How to Become a Nurse

December 18, 2013

Becoming a nurse is no easy task. The nursing profession is expected to see substantial job growth from 2010 to 2020. The need for nurses is continuing to grow. It’s an excellent and lucrative profession, but there are a lot of different things that go into becoming a nurse. If you just want to become a nurse for the money and an easy job, you’re going to be in for a very rude awakening. The road to becoming a nurse is long, rough, and takes a lot of knowledge and dedication. However, this guide is going to show you the road on how to get ready for your dream profession. Using these steps, you will understand exactly what you need to do in order to jump-start your career as a registered nurse.

Step 1: Do All the Research You Can On Being a Nurse

how to become a nurseSome people want to get into professions without knowing exactly what those professions entail. Generally speaking, nursing can be one of those professions. That’s for a good reason, however. Nursing is a very noble profession and you get to help people on a daily basis. However, it’s important to do a lot of research on what being a nurse actually is. You may find that you don’t want to have anything to do with it. Even better, you may find that you become even more interested and you’ll want to work even harder to get into the profession. Either way, you want to be informed about your routine.

While you will want to do research on your own, here is a small idea of what nurses actually do:

  • Nurses are trained to treat patients and alleviate their symptoms.
  • Nurses are also there to provide emotional support for family and friends. This aspect can be very rewarding and very stressful. A lot of nurses have to be social and get along well with other people.
  • Nurses are required to keep records of the patient’s medical history.
  • Nurses can administer different medications and treatments.
  • Nurses have to be able to operate medical machinery.

As you can see, nurses do a lot! You have to have a great deal of understanding in many different technical aspects of medicine. If any of this sounds attractive to you, nursing may very well be the right career path for you. If not, you may want to look elsewhere. There are plenty of other jobs in the healthcare profession.

Step 2: Get On the Right Educational Path

Like doctors, students have to go through extremely strict educational requirements before they can become registered as nurses. First off, it’s best if your start your educational preparation as early as possible. When you’re in high school, you want to make sure that you’re doing well and understanding your science courses: Physiology, chemistry, biology, or anatomy. Do your absolute best in these classes, there’s only more to come if you decide to pursue the nursing profession. If there are electives that seem like they would lend themselves well to the nursing profession, take those as well. This is a great way to prepare yourself. Don’t be completely discouraged if some of these classes don’t come naturally to you. Anyone can learn anything. If you need to, hire a tutor or do a lot of extra studying. Not everyone is great at understanding the sciences, but these people can still become nurses.

Once you graduate high school, it’s time to focus on college. Most bigger colleges offer programs in nursing. At this point, it’s up to you to go whatever college tickles your fancy. There are three different ways to become a registered nurse:

  1. Get a LPN or LVN- Generally speaking, this degree is obtained by a year of training at an actual hospital. If normal colleges aren’t for you, this degree can also be obtained at a vocational or technical college. This is great for people that want to become a nurse, but don’t want to go to a traditional four year university.
  2. Obtain an ASN- These programs take about two years to complete. However, after his step, most people do move on to get their BSN.
  3. Obtain a BSN- This requires graduation from a traditional four year college. You get a lot of preparation while you’re pursuing your BSN. These courses include topics such as psychology, nursing theory, chemistry, biology, anatomy, and many other aspects of the medical field.

It’s also advisable that you take a little bit of time to do some volunteer work in a hospital or private practice. This allows you to gain some real world experience and get a feel for what some of your daily responsibilities are going to be. This will make your transition into becoming an actual nurse a lot easier and you will probably be able to impress some of your employers by how much you already seem to know.

Step 3: Choose Your Nursing Specialization

Nursing is one of those career options in which people get overwhelmed by how many different specialties there are. There are many different things that you can do with a nursing degree. As you’re getting your degree, you’re likely to get a feel for what some of the different specializations are.

A lot of nurses choose to be in the labor unit. This a great specialization for those that are interested in helping women. You will be there to help deliver the baby and this can be a great experience for some people.

Those that want to be on the “front lines” of sorts, should be in critical care. In critical care, you have a much smaller patient load, but the patients are usually in a very bad way. Those nurses that you see, in the movies and TV shows that are with our hero after he just suffered a fatal gunshot to the heart, those nurses in critical care. That could be you.

