How To Become A Nurse In California

In California, much like any other state, the need for nurses is ever-present. Studying for a career in the medical field is a good start to attaining a solid career in a stable working environment. Choosing to enroll in nursing school is the first step to a new career. Nursing also gives you the opportunity to attain different levels depending on the type of nursing you want to practice. For those who have never worked in a medical field you can become an LVN or Licensed Vocational Nurse in California or LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) as they are known elsewhere. This only requires 12 to 18 months of training and you can save money by enrolling in an LVN program offered by a community college, vocational school or technical school. It gives you the chance to work in the medical field in a capacity that will allow you to determine your desire to continue. If you already work in the medical field, you can choose to start your nursing career as an RN at either an associate’s degree level or bachelor’s degree level. While both train you to be an RN, an associate’s degree allows you to work in general nursing and moving up to a bachelor’s degree allows you to work in a specialty field of nursing or in nurse management.

The Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians is the California State Board that is responsible for accrediting schools that offer LVN programs. They are responsible for making sure that your educations requirements are sufficient to pass the NCLEX-PN or National Council Licensure Exam for Practical Nursing and attain your state license. The California Board of Registered Nursing is the entity responsible for accrediting colleges that offer RN programs, both associate’s and bachelor’s degree, to make sure that the training is sufficient to pass the NCLEX-RN which is the same exam required for an LVN license, but is presented on a level of questioning for RNs.

LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse)

Becoming an LVN or Licensed Vocational Nurse gives you a good start in the nursing field. The training usually takes between 12 and 18 months based on your ability to attend full-time or part-time. LVN courses are often available at local community colleges, vocational schools and technical schools that offer accelerated programs at a much lower cost. Keep in mind that you may be put on a waiting list to take your nursing courses, but use your wait time wisely and take all your prerequisite classes. Nursing is a popular field, but not everyone that starts nursing school finishes. You want to make sure that wherever you end up attaining you LVN training, that the school is accredited with the California Board of Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians. This will assure that you will receive the proper training to be able to pass your NCLEX-PN to obtain your state license to practice vocational nursing. The test is made up of four sections that you must pass at a certain aptitude to pass the test in its entirety.

While working as an LVN, you will have a limited scope of practice, or care that you can legally provide. You can provide basic patient care and perform tasks that do not require nursing judgment or decision-making. You also cannot administer medications, start or provide IV (intravenous) therapy without further training. Depending on the facility you gain employment, they may provide access to this training for you or offer tuition assistance to attain the training yourself. If you are working in a facility that employs all levels of nursing, you may also be provided tuition assistance to further your nursing degree as well.

RN (Registered Nurse)

If you are already employed in the medical field but want to make a career as a nurse, you can enroll in school to become an RN and not need to start as an LPN. You also have the option of attaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. If you are on a limited income, you may want to start with an associate’s degree then attend school later to receive your bachelor’s degree. As an RN with an associate’s degree, you are able to provide more involved nursing care as well as assess patients and make suggestions for their care. As an RN with a bachelor’s degree, you can provide patient care as well as work in a specialty area of nursing and work in nursing management as well. While most community college’s offer the opportunity for an associate’s degree in nursing, it is a better strategy to enroll in a four-year college or university, as it makes returning to school to attain your bachelor’s degree in nursing easier. You may also want to contact any large hospitals in your area to inquire if they have a school of nursing. The only caveat with hospital nursing schools is that they usually only accept a limited number of people based on grades and require much higher grades and commitment than a four year college or university does. No matter where you decide to attend school, you want to make sure that the school is accredited by the California Board of Registered Nursing. This ensures that your education is focused enough so that you can take and pass the NCLEX-RN. The NCLEX-RN is a similar test given to LVNs to attain their license but the caliber of questions is on an RN level.

Working as an RN gives you a much larger scope of practice than that of an LVN. You are able to use your nursing judgment to assess patients, provide more intense care and be a part of their care plan process. Being an RN also means that you are in most cases responsible for supervising LVNs and making sure they are following their scope of practice. As an RN with a bachelor’s degree, you may work as a Director of Nursing in a long-term care facility or other nursing management that does not involve direct patient care.

Becoming an RN – Associate’s versus Bachelor’s degrees

Deciding to attain your associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree should depend on your career goals and budget. Most people do not have the means to attend four straight years of college, so by getting an associate’s degree, you can begin working, and if you choose to further your degree, you can in the future. Depending on the facility you are hired into, they sometimes offer tuition assistance for those that want to attain a bachelor’s or master’s degree as well. An associate degree gives you the opportunity to work in all areas of general nursing. If you would rather work as a nurse that is involved more in management and patient care planning than actual patient care, you may want to continue and attain your bachelor’s degree. This is especially the case if you want to work as a nurse in a specialized field such as Oncology or Geriatrics.

To keep your license current, no matter what level of nursing you are at, you must take Continuing Education (CE) courses. These courses provide credits that allow you to renew your license every two years. They also help to keep you up to date on advancements in patient care and the nursing practice. There are a set number of credits that the state requires each year. If you work in a large facility, they will usually offer you the opportunity to take these courses on-site. If you are unable to attend those or work in a smaller facility, various sites provide this training online.

Nursing Schools in California

While the LPN program is offered at a majority of technical schools, vocational schools and community colleges in California, the following schools are based on those attending for an RN degree of any level.

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  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
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Locations: Ontario

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  • Medical Assistant
  • Vocational Nursing
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Locations: Vista

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  • Associate of Science in Nursing
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Locations: Hayward

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  • RN to BSN (licensed RNs only)

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Nursing School Locations

University of California–San Francisco
2 Koret Way, #N-319X
San Francisco, CA 94143-0602
Phone: (415) 476-1435

University of San Diego
Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110
Phone: (619) 260-4600

California State University–Los Angeles
School of Nursing
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032-8171
Phone: (323) 343-3901

Loma Linda University
School of Nursing
School of Nursing Admissions Office
Loma Linda, CA 92350
Phone: (909) 558-4923

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