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RN Nursing Programs in Pennsylvania - PA

Registered Nurse Salary in Pennsylvania

Registered Nurses are the biggest group of health care professionals in Pennsylvania. In metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, they make, on average, more than $65,000 per year plus benefits, and a little less in rural areas. While RNs in Pennsylvania may have to work irregular hours, such as weekends, nights, and holidays, and bear the weight of great responsibility when it comes to individuals under their care, it can also be a very rewarding profession—responsibility, complex decision making make for workdays that are rarely monotonous. In hospitals, which employ almost two-thirds of nurses, elder care, physicians offices and beyond, nurses are an integral part of the health care system. From management of Licensed Practical Nurses and Certified Nurse Assistants, to complicated decision making procedures and critical patient care, the decisions RNs make can affect dozens of people’s lives on a daily basis, and helping people through difficult times is a very honorable and satisfying pursuit. For those looking for a challenging and rewarding career in health care, working as a Registered Nurse in Pennsylvania is certainly an attractive option.

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Becoming an RN in Pennsylvania: ADN and BSN

Perhaps the quickest way to become a licensed RN in Pennsylvania is via a two-year Associate Degree, Nursing (ADN). ADNs are widely available at colleges and universities. Although a typical ADN takes two years, they usually require numerous prerequisites that can take six months to a year to complete. Around ten courses in math, English, psychology, biology and chemistry, with a minimum of a C average, are required before even applying to a nursing program. With competitive entry based highly on grades, the minimum will not always guarantee acceptance, so it is advisable to achieve exceptional grades before application.

From communication to psychology, math, physiology and microbiology, prerequisites for an ADN prepare students for the technical, psychological, and emotional aspects that are a large part of everyday work in a health care setting. Still, the main focus is targeted nursing courses that cover everything from emotional support and theory to clinical practice. And once the coursework is completed, students are ready to take the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). To take the examination, students must first apply to the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing and provide evidence of successful completion of a state approved RN program or equivalent within the US. The NCLEX-RN costs $200 to take, and the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing also charges a $35 application fee. It is important to note that this application takes into account criminal record, so, if you have a criminal history, it is advisable to consult with your nursing program prior to entry to see if it is a problem—the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing considers criminal record on a case to case basis. Once a student passes the NCLEX-RN, they are placed on the Pennsylvania Nursing Registry and are eligible to work as an RN. Every two years, an RN license requires 30 hours of continuing education for renewal at a cost of $45.

Another route to becoming an RN is through a BSN, which can be pursued from the outset of their nursing training, after receiving an ADN, or following training and licensure as a Practical Nurse. The first two years are pretty much the same as an ADN, with electives from general studies and nursing-specific coursework. However, in the final two years, courses go beyond the skills and theories required of an entry-level RN to focus on such specialized topics as pathophysiology, child care, caring for older adults, populations and communities, leadership, advanced theory, nursing research and more. During a BSN, students do a yearly practicum in order to gain workplace experience to supplement their studies, ensuring they leave the program with working knowledge of a health care setting as well as technical and theoretical understanding of the nursing process.

BSNs in Pennsylvania take the focus beyond the baseline knowledge required to practice as a nurse and require students to take their critical thinking skills to the next level, preparing them for a leadership role in a health care setting. They leave the program not only prepared for the NCLEX-RN and work as a RN, but also with research experience and an array of specialized knowledge that can open doors towards a more dynamic career, and higher earning potential, than what is available to ADN equipped Registered Nurses—something worth thinking about when deciding whether to pursue an ADN or a BSN.