course, there are different types of nurses depending upon the highest level of education that each individual has completed, but there is one thing that remains the same, no one nurse is more important than the next. Also, all nurses are expected to act in the same professional manner and are held to the exact same high standards according to the public eye. To gain a more in-depth view of what the nursing profession is really about, listen up!
What is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)?
A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is an individual that completes approximately 12 months of higher education to obtain their degree, which typically is a certificate. LPN’s simply do “practical” things as their title implies. Generally, LPN’s work in a long-term care setting where care tends to be less critical and more repetitive, with conditions that do not change often or require in-depth assessments. The amount of LPN’s that are hired within the acute hospital settings has phased out greatly within the past ten years. LPN’s also are responsible for reporting any changes that they would come across in their patients to the professional above them, such as registered nurses (RN’s) in order for more medical interventions to take place.
What is a Registered Nurse (RN)?
A registered nurse (RN) is an individual that completes, at a minimum, two years of further education toward their degree once graduating from high school to earn a diploma in nursing to begin their nursing practice and career. RN’s typically possess more in-depth skills along with the ability to critically think quickly in rapidly changing situations. In addition, RN’s also hold an expanded set of responsibilities compared to that of an LPN. Typically, RN’s are employed in hospital settings where more acute care takes place and are responsible for all care that is provided by the employees who are below them, such as LPN’s and nursing assistants.
What is a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN)?
A bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) is obtained by individuals who complete, at a minimum of, four years of higher education once graduating from high school BSN prepared individuals in the nursing profession are expected to succeed in additional courses in order to demonstrate higher levels of leadership, management and administrative roles as compared to RN’s that only complete the minimum two years of education. Possessing a BSN degree will increase the chances that an individual will land a more appealing job, possibly even at the entry-level without having to have much prior experience due to having the additional years of education under their belt.
What is the Difference Between Being a LPN or RN?
- To become a LPN requires at least 1 year of additional education.
- To become a RN requires at least 2 years of additional education.
- The NCLEX exams will differ in the content of the material covered and the amount of questions presented.
- An LPN works under supervision of a RN and/or physician.
- LPN’s are not allowed to perform patient assessments; rather they can observe how the patient looks, feels, and responds – and they must report this information accordingly.
- LPN’s can collect data such as vital signs, pain level, and blood glucose levels.
- LPN’s cannot interpret data or provide patient education; the RN is responsible for those tasks.
- RN’s make final decisions and delegate care, LPN’s do not.
All nurses, whether they have 1 year of further education or 5+ years, are all crucial to the nursing profession and have the possibility to impact the lives of others. If members of a health care facility all work as a team, it will undoubtedly make a positive impact in how effective the overall patient care proves to be.
What is the Difference Between an ADN Degree and a BSN Degree?
- A registered nurse (RN) degree requires at least 2 years of further education specific to nursing after high school to obtain an ADN degree (Associate’s Degree in Nursing).
- Bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree requires at least 4 years of further education specific to nursing after high school.
- Pursuing a BSN degree allows individuals to gain more education related to leadership, management and administrative roles so they can be better prepared to take on a position that will present any of those challenges; an ADN degree lacks this additional administrative training.
- Higher education – BSN in this case – is required and typically recommended for specialties in nursing (pediatrics, critical care, oncology, orthopedics, neonatal, public health and more).
- Most often those who hold a 2 year RN degree (ADN) will qualify to work in the hospital setting, such as a medical-surgical unit, but generally these individuals will not be chosen to work in a specialty field until further education is completed, and/or a great deal of experience is achieved.
- Those who hold BSN degrees will have a better chance of being hired at some top-notch hospitals (better referred to as hospitals with “magnet status”), because having a BSN degree or higher is typically the only degrees that are considered in order to employ the best of the best.
A good point to remember is that some specialty career paths in the nursing field will require individuals to have a BSN degree or higher – these options may include:
- Nurse Researcher – this position requires at least a BSN degree, while some employers may recommend candidates have their MSN, a Master’s of Science in Nursing, which is an even higher degree than a BSN. Nurse researchers create reports that are based specifically on research they have gathered from the nursing field, with the ultimate goal of improving upon any current medical and healthcare services that are provided.
- Informatics Nurse – this position also requires at least a BSN, possibly a MSN degree as well. An informatics nurse provides various data on healthcare to physicians, nurses, patients and other members of the healthcare team. These nurses also will be expected to provide training on any updated procedures or processes that could improve upon current practice.
