Becoming an RN in Iowa

Nurses are much needed in Iowa, and it’s getting a little easier to become one. This doesn’t mean that educational standards have lessened. Quite the opposite, in fact. There is a growing movement to encourage even higher levels of scholarship. What have lessened, though, are some of the barriers that have traditionally prevented people from pursuing higher education. The state has even put together a strategic plan to use e-learning to bring nursing education to students.

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How do you become a registered nurse in Iowa? The first step is completion of a degree program in professional nursing. Generally, this is either an associate’s program or a bachelor of science. One Iowa institution, Luther College, does grant a bachelor’s of arts in nursing. There are many other options, but the program must be board-approved; this means that it needs to be approved by the Iowa Board of Nursing if it’s located within the state borders, or by the board of nursing in another state, if the school located elsewhere. If it’s out of state, it must be in good standing with its regulatory body. You can find NCLEX pass rates for Iowa institutions on the website of the Iowa Board of Nursing.

Graduates generally receive an application for licensure by examination. There is no time limit for taking the exam; it doesn’t matter if you graduated the previous month or several years before. Iowa is a member of the Nursing Compact. Iowa licensure will qualify you for employment in any of the twenty-four Compact states. Do be aware, however, that you will only hold one license at a time, in the state where you have your primary residence.

RN Educational Pathways

Your previous education or experiences can shorten the path. There are a number of LPN to BSN programs for those with licensing as practical nurses. There are also accelerated BSN programs for professionals who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. Those who have the prerequisites on their transcripts may complete a program after as little as a year of intensive study.

There are also several nursing programs in the state that build on CNA experience. Mercy College, for example, offers a course of study for students who have completed 150 hours of training as certified nursing assistants.

Nursing Career Outlook in Iowa

What is the career outlook for a new nursing graduate in Iowa? A 2010 AACN survey of deans of nursing found that 51% of nurses educated at the BSN or MSN level had job offers at graduation. This increased to 86% four to six months later. In other words, it was taking some candidates several months, but most of the new graduates were securing positions.

What factors will affect your ability to secure work after graduation? You can expect to find some variability, depending on what part of the state you live in, and what areas of nursing you have expertise in. In a 2007 report, the Iowa Department of Public Health expressed grave concern about being able to meet demands for long term care health practitioners, especially in the more rural parts of the state.

The Nursing School Application Process

Admission standards vary, but some programs have far more applicants than slots. Meeting the stated admission requirements may not be enough. The University of Iowa, for instance, requires a 3.0 in prerequisite courses, but notes that most successful candidates actually have a 3.5 or higher.

Other experiences may compensate for a less than stellar academic record. One thing that you will want to do early in your educational career is familiarize yourself with nursing organizations within the state. There are professional organizations that can help you at every stage of the path, from pre-nursing to job applications and beyond. The Iowa Board of Education lists HOSA among the organizations that not only have state and local events, but also provide networking opportunities on a national level. Some chapters involve students as young as high school.

The Iowa Nursing Association is a professional organization that provides networking and advocacy. They arrange educational events and also speak for the profession with regards to health care policy and legislation. Another good organization is the Iowa Student Nurses Association.

Associate’s Degree Nursing Programs Approved by the Iowa Board of Nursing

Des Moines Area Community College
Campuses Offering LPN: Ankeny, Boone, Carroll, Newton, Urban
PH: 515-964-6324

Eastern Iowa Community College
Campuses Offering LPN: Scott Community College-Bettendorf, Muscatine Community College, Clinton Community College
PH: 563-441-4001

Hawkeye Community College
Campuses Offering LPN: Waterloo
PH: 319-296-2320

Iowa Central Community College
Campuses Offering LPN: Fort Dodge, Storm Lake, Webster City/Goldfield
PH: 800-362-2793

Iowa Lakes Community College
Campuses Offering LPN: Emmetsburg, Algona, Spencer, Spirit Lake
PH: 800-242-5108

Iowa Valley Community College District
Campuses Offering LPN: Ellsworth Community College, Marshalltown Community College
PH: 641-752-7106, ext 5726

Iowa Western Community College
Campuses Offering LPN: Council Bluffs, Clarinda, Shelby County Center
PH: 800-432-5852, ext 3392

Western Iowa Tech Community College
Campuses Offering LPN: Sioux City, Denison
PH: 800-352-4649

Kirkwood Community College
Campuses Offering LPN: Cedar Rapids
PH: 319-398-4989

Northeast Iowa Community College
Campuses Offering LPN: Peosta, Calmar
PH: 800-728-7367, ext 204

North Iowa Area Community College
Campus Offering LPN: Mason City
PH: 641-423-1264

Northwest Iowa Community College
Campus Offering LPN: Sheldon
PH: 712-324-5061, ext 216

Southeastern Community College
Campuses Offering LPN: West Burlington, Keokuk
PH: 866-722-4692

Southwestern Community College
Campuses Offering LPN: Creston, Red Oak
PH: 641-782-7081


BSN Programs Approved by the Iowa Board of Nursing

Allen College
1990 Heath Street
Waterloo, Iowa 50703
PH: 319-226-2000

Briar Cliff University
3303 Rebecca St
Sioux City, IA 51104
PH: 800-662-3363, ext 1662

Clarke College
1550 Clarke Drive
Dubuque, IA 52001
PH: 563-588-6361

Coe College
1220 First Avenue NE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52402
PH: 319-399-8120

Dordt College
498 4th Ave NE
Sioux Center, IA 51250-1697
PH: 712-722-6689

Nursing Department
Luther College
700 College Drive
Decorah, Iowa 52101
PH: 563-387-1057

Morningside College
Morningside Avenue
Sioux City, IA 51106
PH: 712-274-5154

Mount Mercy College
1330 Elmhurst Drive NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402-4797
PH: 319-368-6471

Northwestern College
101 7th St. SW
Orange City, IA 51041
PH: 712-707-7086

St. Ambrose University
518 West Locust Street
Davenport, Iowa 52803
PH: 563-333-6000

University of Dubuque
2000 University Avenue
Dubuque, IA 52001-5099
PH: 563-589-3000

College of Nursing
University of Iowa
101 Nursing Building
50 Newton Road
Iowa City, IA 52242-1121
PH: 319-335-7018

Upper Iowa University
605 Washington St.
Fayette, Iowa 52142
PH: 563-425-5318
Campuses offering RN-BSN: Fayette, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids

William Penn University
201 Trueblood Ave
Oskaloosa, IA 52577
PH: 641-673-1010