What training does a nurse need?

It might sound like a simple question, but it only ends up giving rise to more.

In order to find out what kind of training a nurse needs, you also need to ask:

–        Is this nurse an actual nurse, or a nursing assistant?

–        What kind of degree is the nurse pursuing?

–        What kind of medical facility does the nurse intend to work in after graduation?

–        Does this nurse intend to specialize in a specific area of medicine?

In modern medical facilities, a “nurse” can be anyone from a licensed practical nurse, to a certified nurse anesthetist. All of the different positions that nurses can occupy require different training, even if that training is sometimes given on-the-job.

The Board of Nursing

Preliminary and continuing educational requirements, licensing, and examination requirements for nurses are established by each state’s Board of  Nursing. Though many states have attempted to standardize their requirements through agreements like the Nurse Licensure Compact, this isn’t universal. Therefore, your state’s Board of Nursing can provide you with detailed answers to “What training does a nurse need?”

If you’re planning to become a nursing student, the Board can also give you scholarship or grant information, and lists of approved nursing programs in your area. The Board of Nursing should be every person’s first stop before they make the decision to enroll in nursing school.

Nurse Training Programs

In general, nursing assistants require an eight week course, licensed practical nurses require two year degrees, while registered nurses require a bachelor’s degree (BSN), and advanced practice registered nurses (like nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners) require a master’s (MSN) or doctoral degree (PhD or DNP). These are just the basic educational requirements, and nurses who wish to specialize in areas like neonatal care or gerontology may be required to perform additional coursework.

Some schools provide online or classroom-based courses on things like hospice nursing, neonatal nursing, and critical care. In other situations, students are expected to put in a specified number of hours in a clinical setting in order to obtain on-the-job experience. The training you receive will depend heavily on your state’s regulations, the needs of your local hospitals, and what schools in your area are willing to offer.

Nurse Training and Scopes of Practice

All nurse training is designed to reflect their eventual “scopes of practice.” This is the outline of all of the duties that a nurse is allowed to do. In general, if a nurse is not trained to do something during the course of their nursing education, it most likely falls outside of his or her scope of practice. All nurses have different scopes of practice – a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) cannot perform the same duties as a Registered Nurse (RN), and a RN cannot perform the same duties as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). The Board of Nursing doesn’t just define scopes of practice, it also takes on a disciplinary role when nurses act outside of theirs. Nurses that do so can receive severe legal penalties, including fines and license revocation.

Nurse Licensure and Examinations

A nursing degree alone isn’t enough for a nurse to begin practicing. Practical nurses, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and all other nursing staff must take and pass licensing exams before they can be allowed to work with patients. Licensure also determines who’s actually a nurse, and who isn’t- nursing assistants may perform some of the same duties as nurses, but they do not have nursing licenses, and thus aren’t actually nurses.

So, what training does a nurse need? The final answer is “It depends.” If you are intrigued by the idea of pursuing a career in nursing, the best thing you can do is research all of the different ways that nurses provide care, and choose the one that appeals to you. Do you want to care for high-risk babies in a NICU? Would you prefer the exciting, hectic atmosphere of a medevac helicopter? The state you live in and your eventual career path will determine what kind of continuing education and licensing requirements you will need to fulfill.