How to become a public health nurse (2023)

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How to become a public health nurse (1)

The process to become a nurse in Virginia is similar to many other places in the country, but like other states, Virginia also has its own little differences. HeVirginia Board of Nursing (VBON)is responsible for licensing nurses in the state and should be consulted on any licensing issues. It is always important to research the licensing process where you live so you canStart your nursing career.

“Virginia's nursing scene is full of opportunity. Whether you're a novice nurse or an experienced nurse or anywhere along the healthcare continuum, there's an opportunity out there,” said Dr. Heather Gable, dean of Centra College in Lynchburg, Virginia.

In this article

  • Steps to Become a Nurse in Virginia
  • Acquiring your RN license
  • Apply
  • LPN and CNA licenses
  • How long does it take
  • continuing education
  • Is Virginia a compact state?
  • job outlook
  • average salary
  • Nurses trained abroad
  • useful organizations

Start Your Nursing Career in Virginia in 6 Steps

Graduate from an approved nursing program.

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If you want to be a registered nurse (RN) in Virginia, you will first need to graduate from an approved nursing program. can be anyoneassociate degree in nursing (ADN), andBachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)or, in some cases, an Accelerated Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (ABSN). You must have a high school diploma or equivalent education, such as a GED, to be admitted to nursing programs. Virginia RN applicants must complete a minimum of 500 hours of lifetime direct customer service; this will likely be completed as part of your educational program, but it is important to consider before applying for the license. If you are earning your nursing degree outside of Virginia, you must include evidence of itemized clinical hours for each course along with your official transcript as part of your license application.

Submit an RN license application.

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At or near graduation, it is time to submit your online license application to the Board of Nursing. Payment of a $190 fee is required as part of the application ($170 for Licensed Practical Nurses or LPNs).

After submitting your online application to VBON, you will receive a confirmation receipt containing a Fieldprint code required to register for fingerprinting through Fieldprint VA. These fingerprints are used to run a criminal background check on you.

Sign up for NCLEX.

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Register online to take the NCLEX through Pearson Vue. Do this immediately after completing your online license application with VBON or your Authorization to Test (ATT) may be delayed.

Pase o NCLEX.

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Once you receive your ATT from Pearson Vue, you must complete the NCLEX within the allotted timeframe, which is typically around 90 days. Once your approval results have been processed and VBON has verified that they have received all required items, you will beissued an RN license.

Maintain your continuing education requirements.

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Nurses in Virginia must complete a continuing competency activity or course to renew their license. Nursing licenses must be renewed every two years. VBON maintains a list of acceptable activities or courses to satisfy its continuing proficiency requirements.

Buying an RN license in Virginia

The first step to earning your Virginia nursing license is completing an appropriate educational program. For RN, this can be an DNA or BSN. DNAs typically take two years to complete and four years for a BSN (unless you're participating in an accelerated BSN program).

According to the VBON, Virginia RN applicants must complete a minimum of 500 lifetime hours of direct customer service to apply for a license. If your nursing program is in Virginia, this will likely be completed as part of your degree program requirements. No matter where you studied, be sure to complete these attendance hours before applying.

choose a program

Gable said there are many factors to consider when choosing the right nursing program for you. Above all, you must be diligent and do your research.

“Do you want to be a registered nurse? Do you want to be a practical nurse? What is the end goal? How much time do you have to dedicate [to education]? Do you want to do a four-year program to start? Do you want to do a two-year program? It's just what fits your lifestyle and finding a program that fits you wherever you are."

It is becoming more common for some employers to prefer or even require their nurses to have a BSN, but DNA programs still account for a large portion of nurses entering the profession.

“We are seeing this increase in students selecting bachelor's programs, but degree programs are still graduating the majority of students.”

Gable recommended that you also ask yourself the following questions when selecting a nursing program that's right for you:

  • Is the program accredited?
  • What is the pass rate for the NCLEX program?
  • What are the clinical experiences of the program like?
  • How much will it cost?

