Nurses dispense medical advice and form strong relationships with patients, working in hospitals, clinics, schools, government agencies, and the army. After earning an online nursing degree, students may specialize through further study and advance to practical nurse or registered nurse positions.
While nurses frequently work long hours, scheduling is flexible; for example, you may work 12-hour days and then have a week off. Nurses typically earn increasingly higher salaries throughout their careers. A career in nursing is ideal for compassionate individuals with a deep interest in medicine and a strong work ethic. Earning your online nursing degree is challenging but graduates of online nursing programs in Kentucky begin rewarding careers helping others.
How to Become a Nurse in Kentucky
All aspiring nurses in Kentucky must earn at least an associate degree in nursing and complete a specified number of clinical hours through a nursing college. Most nursing schools in Kentucky have similar degree requirements but check each school's specifications before applying. Those who want to earn their degree more quickly may pursue online accelerated nursing programs in Kentucky.
1. Choose the Path That's Right for You
The minimum requirement to become a nurse is an LPN degree, which consists purely of licensing requirements; after earning your high school diploma or GED, you complete an LPN certification course through a community college. A two-year degree is required to become an RN, and nurses who have completed online BSN programs in Kentucky take on more responsibility and care for patients with more complicated issues. Nurses who aspire to specialize or to teach nursing at the college level need an MSN or DNP.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
When choosing from online RN programs in Kentucky, consider whether you prefer to earn your nursing degree online or on-campus. An online program offers flexibility to complete courses on your own time, often for a fraction of the cost. Make sure to research each program's prerequisites and degree requirements before applying. Each online nursing program has different requirements for internships, fellowships, and clinical hours. Also, consider degree completion time; those who want to graduate more quickly may consider an accelerated program, while particularly busy students may prefer a part-time program.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
Some students pursue their nursing license briefly after graduating high school, while others first undergo years of study in nursing schools in Kentucky. The process varies depending on the level of certification. LPNs may take the licensing exam with only a high school diploma or GED, though some specialized training is recommended. Other examinations require more education and specialization. In most cases, an online nursing degree program is sufficient preparation for the licensing examination. The cost to take licensing exams varies by state, but the average is $200. Earning a nursing license does not guarantee a job, but it does qualify you for nursing positions.
Nursing Licensure in Kentucky
To become a practicing nurse, you must earn a nursing degree and pass a licensing exam. The amount of required testing depends on the type of nursing. LNPs must complete only one certification exam. The NCLEX-RN exam is required for RNs and more advanced nurses.
To take the NCLEX-RN, you must have completed at least an associate degree program in nursing, though most hold a BSN in nursing. The curricula of most nursing schools in Kentucky prepare students to pass the exam. Visit the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure to prepare or register for the NCLEX-RN in Kentucky.
Becoming a registered nurse (RN) in Kentucky can involve endorsement or examination. For endorsement, RNs from other states submit an application, undergo criminal background checks, and deliver fingerprint cards to the Kentucky State Police. Candidates can access or request all of these documents through the Kentucky Board of Nursing's website. Endorsement also requires a $165 fee. Applicants must complete the computer-based Jurisprudence Examination from The National Council of State Boards of Nursing, which costs $9 and includes 35 questions. The Board of Nursing requires proof of a current license and official transcripts.
To become an RN by examination, applicants complete the fingerprint card, Jurisprudence Examination, and criminal background check, and must pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) for RNs. Exam registration costs $200. Candidates must finish the exam within six hours and should receive official results within six weeks. Applicants from programs outside of Kentucky must fulfill three continuing education (CE) hours related to domestic violence and 1.5 hours on pediatric head abuse trauma.
Renewing an RN license costs $65 and requires CE hours or competencies, such as a related certification, research project, presentation, publication, or contact hours.
License reinstatement involves an application with a $135 fee, along with the fingerprint card and criminal background check. Reinstatement after one year also requires retaking the Jurisprudence Examination.
In Kentucky, a state registered nurse aide (SRNA) functions like a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in other states. To earn an SRNA certification, candidates finish a training program that reflects Kentucky's nursing standards and fulfills competency components which include two areas of examination: written and clinical. Candidates should receive results within a month after taking the examination. Successful completion of these requirements leads to placement on the Kentucky Nurse Aide Registry (KNAR). The state does not issue SRNA cards as proof of certification.
Recipients must renew SRNA certifications every two years. To renew an SRNA certification, candidates must supply verification they worked eight compensated hours in a nurse aide role within the last two years. Pay stubs, written statements from employers, and W-2s all qualify as proof.
Candidates may not renew a lapsed certification. However, they may re-earn KNAR placement with verification of eight compensated hours of nurse aide experience for every two years since the certification lapsed. Reinstatement only occurs after repeating educational and assessment requirements.
Active nurse aides from other states can apply for certification reciprocity by supplying general information, such as their phone number, mailing address, birthdate, social security number, and certification number.
When exploring types of nursing in Kentucky, candidates should also consider credentials. The sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) credential, for instance, qualifies recipients to treat sexual assault victims and gather evidence for trials. This process requires an understanding of Kentucky law and physiological concepts, and also calls for communication skills for court testimonies and compassion when dealing with victims.
To obtain this credential, candidates must hold a current RN license from Kentucky or a compact state and must submit a fingerprint card with a $12 fee to the Kentucky State Police. Additional requirements include a criminal background check, an application, and a $120 application fee. The Kentucky Board of Nursing also requires candidates to complete an approved SANE-related class that involves clinical elements. The Board reviews applications within two weeks of submission but may take up to three months to consider a candidate with previous disciplinary action.
