4 Steps To Become A Registered Nurse

February 13, 2023
3 mins read
4 Steps To Become A Registered Nurse
Young Female Patient Talking To Nurse In Emergency Room

A nursing career is one of the most fulfilling professions in the medical world. To practice professionally, you must get registered as a nurse. You’ll primarily work in the healthcare community, with roles like planning your patient’s medical care, administering medication, and providing emotional and physical support. With that in mind, here are four steps to becoming a registered nurse:

  1. Complete A Nursing Accredited Program

You can only become registered by fulfilling at least the minimum academic requirement. Taking nursing programs helps you obtain and build relevant skills. They prepare you for the career by instilling critical concepts in psychology, anatomy, chemistry, and physiology.

A first-time college student will take four years to complete a degree in nursing. On the other hand, obtaining an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) runs for two years, making it a quick and flexible way to kickstart your nursing career.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, you can enroll in a nursing school for accelerated nursing programs. They mainly run for a year or 14 months. 

  1. Take And Pass Your NCLEX

The National Licensure Examinations for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) tests whether you’re knowledgeable enough to begin practice as an entry-level nurse. It’s expedient to pass this exam to obtain your license. On that note, you’d want to check out comprehensive guidance for your NCLEX-RN

The test typically comprises 75 to 250 (the range changes from time to time) questions on the following nursing areas:

  • Safe and effective care: Case management, client rights, continuity of care, ethical practice, informed consent, legal rights, and responsibilities
  • Health promotion and maintenance: Aging, newborn care, disease prevention, disease screening, lifestyle choices, and physical assessment techniques
  • Physiological adaptation: Fluid imbalances, responses to therapies, medical emergencies, hemodynamics, and pathophysiology
  • Safety and infection control: Accident prevention, emergency response, reporting incidents, and use of safety devices
  • Pharmacological and parenteral therapies: Blood, dosage calculations, and medication administration
  • Psychosocial integrity: Abuse, behavioral interventions, cultural awareness, grief and loss, mental health, end-of-life care, and religious influences on health
  • Primary care and comfort: Nutrition, hydration, assistive devices, sleep, and personal hygiene 
  • Reduction of risk potential: therapeutic procedures, diagnostic tests, alterations in body systems, and lab rules

Note that even if you fail the test, you can retake it in 45 days. However, you get more questions. 

The exam uses the computer adaptive testing (CAT) algorithm to test every examinee according to their skills. It isn’t the usual standard test where all students answer a specific set of questions. CAT gauges your skills on the go.

If you answer a given question correctly, the next one will be a bit harder. And if you answer a question inaccurately, the next one is simpler. Once you answer the minimum of 75 questions, the system determines whether you’re competent. The test stops if a given percentage of your replies are satisfactory. Otherwise, you may have to answer more questions for the system to determine your proficiency. 

The typical passing score is a logit of 0.0, meaning you have a probability of 50/50 to answer questions correctly. Negative logit scores imply a fail, for which you may have to retake the exam.

  1. Earn Certifications

Certification proves your ability to provide the best patient care and affirms your commitment to long-term learning and career advancement. Indeed, a bigger percentage of patients choose hospitals whose staff members have the relevant board and specialty certifications. 

For board certification, a team of experts from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) will review your qualifications and credentials and determine your eligibility for a license. 

On top of board certifications, getting the relevant specialty certifications is essential. There are dozens of these, the top ones being neonatal care, pediatrics, critical care, ambulatory care, emergency, palliative care, oncology, and psychiatric care. These specialty certifications elevate your employability and fast-track your journey to becoming a nursing practitioner who can stand in for primary care physicians.

  1. Get A Nursing License

Earning your nursing license is the next step to becoming registered after passing your nursing exams. You’ll need to apply for one in the state you want to practice in. If you move to a different state, you should find out if they recognize the previous state’s licensure or if you need to apply for a new one. 


Becoming a registered nurse is a significant milestone in your profession. The journey spans several years, and it isn’t without ups and downs. The secret to success is focusing on the goal and showing diligence in every step, from school to board exams. Ensure you post excellent results in all exams to stand a better chance of earning your license and beginning your nursing career. 

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