How to be a nurse

Licensure

Every state and the District of Columbia has a board of nursing with a mission of protecting the public from harm. Governance of the practice of nursing includes:

  • Establishing requirements for initial licensure and retaining: basic education, continuing education and/or competency
  • Interpreting scope of practice parameters, defined by state statute (nurse practice act)
  • Investigating complaints of licensees and disciplinary actions

Education

There is more than one educational pathway leading to eligibility to take the standardized National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)-RN.

Undergraduate
Diploma in Nursing, once the most common route to RN licensure and a nursing career, is available through hospital-based schools of nursing

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a two-year degree offered by community colleges and hospital-based schools of nursing that prepares individuals for a defined technical scope of practice.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BS/BSN) is a four-year degree offered at colleges and universities:

  • Prepares graduates to engage in the full scope of professional nursing practice across all healthcare settings
  • First two years often concentrate on psychology, human growth and development, biology, microbiology, organic chemistry, nutrition, and anatomy and physiology.
  • Final two years often focus on adult acute and chronic disease; maternal/child health; pediatrics; psychiatric/mental health nursing; and community health nursing.
  • Is intended to result in a deeper understanding of the cultural, political, economic, and social issues that affect patients and influence healthcare delivery
  • Includes nursing theory, physical and behavioral sciences, and humanities with additional content in research, leadership, and may include such topics as healthcare economics, health informatics, and health policy

Graduate
Offer additional routes to advancing the expertise of registered nurses:

  • Master’s Degree (MSN) programs offer a number of tracks designed to prepare Advanced Practice Nurses, nurse administrators, and nurse educators.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs are research-focused whose graduates typically teach and/or conduct research
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs focus on clinical practice or leadership roles

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21 st Century nursing is the glue that holds a patient’s health care journey together. Across the entire patient experience, and wherever there is someone in need of care, nurses work tirelessly to identify and protect the needs of the individual.

Beyond the time-honored reputation for compassion and dedication lies a highly specialized profession, which is constantly evolving to address the needs of society. From ensuring the most accurate diagnoses to the ongoing education of the public about critical health issues; nurses are indispensable in safeguarding public health.

Nursing can be described as both an art and a science; a heart and a mind. At its heart, lies a fundamental respect for human dignity and an intuition for a patient’s needs. This is supported by the mind, in the form of rigorous core learning. Due to the vast range of specialisms and complex skills in the nursing profession, each nurse will have specific strengths, passions, and expertise.

However, nursing has a unifying ethos: In assessing a patient, nurses do not just consider test results. Through the critical thinking exemplified in the nursing process (see below), nurses use their judgment to integrate objective data with subjective experience of a patient’s biological, physical and behavioral needs. This ensures that every patient, from city hospital to community health center; state prison to summer camp, receives the best possible care regardless of who they are, or where they may be.

What exactly do nurses do?

In a field as varied as nursing, there is no typical answer. Responsibilities can range from making acute treatment decisions to providing inoculations in schools. The key unifying characteristic in every role is the skill and drive that it takes to be a nurse. Through long-term monitoring of patients’ behavior and knowledge-based expertise, nurses are best placed to take an all-encompassing view of a patient’s wellbeing.

What types of nurses are there?

All nurses complete a rigorous program of extensive education and study, and work directly with patients, families, and communities using the core values of the nursing process. In the United States today, nursing roles can be divided into three categories by the specific responsibilities they undertake.

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RN) form the backbone of health care provision in the United States. RNs provide critical health care to the public wherever it is needed.

Key Responsibilities

  • Perform physical exams and health histories before making critical decisions
  • Provide health promotion, counseling and education
  • Administer medications and other personalized interventions
  • Coordinate care, in collaboration with a wide array of health care professionals

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) hold at least a Master’s degree, in addition to the initial nursing education and licensing required for all RNs. The responsibilities of an APRN include, but are not limited to, providing invaluable primary and preventative health care to the public. APRNs treat and diagnose illnesses, advise the public on health issues, manage chronic disease and engage in continuous education to remain at the very forefront of any technological, methodological, or other developments in the field.

