Many types of nursing jobs enjoy high demand across Idaho, both in cities like Boise and in rural areas. Some communities are experiencing severe shortages of nurses, leading to increased opportunities -- and often more money -- for recent graduates. As the state's population ages and nurses leave to pursue work in neighboring states, jobs for graduates with online nursing degrees are opening up throughout Idaho.
According to recent studies by the Idaho Department of Labor, nurses in the state can expect steady occupation growth for the foreseeable future. In a recent survey, the department listed nursing as one of its "hot jobs," with growth expected to outpace that of most other industries in the state. Nursing schools in Idaho offer a variety of opportunities for students interested in LPN work or obtaining doctoral degrees in nursing practice.
How to Become a Nurse in Idaho
Nurses in Idaho go through a conventional training process, and LPNs in the state can obtain licensure with a year of schooling and hands-on practice. Registered nurses must hold a bachelor's degree, which takes about two years to earn through one of the nursing programs in Idaho. Once nurses have completed their education, they must pass a licensing exam, and the state requires a few additional steps, as well.
1. Choosing the Right Path for You
Graduates from nursing schools in Idaho are prepared to work in nursing homes, as teachers, in emergency rooms, or as DNPs. Students working toward their online nursing degree must first determine what level of nursing to pursue. RN licensure is considered entry-level, and requires at least an associate degree. Nurses who want to pursue more advanced certification may obtain their bachelor's degree through online RN-to-BSN programs in Idaho. Master's and doctoral programs are also available.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
Earning a diploma is the quickest way to become a nurse. Some programs require students to complete a clinical experience or internship. Learners should check if they can complete these requirements locally. Program lengths for online nursing degrees vary, depending on education level, and whether you enroll in one of Idaho's accelerated nursing programs.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
All graduates must pass a licensing exam in order to practice in Idaho. Many nursing schools in Idaho help students prepare for their licensing tests. Graduates must pay a testing and fingerprint fee. Obtaining licensure does not guarantee future employment. Nurses must renew their license every few years, though renewal periods vary by state. Professionals who earned licensure from a compact state may also practice in Idaho.
Nursing Licensure in Idaho
Graduates of nursing schools in Idaho take the same licensing exams as nursing graduates in other states. To practice as a nurse, you must pass the National Council Licensure Exam, which acts as the nationwide nursing standard. The NCLEX comes in two forms: NCLEX-PN, for LPNs, and NCLEX-RN, for professional nurses. Before you can sit for these exams, you must fulfill prerequisite training or education. RNs must earn an associate or bachelor's degree from one of the online RN programs in Idaho. Students can apply to take the exam toward the end of their program. This includes applying to the Idaho Nursing Board for permission to take the NCLEX, and registering with Pearson VUE, the test administrator. Many aspiring nurses complete their background check and fingerprinting requirements ahead of time.
Idaho adopted the national nursing compact in 2001, through which residents of the 25 participating states can practice in each other's states without having to relicense. Nursing school graduates in Idaho must renew biennially, with LPNs required to renew on even-numbered years, and professionals on odd-numbered years. The Idaho Nursing Board hosts a site providing all necessary information to pursue licensing.
State Requirements By Nursing Type
Idaho's education and licensing requirements are similar to those of other states. RNs must have a postsecondary diploma from a school approved by the Idaho Board of Nursing. RNs may complete either an ADN from a two-year associate program, or complete a four-year BSN degree. Nursing students may submit their applications with an application fee to the Idaho Board before graduation. Applicants must also submit fingerprints, plus a passport-sized photo and processing fee, to the Board of Nursing to initiate the required criminal background check. RNs licensed in other states may apply for license by endorsement with a verification form, employer reference, and endorsement fee. All RNs must apply for renewal biennially, on odd years. This renewal application costs $90, and must be submitted three months before the license expiration date.
Both ADN and the BSN degree holders must take the NCLEX-RN exam, administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Prospective RNs must send their NCLEX-RN registration forms, with the $200 test fee, directly to the testing organization, Pearson VUE. Once the Idaho Board of Nursing confirms an applicant's eligibility to take the exam, the testing organization issues an authorization to test, valid for 30 days. The NCLEX-RN exam comprises four major categories and 75-265 questions, most in multiple-choice format. Test takers have up to six hours to complete their exams, during which they receive two optional breaks. The NCLEX-RN is scored pass-fail.
Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) in Idaho may enter the field with a high school diploma, but they must complete a series of trainings and exams. The state does not license CNAs, but these professionals must complete a state-approved training and competency evaluation program for employment in skilled nursing facilities. The state has established a common curriculum, requiring 120 hours of coursework. Prospective students can find a list of schools offering CNA programs and a description of the statewide curriculum at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare website.
