Student nurses are required to finish 30 to 60 credit hours in anatomy, microbiology, physiology, chemistry, nutrition and many other subjects at a college or university. This is the oldest way of getting a registered nursing degree and it usually lasts for about three to four years. Most of the registered nurses in the United States are given education through diploma programs. One way of getting basic nursing education is through a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). This is also offered in some four-year colleges and universities, the pre-requisites and co-requisites extend the time to three years or more finish the course.
Another way to be a registered nurse is to get a degree in Bachelor of Science in Nursing that lasts for four years and prepares the students for graduate-level education. The first two years are rendered in obtaining general education requirements and spend the next half in nursing courses. BSN is deemed to have a more hands-on approach in nursing education. Nursing schools are accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Once a student completes the education needed and graduates as a nurse, he or she can now take NCLEX-RN examination. One has to pass the exam to become a licensed as a registered nurse. However, the inevitable controversy also exists for the appropriate entry-level preparation for registered nurses. Some professional organizations believe that the BSN should be the sole method of RN preparation. According to them, ADN graduates should only be “technical nurses” who will work under the supervision of BSN graduates. But because of the shortage in nurses and the lack of faculty staff to teach BSN, it is impossible for BSN to be the standard preparation in getting a nursing education.
Further studies in nursing can be attained through master’s and doctoral levels. It takes three years of full time study to finish a degree in Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Master of Nursing (MN). This prepares the nurse graduate for specialization as an advanced practice nurse (APRN). Some of the areas of APRN are nurse practitioner, a certified nurse midwife, a clinical nurse leader, clinical nurse specialist, etc. Nurse Practitioners are the ones who assess, diagnose and treat patients in fields like family practice, women’s health care, emergency nursing, psychiatry, geriatrics or pediatrics and a lot more. Clinical Nurse Specialists are focused on patient care, research or they also work as staff educator.
Doctoral programs make the graduates ready for nurse education, health care administration and clinical research. Most of the programs offer the Ph.D in nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice. Some offers the Doctor of Nursing Science, Doctor of Science in Nursing or the Doctor in Education. These programs take three to five years of full time study to finish. To ensure a nurse’s clinical competency in one’s chosen field of specialty, professional nursing organizations have certification exams. A nurse graduate would have to complete the desired pre-requisite work experience after getting their registered nursing degree to be able to take the exam. And if the taker passes the exam, then he or she can use a professional designation after his or her name. The American Nurses Credentialing Center is considered to be the largest credentialing organization and they offer more than 30 specialty examinations.