APRNs Practice Specialist Roles

  • Nurse Practitioners prescribe medication, diagnose and treat minor illnesses and injuries
  • Certified Nurse-Midwives provide gynecological and low-risk obstetrical care
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists handle a wide range of physical and mental health problems
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists administer more than 65 percent of all anesthetics

Licensed Practical Nurses

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), also known as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs), support the core health care team and work under the supervision of an RN, APRN or MD. By providing basic and routine care, they ensure the wellbeing of patients throughout the whole of the health care journey

Key Responsibilities

  • Check vital signs and look for signs that health is deteriorating or improving
  • Perform basic nursing functions such as changing bandages and wound dressings
  • Ensure patients are comfortable, well-fed and hydrated
  • May administer medications in some settings

What is the nursing process?

No matter what their field or specialty, all nurses utilize the same nursing process; a scientific method designed to deliver the very best in patient care, through five simple steps.

  • Assessment – Nurses assess patients on an in-depth physiological, economic, social and lifestyle basis.
  • Diagnosis – Through careful consideration of both physical symptoms and patient behavior, the nurse forms a diagnosis.
  • Outcomes / Planning – The nurse uses their expertise to set realistic goals for the patient’s recovery. These objectives are then closely monitored.
  • Implementation – By accurately implementing the care plan, nurses guarantee consistency of care for the patient whilst meticulously documenting their progress.
  • Evaluation – By closely analyzing the effectiveness of the care plan and studying patient response, the nurse hones the plan to achieve the very best patient outcomes.

Defined as qualities, traits, abilities, talents, strengths, values, beliefs or morals — characteristics can be personal or professional.

I believe it’s a combination of both of those types of characteristics that we find in good nurses, and these seven qualities stand out:

  1. Being a person who deserves a high level of respect. Our kindness, fairness, caring, trustworthiness, emotional stability, empathy and compassion are part of who we are as people on a personal level and serve us well as nurses.
  2. Exhibiting strong communication skills that help us communicate with patients and colleagues, sometimes at their worst life moments.
  3. Effectively using our critical-thinking skills to solve and identify problems to improve protocols and patient care.
  4. Our attention to detail, which helps us follow detailed orders from colleagues and individualize each patient’s care.
  5. Time management and delegation skills help us keep up with patient care responsibilities throughout our shifts.
  6. Our ability to be flexible and adapt to changing scenarios and situations on the fly.
  7. Being a team player that works fluidly with patients, families and interdisciplinary healthcare teams every step of the way.

We develop and strengthen all of the skills above through our years of education, training and practice.

Bedside nurses embody what makes a good nurse

For nearly two decades, the American public has ranked nurses No. 1 in Gallup polls as the most admired, ethical and trusted profession.

“More than four in five Americans (84%) again rate the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as ‘very high’ or ‘high,’ earning them the top spot among a diverse list of professions for the 17th consecutive year,” Gallup reported again in December.

What higher words of praise can all your years of working with patients and their families translate into than “honest and ethical?”

We all value the great nurse leaders whose many contributions are moving the nursing profession and healthcare forward. We’re proud of the seats they have at our nation’s healthcare planning and decision-making tables.

But the nurses who work on the front lines of patient care are the ones who interact with patients the most and are who we think of when we answer the question about what makes a good nurse.

Those nurses constantly work toward professional licensure, certifications, advanced degrees, and more extensive training and clinical expertise to improve patient care.

Bedside nurses are the source of nursing’s outstanding Gallup poll results, and continue to earn the admiration and praise of patients across America. They truly embody what makes a good nurse.