License application

As you get closer to graduation, you will want to begin the process of applying for a license. The first step is simply to submit an online application to the Council and pay the appropriate fee. Once you've done that, you should immediately register for two things: a fingerprint-based criminal background check and the NCLEX. The first must be done through Fieldprint VA and the second through Pearson Vue. You will need a Fieldprint code to register and take your fingerprints, which can be found on your registration confirmation receipt after you register via VBON.

When Pearson Vue verifies your eligibility to take the exam, you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) that gives you a period of time to take the NCLEX (usually around 90 days). She must schedule and take the exam within this time frame.Passing the NCLEXit is your last step on the path to becoming licensed. Once the Board verifies that you have passed, you will be a registered nurse.

LPN and CNA licenses

the process forGet licensed as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)o Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is pretty much the same as becoming an RN. The main difference, of course, is that LPNs and CNAs must graduate from nursing programs specific to these roles, rather than earning an ADN or BSN.

LPNs and CNAs also take different licensing exams. LPNs will carry NCLEX-PN instead of NCLEX for RNs. CNAs do not accept the NCLEX. CNAs in Virginia must complete askills assessment through Credentia.

How long does it take to become a nurse in Virginia?

The time it takes to acquire a nursing license in Virginia depends on two main factors: the type of nurse you will become and the educational program you choose. Most RNs will complete either an ADN or a BSN, which typically take two and four years to complete, respectively. Some people may choose to pursue an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN), which typically takes 12-18 months to complete, in addition to the bachelor's degree they already had.

If your goal is to become an RN, you can take the following time to complete the necessary steps in the process:

  • Complete nursing training program: approx.2-4 years.
  • Submit the online application to VBON, register for fingerprinting and register for NCLEX:Around an hour.
  • Receive Authorization to Test (ATT) and take the NCLEX: Once Pearson Vue has received the necessary materials, you will receive an Authorization to Test. This window of time normally gives you90 diasto take the NCLEX.
  • Receive test results: According to the NCLEX website, results typically take a fewfive daysbe available, although this may vary.
  • Receive License: VBON says that license request processing times are between30-45 business daysto complete.

Continuing Education Requirements for Virginia Nurses

Virginia Continuing Education Requirementsfor nurses it's a little different than most other states. RNs and LPNs in Virginia must complete at least one of the following during each license renewal cycle, which is two years:

  • 15 contact hours in workshops, seminars, conferences or courses relevant to nursing practice and 640 hours of active practice as a nurse
  • 30 contact hours of workshops, seminars, conferences or courses relevant to nursing practice
  • Current specialty certification by a national certification organization
  • Completion of a minimum of three credit hours of graduate academic education relevant to nursing practice.
  • A board-approved nursing refresher course
  • Completion of a nursing-related evidence-based practice project or research study
  • Completion of publication as an author or co-author during a renewal cycle
  • Teach or develop a nursing-related course that results in at least three semester hours of college credit, a 15-week course, or specialty certification
  • Teach or develop continuing education courses related to nursing with a workload of up to 30 hours

Gable said it's great that there are so many options to meet continuing education requirements, especially for nurses who may already be doing projects beyond bedside care, like earning orrenewal of a specialty certification, conducting research, teaching and much more. “I teach adjunct and many nursing leaders, whether in the world of practice or in academia, will continue to teach and be able to develop courses. It's absolutely incredible," Gable said. "And then of course you have the workshops, seminars and conferences, anything like that to fall back on."

When renewing your Virginia nursing license, you are not required to show evidence of completing one of the above. However, the Board may request to see your evidence at any time. You should keep any and all documents related to your continuing education in order to prepare.

Is Virginia a compact state?

Sim,Virginia is a member of the Nursing Licensing Compact (NLC). Under the NLC, Virginia nurses can practice in the other NLC states without the need to obtain additional licenses.