- Travel Nurse – this position most often requires a BSN degree with at least 2 years of nursing experience. Travel nurses do just what the name implies, they travel to various nursing facilities to utilize their skills and provide care based on a short-term need. This job may also require becoming licensed as a RN in the various states that you may be expected to work in.
- Critical Care Nurse – this position requires at least a BSN degree with 2 years of critical care/emergency experience. Plus, candidates will be required to be competent in both additional training and continued education courses related specifically to the critical care aspect of nursing. Critical care nurses will work in intensive care units of hospitals as part of a team in order to provide the most optimal patient care in the most critical of situations.
- Psychiatric Nurse – this position also requires a BSN from an accredited college. Psychiatric nurses will use their knowledge to help their patient population deal with various mental illnesses in order to better function in society.
The careers listed above definitely do not compile an exhaustive list of what you can do if you obtain your BSN degree or higher; the opportunities are just about endless and it would definitely be worth it for your future to complete those extra couple years of higher education.
What Does a Registered Nurse (RN) Do?
Registered nurses (RN’s) assist physicians by carrying out treatment that is recommended to patients who are suffering from a number of health conditions. RN’s may administer medication, administer blood and blood products, perform patient assessments, monitor the progress and recovery of a patient, educate both patients and their families on prevention of disease and any post-hospital care, and more!
The RN scope of practice is strict and encompasses a variety of tasks requiring different skill sets that each individual should be capable of performing at some point in their career. RN’s may be pulled in many different directions at any given time with various tasks on their minds that need to be completed. This means that RN’s must always be prepared to critically think and prioritize care at all times for the best interests of each and every patient they come into contact with.
Two different work environments with big commonalities are hospitals and private clinics.
RNs in a General Hospital
- An RN begins the day by taking a report from the previous shift. This “passing on” of patients help nurses know what they will need to do during their shift.
- The day-to-day duties of an RN change depending on the patients they are caring for.
- Nurses manage and document patient charts.
- Nurses administer medication.
- Nurses end their shift by “passing on” their patient reports to the next nurse on duty.
RNs in a Private Clinic
- An RN begins the day by preparing exam rooms, medical equipment, and patient charts. This is often done before the doctor arrives in the morning.
- The RN checks the vitals, height, and weight of the patient.
- The RN interviews the patient for more information about why they came in that day.
- The RN handles all follow-up medical exams and patient education.
How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN)
If you are aspiring to become a RN, you can either choose to forego an educational career that will consume at least 2 years of your life, or another route that will consume 4+ years of your life depending on the degree you want, when it is all said and done. Once you choose your program and enroll, you must prove that you are competent in all tasks presented during your educational courses, including any clinical time. Upon graduating you will then be expected to show that you are able to put all the information you learned together for one final test. YES, the NCLEX! Individuals must express competence by passing the NCLEX examination, then after passing the NCLEX you will become licensed in the state(s) of your choice so that you may pursue employment to finally begin your long awaited nursing career.
How to Find the Best RN Program
You may discover that finding the right program for you may be tricky; overall, each program will have its own advantages and disadvantages. With whatever program you choose, be prepared to miss time spent with family, friends and other important events. This is because dedicating yourself to a nursing program involves long hours of studying, early mornings, late nights, and setting aside numerous hours to fulfill all the requirements of your course assignments and clinical hours. Here are some things you may want to consider when deciding which program proves to mesh the best with your lifestyle:
- Pay extra attention to the make sure the RN program you choose is accredited to ensure that all the courses you take will count toward your degree. Also, the licensure board of your state will only accept the courses administered by an accredited institution in order for you to obtain your RN license.
- Researching the ranking of your chosen RN program and the percentage of their graduates who successfully have passed the NCLEX on the first attempt is also a factor that should help determine which program you choose.
- For example, visit the following link to find RN Programs ranked by state.
- The better the ranking, the greater your chances of success if you commit yourself to the program.
- If you are employed, make sure to make arrangements so that either your courses can be scheduled around your work, or inquire whether or not your workplace will agree to work with your college schedule – because in the end it may benefit them too!
- If you have a family, make sure the program requirements will mesh well with your routine so that you are still able to have somewhat of a life while you attend courses.
- Decide what your budget is and how you will go about funding your college education; some programs are less expensive than others.
- In the beginning try to decide which nursing path you may want to take and make sure the program you choose has options to further your education, should you ever choose to do so, because you definitely want your credits to transfer to avoid having to retake courses.
- Consider your learning style and research programs that appeal to you to decide which course style and requirements will best suit your needs so that you can get your money’s worth to take the most away from your program to put toward your future profession in nursing.
