Medical Learning Library

How to Become a Nurse

Image 1 Heart of Healthcare

Heart of Healthcare.rud0070/Creative Commons/CC0 1.0)

Nurses are at the heart of health care.

Qualified nurses are in need not only for bedside care, but for leadership roles, education and research, marketing, technical writing, informatics, advocacy, and much more. A new era of nursing involves the role of preventative and functional medicine.

A person does not need to be sick to optimize their health.

What Is Nursing?

As a profession, nursing combines an in-depth knowledge of science and compassion. Nurses develop and implement care plans, collaborate with multidisciplinary groups and, most importantly, are patient advocates.

The nurse employs a holistic approach to the care of patients by utilizing the nursing process; i.e., nurses consider every aspect of a patient such as physical, psychological, social, and emotional wellbeing.

Skills and Qualities of a Nurse

Because nurses work directly with people, effective communication skills are crucial, i.e., active listening, clear and honest spoken communication, and nonverbal communication.

Other inherent qualities include:

Communication in Nursing Practice

The Expression of Emotion Through Nonverbal Behavior in Medical Visits

Roles and Responsibilities of a Nurse

Roles and responsibilities of the nurse may include:

Keep in mind that the level of education changes the role of the nurse in the above list.

Each state has a scope of practice. Here are examples of the scope of practice for different certifications (which are stepping stones to a nursing license) and degrees of nursing education:

Types of Certificates, Degrees, and Licensing

Before deciding on a degree path, an individual must determine what works best to accomplish career goals.

Before choosing a program a prospective student must:

The following is a list of the most common certificates, career paths, and degrees for nurses:

The Basics of Nursing Education

NCLEX Testing Information

After graduation a standardized exam is taken to demonstrate competency. The standardized exam and the topics differ based on the career path that was chosen.

To prepare themselves, some nursing graduates choose to go through NCLEX review programs before testing.

Below are generalized steps to apply and register for the NCLEX.

After Becoming a Nurse

Nursing Specialties

New graduates from a nursing program are considered generalists because they have the skills and knowledge to practice on all people with any illness and in any setting. There are many areas of patient care open to nursing graduates. Nurses can specialize in a particular disease, organ or body system, or preventative care setting, for example.

Below is a list of common specialties along with certifications for the corresponding field of interest. To see other nursing specialties visit the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

What’s the Right Way to Display Nursing Credentials

Searching for Job Opportunities

Since the nursing field is competitive and job hunting can be a daunting task for some, here are some tips to help with the job search.

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Written by and last updated Apr 16, 2018

Last reviewed by on Mar 14, 2018