It’s not just the polls that demonstrate how highly regarded we are, or how much we are admired. Similar messages often come from:

  • Patient satisfaction surveys
  • Letters from grateful patients
  • Commendations from physicians and other healthcare colleagues
  • Various sources in anecdotal stories

And who among us hasn’t known nursing students who said they chose nursing because of a nurse they admired?

Maintaining such a position of esteem in the minds and hearts of Americans for so many years is proof positive that we are good at what we do.

We all have a desire to help

We are at the center of every healthcare setting with a generosity of spirit, a special sensitivity and a desire to help, comfort and provide care.

We are privileged to be allowed into patients’ lives in the most personal ways at the most important times.

We’re the ones patients talk with and ask for and remember after discharge, and the ones patients vote for in polls and surveys and write letters of gratitude about.

When deciding on nursing as a career, we didn’t think about letters of appreciation, survey statistics or Gallup poll results.

We choose nursing because we want to be part of something important, challenging and rewarding. Something we knew we would be good at and something that will bring us fulfillment and fuel us for the work we will be doing the rest of our lives.

It is these good characteristics that make a good nurse, and what many might describe as great.

For those who are considering a career change into nursing and already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject — finance, restaurant management, even music — an accelerated BSN as a second degree may be an excellent option for you.

Accelerated BSN programs are popularly known to offer Associate Degree Nurses a fast-track option for obtaining their Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. However, there are also many programs across the country that offer an accelerated program for students who already have a bachelor’s degree – even if it’s not in nursing. Read on to learn the details of the BSN Accelerated Program for second-degree students.

How long is an accelerated bachelor’s program?

Depending on the program structure and intensity, accelerated programs range from 12 months to 19 months, though some can be as long as 2 years. During these months, you will be taking nursing-specific courses, many of which may be condensed in order to accommodate the faster pace towards graduation.

It is important to know that the advertised length of the program does not include the time it may take to complete the prerequisite courses that are required in order to apply.

Does it matter what your first degree is in?

No, any completed bachelor’s degree will be sufficient to apply for an accelerated program. You will, however, have to complete the prerequisite coursework prior to application.

What are the prerequisites for the BSN Accelerated Programs?

Besides having a bachelor’s degree, many accelerated programs require a number of core prerequisite courses. Common subjects include microbiology, statistics, and sometimes anatomy and physiology. If it has been a few years since you completed these courses, be sure to check if the school requires the classes to be taken within a certain amount of years.

Most programs have an entrance exam as a requisite for entering the nursing program, and the same holds true for accelerated applicants. The entry exam covers the subjects that are needed for entry to nursing school: math, reading, science, and English. Whether it’s the HESI, ATI, or TEASE, there are many resources to help you review and score well on the entrance exam.

GPA is an important consideration for accelerated BSN programs, as many programs will require a minimum GPA for application. Usually, the minimum GPA for consideration into the program ranges from 3.0 to 3.5.

Are there online options?

While most BSN accelerated programs are brick and mortar, more online options have become available. By completing the track online, students are typically responsible for setting up their clinical experience in order to meet the required hours at the bedside. This may include the responsibility of approaching the facilities affiliated with your program and finding a preceptor to shadow when completing your hours.

*Note: It is a good idea to begin your search of online BSN accelerated programs by speaking to those who work at the facilities near you. This will help assure that you are applying to a program that will accommodate your locale.

For a few examples of the requirements of online accelerated programs, check is this one at Texas A&M Corpus Christi and another one at Emory University.

Can I work during the program?

Many accelerated programs can be seen as a full-time position in terms of time commitment. The scheduling may vary, but many programs hold classes daily, sometimes even Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. Programs typically discourage working during the length of the accelerated program; however, many accelerated BSN students will find the time to work once a week, depending on their needs and availability.

Will I take the same classes as traditional first-degree BSN students?

It depends on the program. Some programs have crafted courses for accelerated students, covering content in a shorter time frame. Other programs integrate accelerated nursing students into the traditional semesters, yet with a heavier course load or a different semester-to-semester structure.