Ultimately, taking the plunge and choosing the nursing profession as your career path is a huge decision all in itself because of the amount of responsibility and hard work you will endure through the years once you become licensed. The hard work nurses do often goes unnoticed and “thank-yous” are few and far between, but the ways nurses are able to impact the lives of others is a reward that a “thank-you” probably couldn’t cover anyway. Aside from the stressful shifts, tired bodies, and array of emotions . . . becoming a nursing professional will most likely be the best decision you’ll ever make. Find the educational program that is right for you today so that you can be one step closer to saving lives and creating a brighter future for yourself!
States with the Most RN-BSN Programs
If you’re a registered nurse (RN) searching for a fast track to earn your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN), you’ve come to the right place to learn more! Maybe you’ve been a nurse for some time and enjoy it so much that you want to excel to a much higher level and take on more responsibility.
Check out the programs your state has to offer to get you from being an RN to a BSN.
The RN to BSN track is unique in that candidates are able to bridge courses together and not have to stop in the middle at an Associate’s Degree of Nursing (ADN) first! Keep in mind that the RN to BSN program may take longer to complete, possibly up to or in excess of 2 years. Some states offer more appealing programs than others, and some states may offer more options of RN to BSN programs than others. Ultimately, you must decide which program is going to best fit into your lifestyle so that you can complete it in its entirety and finally obtain your BSN! Keep reading to determine how many RN to BSN programs your state offers and what options you will need to consider.
- California – 87
- Florida – 76
- Texas – 63
- New York – 61
- North Carolina – 61
- Ohio – 61
- Illinois – 47
- Virginia – 33
- Michigan – 36
- Pennsylvania – 31
States with the Most RN Programs
If you’re a licensed practical nurse (LPN) looking for a program that will allow you to take the next step up and advance your career to become a registered nurse (RN), you may have been weighing the pros and cons of several different programs that are currently available for you. Depending upon the state in which you reside or choose to continue your education in may ultimately help make up your mind for you. Some states have more RN programs to choose from than others due to their population, their demands for healthcare professionals and other important factors.
Most states will try to offer different types of programs in order to appeal to individuals who are aspiring to advance their career by making it a priority to put each student first and fit into various lifestyles. Currently most individuals who choose to further their education are considered non-traditional students – this means they may already have a job, family and/or other responsibilities besides just exclusively attending college education courses. Read on to determine if your state is one that offers multiple programs – one of which that will hopefully fit into your hectic lifestyle so you can achieve your goals and further your career.
- New York – 56
- Pennsylvania – 56
- California – 53
- Florida – 48
- Texas – 45
- Ohio – 43
- Illinois – 36
- Michigan – 24
- Virginia – 24
- North Carolina – 21
States with the Highest Registered Nurse Salary
Deciding to become a nurse can be a life-changing and overwhelming choice – from choosing the right program that fits your lifestyle, to deciding what specialty of nursing you want to work in – because at the end of the day there are numerous programs to choose from and a huge amount of opportunities. Of course, some of us may not be in the field of nursing strictly for the money; however for others, the money may be the single determining factor as to why they have aspired to become a registered nurse.
State laws regarding the scope of practice for registered nurses differ from border to border, along with differences in their salaries. The salaries that registered nurses earn from state to state may depend on various factors, a few may include:
- The state you choose to work in – generally states with larger populations will pay higher wages due to an increased demand for healthcare professionals.
- The location in the state you choose to work in – are you going to choose to work in the city or a more rural area? Typically, RN’s will earn higher wages in the city due to the larger amount of employers and notable increase in competitiveness.
- The amount of experience you have – the more experience you have as a nurse, the higher pay rate you will start out at. If you’re a new graduate with no previous experience, be prepared to start at the bottom dollar.
- The position you choose – RN’s have many opportunities to take on different positions within different healthcare settings. The more responsibilities your position has, the more money you’ll most likely be offered.
Check out the results below of which states offer registered nurses the best salaries, you may be surprised because your state just may top the list! For more detailed information, head over to our RN Salary Guide.
|State||Employment||Hourly Mean Salary||Annual Mean Salary|
History of Practical Nursing
The idea of a practical nurse came about as early as 1941. During the second world war, there was a desperate need for more nurses. This spurred the start of The National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service. In 1944, NAPNES held a conference in Washington D.C., and practical nursing students were recognized officially after being voted in at this conference. The first accreditation service was formed by NAPNES shortly after, in 1945. In 1949 The National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses was founded. In 1957 the NFLPN worked on and approved a statement that detailed the functions of an LPN. Accreditation was discontinued by NAPNES in 1986. You can read the details on the origins of LPN accreditation at the NAPNES website. You can also read more on the history of LPNs and RNs at the Nursing World’s website. They provide a very detailed timeline here.