Pediatrics is another choice for those that like children. Caring for children can be a great experience, but it can also be a pretty stressful one. No one likes to to see sick people. Everyone hates seeing sick children. However, you will have a hand in making them feel better and bonding with them.

Psychiatric nursing is another option for those that want to help with the mentally ill.

All in all, there are many different specializations to choose from. Choose whichever one you think is going to be the best for you and whichever one you think you are going to be able to shine in. Not everyone can work with kids, maybe you can. Not everyone has the patience for working with the mentally ill, perhaps you do. Maybe you can handle all the blood and gore in the world, but seeing someone in labor makes your stomach turn. The great thing about the nursing profession is that there is a place for everyone.

Step 4: Prepare For, Take, and Pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse

Nursing Exam (NCLEX)If you want to, you can call it the “NCLEX” for short. Just like you heard a lot about the SATs during high school, you’re going to be hearing a lot about the NCLEX during nursing school. While prerequisites for this test do vary from state to state, you will need to have completed one of the three nursing programs mentioned earlier if you want to be able to take the test. In order to become a registered nurse, you have to pass this test.

Preparing for the test is fairly straightforward. Luckily for you and everyone else, the Internet exists. There are plenty of study guides that will help prepare you for the test. You are also in a nursing program with other people that plan on taking the test. Study with them and get some of their insight. A lot of people do better studying with other people. After all, misery loves company. The test is multiple choice, so get into good multiple choice test taking habits. Some people aren’t great at multiple choice, there are also study guides to ensure that you become a better multiple choice test taker.

All in all, you want to use all of the resources at your disposal. You want to be prepared, but don’t stress yourself out too much. You can always take the test more than once. In addition to that, the first timer pass rate was a solid 83%. If you’ve been working hard up to this point, the statistics show that you will probably do fine. If you’ve been struggling, you just have to work extra hard. Don’t stress out if a lot of these things didn’t come easy to you. As long as you persevere and do your best, no one can fault you.

Step 5: Find Your First Job as a Nurse

Now that you have passed the NCLEX, it’s time for you to find your first job as a nurse. This transitional period can be a very confusing time for people of every profession, let alone nurses. Luckily, there are over 2 million nurses currently working in the United States. This makes nursing the biggest profession in all of healthcare. First-year nurses should look into working on a specialty unit. The patients in the specialty unit are more homogeneous than those that will be in a surgical unit. This is a great way to get your feet wet and get a feel for what nursing is going to be like as your proceed with your career. If you did any volunteer work for a hospital or private practice during your education, it’s also a great idea to get in touch with them again. If you did well, you may end up having a job waiting for you before you even pass your NCLEX.

One thing to never forget is the military. While there are plenty of jobs in the States, you never know, you may want to join the military and become a nurse for the enlisted. You will get a lot of experience and you are going to be a shoe-in with your educational background. It’s a very fulfilling and noble option. You may wish to do it for years and years to come.

Whatever the case, nursing jobs are always in demand. Unlike a lot of other professions, getting hired is honestly the easy part.

Step 6: Moving Forward

Now that you have your first job, don’t think your work is over. The medical and healthcare fields are so exciting because they are constantly changing with the times. There is a lot of new legislation being passed, medications being tested, and economic factors that are going to affect you and the way you perform your job. It is very important that you keep current with all these trends and keep your practices up to date. Read medical journals, articles, and keep yourself informed. Few things in healthcare are stagnant.


Likely, this guide provided enough information to let you know whether becoming a nurse is something you want to pursue. There may have been some aspects to nursing that you found very exciting, or there may have been some aspects to nursing that you found completely repulsive. It’s important to be informed before deciding if nursing is the right career path for you. If this guide persuaded you in one way or the other, then it did its job. Becoming a nurse takes a long time and it’s hard road to go down. However, this guide was also meant to convey just how rewarding of an experience nursing can be. While it may not be the easiest career path in the world, those that take the time and effort to pursue it are going to learn a lot, make a lot of friends, and do a lot of good for a lot of people.