How much does an accelerated BSN degree cost?

Depending on the program and the school, the cost of completing an accelerated program can range from $12,000 up to $75,000 for private institutions. Online programs will typically be on the more expensive end.

Tips on Acceptance Into an Accelerated Program

  • Accelerated programs can be highly competitive due to limited seating as well as a high number of applicants.
  • In order to make you a more competitive applicant, be sure your GPA meets at least the minimum standard.
  • If there are any recommended personal statements, take the time to craft a compelling statement detailing why you want to obtain nursing as a second degree.
  • Depending on the demand and the region, these programs could have an average of hundreds of applicants with as little as 50 seats per cohort.

Many nurses who have completed their BSN as a second degree feel that this was a good investment. The life experience that you bring to the program and to the profession of nursing is especially needed when treating a wide range of patients!

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  • What Does a Research Nurse Do?
  • Becoming a Research Nurse
  • Where Do Research Nurses Work?
  • Research Nurse Salary & Employment
  • Helpful Organizations, Societies, and Agencies

How to be a nurse

What Is a Research Nurse?

Research nurses conduct scientific research into various aspects of health, including illnesses, treatment plans, pharmaceuticals and healthcare methods, with the ultimate goals of improving healthcare services and patient outcomes. Also known as nurse researchers, research nurses design and implement scientific studies, analyze data and report their findings to other nurses, doctors and medical researchers. A career path that requires an advanced degree and additional training in research methodology and tools, research nurses play a critical role in developing new, potentially life-saving medical treatments and practices.

Becoming a Research Nurse

A highly specialized career path, becoming a nurse researcher requires an advanced degree and training in informatics and research methodology and tools. Often, research nurses enter the field as research assistants or clinical research coordinators. The first step for these individuals, or for any aspiring advanced practice nurse, is to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Once a nurse has completed their degree and attained an RN license, the next step in becoming a research nurse is to complete a Master’s of Science in Nursing program with a focus on research and writing. MSN-level courses best prepare nurses for a career in research, and usually include coursework in statistics, research for evidence-based practice, design and coordination of clinical trials, and advanced research methodology.

A typical job posting for a research nurse position would likely include the following qualifications, among others specific to the type of employer and location:

  • MSN degree and valid RN license
  • Experience conducting clinical research, including enrolling patients in research studies, implementing research protocol and presenting findings
  • Excellent attention to detail required in collecting and analyzing data
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills for interacting with patients and reporting research findings
  • Experience in grant writing a plus

To search and apply for current nurse researcher positions, visit our job boards.

What Are the Education Requirements for Research Nurses?

The majority of nurse researchers have an advanced nursing degree, usually an MSN and occasionally a PhD in Nursing. In addition to earning an RN license, research nurses need to obtain specialized training in informatics, data collection, scientific research and research equipment as well as experience writing grant proposals, research reports and scholarly articles. Earning a PhD is optional for most positions as a research nurse, but might be required to conduct certain types of research.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

Aside from a higher nursing degree, such as an MSN or PhD in Nursing, and an active RN license, additional certifications are often not required for work as a research nurse. However, some nurse researcher positions prefer candidates who have earned the Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP) certification offered by the Society for Clinical Research Associates. In order to be eligible for this certification, candidates must have a minimum of two years’ experience working in clinical research. The Association of Clinical Research Professionals also offers several certifications in clinical research, including the Clinical Research Associate Certification, the Clinical Research Coordinator Certification and the Association of Clinical Research Professionals – Certified Professional Credential. These certifications have varying eligibility requirements but generally include a number of hours of professional experience in clinical research and an active RN license.

Where Do Research Nurses Work?

Nurse researchers work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Medical research organizations
  • Research laboratories
  • Hospitals
  • Universities
  • Pharmaceutical companies

What Does a Research Nurse Do?

