Becoming an RN in Idaho

Some people think of nurses as assistants to doctors, but they are in fact much more. Nursing has a unique educational approach, based on care and prevention as well as crisis management. Like all professions, the field has its own jargon. One acronym that’s familiar to Idaho’s nurses is I-SNAP. Because of the I-SNAP program, it’s easy for a nurse to move from one level of practice to another. This is an important difference between medicine and nursing. Nurses do sometimes progress to very high levels of practice, but they don’t necessarily do their education all at once.

Registered nursing, or RN, is the higher entry-level license. A person becomes eligible for an RN license in Idaho by completing a rigorous educational program in professional nursing approved by the Idaho Board of Nursing and then taking the NCLEX exam. Candidates may apply for a temporary license while waiting for NCLEX results.

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The Nursing Education Path

You may complete either an ADRN (Associate’s Degree in Nursing) program or a BSN program. If you are already licensed as an LPN, you can take a shorter bridging program (LPN to AND or LPN to BSN). According to the Nurse Leaders of Idaho, all of Idaho’s nursing schools participate in an articulation agreement that allows nurses to progress easily from one level to the next.

Second career nurses also enjoy a shortened path to licensure. If you hold a bachelor’s degree in another field, you have the option of completing an accelerated second bachelor’s in nursing program. You will progress through the program quickly if you already have all the prerequisites completed. Typical prerequisites include microbiology, psychology, child development, and statistics.

Registered Nursing Career Outlook in Idaho

What is the career outlook for a professional nurse in Idaho? It depends on your region of the state. The Idaho Department of Labor released a report in January of 2011 that assesses supply and demand for nurses at different levels (LPN through APN). The report includes predictions through 2015. The Department of Labor predicted that if current economic conditions continue, chronic vacancies for RNs would disappear in 2011 — at least on a statewide level. Region 3, which includes ten counties, including Ada, Canyon, and Washington, is expected to have chronic vacancies at the RN level through at least 2015. Other regions will have chronic vacancies at the LPN and/ or advanced practice level.

Remember not to get discouraged by a few failed applications. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing put together a research brief in 2010. They compiled data about nursing graduates at the BSN level and higher from around the nation. Idaho had among the lowest rates of job offers at graduation — only 20%. However, that number rose to 63% four to six months after graduation.

National nursing organizations have compiled resources and tips for nurses seeking employment in tight economic times. When it does come time to apply, Idaho’s nursing workforce site, Nurse Leaders of Idaho, will allow you to create an account, post resumes, and create email alerts. An Idaho nurse also has the option of putting in applications in other states. Idaho is one of 24 Nurse Compact states. The compact allows nurses to work under the license of another state. It simplifies the process during difficult economic times, or any time that life circumstances force you to move. It can also be handy if you choose telenursing at some point in the future.

The Application Process for Nursing School

Admission policy varies greatly from school to school. Some programs cater to working professionals. These may require a full portfolio with evidence of both academic and career success. The College of Southern Idaho, for instance, asks for transcripts, test scores, references, and copies of previous health care licenses, including CNA license. Candidates judged to be in the top tier are accepted on the basis of merit; those in the next tier are selected by a computer lottery.

TEAS score and grades in prerequisites are frequent selection criteria at community colleges around the nation. Health care experience is also valued. The College of Western Idaho notes that even caring for a relative can qualify as experience, but there should be documentation.

What is the First Step?

Explore the Registered Nursing programs in Idaho. Find a school offering an Idaho Board of Nursing approved pre-licensure nursing program that is near you or in an area you can easily access the campus and the clinical sites.