Nursing is one of the most challenging, stressful, and time-consuming professions in the world. It is also one of the most rewarding, essential, and honorable. The healthcare system relies on nurses to take care of patients in a specific and highly-specialized way.
A nurse needs to have the training and education to do their job properly, and hospitals need to ensure that their healthcare staff is properly qualified for the job. An Associates in Nursing is the best way to accomplish this for any aspiring nurse. Find out everything you need to know to get started with ADN Programs.
What Is an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN)?
An associate’s in nursing is the best way for a nurse to work directly with patients as healthcare professionals. They also allow for a wide range of work opportunities, work environments, and the ability to work with a range of patients. Some of the benefits of an ADN are:
- An ADN allows you to become a Registered Nurse. The job includes a stable and solid income, high demand, and the opportunity to open many other career opportunities in healthcare.
- An ADN offers a complete curriculum, giving students comprehensive knowledge and training to pass certifying exams and obtain a license.
- A nurse with an ADN can start working after just two years of study, so your knowledge and skills can be applied as soon as possible, and you can start earning a salary as a registered nurse.
- An ADN is a stepping stone to more advanced nursing degrees due to the depth of knowledge and experience an ADN affords nurses.
A registered nurse is the ultimate certification in nursing. A registered nurse can work with any kind of patient in any community. You can have the flexibility to change locations, work with healthy or terminally ill patients, all while earning a great income. An ADN allows you to become a registered nurse faster and prepares nurses for the certifying exams more effectively than other nursing programs.
Since becoming a registered nurse is so demanding, there is almost always a shortage of qualified registered nurses. The job is in high demand, and that demand continues to grow. This makes it easier for you to negotiate a higher salary and choose the jobs that truly interest you.
Registered nurses are essential to a functional healthcare system and perform a range of duties including but not limited to:
- Examining and tracking patients’ status.
- Operating medical equipment.
- Running diagnostic tests and performing analysis for the test results.
A Complete Curriculum
An ADN prepares nurses for their jobs by delivering a complete and comprehensive curriculum. It is a two-year program, so it understandably condenses a lot of information into a very small time period. This could be problematic for many students, but it is also the best format because it gets nurses working sooner than many other nursing programs.
The curriculum includes the core liberal arts credits like all other associate programs and includes the specific courses and knowledge necessary to become a registered nurse.
The depth and breadth of the course make it the best option for nurses preparing for their certifying exams, and the option to work at the same time that you are studying gives practical knowledge and experience to complete the classes.
An ADN includes clinical hours, during which an aspiring nurse practices what is learned in class. This practical, hands-on training can sometimes amount to 700 hours of practice or more. When nurses begin practicing after obtaining their ADN, they are ready for all of the challenges they will face in the job.
The Fast Track
An ADN is a two-year program that encompasses all of the essentials of nursing and beyond. The benefit of a short program is that nurses can begin working earlier and can still have the qualifications to become a registered nurse.
The short timeframe means that it can be an intense program, but the results are well worth the hard work necessary to become a nurse. An ADN is the most efficient and practical path to becoming a nurse.
For those looking for the fast track to a great career in nursing, an ADN is the best option. Without delays or schedule changes, you can get working faster and start earning sooner as a registered nurse.
Online options for earning an ADN give students the flexibility to earn their ADN while studying, and doing their clinical hours when they have the time. This is a great option for aspiring nurses who are working full or part-time during their studies or have other responsibilities to take care of.
An online ADN offers the same curriculum and quality as an in-person program and prepares students for their certifying exams just as if they were studying in-person. Students still need to do their clinical hours in-person to get the necessary experience, but you have the option of scheduling those hours in a flexible way that doesn’t disrupt your life.
Your ADN program will prepare you for everything your job as a nurse can throw at you. You will be qualified, but more importantly, you will have the option of studying for more advanced nursing degrees in the future.
Adding more degrees and certifications to your resume as a nurse, along with good experience complementing your academic achievements, is a great way to move up in the industry and increase your income.
Nurses who go on to do a master’s degree or more can ultimately change their profession if they wish. If not, they can continue to nurse and manage other nurses in leadership positions at clinics, hospitals, and other medical centers.
A typical ADN program has two major sets of courses. The first set comprises the core liberal arts courses required of all associate degree students, and the second set are the courses specific to nursing and healthcare. Those are the courses that hold much of the valuable information you will need to pass your certifying exams to become a registered nurse.
