What to Do to Become a Registered Nurse

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Are you passionate about providing compassionate care, making a difference in people’s lives, and being part of a dynamic and rewarding profession? If so, becoming a registered nurse might be the perfect career path for you. As the demand for healthcare professionals continues to grow, registered nursing offers an excellent opportunity for personal growth, job security, and a fulfilling career. In this article, we will guide you through the essential steps to become a registered nurse, the educational requirements, necessary skills, and provide answers to common questions you may have.

Educational Requirements to Become a Registered Nurse

To embark on the journey of becoming a registered nurse, you need to fulfill certain educational requirements. There are multiple paths you can take, including obtaining a diploma, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Each option has its own advantages and prepares you for the responsibilities of a registered nurse.

A diploma program typically takes around 2-3 years to complete. These programs provide hands-on training in clinical settings, focusing on technical skills and practical knowledge. While diplomas offer a quicker route, they may limit career advancement opportunities compared to higher-level degrees.

An associate degree in nursing (ADN) usually takes 2-3 years to complete and offers a balanced combination of theoretical knowledge and clinical experience. ADN programs are offered by community colleges and provide a solid foundation for entry-level nursing positions.

A bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) is a four-year program offered by universities and colleges. This degree provides a comprehensive education encompassing nursing theory, research, leadership, and critical thinking skills. BSN graduates often have greater opportunities for career advancement and specialization.

After completing your education, you will need to obtain a nursing license by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This examination assesses your competence and knowledge to ensure you meet the necessary standards to practice as a registered nurse.

Steps to Become a Registered Nurse

Becoming a registered nurse involves a series of steps that you need to follow diligently. Let’s explore the key steps to embark on this rewarding career journey:

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Step 1: Research and Choose an Accredited Nursing Program

The first step is to research and select an accredited nursing program that aligns with your career goals and educational needs. Accreditation ensures that the program meets stringent quality standards and will equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to excel as a registered nurse. Consider factors such as program reputation, curriculum, clinical opportunities, and faculty expertise while making your decision.

Step 2: Complete the Required Education and Clinical Training

Once you’ve chosen a nursing program, it’s time to dive into your coursework and clinical training. Immerse yourself in the theoretical aspects of nursing, including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and nursing ethics. Take advantage of the hands-on clinical experiences to apply your learning in real-world healthcare settings. This combination of classroom instruction and practical training will help you develop the essential skills and confidence needed to provide competent nursing care.

Step 3: Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)

After completing your nursing education, you must successfully pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain your nursing license. This rigorous examination assesses your ability to apply critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and nursing knowledge in various scenarios. Prepare for the exam by utilizing study resources, review courses, and practice questions to enhance your chances of success.

Step 4: Apply for a Nursing License in Your State

Once you’ve passed the NCLEX-RN, you can apply for a nursing license in the state where you wish to practice. Each state has its own licensing requirements, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the specific regulations and procedures. The licensing board will review your application, verify your education and examination results, and grant you the authority to practice as a registered nurse.

Step 5: Consider Pursuing Additional Certifications or Specializations

Registered nursing offers a vast array of opportunities for specialization and career advancement. Consider pursuing additional certifications in areas such as critical care, pediatrics, oncology, or gerontology to enhance your expertise and open doors to specialized nursing roles. Continuing education and professional development are crucial to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in healthcare and broaden your career options.

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Skills and Qualities Needed to Excel as a Registered Nurse

While the educational requirements are crucial, certain skills and qualities are equally important to excel as a registered nurse. Let’s explore the essential attributes that contribute to success in this profession:

Strong Communication Skills

As a registered nurse, effective communication is paramount. You must be able to communicate clearly, listen actively, and empathize with patients, their families, and the healthcare team. Strong communication skills foster trust, facilitate accurate information exchange, and ensure the delivery of high-quality care.

Empathy and Compassion

Nursing is a deeply compassionate profession. The ability to empathize with patients, understand their emotional needs, and provide compassionate care is vital. Demonstrating empathy helps to establish a therapeutic relationship with patients, promoting their well-being and aiding in their recovery.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Abilities

Registered nurses encounter complex situations that require quick thinking and decisive action. Developing strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills enables you to identify potential issues, analyze data, and make informed decisions. This ability is crucial for providing safe and effective care to patients.

Detail-Oriented and Organized

In the fast-paced environment of healthcare, attention to detail and organizational skills are essential. Registered nurses must accurately document patient information, administer medications correctly, and monitor patient progress. Being detail-oriented and organized helps prevent errors and ensures the delivery of optimal care.

Ability to Handle High-Stress Situations

Nursing can be emotionally and physically demanding. The ability to remain calm under pressure, handle high-stress situations, and make sound judgments is crucial. Developing resilience and effective stress management techniques will help you navigate the challenges encountered in the nursing profession.

Continuous Learning and Adaptability

Healthcare is an ever-evolving field, with new treatments, technologies, and research emerging constantly. Successful registered nurses embrace lifelong learning and are adaptable to change. Being open to acquiring new knowledge and skills ensures you stay at the forefront of nursing practice and provide the best possible care to your patients.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does it take to become a registered nurse?

The length of time required to become a registered nurse depends on the educational path you choose. Diploma programs typically take 2-3 years, associate degree programs take 2-3 years, and bachelor’s degree programs take four years to complete.

What are the typical duties and responsibilities of a registered nurse?

Registered nurses have a wide range of responsibilities, including assessing patient conditions, administering medications, operating medical equipment, providing patient education, collaborating with the healthcare team, and advocating for patients’ needs.

Can I become a registered nurse if I have a criminal record?

Having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from becoming a registered nurse. However, it may affect your ability to obtain a nursing license, as licensing boards evaluate each case individually. It is essential to disclose any criminal history during the application process and provide all required documentation.

Is there a demand for registered nurses in specific healthcare settings?

Registered nurses are in high demand across various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and home healthcare. The demand may vary based on geographical location and population needs.

What are the potential career paths for registered nurses?

Registered nursing offers diverse career paths. You can pursue roles in specialties such as pediatrics, geriatrics, critical care, or community health. You may also choose to advance your career as a nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nurse manager, or pursue leadership positions.


Becoming a registered nurse is a rewarding and fulfilling career choice that provides opportunities to make a positive impact on the lives of others. By following the outlined steps, completing the necessary education, and acquiring the essential skills, you can embark on a successful nursing journey. Remember to continuously develop your expertise, adapt to the changing healthcare landscape, and embrace the qualities that make a great nurse. So, what are you waiting for? Take the first step towards becoming a registered nurse and pursue your passion to make a difference in the world of healthcare.

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