EDUCATION
August 10, 2022

How to Become a Nurse Fast

Updated by: Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, BA, CBC

Maybe you’ve always wanted to work in healthcare, or maybe you just need to get into a career that gives you a steady income with plenty of job security — and STAT. Becoming a nurse does not have to be a long drawn process. There are many ways to become a nurse, some in as little as 11 months. Knowing the process of how to become a registered nurse quickly can be daunting but there are four key ways to start the journey. 

4 Ways to Become a Nurse Fast

1. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

If your goal is to start working as soon as possible, becoming an LPN is a great initial step. Most programs are 11 months, roughly 3 semesters, or 40 credit hours. This route may or may not include a clinical component within the curriculum, and many people report being able to work part-time throughout the program if necessary.

As an LPN, you can work at the bedside, in clinics, and in many other places where nurses are hired. It’s important to know that the scope of practice for an LPN is not the same as an RN. You will be restricted in some practices — such as administering IV medication and your facility should provide guidance on these restrictions.

While becoming an LPN is a great pathway for many, you should know that some hospitals are limiting the number of LPNs hired within a healthcare system. And, there are some units that will not hire LPNs due to the increased acuity of the patients (ex. ICU). This doesn’t mean that you can’t work in an ICU setting, but the options are very limited. The greatest area for growth as an LPN is in long-term care and hospice. 

The median annual salary for an LPN is $48,070 as of 2021 according to the BLS. However, LPNs in certain areas can earn over $50,000.  In fact, the lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $63,790. 

The median annual salary for an LPN is $48,070 as of 2021 according to the BLS. However, LPNs in certain areas can earn over $50,000.  In fact, the lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $63,790.

If the LPN route sounds like it would fit your lifestyle best but you know you will want to grow in your career, there are many LPN to RN programs that can help you get to the next level of nursing when you are ready and able to take that step. 

>> Related: RN vs LPN: What's the Difference Between These 2 Roles?

2. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

If you are anxious to become a registered nurse and start caring for patients while earning a nurse’s salary, an ADN degree is the fastest way to get there. Once you’ve earned your ADN you will be eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for Registered Nurses. The program bypasses general education classes and focuses entirely on the coursework needed for nursing. Associate degree nursing programs are typically 2 years in length.

The restrictions to an ADN are typically career growth — positions like management, leadership, or clinical nurse specialists are reserved for bachelor’s prepared nurses.

Most healthcare systems, especially Magnet designated ones, are now trying to hire only bachelor’s prepared nurses but this shouldn’t discourage you from taking this path.

Smaller community hospitals and long-term care facilities might be a great fit with an ADN degree. Many ADN-degreed nurses are even able to take advantage of tuition reimbursement benefits offered by their employers: the facilities where they work help to fund their pursuit of an advanced degree.

Just like the LVN to RN bridge, there are many ADN to BSN programs that can help you advance your career when the time is right for you.

3. Accelerated Bachelors of Science in Nursing (ABSN)

This option is available for people who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field and would like to accomplish a BSN in a quick time. To enter an accelerated bachelor’s program, one must have a degree in any other field, accomplish the mandated prerequisite courses, and have a strong GPA upon applying.

Program length ranges from 11 months to 2 years and depends on several factors including clinical components, whether the program follows the traditional academic calendar, and/or offers holiday breaks/weekends off/semester breaks.

When deciding between programs with varying lengths, consider school-life balance, home commitments, and your commitment to the program.

Sometimes faster doesn’t always work or mean greater success.

Click here to read more about the accelerated BSN.

4. Nurse Apprenticeships

Nurse Apprenticeships are programs offered by hospitals and academic programs to allow those who are in the process of obtaining their nursing degree, to begin working while in school. Although this doesn’t necessarily shorten the length of your nursing coursework, this does allow you to earn money while in the program, and provides an avenue of resources for you to land a job as soon as — or even before — you graduate. Learning on the job and making connections is a great way to jumpstart your career. Look for positions titled: “nurse apprenticeship,” “nurse technician,” or “nurse internship.” Click here to learn more about this program

Tips on Speeding Through Your Nursing Program 

Some nursing programs have set curriculums and you will not be able to graduate earlier but others will have some flexibility. For example, most accelerated or second-degree nursing programs have a very strict class and clinical progression. Graduating early is not an option, but ADN students may be able to shave some time off their program. 

BSN students will have the greatest opportunity to complete a four-year degree program quicker. Again, nursing classes and clinical rotations have a specific order of progression and these might not be able to be completed in a different order but prerequisites and general education classes can be completed at an accelerated rate. 

Here are some tips to help you speed through your nursing education!

1. Take classes during the summer or semester breaks

Many programs will offer general education courses or even some non-clinical nursing courses such as research, informatics, or ethics, during the summer months. Take advantage of the time off and take advantage of class offerings. This may help you graduate a little earlier or at least lighten your course load during the upcoming semesters. 

2. Find a mentor to guide you

A mentor can be a professor, a clinical instructor, or even a nurse you met during your clinical rotation. This individual will help guide you throughout your nursing education and ideally through the process of getting your first job. Mentorships can create long-lasting relationships and provide you with the guidance to successfully graduate with a nursing degree. 

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Nursing school can be hard, extremely stressful, and intense. Some classes might just not click and that’s okay. Pharmacology, pathophysiology, and human anatomy tend to be the more difficult classes and a regular struggle for a lot of students. That’s why it is important to remember that you can ask for help. Speak to your professor, form a study group, or get a tutor. Do everything possible to set yourself up for success. 

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