LPNs Current Status
There is a long, complex history of changes to the LPN role. Yet, there are a few things that have stayed the same over the ages. LPNs have always been patient advocates. This boils down to being a buffer between the healthcare system and the human needs of patients. LPNs are there to catch what falls through the cracks. What’s changing are the practical aspects. What should an LPN be allowed to do? Can they be used in place of a nurse? In what settings? Where should they be allowed to work? These questions are asked over and over again in the healthcare world.
Today, it’s usually up to the policy of the place you work. What a nursing home allows an LPN to do is different than at a hospital, or correctional facility. This is due to different patient populations. An LPN’s role can vary from company to company as well. One nursing home may allow an LPN to give medications while another forbids it. This is what poses the biggest challenge in defining an LPN. The role is versatile and fluid.
An LPN’s role on the spectrum of nursing has had many changes throughout history. LPNs almost completely served as military care nurses during World War II. After the war many LPNs sought jobs in hospitals through ANA’s Professional Counseling and Placement Service. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees has reported that between 1984 and 2005 the role of LPNs in hospitals fell 47 percent. Today that means LPNs have been removed from acute care settings and moved into nursing homes and at home care programs.
New School Cool: LPNs Today
The AFSCME report called for greater use of LPNs in hospitals. So far, hospitals do not seem to be following that advice. In 2012, a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 20% of LPNs worked in a hospital environment. In 2014, a BLS report showed that only 1.94% of LPNs work in a hospital. However, it should be noted that every estimate dropped for LPNs in 2014. LPNs employed in nursing care facilities went from 29% to 12.84%. Total LPNs working went from 738,400 to 695,610. One could gather from these numbers that the LPN role has splintered into specialized environments. If you were to work as an LPN today, you’d likely work in a nursing home, or at a home health care service. These were the top two employers as of 2014 according to the BLS report. You can read the report from 2012 here and 2014 here.
Where are LPNs on the Nursing Career Ladder
A system that explains where different positions connect and where they differ. There are some tasks that all nurses can do. Other tasks are only performed by nurses with an advanced education. Each of these tasks still fall into the spectrum of nursing.
For the sake of simplicity, there are some things we’ve left out of the spectrum. This includes advanced nursing positions, such as Certified Nurse Midwife and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. These nurses perform specific tasks, so their place on the spectrum is limited. For a full list of nursing specializations, you can read about them here. We’ve also left out a majority of the technical things that nurses do. Those tasks are hard to comprehend if you aren’t already in the nursing field.
The chart has two main sections: what you can do, and where you can work. These are self-explanatory. There is also an indicator for when and what a nurse does or where the work is considered rare in the industry. For example, you can see that it’s rare for a nurse practitioner to work in a home environment. You can also see that as your level of education goes up, there are more things that you can do and places you can work. This is true for any profession, but it is especially true in nursing. An exception to this rule is a specialized position. In a specialized position, you will do less generalized tasks. A certified registered nurse anesthetist, or CRNA only works to administer anesthetic to patients. A certified nurse midwife only helps their patient deliver babies. There are many resources for information on what different nurses do throughout the internet. You can read more on advanced practice registered nurses at American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s publication.
There are many helpful studies that have been published. There was a recent study on how different types of nursing knowledge are applied in the care of hospitalized patients. The study showed five discrete types of knowledge that nurses use in practice, each of which corresponds with three moments of nursing knowledge history. You can read more about this on PubMed’s website.
History of Registered Nurses
Nursing began as a “lowly” career. Nurses in the 18th century were often poor and low class, working long hours. During the civil war, there was an increased need for nurses. The career boomed, and 20,000 new nurses began working to help war veterans survive. Nursing became a regulated career in the United States in the early 20th century.
Every published definition for Registered Nursing today shows two main themes:
- A Registered Nurse provides essential services to the restoration of health and well-being in patients.
- A Registered Nurse must meet a common standard of education to obtain a license.
In practice, an RN develops their own personal definition for nursing every day. As a future RN, you may even begin developing your own personal definition after reading through this guide.
Where Do Registered Nurses Work?
RNs work in a variety of settings. Most RNs in the United states work in hospitals. Other common environments include outpatient care centers, and home health care services. The chart below comes from statistics reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014. These statistics don’t guarantee that you will work in a hospital or an outpatient care center. They simply give you a good idea of what types of industries are hiring RNs today.