Liberal Arts Core Curriculum
About half of your courses will be general liberal arts courses designed to give you the full general knowledge of the degree. They might include courses such as:
- English Composition
- Human Anatomy & Physiology
These courses will begin to prepare you for your healthcare-specific courses, as many of them deal with the science and anatomy topics that will be addressed in the program-specific courses.
The courses you will take for your ADN are designed to prepare you for the most rigorous exams and a job that is rewarding both financially and personally. Courses in the ADN program are complemented with in-person labs that allow for practice and are a helpful way to cement much of the knowledge learned in class. Some of the ADN courses may include:
- Microbiology and Immunology
- Medical-Surgical Nursing
- Introduction to the Nursing Profession
- Nursing Health Assessments
- Professional Issues in Nursing
- Pediatric Nursing
- Psychiatric Nursing
- Maternal-Newborn Nursing
- Community Health Nursing
Each course will cover the fundamentals and specifics of the topic, as well as give you a chance to practice many of the skills necessary for a profession in nursing. By the time you sit for your certifying exams to become a registered nurse, you will understand everything in theory and practice. The exam will be a cakewalk by the time you take it.
Training to be a registered nurse by earning your ADN always requires some clinical practice hours and training. Each program will vary by what kind of training you will need to complete and how many hours are required, but generally, they are the same.
Work With Faculty
Your clinical hours will be monitored by nursing faculty in a hospital or clinical setting. By working with some of your potential future colleagues, you can get the hands-on experience that is necessary to understand the job.
Guidance from your supervisors will help speed up the learning process and correct any bad habits before they become regular routines. Learning by example is a key component of this phase of your training, and your supervisors will be trained in how to effectively teach you by showing you how it is done.
Work With Patients
Your clinical hours are critical first experiences with patients that will help you do your job better when you become a registered nurse after earning your ADN. Before you start the program, you won’t have any experience, including first-hand knowledge of how to take care of patients.
By treating and taking care of patients in a clinical setting, you get the hands-on knowledge that can only come from practice. These hours are also a stepping stone to getting enough practice to master your job.
If it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at any task, then you might be able to gain up to ten percent of those practice hours before you even start working. A registered nurse has an important and often life-saving job and needs to be sharp and prepared. These clinical hours prepare you for that.
What to Look for in a School
Studying for your ADN will take two years of your life, and while it is shorter than a four-year BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), it is critical that you choose a school with a quality curriculum. The school you choose must have a flexible schedule if you need it and have quality online options if that is something you’re interested in doing.
In-State or Out-of-State
Whether you like to be close to home when you study or don’t mind traveling, this should be one of the first questions. Choosing a school close to home means avoiding any disruptions to your current life.
If you don’t mind relocating to attend school, then your choices are broader, and you can look around the country to find the right school. If you are looking for a school near you, it’s best to choose the one with the best reputation.
If your city or town does not have a full nursing school, you may need to drive a little farther to the next town to find one. Geographic location is an important factor when choosing a school. Schools in other states might cost more, and the inconvenience of moving may be too big of a disruption for you.
Cost is also a factor. Going to school at an in-state college will often cost less than half of out-of-state college tuition. This is a serious consideration for many students as the average cost of a public four-year out-of-state college will run around $25,000, while an in-state-college will cost around $10,000. That price difference could mean having the extra money to pay the rent for a whole year, or even buying a new car.
Luckily, an ADN is a two-year program and will often cost half the price of a four-year program. With the efficiency of an ADN, you can finish your degree in two years while earning the same certification as everyone else to become a registered nurse.
Online Versus On-Campus
Online programs deliver the same curriculum and quality of education as an on-campus program. If the school you’re looking at provides an online course as an option, you may want to take them to keep your schedule flexible.
If you are working or taking care of loved ones while you are studying, this is a great option. School can often get in the way of other responsibilities, especially during a demanding ADN program. You need to be able to put your full focus into your coursework.
On-campus programs will deliver in-person collaboration and discussion that can only come from a class setting, so some students prefer that. Most students will thrive in that environment.
Either way, whether you choose an online or on-campus program, you will need to do your clinical hours in-person in a healthcare facility with a supervisor. These practical hours require you to perform nursing duties in inpatient rooms, handle patient care, perform analysis, and work on some of the essential functions that will be expected of you in the future as a registered nurse.
The reputation of the school you choose is critical to your success as a nurse. You should be checking out online forums and discussions about the school, as well as reviews from students who have graduated from their ADN program in the past.
Salary is often partially dictated by the quality of the school and the reputation of that school. If you choose the school with the best reputation, you’re more likely to receive a better offer when you become a registered nurse.
