Back to blog

5 Tips for Becoming a Nurse

The United States is experiencing a significant shortage of nurses. According to a May 2021 report in Nurse Journal, nurses — one of healthcare’s most important roles — nurses ranked as the third most in-demand job in the United States. 

Despite the important role these professionals play in our society, across the country there are just 12.06 nurses per 1,000 people. 

Making the situation worse, according to the American Nurse Association, more than 500,000 seasoned registered nurses (RNs) are anticipated to retire by 2022, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that will make a need for 1.1 million new RNs for to avoid a nursing shortage. The biggest demand is in the Midwest and the Northeast.

If you are interested in filling this ever-growing gap and becoming a nurse as a career, here are some tips for making it a successful career.

#1 Choose a nursing program with a high NCLEX pass rate.

There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing a nursing program: length of program, reputation, cost, access to clinical, quality of the teaching, and ability to prepare you for the NCLEX are all relevant. But at the end of the day, you can’t practice nursing without passing the NCLEX. Many students come to MyGuru looking for NCLEX tutoring having failed the NCLEX multiple times. In theory, you shouldn’t have to hire and NCLEX tutor after spending a lot of money on a nursing program.

For example, this PDF lists NCLEX pass rates for nursing schools in IL. You can see that, across a large number of BSN nursing programs, pass rates vary from a low of 33% to a high of 100%, although the vast majority are between 75% and 90%. That said, you’ll notice some interesting NCLEX pass rate performance in IL. Southern Illinois University is, in general, a much less selective university in general than the much more expensive Loyola. Yet it has a similarly strong NCLEX pass rate of 92% (vs. Loyola at 94%). The University of Illinois at Chicago (which has a reputation similar to that of Loyola University), however, has a 2020 pass rate of only 88%, in line with the state average. And Resurrection University, which after Loyola had the most students sit for the NCLEX in 2020, had a pass rate all the way down at 74%.

#2 Choose a nursing program that gives you credit for school work you’ve already completed.

If you already have taken college coursework or have an associates or bachelor’s degree, spend some time looking at BSN accelerated programs. Or, at a minimum, talk to the admissions and registrar about whether some of your coursework can transfer. This research and these discussions can save you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, and have you earning money as a nurse earlier rather than later.

#3 Think deeply about your desired nursing path. Or at least, where you want to start and what you might also want to try.

Nurses don’t specialize in every area of healthcare. Instead, when you become a nurse you will need to narrow down to interest and decide where and how you would like to serve. For example, if you like fast-paced and high-intensity environments, working in a hospital emergency room may be the best option for you. If you like working with the elderly, a nursing home may be the best option. And if you want to work with children, you may specialize in pediatrics care. 

#4 Get an advanced degree in nursing.

According to the BLS, a master’s of nursing opens you up to a wider array of opportunities and pay than a bachelor’s degree. In fact, the average salary for registered is around $64,000, while master’s degree-holders average $86,000. At the same time, nurses with a master’s degree can obtain bigger and higher-paying roles in the field, including hospital administration and education roles. If you are strained for time and meeting for class in person isn’t an option you, there are several options for obtaining your masters in nursing online

#5 Take continuing education requirements seriously.

Nurses don’t stop learning once they stop working. In most cases, nurses will have to engage in a lifetime of learning to maintain their jobs and nursing credentials. For many nurses, this can many attending conferences and workshops where you learn about the latest methods or technology. This will ensure that you are always ready to serve patient needs to the best of your ability.

A nursing career is a noble and respected endeavor. If you decide it is right for you, these tips should help you get the most out of your decision from a near-term financial and long-term career management perspective.