What Makes Nurses Satisfied in Their Careers?
There are many deciding factors that go into choosing a new career. The biggest factor is whether the career is satisfying. It’s hard to tell objectively whether a career is satisfying. The subject of RN job satisfaction is popular among career scientists. There is one consistent key to keep in mind when looking at these studies: RN job satisfaction depends on many, many factors. No one factor or personal trait will make someone a good RN. No one specific work environment makes every RN happy. Ultimately, these factors are up to your own personal opinion and attitudes. On that note, the scientific research shows three main factors influencing job satisfaction levels for many RNs.
1. Working environment
2. Communication between staff
3. A sense of empowerment
Communication is Key To RN Satisfaction
The first two factors (environment and communication) come from a study in early 2000. The study sampled 834 nurses in England. According to the study.
“The analysis contributes to a growing body of evidence demonstrating the importance of interpersonal relationships to nurses’ job satisfaction. In particular, the positive contribution of the cohesiveness of ward nursing staff is highlighted, but the potential for many current NHS staffing strategies and work environments to undermine the development of cohesive working relationships is also noted.”
To put it simply, communication between nurses is important. Also, work environments and staffing strategies can undermine job satisfaction if not handled properly.
Empowered Registered Nurses Are Happy Nurses
The third factor (empowerment) came in a study published in May of 2003. The purpose of the study was to find “the relative influence of nurse attitudes, context of care, and structure of care on job satisfaction”. In other words, they wanted to find if anything made a difference for nurses on the job. The study sampled 90 nonrandom registered nurses. Check here for more information.
“The major predictor of intent to leave was job dissatisfaction, and the major predictor of job satisfaction was psychological empowerment. Predictors of psychological empowerment were hardiness, transformational leadership style, nurse/physician collaboration, and group cohesion.”
What Nurses Gain & Lose When Earning a Higher Degree
Many healthcare professionals look to make the switch to an RN position. Usually these healthcare professionals, such as LPNs, already know what an RN is and what an RN does. If you’re an LPN, you probably work with RNs every day. However, many LPNs do not expect the stresses that come from transitioning into the new role. There are two main concerns when making the switch from LPN to RN.
1. The loss of a “hands on” role.
2. The feeling that what you learn in school is not valid in “real life” practice
Loss of a Hands on Role
The loss of a “hands on” role feeling comes from a study published in 2008 by the International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship. The study took a sample of students who had just graduated from an LPN to RN bridge program.
“Findings revealed that students appreciated recognition for their previous accomplishments. They valued affirmation of the unique challenges they faced. And, they associated gains from their new university education with some loss of their hands on bedside nursing role.”
What these students felt resonates even with LPNs today. Going from an LPN to RN positions means a loss of direct, hands on patient interactions. For some LPNs, this comes as a relief. For other LPNs, this may mean reconsidering the jump to an RN licensure.
School Doesn’t Prepare for ‘Real Nursing Work’
The second feeling, “what professors teach in school is not ‘valid’ in practice”, comes with almost any healthcare career. The concern shows up in another study published in 2008, by the ScholarWorks foundation. The dissertation found themes in interviews with 25 nurses who had been practicing between 2 and 5 years. Each of these nurses had at least 1 year of experience in a specialized area of healthcare.
“Most respondents claimed that what they learned in school is not applicable in real life. In short, they were only trained to know how something is done rather than discovering the why behind it. In addition, their schools focused too much on skills and theories, thus leaving the practical experiences behind, making it very hard for them to adjust during their first days at work.”
When considering a career in nursing, it is important to understand that what they teach in nursing school can only prepare a foundation of knowledge, which real experiences will build on. Many new nurses who ace their nursing school exams still struggle to adjust to their new job. The foresight that comes with this knowledge can allow those considering the RN career path a real idea of whether they can cut it as an RN.
It is important to note that these two feelings are easy to overcome once you expect them. As it is with everything in life: knowledge is power. With this knowledge, you now have the power to determine if a nursing career is right for you.
Award-Winning RN Programs by State
We spent $27,700 to track and rank the 1,209 ADN, 794 BSN, 2,022 campus and 383 online RN programs. Find the RN or BSN programs with the best NCLEX passing rates, accredited by either the ACEN or CCNE and have the lowest tuition costs. Find additonal metrics that will help you find the apply for the best nursing school for your career needs.
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LPN vs RN Salary Comparision
|wdt_ID||State||LPN / LVN Average Annual Wage||RN Average Annual Wage||Percentage Difference|
|9||District of Columbia||$51,320||$79,640||36%|