This is a collaborative post by Carol with information about nursing programs.
As with any academic pursuit, the route to becoming qualified can be a tricky one to understand, especially in the medical profession. Along with licensing and exams, there are several qualifications you can obtain to help start or further a nursing career. This guide looks at some of the qualifications available at different levels from beginner to advanced.
The Complete Guide to Nursing Programs
LPN and LVN Training Programs
For those interested in a career in nursing, the best place to start is by looking at becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). These are the entry-level courses and positions available in the nursing profession and, generally, do not require any pre-training or medical specific qualifications.
The course length is around one year and is usually a mixture of hands-on, practical training and classroom-based lectures. Some of the courses that you may be able to study include nutrition, first aid, and physiology. Most LPN’s and LNP’s work in this role for around two years before moving to study at a higher level and moving into a new position.
Key Job Responsibilities
- Basic patient care including monitoring vital signs
- Liaising with families and talking with patients about their conditions
- Keeping records of a patient’s medical history and symptoms
Depending on the state in which you practice or organization you work in, the responsibilities of an LPN or LVN could be different. You will be able to find more detailed information by searching locally and asking your program provider.
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
People looking to become a registered nurse (RN) often study an associate degree in nursing. The study time is between 15 months and 2 years and requires you to take an exam at the end to become a fully registered nurse. Where this course differs from the LPN and LVN programs is that you will be required to have some qualifications before enrolling as classes tend to focus on technical training.
The entry requirements will differ between colleges, but most classes require you to already have skills in microbiology, chemistry, English, statistics, communications, psychology, and anatomy. Taking this course will put you on the path to becoming a registered nurse. Internships, where new graduates can begin to gain skills in specialist areas, may include:
- Labor and delivery
- Burn care
- Cardiac care
There is a wide range of areas in which you can specialize. You can find a complete list of types of nursing careers and nursing specialties online.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
There are a few different ways that people with and without a nursing qualification and experience can gain a BSN. Generally, a BSN is a four-year program and allows students to learn about providing care and obtaining work in a medical setting. It’s a great program for gaining hands-on experience as clinical hours are included, with some schools requiring up to 800 hours to graduate. A clinical residency may also be required at the end of the BSN program.
When looking at the different ways in which a BSN can be obtained, the main routes people take are:
- A Traditional BSN: The traditional BSN is best suited to those who do not already hold a Bachelor’s degree and who isn’t a registered nurse.
- RN to BSN: If you hold an Associate’s Degree and are a registered nurse, then bridging programs are available where you can add this degree through an RN to BSN.
- Accelerated BSN: Similarly, if you hold a degree in another major, you may be eligible to enroll in an accelerated or direct entry BSN without having to take English and Math.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
To enroll in an MSN program, most courses require you to be a registered nurse already. However, there are programs called Master’s Entry to Nursing Practice (MENP) or Accelerated MSN. These are open to students with a Bachelor’s degree in fields other than nursing.
A Master of Science in Nursing will provide nurses with a skillset and knowledge of a range of advanced nursing disciplines. This means that upon graduation, a variety of roles is available. These can include advisory roles, hands-on patient care, and roles that involve research and technology.
If, after graduation, you are interested in direct patient care, there are four main areas in which you can specialize. An MSN prepares you for:
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
- Certified Nurse Registered Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
As well as direct patient care, there is a range of areas in which an MSN qualified registered nurse can work. This includes:
- Public Health Nurse
- Nurse Educator
- Nurse Researcher
- Clinical Systems Leadership
Registered Nurse to Nurse Practitioner (RN to MSN-NP) Bridge Program
Because the Master of Science in Nursing is a high-level nursing qualification, like the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, there are several ways to achieve this qualification. One of the most common ways a registered nurse can gain a Masters and become a nurse practitioner is by enrolling onto a BSN to NP program.
These courses are designed for registered nurses who are currently working and can study around existing shift patterns. To enroll in the course, you will likely require a BSN. The length of study for an RN to MSN-NP course can be as short as 24 months with only a few days of residential required. Online studying is also an option. This course differs from the accelerated MSN, which is designed for those with a non-nursing background.
Before beginning the course, you will need to declare an area of specialty. The areas available to study can be different between schools, but usually, they are:
- Acute Care
- Women’s Health
Completing Your Nursing Qualifications
This guide looks at the different programs available to people who are interested in becoming a nurse, whether they have a background or qualifications in nursing or not. As well as the core qualifications, you should also research licensing, additional exams, and ongoing professional development that may be required throughout your nursing career.
Rachel is an Austin blogger, educator, mom, wife, young breast cancer survivor writing about health, saving money, and living a happy life in Austin, Texas.
Rachel has written for HuffPost and Hometalk and has been featured on KXAN, Studio 512, Fox 7 Austin, and CBS Austin.