A research nurse studies various aspects of the healthcare industry with the ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes. Nurse researchers have specialized knowledge of informatics, scientific research and data collection and analysis, in addition to their standard nursing training and RN license. Nurse researchers often design their own studies, secure funding, implement their research and collect and analyze their findings. They may also assist in the recruitment of study participants and provide direct patient care for participants while conducting their research. Once a research project has been completed, nurse researchers report their findings to other nurses, doctors and medical researchers through written articles, research reports and/or industry speaking opportunities.

What Are the Roles and Duties of a Research Nurse?

  • Design and implement research studies
  • Observe patient care of treatment or procedures, and collect and analyze data, including managing databases
  • Report findings of research, which may include presenting findings at industry conferences, meetings and other speaking engagements
  • Write grant applications to secure funding for studies
  • Write articles and research reports in nursing or medical professional journals or other publications
  • Assist in the recruitment of participants for studies and provide direct patient care for participants

Research Nurse Salary & Employment

The Society of Clinical Research Associates reported a median salary for research nurses of $72,009 in their SoCRA 2015 Salary Survey. Salary levels for nurse researchers can vary based on the type of employer, geographic location and the nurse’s education and experience level. Healthcare research is a growing field, so the career outlook is bright for RNs interested in pursuing an advanced degree and a career in research.

  • 1. Meet the Basic Requirements
  • 2. CGFNS Evaluates your Credentials
  • 3. Pass a Licensure Exam
  • 4. Find a Registered Nursing Position

These steps are a general overview for how a foreign educated nurse can work in the U.S., but some aspects of your journey may differ from this basic outline.

Step 1. Meet the Basic Requirements

As a foreign-educated nurse seeking to work in the United States, make sure you follow U.S. federal immigration law and that you meet the basic educational and/or professional requirements:

Immigration

In order to legally migrate to the United States, you must meet federal requirements listed in full here.

You will need to obtain a Registered Nurse Immigrant Visa (“Green Card”) or H-1B visa.

  • U.S. law requires nurses to complete a screening program before they can receive an occupational visa.
  • CGFNS is approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to validate the credentials of nine foreign healthcare professions for occupational visas, including registered nurses.
  • Completing CGFNS’ VisaScreen®: Visa Credentials Assessment Service will satisfy the screening program requirement.
  • You will need a “U.S.-based employer” that will serve as the petitioner for your visa. Your VisaScreen® certificate must be included on every visa or green card petition filed on your behalf.
  • Read more about VisaScreen.

How to be a nurse

How to be a nurse

Educational / Professional

In order to seek work as a foreign-educated nurse, you must demonstrate at least some of the following:

  • You graduated from an accredited nursing education program in your country of education
  • You are licensed as a Registered Nurse in another country
  • You’ve practiced as a Registered Nurse for at least two years before.
  • Some foreign educated nurses must demonstrate their proficiency with the English language by taking an exam such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). There are exemptions depending on your country of origin.

Step 2. CGFNS Evaluates your Credentials

State Boards of Nursing require that you first apply to CGFNS International, Inc. to have your academic and professional credentials evaluated to ensure that your documents are authentic and that what you’ve learned is comparable to U.S. nursing standards. You may also be required to take the CGFNS Qualifying Exam® to satisfy State Board requirements, to satisfy immigration requirements for obtaining an occupational visa, and to determine your readiness for a licensure exam.

Find out what CGFNS program you need. Apply to CGFNS.

How to be a nurse

Step 3. Pass a Licensure Exam

How to be a nurse

In order to practice nursing in the United States, you will need to have a professional license from the state where you plan to work. Registered Nurse licenses are regulated by State Boards of Nursing with varying requirements.

You will likely need to pass a licensure exam to be registered as a nurse by your state board. Before taking the licensure exam, first-level, general nurses educated outside the U.S. may choose to apply to the CGFNS Certification Program®, which consists of:

  • a credentials evaluation
  • the CGFNS Qualifying Exam®, and
  • an English language proficiency component.