Accreditation is key to the school’s reputation, but it’s also necessary for them to teach you the correct information to pass your certifying exams. If the school doesn’t have the proper accreditation, they may not be properly qualified to teach you.
Exam Pass Rates
These are a key factor in choosing a school because they often partially determine your odds of success in the ADN program. You can look these up online and check which schools have the highest exam pass rates, and decide which is the right one for you.
An ADN program is demanding and challenging. By the time you’re ready to graduate and take your certifying exams, you want to make sure that the school you chose prepared you for the exam. If they do, you’ll be on your way to becoming a registered nurse in no time.
This seems obvious but isn’t always a given in every program across schools. Teacher credentials will often influence the reputation of the school. Of course, the quality of the professor teaching your program will determine the delivery of that knowledge.
If your professors aren’t rated well or have bad reputations, it might hinder your education and stifle your progress. If your professor has not adequately prepared you for the exam, you might just fail.
As a registered nurse with an ADN, there are many healthcare settings, clinics, and hospitals that you can work in to keep pursuing your passion and practice your specialty.
The doors really open when you have an ADN because it is the gateway to the registered nurse certification. Having both shows that you are a qualified candidate for the job and that you’ll be able to take care of patients with the highest degree of patient care.
As mentioned previously, registered nurse jobs are growing at a rapid pace. Even better, the demand is growing faster than the number of nurses graduating! Registered nurse jobs are expected to grow by 7% through 2029. That’s way higher than the average for most jobs.
The shortage of registered nurses means that the job’s in-demand nature gives you an advantage when negotiating salary and deciding where you want to work when you graduate.
As a registered nurse from an ADN program, hospital, clinics, and other health care facilities around the country will be vying for you to work for them. Instead of searching for a job, you will likely be approached for jobs.
The Backbone of Health Care
Registered nurses are the backbone of healthcare, so there is a nurse present in basically every single health care setting. ADN nurses are highly valued because they have the flexible skills to move between healthcare settings and adapt to patient needs very quickly.
Additionally, ADN registered nurses do the same work as Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates.
As a new ADN registered nurse, you’ll be more likely to work in less intense areas of health care such as medical, surgical, rehab, orthopedics, or psychological and behavioral health. Your career will lead you down different paths, but the basic tasks that you’ll be performing will be:
- Taking health histories
- Giving medication
- Ordering tests
- Providing instructions to patients
- Assisting doctors with patient exams
The ADN nurse is essential to a healthy and functioning hospital or healthcare setting.
Types of Nurses
There are a wide variety of jobs and healthcare settings for nurses with an ADN to work in. Some of them include:
- Travel nurses
- Community health nurses
- Psychiatric nurses
- Long-term care registered nurses
- Hospital registered nurses
- Home health nurse
- Occupational health nurses
- Rehab nurses
- Outpatient care nurses
- Hospice Nurses
Each job comes with its own specific set of functions along with the tasks mentioned earlier. Those core tasks apply to almost every healthcare setting, and specific healthcare settings mentioned in this list will give nurses more specific duty lists as well.
The Popular Choice
The most popular choice in nursing is to be a hospital registered nurse. As a registered nurse working in a hospital, you will need to be flexible and open to rotating assignments in different hospital units.
This is the greatest kind of practice for all of the general tasks and an overall breadth of knowledge and skills that registered nurses are expected to have.
Hospital RNs in Detail
With the right qualifications and experience, you can work in hospitals, urgent care clinics, emergency rooms, student clinics, and more. You’ll be caring for medical or surgical patients who are stable but recovering from serious surgeries or illnesses.
The care done in hospitals is almost always more serious than the care done as a home health nurse, psychiatric nurse, or rehab nurse. The work is more in-demand as well because the skill set is so intense. Registered ADN nurses with hands-on experience working in a hospital setting are often known as soldiers because they can work long hours, doing intense work, and in a very physically demanding environment.
Hospital RNs will be putting all of their knowledge and clinical hours to work when they start their job as a registered nurse with an ADN.
Due to the high demand and low supply of registered nurses around the country, salary is very competitive and often rewarding. The median hourly wage for an associate’s degree registered nurse is $27 nationwide. The general range is between $20 and $38 depending on the location of the job, the experience of the nurse, and many of the popular certifications that are available in nursing. Certifications can be used to complement a nurse’s ADN.
Location has an influence on salaries because, like in many other professions, the cost of living tends to align with the salary being paid. An area with a higher cost of living demands a higher salary, and therefore registered nurses will be paid more in those areas.
