Becoming an RN in Illinois

These are exciting times for Illinois nurses. Illinois was one of three states selected to participate in a longitudinal study of Transition to Practice in Nursing. Meanwhile, the Nursing School Grant Program has provided for expansion and improvement of the state’s nursing schools. And if that’s not enough, schools are beginning to use simulation labs to increase educational experiences — and to train more nurses. The state is actively working to increase the pool of qualified RNs.

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How does one become a registered nurse in Illinois? Generally, people get their RN license by completing an approved degree program and then taking national board examinations (NCLEX-RN). Students can enter the field with either an ADN or BSN. There are many board-approved programs at each level, from both private and public institutions. It is also an option to enroll in a hospital-based diploma program. There is just one diploma program in the state, at Graham Hospital.

Some of Illinois’ prospective nurses are ahead of the game. They have come to the state having already received nursing education elsewhere. If you have a license in another state, you can apply for licensure by endorsement in Illinois. If your training was in another nation, Illinois will be glad to have your services, but there will be a few additional steps. You can have your credentials evaluated through CGFNS or ERES. Both are board-approved for this purpose. If your first language was something other than English, you will also need to supply evidence of English proficiency. Interestingly, in a 2007 survey, more than 4% of RNs reported having received initial training in another country.

Nursing graduates may not begin practice until they have passed the licensing exam. Those who pass may, however, practice for a short time under supervision while waiting for the rest of the steps in the licensing process.

RN Education Pathways

If you are already licensed as a practical nurse, you can choose either an LPN to ADN or LPN to BSN program. The BSN is becoming the preferred degree nationwide, but it is not necessary to complete your education all at once. RN to BSN programs are readily available, and they do not even have to be located within the state’s physical borders, or granted specific board approval.

If you already hold a bachelor’ degree in another field, you have two additional options. You may opt for an accelerated BSN (or ACCL) program or a direct entry master’s. The Illinois Center for Nursing supports transition programs and articulation agreements that allow students to progress easily to the BSN level and beyond. This state-level support shows! Notably, 29 of the nation’s 630 BSN completion programs are in Illinois.

Registered Nursing Career Outlook in Illinois

The Illinois Center for Nursing, Illinois’ official nursing workforce site, estimates that there will be a shortage of 21,000 nurses by the year 2020. In 2010 public testimony presented to the Health Reform Information Council, they expressed concern about how changing demographics would impact health care. 53% of the state’s nurses were within fifteen years of retirement.

Economic conditions are creating a short term impact on the field. How are graduates doing with finding jobs in difficult economic times? In August of 2010, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing conducted a survey of deans of nursing schools. They looked at placement data for BSN and MSN graduates over the preceding two years. 57% of Iowa’s graduates had offers at graduation. 88% did have job offers four to six months after graduation.

The Application Process in Illinois

Nursing programs have seen expansion under the Nursing School Grant Program of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. However, there are still more applicants than spaces. Admission policies vary a good deal from institution to institution, but a strong academic background is a plus. The University of Illinois-Chicago has noted that meeting the minimum stated requirements is not enough to ensure admission. The university will, however, guarantee admission to freshmen UIC students who were in the top 15% of their graduating class and who meet SAT or ACT score guidelines.

Some Illinois schools require the TEAS, or Test of Essential Academic Skills. An essay may also be required. Community colleges may give preference to students who live within the district. Preferences may also be given to students who have completed all prerequisites before application.

The Next Step

Now that you have read about becoming a Registered Nurse in Illinois, it is time to find a nursing program:

Associate’s Degree Nursing Programs in Illinois

BSN Programs in Illinois