The CGFNS Qualifying Exam® is a requirement by some state boards before you can sit for the NCLEX-RN, but it serves as an excellent predictor for how any nurse will do on that exam. Taking the Qualifying Exam may help gauge your readiness before committing to the licensure exam.

Nurse practitioners are highly educated professionals within the medical field and often provide primary care and other high-level medical services to patients. Becoming a nurse practitioner typically takes anywhere from six to eight years of education and training. In this article, we discuss what a nurse practitioner does, the various steps required to become a nurse practitioner and the time it takes to complete each step.

What does a nurse practitioner do?

A nurse practitioner is a licensed medical professional who has the highest level of responsibility and treatment power in the nursing field. Nurse practitioners may examine patients, provide diagnoses, prescribe medication and treatment, and other duties.

These professionals have similar medical abilities to physicians and are considered to have full practice authority in 20 U.S. states. This authority means that the nurse practitioners in these states do not require a doctor’s supervision to practice. In the remaining states of the nation, nurse practitioners must have the supervision of a doctor to practice, but they still have more authority than other types of nurses.

The exact duties of a nurse practitioner are dependent on their specialization and place of work. A nurse practitioner may focus on the following common specialties:

  • Neonatal medicine
  • Acute care
  • Family care
  • Pediatric care
  • Women’s health care
  • Psychiatric mental health care

Additionally, a nurse practitioner may receive training in several subspecialties, including:

  • Allergy and immunology
  • Pediatrics
  • Neurology
  • Orthopedics
  • Emergency room
  • Dermatology
  • Geriatrics
  • Hospice
  • Occupational health
  • Surgical
  • Sports medicine
  • Urology
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Pediatric oncology
  • Pulmonology/respiratory

Regardless of the specialty that a nurse practitioner works in, many nurse practitioners share common duties across practices. These duties include:

  • Provide primary care to patients
  • Take patient medical histories
  • Discuss symptoms
  • Order and administer any diagnostic tests
  • Provide diagnoses based on findings
  • Monitor patients’ health and progress
  • Prescribe medications and treatment
  • Monitor and use medical equipment
  • Create patient treatment plans
  • Work as part of a healthcare team to provide comprehensive patient care

How long does it take to become a nurse practitioner?

Becoming a nurse practitioner can take anywhere from six to eight years of education and training. The steps that an individual must take to become a nurse practitioner, and the time each step takes to complete, are as follows:

  1. Complete a registered nurse (RN) program (two to four years.)
  2. Obtain a master’s degree (two to three years.)
  3. Take and pass the APRN certification exam (less than one year.)

1. Complete a registered nurse (RN) program (two to four years)

The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is to complete a registered nurse program. This can be done by obtaining an associate degree, bachelor’s degree or a diploma in a nursing program. A diploma or associate degree can take anywhere from two to three years to complete, whereas a bachelor’s nursing program typically takes four years.

These five different types of bachelor’s degrees can be pursued to become a nurse practitioner:

LPN-to-BSN

This program is for individuals who are already either licensed practical nurses or licensed vocational nurses. An LPN-to-BSN program allows people to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in around four semesters, or two years.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree can be pursued by individuals with no prior experience or licensure in the nursing field. This degree typically takes four years to complete.

RN-to-BSN

This program is for registered nurses who currently hold an associate degree or diploma and typically takes two years to complete.

Accelerated Degree BSN

This is a fast-track option for individuals wishing to complete their BSN in a shorter amount of time. The accelerated BSN program typically takes 12 to 20 months to complete.

Second-degree BSN

This degree option is for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a different field and are looking to make a career change. This program can typically be completed in two years.

Common courses included in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree include genetics and genomics, physical and health examination, and disease prevention. Once an RN program has been completed, aspiring nurse practitioners need to take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to obtain their RN license.