One job that may be an exception is a travel nurse. They are usually contracted to work for a third party and need to travel for different rotations in different areas. They may sometimes be sent to less desirable areas to work because those areas often have a shortage of nurses.
Travel nurses can substitute for staff members that are sick or needed to be called away somewhere. A travel nurse will have a fluctuating salary, but they will also be paid more on average.
Experience counts for a lot in nursing because a nurse’s experience is often what defines how good of a nurse you’ll be. Even a nurse with less education in a two-year program versus a four-year program may earn more than the four-year program student if their experience is better.
An ADN registered nurse generally has more experience because of the clinical hours needed to become a registered nurse after an ADN program.
Additional Education and Certification
Some hospitals may require ADN educated registered nurses to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing after hiring them, but this is not always necessary. The experience of the nurse is also determined by what certification they acquire after becoming a registered nurse. Salary can be influenced by those certifications.
They validate any further education and skills, but they also mean that you will receive a higher hourly wage.
Some popular certifications include:
- CCRN, certification for Adult, Pediatric, and Neonatal Critical Care Registered Nurses (http://www.aacn.org/wd/certifications/content/ccrnlanding.pcms?menu=certification)
- RNC-OB, certification for obstetric nursing (https://www.nccwebsite.org/Certification/HowdoIapply.aspx#available-certification-exams)
- RNC-MNN, certification for maternal newborn nursing (https://www.nccwebsite.org/Certification/HowdoIapply.aspx#available-certification-exams)
- RNC-LRN, certification for low-risk neonatal nursing (https://www.nccwebsite.org/Certification/HowdoIapply.aspx#available-certification-exams)
- RNC-NIC, certification for neonatal intensive care nursing (https://www.nccwebsite.org/Certification/HowdoIapply.aspx#available-certification-exams)
- CEN, Certified Emergency Nurse (http://www.bcencertifications.org/Get-Certified/CEN.aspx)
Frequently Asked Questions
Becoming an ADN registered nurse is a great career choice and doing it as fast as possible to start working is how most students approach the process. Many schools offer the ADN program, and with a little research, you are bound to find a good fit.
Getting your ADN and becoming a registered nurse is a rewarding and life-changing experience. Still, it can be complicated, and there are many parts to navigate.
Here are a few frequently asked questions about associate degrees in nursing:
When doing clinical hours, will the supervisor be present at all times?
A supervisor will be overseeing the students and probationary employees to make sure that they can pass a checklist of skills. Watching over them and making sure that they can execute their duties to the fullest extent of the requirement is essential to ensuring that they will be properly trained and qualified, making them exceptional registered nurses.
Any student that doesn’t demonstrate the capacity to execute all of their skills successfully will have their school notified so that feedback can be provided. If the student is performing to the best of their abilities and still comes up short of the requirements, their clinical hours may not be approved.
What is the difference between an ADN and RN?
Both are diplomas. An ADN is an associate degree. It is considered entry-level, but it does prepare students to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. That final registered nurse exam allows students to become fully licensed nurses.
An RN diploma is also a diploma and considered entry-level. It will prepare the student for the same licensing when they decide to sit for their exams.
RN diploma programs are typically hospital-based. ADN students gain clinical experience but are required to do the general education courses mentioned at the beginning of this article as well.
What about medication dispensing?
Some states allow registered nurses to dispense a limited number of medications under specific criteria. It depends on the State Board of Nursing. They will give direction on dispensing medication in their state for registered nurses.
Do ADN nurses have opportunities for leadership?
Leadership is an important aspect of being a nurse, and many people like to become leaders after a certain amount of practice. Bachelor of Science in Nursing students will generally have more career opportunities, including leadership opportunities.
ADN nurses will not be discounted for leadership roles, however, if the hospital requires nurses to go on to complete their Bachelor of Science after completing their ADN diploma, this may be a barrier to becoming a leader in the organization.
It’s important to note that in recent years the pendulum of leadership has swung toward Bachelor of Science nurses for leadership roles. It’s not impossible to land a leadership role with an ADN, but it does make it more difficult than with a Bachelor of Science as a registered nurse.
Putting It All Together
To sum up, getting an ADN and sitting for your certifying exams can be an extremely rewarding experience. Your life as a nurse will be challenging, and often stressful, but also extremely rewarding in so many ways.
That’s why millions of people decide to become registered nurses. With high job demand, low candidate supply, and a job that allows you to help people and improve yourself, studying for an ADN diploma is a great choice, no matter where you want to study or who you want to help.