Nurse Job Outlook in Virginia

Employment of nurses nationwide is expected to grow 6.2% through 2031, about as fast as the average among all other occupations, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That still translates to about 203,200 jobs a year across the country.

Nursing homes in Virginia, like many other places, are experiencing labor shortages that have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.New legislation introduced in December 2022could establish minimum staffing requirements for nursing facilities if it is finally approved. This could mean more jobs available at these types of facilities.

Average Annual Salaries for Nurses in Virginia

The median annual salary for nurses in Virginia is $76,900 as of May 2021, according to BLS data. That's just below the national average, which is $77,600. While the average annual salary may not be as high as in states like California or Hawaii, it's important to note that Virginia tends to have a lower cost of living. The highest-earning metropolitan area in the state is the Washington DC-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan area ($89,060 median annual salary), which includes parts of Virginia. The other areas with the highest salaries in the state are also concentrated on the east side, such as Charlottesville, Richmond and the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metropolitan areas.

registered nurses

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10%$ 59.170

25%$ 61.730

50%$ 76.900Median

75%$ 87.030

90%$ 100.990

Average Hourly Wage$ 37

job growth6,2%

total pay66.980

subway areaAverage wage10% lower10% superior
Winchester, VA-WV$ 79.320$ 62.160$ 100.990
Charlottesville, VA$ 78.930$ 52.830$ 100.390
Richmond, Virginia$ 77.450$ 59.640$ 100.510
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC$ 77.030$ 59.640$ 100.990
Staunton-Waynesboro, VA$ 75.040$ 59.640$ 79.160
Lynchburg, VA$ 72.850$ 57.240$ 92.440
Roanoke, Virginia$ 67.520$ 48.850$ 94.800
Harrisonburg, VA$ 62.390$ 48.920$ 100.990
Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA$ 60.770$ 48.400$ 90.200

Fuente:US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)2021 average salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual wages vary by location, education level, years of experience, work environment and other factors. Salaries may differ further for those who are self-employed or part-time.

Find out how to become a registered nurse in your state

The process to become a registered nurse is different depending on the state in which you are applying for a license. Each state has different requirements and standards that you must be aware of.

Here are some of the major nursing states in the US and the steps to become a registered nurse in each:

  • California
  • NY
  • Virginia
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Nevada
  • Indiana
  • Tennessee
  • Florida

Requirements for nurses trained abroad

Nurses trained outside of the United Statesand their territories have the same application process as the RN, but with a few additional steps. First, they must apply for theCommittee of Graduates of Nursing Foreign Schools (CGFNS)to send VBON the CES Professional Report or the CGFNS Certificate on your behalf. Both documents attest to how nursing education and experience in another country compares and translates to nursing education in the United States. Both can be used by foreign-trained nurses for US licensure.

To obtain any of these documents, the CGFNS requires applicants to provide evidence of their English language proficiency by passing a proficiency test such as theTest of English as a Foreign Language, Internet-Based Test (TOEFL® iBT). Nurses may be exempt from this requirement if their education is conducted in English and/or if they were educated in a country such as the UK, Canada, Australia or elsewhere.

Useful Organizations to Know

The Virginia Board of Nursing (VBON) is the regulatory body responsible for licensing nurses in the state and should be contacted with any questions regarding nursing licensure.

Nursing students can enter theVirginia Nursing Student Associationto take advantage of your connections, networks and educational resources, leadership opportunities and career guidance.

oVirginia Nurses Associationis the leading professional organization for registered nurses and offers members a number of benefits, including automatic membership in its parent organization, the American Nurses Association.

Gable said her advice to new nurses is: "Find a mentor and never turn down free education."

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Written and reported by:


employee writer

How to become a public health nurse (11)

With a professional vision of:

Dra. Heather A. Gable, DNP, RN, LNHA, CNE, NEA-BC, Decana

Center College, Lynchburg, VirginiaONE

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