2. Obtain a master’s degree (two to three years)

After completing an undergraduate nursing program and obtaining an RN license, aspiring nurse practitioners must then complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Common areas of study for this degree include primary care practitioner, family nurse practitioner, women’s health practitioner and neonatal medicine.

An MSN program can take anywhere from two to three years to complete. Common courses in a Master of Science in Nursing program include health care ethics, clinical practicum, health care policy and advanced concepts in pharmacology.

3. Take and pass the APRN certification exam (less than one year)

Once aspiring nurse practitioners have completed an MSN program, they will then need to take and pass the certification exam to become a certified Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). The amount of time it takes to study for and pass this exam can vary but most individuals complete this in under a year.

Individuals wishing to pursue a career in a specialty nurse practitioner field may obtain their certification through an organization such as the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists, or the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, depending on the field. To be eligible to take the exam, an individual must hold an active Registered Nurse license and have a minimum of 500 clinical hours under the supervision of a physician.

  • 1. Meet the Basic Requirements
  • 2. CGFNS Evaluates your Credentials
  • 3. Pass a Licensure Exam
  • 4. Find a Registered Nursing Position

These steps are a general overview for how a foreign educated nurse can work in the U.S., but some aspects of your journey may differ from this basic outline.

Step 1. Meet the Basic Requirements

As a foreign-educated nurse seeking to work in the United States, make sure you follow U.S. federal immigration law and that you meet the basic educational and/or professional requirements:

Immigration

In order to legally migrate to the United States, you must meet federal requirements listed in full here.

You will need to obtain a Registered Nurse Immigrant Visa (“Green Card”) or H-1B visa.

  • U.S. law requires nurses to complete a screening program before they can receive an occupational visa.
  • CGFNS is approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to validate the credentials of nine foreign healthcare professions for occupational visas, including registered nurses.
  • Completing CGFNS’ VisaScreen®: Visa Credentials Assessment Service will satisfy the screening program requirement.
  • You will need a “U.S.-based employer” that will serve as the petitioner for your visa. Your VisaScreen® certificate must be included on every visa or green card petition filed on your behalf.
  • Read more about VisaScreen.

How to be a nurse

How to be a nurse

Educational / Professional

In order to seek work as a foreign-educated nurse, you must demonstrate at least some of the following:

  • You graduated from an accredited nursing education program in your country of education
  • You are licensed as a Registered Nurse in another country
  • You’ve practiced as a Registered Nurse for at least two years before.
  • Some foreign educated nurses must demonstrate their proficiency with the English language by taking an exam such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). There are exemptions depending on your country of origin.

Step 2. CGFNS Evaluates your Credentials

State Boards of Nursing require that you first apply to CGFNS International, Inc. to have your academic and professional credentials evaluated to ensure that your documents are authentic and that what you’ve learned is comparable to U.S. nursing standards. You may also be required to take the CGFNS Qualifying Exam® to satisfy State Board requirements, to satisfy immigration requirements for obtaining an occupational visa, and to determine your readiness for a licensure exam.

Find out what CGFNS program you need. Apply to CGFNS.

How to be a nurse

Step 3. Pass a Licensure Exam

How to be a nurse

In order to practice nursing in the United States, you will need to have a professional license from the state where you plan to work. Registered Nurse licenses are regulated by State Boards of Nursing with varying requirements.

You will likely need to pass a licensure exam to be registered as a nurse by your state board. Before taking the licensure exam, first-level, general nurses educated outside the U.S. may choose to apply to the CGFNS Certification Program®, which consists of:

  • a credentials evaluation
  • the CGFNS Qualifying Exam®, and
  • an English language proficiency component.

The CGFNS Qualifying Exam® is a requirement by some state boards before you can sit for the NCLEX-RN, but it serves as an excellent predictor for how any nurse will do on that exam. Taking the Qualifying Exam may help gauge your readiness before committing to the licensure exam.