RN Training and Education

Training to be a Registered Nurse

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Nurse, Nursing Degree

Nurse, Nursing Degree—SLU Madrid Campus (Flickr.com)

Registered nurses make up the largest percentage of the healthcare work force in the United States today. The profession is a demanding one, but it is an opportunity to make a true impact on the lives of others. RNs typically work closely with patients on a daily basis, helping to care for their conditions and providing education on care and prevention. Registered nurses may work in hospitals, clinics, outpatient treatment facilities, as well as in home health care agencies and private nursing homes. Some RNs specialize in a particular disease or health condition, or in a specific work setting (i.e. assisting surgeons in an operating room).

The Skinny on Registered Nurse’s Training

A registered nurse needs a solid educational foundation before she can begin to practice medicine. RN credentials can be earned one of three ways: an Associate’s degree in nursing, a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, or by completing a diploma program from an approved nursing school (though these programs are rare).

Most choose the Associate’s degree, which allows them to enter the work force within two to three years. Many employers offer benefits including tuition reimbursement and college credit, so many RNs continue their education toward a two-year Bachelor’s degree.

After completing a degree program, the aspiring RN must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Requirements for licensing vary from state to state, so in some cases, an RN will need to take the local NCLEX-RX before working in a new state.

Starting Early

If you’re still in high school and you’ve decided that you’d like to become a registered nurse, make sure to pay extra attention to your science courses. A solid foundation in biology and chemistry will serve you well, and it may be to your advantage to take advanced placement classes in these subjects.

Education Options


RN diploma programs are offered through select hospitals and typically take 2-3 years to complete. Some of these diploma programs are offered online, and students are able to complete the clinical aspects of their practice at a local medical facility. Whether a student studies in a traditional setting or takes the course online, a diploma program will include both classroom lectures and hands-on lab experiences.

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Upon graduation, students of an RN diploma program will be able to take the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. Topics of study will include subjects like:

– Anatomy and Physiology

– Injection Procedures

– Nursing Principles

– Medical Nursing

– CPR and First Aid

– Understanding Health Insurance Laws and Regulations

Associate’s Degree

As we’ve mentioned, an Associate’s Degree in Nursing is the most common education choice for aspiring registered nurses. This is a comprehensive two year program that prepares students for a career as a registered nurse. Students will learn the basic skills that will be used in their job, and they will be prepared for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.

Aspiring RNs in an Associate’s Degree program will participate in traditional classroom courses as well as in clinical experiences where they will gain needed practical experience. In addition to coursework specifically pertaining to nursing, many courses will include general education classes such as English composition. Associate’s Degree courses may include topics like:

– Nursing Fundamentals

– Clinical Nursing

– Health Assessment

– Pharmacology for Nurses

– Nutrition

– Microbiology

– Psychology

– Health Promotion

Bachelor’s Degree

A registered nurse may choose to take her training to a higher level by pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Most commonly, RNs will choose to pursue this four-year degree later in their careers, once they have already earned their diploma or Associate’s Degree. In some cases, a licensed RN who has already earned a previous degree may be able to pursue an accelerated program and complete the course in less than four years.

A BSN program will typically provide training in advanced nursing techniques, as well as in administrative skills that are required for managerial or higher level positions in the healthcare field. A BSN degree is most beneficial to an RN who would like to pursue a managerial or administrative position in the healthcare industry. Common course topics include:

– Healthcare Management

– Professional Issues in Nursing

– Leadership in Nursing

– Nursing Research

– Health Promotion and Rehabilitation

– Information Management in Healthcare

– Evidence-Based Nursing

– Physiological Adaptation to Illness


After earning a degree in nursing, an aspiring registered nurse must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. This exam is offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Depending on where you plan to go into practice, you may be required to meet certain state requirements for licensing as well. All states require licensing; however, some may require additional jurisdictional testing, background checks, screening, or other prerequisites before granting a license to practice.

In addition, many states do require registered nurses to maintain their license through continuing education, though the number of hours required varies from state to state. State nursing boards provide lists of acceptable courses, activities and programs that would qualify a nurse for continued licensing.

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4 Responses to RN Training and Education

  1. Edgar on December 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    A job in a nursing organization that does not include hands on would be hard, but they exist. Remember, if you got a position in a long term or even acute setting with the background as an LPN, I promise you that when they are short staffed, you WILL be called upon to do the best for the patient and work the floor. ( I know, I’ve been there). In order to avoid that, jobs to consider that would appreciate your knowledge of nursing and management could be: Insurance companies doing quality assurance, Consulting Firms, Legal Firms, agencies needing Admission Coordinators or Billing Auditors, or make up your own business using your skills it would be great, probably hard, but you could tailor it to what you love to do! Good Luck


    • Bob Rapp on February 3, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Sorry for the delay in answering, I found your note in the spam box and I had to save it.

      Thank you for your visit and for leaving a comment. They say, “different strokes for different folks,” I am sure that there are others who would value the hands on experience even in a situation of extra work.

      Best of luck,


  2. Alex Elly on March 10, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    The job is a challenging one, but it is a chance to make a real effect on the lives of others. It briefly explains the career of the nurse and what they should do in boosting the career, all explained in one place. I was very much confused about taking the courses and choosing the medical career but after looking at this great site, I wasted no time to choose the right one.

    • Bob Rapp on April 21, 2014 at 11:35 pm

      Thank you for your feedback, Alex, and best of luck in all of your endeavors. Bob