CNA candidates must pass a manual skills test within six months of completing their training program. This test requires candidates to act out a scenario evaluating multiple skill sets and activities. After the manual skills test, candidates must pass a written competency exam, administered by Prometric. This 90-minute exam comprises two sections -- a written (knowledge) test and a performance-based clinical skills component -- for a total of 60 questions. The written exam fee of $29 does not include additional test site fees. Under certain conditions, candidates may take the exam in an oral format, for which the fee is $39, excluding applicable test site charges.
A CNA trainee who has completed a training program in another state that meets Idaho's requirements may apply for approval to participate in the state's examination process. CNAs must renew their certification every two years, and renewal does not incur a fee.
Idaho's LPN candidates must complete a state-approved practical nursing program, including a course in personal/vocational relations applied to practical nursing. Candidates can find current information about specific education requirements and the application process at the Idaho Board of Nursing website. The first step requires applicants to submit a fingerprint card, passport photo, and processing fee to the Board of Nursing to begin the criminal background check. Once candidates graduate from the practical nursing program, they can submit their application and register for the NCLEX-PN exam for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The application fee is $75, and the NCLEX-PN registration fee is $200. Once candidates receive authorization to take the NCLEX-PN, they may do so within 90 days. The NCLEX-PN is formatted similarly to the RN exam described above. For an additional $25 fee, prospective LPNs can apply for a temporary permit, allowing them to work under RN supervision through the exam process.
Licensed LPNs from other states may apply for licensure through endorsement, subject to Idaho Board of Nursing approval. They must submit verification of their out-of-state license, plus a $110 application fee and fingerprint processing charge. LPNs with out-of-state licensure may work under supervision with a temporary permit while waiting for verification. All LPNs must renew their licenses biennially in even-numbered years, for a $90 fee. Renewal requires completion of 30 continuing education hours during each two-year renewal cycle.
NPs must complete an approved master's or doctoral program in advanced practice nursing. Each approved NP graduate program, along with the college offering it, must hold national accreditation from a recognized accrediting agency. Prospective NPs must have completed their bachelor's in nursing before beginning their graduate program. PNs must hold RN licensure from Idaho, or another participating state in the nurse licensure compact, to apply for advanced practice nursing licensure. In addition to the RN license, they must also apply for PN licensure from the Idaho state board and an approved national licensing body. Prospective NPs should check the Idaho State Board of Nursing for current approved programs and licensing information.
Advanced practice nurse applicants must submit fingerprints to initiate a background check, requiring a processing fee in addition to the $90 application fee. Applicants who complete their advanced practice programs after January 1, 2016 receive prescriptive authority with their applications. Others must apply separately for prescriptive authority. Each application must document 30 hours of pharmacotherapeutic courses. The state board also issues PN certification, which entails examination in specific areas, including adult acute care, adult mental health, pediatric nursing, and adult gerontology primary care, among others. Certification fees vary by specialization and certifying agency. PNs must renew their licenses biennially, in odd-numbered years, and maintain certification. They must complete at least 30 hours of continuing education, and a minimum of 200 hours in each renewal cycle. PNs with prescriptive authority must document 10 hours of continuing education in pharmacology for renewal.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Idaho
Graduates with online nursing degrees may find work in hospitals, geriatric facilities, schools, and rural clinics. Specialized work for insurance companies, case management, telephonic nursing, tribal clinic work, and teaching positions are also available. Idaho's recent nursing graduates enjoy a positive job outlook. According to projections from Idaho's state government, nursing positions should increase by more than 26% through 2022. The Idaho Department of Labor considers registered nursing a "hot job" and a growth leader, outpaced only by pharmaceutical work.
According to a 2017 study of nursing by the Idaho Department of Labor, the state currently suffers from a nursing shortage, especially in rural areas. Idaho's aging population has spurred a demand for Idaho nursing school graduates. Moreover, some of the state's nursing programs are experiencing a teacher shortage, as well.
Employment Data For RNs in Idaho
According to recent BLS statistics, Idaho's annual mean wage for RNs has grown to $64,520. A study prepared by the Idaho Department of Labor places RNs among the top 20 fastest-growing and highest-paying occupations in the state, projecting a 20% increase in RN employment through 2024. Industries employing the most RNs include medical and surgical hospitals; physician officers, home healthcare services, skilled nursing facilities, and outpatient care centers.
