Nurses are in great demand all over the country, and if you have your credentials, you pretty much have your pick as to where you can work. However, many people in the state will be happy to hear that Pennsylvania is in the top 10 states with the highest demand for nurses. The state has been struggling with shortages for years now and is in great need of qualified nurses at every level and many specializations. If you want to know what it takes to join the ranks, here is what you need to do to become a nurse in Pennsylvania.
What Kind of Qualifications Are Needed to Become a Nurse in the State?
To start working as a nurse, you will at least need to have an associate’s degree. However, you’ll have more chances if you get your bachelor’s degree. Getting an associate’s degree or a certificate would qualify you to work as a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). You can also be an RN, but this will usually be reserved for those with a Bachelor’s degree.
There is a significant difference between what is taught in an associate’s program and what you’ll learn if you do your bachelor’s. Both these programs will teach the fundamentals of care and how to perform basic procedures, but the bachelor’s degree goes further and teaches you about things like community health, management, nursing science, and leadership.
If you eventually want to move up in ranks and do some more advanced work, then you will need to get an MSN or DNP. An MSN would allow you to move into administrative roles or even faculty. A doctorate could help you move leadership as well, or in research.
Getting your bachelor’s is a great option not only because it will allow you to reach better positions and get higher pay, but it also allows you to get to an MSN or DNP quicker and more seamlessly.
Finding the Right School
The next step is finding a good school or program. Know, however, that getting into nursing school is tougher than ever because of a shortage of faculty at the national and state level. You still need to be careful with what school you pick if you want your qualifications to be recognized and get the most out of your studies.
One of the most important things to check is the teacher to student ratio. You want to pick a school where the staff will actually have the time to answer your questions and help. Some may also prefer going to a smaller school so they can get that sense of proximity or camaraderie.
Also know that there is the option of getting your degree online and there are many benefits to doing so. For one, many of those allow you to get your degree much faster. There are many recognized online accelerated BSN programs for non nurses that you can follow that will allow you to get your qualifications in a fraction of the time you would in a regular school.
Another reason why getting a degree online is a great option is that it allows you to pick from schools in the entire country instead of only in the state. This is great if you aren’t able to find a good school here or don’t get accepted.
Whether you decide to get your degree online or offline, you have to make sure that the school is accredited. The program needs to be accredited either by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission. This will ensure that the quality of the program is up to par and that your degree will be recognized.
Accreditation is very important for a variety of other reasons. First, it makes sure that you’ll be prepared for the challenges of the job. Second, it will make sure that your credits are recognized if you decide to go to an accredited school at some point in the future.
Get Your License
The next step after getting your degree is to get your license. If you go with an accredited school, they will send education verification information straight to the State Board of Nursing. You will also need to submit an application that will cost you $35.
Nurses are also categorized by Pennsylvania law as “mandatory reporters”. This means that they have to complete a 3-hour formation on how to recognize the signs of abuse on children. The course has to be given by a provider that was approved by the Department of Human Services.
You will also need to get a copy of your criminal record from every state where you studied, lived, or worked. The last step will be to complete the NCLEX-RN exam. It costs $200 and has to be taken within one year of graduation the first time. Note that you can take this exam as many times as you wish.
Maintain Your Certification
Know that all RNs in the state are required to renew their licenses every two years. You will receive a notification from the State Board of Nursing shortly before your license is up. You will need to get at least 30 hours of continuing education in those two years to get re-certified. You will also need to log two additional hours of child abuse recognition and reporting training.
Once you’ve got a footing in the field and have a few years under your belt, it would be a good idea to start considering going into a specialization. That would allow you to move into more lucrative roles. Some areas are in greater need in the state.
Mental health is one example. Some other great specializations to consider for nurses in the state include nurse-midwife, certified dialysis nurse, and nurse anesthetist. Nurse anesthetists can stand to make as much as $160,000 in the state.
The state of Pennsylvania is in dire need of qualified nurses to fill the ranks. This would be a great opportunity to join a great profession with quasi-infinite demand.