Training to be a Nurse

Training to be a nurse has taken many paths throughout the history of the nursing career. You can ask many retired nurses how they received their answers to be as diverse as their careers. Essentially, all nursing programs offer the required theory of nursing and practical practice of nursing that result in a nurse who is qualified to work in a hospital or doctor’s office or even continue with their education and specialize in various medical areas.

Educate First, Train Second

The steps involved in training to be a nurse break down into two primary phases, theory and practice, regardless of the type of degree that is being sought. The three main degrees in nursing include:

  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing or BSN – 4 year programs
  • Associate Degree in Nursing or ADN – 2 to 3 year programs
  • Diploma (usually provided and administered by hospitals) – 3 year programs

There are higher nursing degrees; however, the path to becoming a practicing nurse follows one of these three primary degrees first.  The choice of which path to follow in order to become a nurse is a personal one that should be based on the ultimate medical career goal, such as becoming a teaching nurse, specialized nurse or simply practicing as an RN.

Classroom Instruction

The first thing nursing students encounter in their education is the classroom instruction. This can be a letdown for those students who thought they would jump right into learning to take blood pressure and give injections. There are similar classroom courses that are required, regardless of which training option is chosen. Some of these include:

  • Anatomy: Nurses have to understand the parts of the human body;
  • Physiology: Teaches would-be nurses how the parts of the body function;
  • Microbiology: Helps nurses understand various pathogens and how microorganisms affect health;
  • Chemistry: This course assists nurses with understanding how medication interact with the body and other chemical aspects of health;
  • Nutrition: Teaches nurses how food interacts with the body and overall health;
  • Psychology: Prepares nurses for dealing with various aspects of how the mind and emotions affect health and how to deal with patients.
  • Various other behavioral sciences
  • Nursing classes

Students that are seeking a longer degree in nursing, such as the ADN or the BSN will also have to take elective classes in the liberal arts.

Clinical Experience

Once nursing students have most of their required classroom work behind them, they move to the clinical aspect and learn to put their studies into practice on real patients. Clinical experience varies and includes training in many different healthcare areas. Students typically learn to take care of patients in these areas:

  • Maternity
  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatric
  • Geriatric
  • Emergency Rooms

There are other healthcare areas that may be included such as home health care and how to take care of patients who are homebound.

This part of the curriculm is what many nursing students look forward to and what will help develop their bedside manner. The clinical part of nursing school can be the most trying as students learn not only the so-called fun stuff but also the down and dirty but necessary stuff too, such as emptying bedpans and changing dressings on wounds.  This is when many nursing students find out if they are able to handle the bodily fluid and unpleasant side of nursing.


Once you have completed the coursework and clinical side of the program you will be prepared to take the examination that will allow you to practice as a registered nurse. This exam, the NCLEX-RN, is required in order to perform the duties of a registered nurse, without this license, the nursing graduate cannot work as a nurse. Specialty nursing degrees, such as midwifery, require additional certification.

Above and Beyond

You can have the health care coursework, the clinical coursework and even be licensed to practice but not be a successful nurse that is in demand by hospitals and doctors if you don’t have the natural qualities that make nurses special. The qualities that every nurse should possess include:

  • Caring
  • Sympathy
  • Emotional fortitude
  • Ability to cope with emergencies
  • Detail Oriented

If you have these traits you are one step ahead of many people who want to be a nurse and yet lack the emotional strength and sympathy needed to be successful.

Training to be a nurse can be completed in any one of several ways and yet the result is basically the same. A caring person with the skills necessary to take care of people who are sick and helping them become well again.