According to the state Department of Labor study, Idaho and its neighboring states experience a regional deficit of approximately 1,000 RNs each year, as these nurses relocate to pursue employment opportunities elsewhere, retire, or change professions. Northern and southwest Idaho report particularly severe RN shortages. RNs working in the practice settings of insurance claims and benefits, and those working in home healthcare, earn the highest median wages. The lowest mean salaries go to those in community health. RNs in Idaho's highest-paid positions work as case managers.
Employment Data For CNAs in Idaho
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, like in many other states, requires licensed skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and nursing facilities (NFs) to employ nurse aides. These aides must have successfully completed a state-approved training and competency evaluation program. BLS data reflects this requirement, reporting the highest levels of employment for nursing assistants, including CNAs, in skilled nursing facilities. Medical and surgical hospitals, retirement communities, assisted living facilities for elderly, and the home healthcare industry also employ large numbers of nurses. The BLS projects an above-average job growth rate for nursing assistants through 2026.
Though demand is growing, salaries do not yet reflect that demand. Earnings data for nursing assistants in Idaho shows relatively low mean salaries compared to salaries for other nursing professions. Nursing assistants earn an average of $26,450 each year, with the lowest 10th percentile making $20,610, and those in the 90th percentile earning $34,170. The Boise metropolitan area boasts the highest demand for nursing assistants; CNAs find fewer employment opportunities in Idaho's rural areas. Nurse Journal reports that CNA salaries for job openings in Idaho rank 33% lower than the average CNA salaries for job postings nationally. The mean salary for CNAs in Idaho ranks 49th in the U.S.
Employment Data For NPs in Idaho
The BLS reports that nurse practitioners receive the highest mean salary of all nursing professions in Idaho, reaching $102,760 annually. Mean annual NP salaries in the state range from $59,480 (for those in the lowest 10th percentile) to $150,350 (for those in the 90th percentile). The Idaho Department of Labor lists NPs as one of the state's "hot jobs," projecting a growth rate of more than 32% through 2014. Most NPs in Idaho find employment in the Boise area. According to the Idaho Nursing Overview Report, the state's northern half faces a significant PN shortage, and competition between these professionals has intensified -- especially for NP case workers. PNs make up the oldest group of nurses in Idaho, as almost 60% are 45 or older. This factor may impact demand in coming years. PNs working in the lowest-paid concentrations may earn more than $22,000 above the median RN salary, with clinical nurse anesthetists earning the most of all nursing professionals in the state. NPs working as case managers, and in emergency and trauma positions, also earn significantly higher salaries than other licensed nurses in Idaho.
Biggest Hospitals in Idaho
Hospitals employ many nurses who hold online degrees, and offer training opportunities, internships, and fellowships to students. Many nursing degree candidates complete their practicals at hospitals, and some nurses even obtain their degrees through medical centers. Hospitals create a great place for new nursing school graduates in Idaho to begin their employment search. The state's two largest hospitals employ the most nurses in the state.
- St. Luke's Medical Center: Based in Boise, Idaho's largest city, St. Luke's is the flagship of the biggest healthcare system in the state. It's also one of the state's largest employers, with more than 10,000 employees at its facilities, including many graduates of online BSN programs in Idaho.
- St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center: Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1894, St. Alphonsus was Boise's first medical center. Its trauma center is part of a much larger medical system, among the largest employers in Idaho. The facility acts as a pioneer in telemedicine, serving the state's remote areas. St. Alphonsus employs more than 5,000 people among its medical staff.
Additional Nursing Resources in Idaho
- Idaho Board of Nursing: IBN -- the state-run, regulatory agency in Idaho -- offers information on nursing in the state, including licensing, educational programs, and guidelines.
- ANA-Idaho: Formerly known as the Idaho Nurses Association, ANA-Idaho now acts as the state's chapter of the American Nurses Association, a membership organization with resources for new graduates from Idaho nursing schools and working nurses. Resources include networking, educational opportunities, and current news and information.
- Nurse Leaders of Idaho: NLI, a professional membership organization representing nursing leadership in the state, acts as one of the top political voices for nurses. NLI hosts training, leadership courses, and an annual conference.
- Idaho Nursing Action Coalition: Part of the national nursing campaign for action, the coalition gathers Idaho's nurses for advocacy and political work. The organization works to improve educational opportunities for nurses across Idaho, conducting webinars and disseminating information.
- Idaho Student Nurses Association: ISNA hosts an annual convention. The association offers tips on passing the NCLEX, plus study ideas, a blog, news, and other helpful information.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Idaho
The following database includes all accredited ADN , BSN, RN-to-BSN , MSN , and DNP online nursing schools in Idaho. Each online nursing degree varies in regards to its format, course offerings, specializations, and professional opportunities. This database will help you find a program that fits your unique career goals.