How to Become a Better Registered Nurse

The American Nurses Association defines nursing as the "the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations."

That definition covers the technical scope of the nursing profession pretty well. But there is another important aspect of nursing-the human aspect. Words are probably not enough to describe nursing from a human angle. After all, what can you say about the people whose primary job is to provide care to the most vulnerable among us, without flinching? Can words do justice to the human impact of these professionals, who tend to not just the visible ailments and injuries, but also to the not-so-obvious psychological side effects of illness?

It's clear that only an extraordinary person can enter a profession as noble and selfless as this. If you have what it takes to be a registered nurse (RN), then read on to find out how you can turn your dream of being a healthcare professional into reality.

How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

There are three pathways to become a registered nurse (RN). All the three are pretty straightforward and all of them should lead to entry-level staff nurse positions in a variety of healthcare environments, once completed.

Associate Degree in Nursing Education:

An associate's degree in nursing education (ADN) is typically a two-year academic program offered mainly by community and junior colleges. Some four-year private colleges may also offer an ADN program. The purpose of this program is to train students in the technical scope of nursing.

Although ADN programs also include a fair bit of nursing theory, the main focus of these degrees is to make graduates proficient in bed-side patient care. They can also provide an excellent foundation for further academic pursuits at a later point in time.

Bachelor Degree Completion in Nursing:

The Bachelor of Science Completion in Nursing is a full-fledged four-year degree offered by four-year colleges and universities. The duration of a BSN is twice the length of an associate's degree, because the program is much more comprehensive and in-depth in its scope.

Although the coursework of a BSN degree may vary from one school to another, the first two years of this program are usually spent on general science education through courses in biology, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, psychology, etc. The final two years of a typical BSN curriculum include nursing-oriented courses as well as practicums.

In fact, the practicum is an important component of all accredited nursing programs, as it provides students valuable real-life exposure in clinical practice under the supervision of doctors or senior nurses.

Nursing Diploma: 

 It used to be a popular route to becoming a registered nurse, but nursing diplomas are fast losing their appeal. In fact, only 17.5% of RNs held a nursing diploma in 2004. Nursing diploma programs are usually administered by hospitals and take about three years to complete.

The reason for their diminishing popularity can only be guessed. Maybe academic institutions provide a more conducive learning environment than hospitals for nursing students, or maybe beginning students think a nursing degree is a better credential than a diploma.

Certification and Advancement

Whichever path one chooses for becoming a registered nurse, it doesn't hold any value unless they pass the requisite licensure exam, called the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Only after they pass the exam can nursing students obtain a license to practice as a registered nurse.

Once they have gained some experience as RNs, a nursing professional can choose from a number of advancement opportunities.

A Master's of Science in Nursing is apt for those looking to become advanced practice nurses (APNs); a master's degree in healthcare administration can be explored by RNs keen to move into management or leadership roles; while a master's degree in nursing education can help pave the way for RNs to don the role of educators and train nursing students.



Stevens-Henager College was established in 1891 and is one of the oldest colleges in Utah, offering degree programs for master's, bachelor's, associate's, and associate's of occupational studies degrees. Working professionals can enhance their careers and qualifications with the online degree programs offered by Stevens-Henager College's Salt Lake City/Murray campuses.
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