The role of a Registered Nurse is probably what you picture when you think of nurses: the busy but friendly healthcare professional who updates medical charts, takes your temperature and blood pressure, changes wound dressings, and administers medication. Registered nurses are the backbone of hospitals, although they also work in nursing homes, schools, physicians’ offices, and many other settings.
Becoming a registered nurse will be a rewarding and fulfilling career choice for you. You are also very likely to be able to get a job once you qualify, since there is a nationwide shortage of registered nurses. Texas, in particular, has the second-largest shortage of registered nurses in the country, partly because of its growing population. Here are all the steps you need to complete to become a registered nurse in Texas.
Step 1: Get a nursing degree
In order to be a good nurse and to practice healthcare safely, you need to be appropriately trained for the job. The minimum requirement to become a registered nurse is an associate degree in nursing. However, most hospitals these days require their registered nurses to hold a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN). If you don’t currently meet the eligibility criteria to be accepted onto a bachelor’s degree, don’t worry; you can always enroll in an associate degree and then transfer to a bachelor’s program once you have completed your associate program.
If you already have a degree in another discipline, you might be able to complete a non nursing degree to BSN online conversion program. This is an accelerated version of a regular BSN that you can complete in less than a year. Admission to accelerated BSN programs does depend on you satisfying some prerequisites, however, so you might need to take a few classes prior to being accepted onto the program if you didn’t complete all the prerequisites during your previous degree.
Whichever type of qualification you go for, a nursing degree will entail a mixture of academic study and supervised clinical practice. By the end of your degree, you will have enough knowledge and experience to make you a confident healthcare practitioner. Do make sure that you choose a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education; otherwise, your degree may not be recognized by the Texas Board of Nursing as valid for the purposes of you gaining your professional license.
Step 2: Pass the Texas Nursing Jurisprudence Exam
Prior to obtaining their professional license, all prospective registered nurses in Texas must pass the Texas Nursing Jurisprudence Exam. This is a two-hour examination that assesses candidates’ knowledge of the complicated legal framework that regulates the nursing profession. The topics covered in this exam include:
- nursing practice
- licensure and regulation
- peer review
- disciplinary action
Step 3: Pass the NCLEX-RN exam
The National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses exam (or NCLEX-RN for short) is a nationwide examination that all prospective registered nurses must pass prior to obtaining their professional license. Applicants must apply to take the exam through their state’s nursing board—which, in the case of Texas, is the Texas Board of Nursing. You must have passed the Texas Nursing Jurisprudence Exam in order to be allowed to take the NCLEX-RN.
The NCLEX-RN covers the following topics:
- safe and effective care environment
- health promotion and maintenance
- psychosocial integrity
- physiological integrity
Step 4: Pass a criminal background check
Once you have passed both exams, you will need to submit yourself to a criminal background check, which involves having your fingerprints taken so they can be matched with the criminal records held by the state, the National Crime Information Center, and the FBI. If you were convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving “moral turpitude”, you will need to wait five years before obtaining your nursing license, unless you can convince the Texas Board of Nursing that your crime can be classified as as “youthful indiscretion”. These are some of the crimes which will be considered relevant under this rule:
- violent crimes
- burglary and theft
- fraud, deception, and falsification
- drug possession crimes
Some crimes are considered so severe that being convicted of one or more of them will permanently disqualify you from gaining a nursing license. These crimes include:
- aggravated assault
- registrable sex offenses
Exception: If you worked as a registered nurse in another state
The Texas Board of Nursing allows registered nurses from another state to obtain a license “by endorsement”. In order to qualify for this pathway, you must have graduated from an accredited nursing course and passed the NCLEX-RN exam.
Step 5: Maintain and renew your license
Once you have successfully navigated all these bureaucratic processes, you can finally get your license and start working as a registered nurse. A license, however, does not last for life: your license will need to be renewed every two years. In order to get your license renewed, you will need to complete at least 20 contact hours of continuing nursing education (CNE) and produce certificates to that effect. CNE programs are delivered by state nursing boards or by national nursing organizations, such as the National Black Nurses Association.
If you fail to renew your license on time, you will go into ‘delinquent status’ and may be required to complete additional CNE hours, depending on how long it takes for you to apply for a license renewal. There are also several situations that will lead your license to be suspended and/or not renewed:
- having disciplinary action taken against you, whether in Texas or in another state;
- being the subject of a complaint or of an investigation that is currently pending;
- having been addicted to any drugs, including alcohol, in the past five years;
- having been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, other than traffic violations;
- having a pending criminal charge;
- suffering from a condition that impacts your ability to practice nursing, for example by impairing your judgment;
- being the subject of a grand jury or of a governmental agency investigation.
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