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How Do I Become an Inpatient Nurse?

By Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
Updated May 17, 2024
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A person who wants to become an inpatient nurse must complete a formal nursing program at an accredited university, college or training hospital, after which licensure via examination is standard. Depending on whether a person wants to specialize within an inpatient section of a hospital and how much responsibility she wants, getting into an inpatient nurse job can take anywhere from one to eight years. Following completion of education requirements, inpatient nurses apply for the nursing jobs that hold interest for them.

The first step to become an inpatient nurse is deciding the level at which a person wants to work. The most basic level of nursing is the licensed vocational or licensed practical nurse (LVN, LPN). Programs for these nurses last only about a year and allow the nurse to provide basic nursing care, usually under the direction of an upper-level nurse. The next level is the registered nurse, or RN, which requires a bachelor's degree in nursing and is the industry standard. Beyond this is the advanced practice nurse, or APN, who is an RN that has at least a master's degree in a nursing specialty.

In general, the higher degree a person gets in nursing, the more independence and responsibility they will have. Many individuals with lower-level nursing degrees eventually go back to school to advance their careers, preferring to get into the nursing profession as quickly as possible. In recognition that nurses can be at different educational and experience levels when they want more education, facilities often offer bridge programs that take previous nursing degrees into account without repeating fundamental courses.

In most jurisdictions, to become an inpatient nurse, a individual must be licensed to work. In the United States, for example, nurses seek licensure from their state's Board of Nursing. LVNs and LPNs become certified by taking the National Council Licensure Examination PN, also known as the NCLEX-PN. RNs take a more advanced version, the NCLEX-RN. Candidates for licensure must complete an accredited nursing program before they can apply for the exam, and depending on whether a nurse wants to specialize, additional training and examinations might be required.

After a person completes her nursing education and licensure requirements, the next task to become an inpatient nurse is to review available inpatient nurse positions. This often is difficult, because compensation and benefits can vary so widely. Some nurses also have to consider relocation as part of their job search. At this point, getting a position depends on the nurse's success during the formal interview. Although nursing is a growing field, it is also competitive, so it is not unusual for highly-skilled candidates to interview at many different hospitals and clinics to become an inpatient nurse.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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