Reinstatement proves identical to the initial application, with the exception of five CE hours in forensic nursing instead of the SANE-related course. After a lapse of four licensing periods, candidates must complete a SANE program for reinstatement. Candidates renew this credential with their RN license every year by October 31. However, SANE renewal specifically calls for five CE contact hours that relate to the field. Out-of-state candidates may earn the SANE credential with previous training that reflects Kentucky's standards but must complete five hours of training that explores Kentucky legal issues.
Kentucky's advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license applies to nurse practitioners (NPs), certified nurse-midwives, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and certain clinical nurse specialists. To earn this license, candidates must hold a current RN license in Kentucky or a compact state and boast national certification in a focus that the Board of Nursing approves. For NPs, these focuses include adult gerontology, pediatrics, women's health, and family psych mental health.
Applicants must submit a fingerprint card and $12 fee along with transcripts and verification of national certification. Candidates must also undergo a criminal background check. Interested applicants pay $165 for APRN licensure for APRN licensure, but may pursue APRN and RN licenses simultaneously for $330.
APRNs can prescribe certain medications after practicing for one year when they engage in a collaborative agreement for the advanced practice registered nurses' prescriptive authority for nonscheduled legend drugs (CAPA-NS) with a doctor. Candidates must notify the Kentucky Board of Nursing of the CAPA-NS and should maintain an account through the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting System.
Candidates renew APRN licenses every year by October 31 and must provide evidence of five continuing education hours in pharmacology. Licensees in CAPA-NS agreements must complete 1.5 continuing education hours in specific areas, such as addiction disorders and pain management. Candidates pay $55 to renew their APRN licenses. Active military personnel may renew their licenses without the fee or CE requirements.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Kentucky
Nurses in Kentucky work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, the armed forces, and assisted living facilities. Professionals with online nursing degrees can expect their salaries to increase with experience and advanced education. Graduates of online MSN programs in Kentucky have the greatest earning potential of the state’s nurses. Kentucky is plagued with health crises, including obesity, drug and alcohol addiction, and a lack of physical activity. As a result, healthcare professionals, including nurses, are in high demand.
Employment Data for RNs in Kentucky
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs earn, on average, $73,550 per year. Annual incomes vary, with the highest paid 10% of candidates averaging $104,100 per year and the lowest paid 10% averaging $48,690 annually.
In Kentucky, RNs average $61,530 per year. While below the overall average, these numbers mean RNs typically earn more than respiratory therapists, exercise physiologists, and health diagnosing and treating practitioners in Kentucky.
RNs in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry earn more, on average than candidates in other fields at $90,510 per year. Ambulatory services, hospitals, and residential care facilities offer high median incomes for additional well-paying opportunities RN employment should increase by 15% by 2026.
Employment Data for CNAs in Kentucky
The BLS reports that nursing assistants, on average, earn $28,540 per year. The highest paid 10% of nursing assistants average $38,630 per year. The lowest paid 10% average $20,680 per year. Kentucky certified nursing assistants average $25,920 per year. This income is lower than the overall field average but exceeds the average earnings of home health aides, pharmacy aides, and physical therapist aides in Kentucky.
Candidates in the federal executive branch earn higher average wages than workers in other industries. However, the BLS notes facilities support services, scientific research and development services, educational support services, and higher education institutions offer higher wages than other industries, with salaries exceeding $34,000 per year. Nursing assistants in nursing care facilities, home healthcare services, and retirement communities also earn high median wages. By 2026, the BLS projects projects an 11% increase in nursing assistant employment.
Employment Data for NPs in Kentucky
According to BLS, NPs earn, on average, $107,480 yearly. The highest paid 10% of NPs average $145,630 yearly, while the lowest paid 10% average $74,840 yearly. Kentucky NPs experience below-average earnings as compared to the overall field, with annual incomes averaging $95,450. However, this number surpasses average earnings of occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, and diagnostic medical sonographers in Kentucky.
NPs in personal care services earn more, on average than candidates in other fields. Hospitals, outpatient care centers, and physicians' offices provide high median wages for NPs. The BLS projects a 36% increase in NP positions by 2026.
Biggest Hospitals in Kentucky
Online nursing degree students often choose schools based on hospitals in the area. Hospitals provide career opportunities for nurses of all levels. Large hospitals hire the most nurses and offer fellowship and residency opportunities. Kentucky's large hospitals are almost always hiring nurses and qualified healthcare professionals educated through nursing schools in Kentucky. The two largest hospitals in Kentucky are:
- KentuckyOne Health Jewish Hospital: Founded in 1905, this hospital provides patients with top-quality care and education. KentuckyOne currently has 462 patient beds and is internationally recognized for excellence. Doctors and nurses at this hospital are known for their skill with transplants.
- University of Louisville Hospital: UofL Hospital is located at the center of Louisville, Kentucky, and offers nationally recognized cancer and trauma centers. UofL Hospital serves more than 3,000 patients each year and is always in search of qualified employees.
Additional Nursing Resources in Kentucky
- Kentucky Nurses Association: KNA is an educational and professional resource for nurses seeking leadership, skill development, networking, and research opportunities. KNA members unite in the goal of improving their skills.
- Kentucky Board of Nursing: KBN is the official organized body of Kentucky nurses. The organization provides information about classes, licensing, and hiring. Those recognized by KBN must be in the process of earning certification or a degree in nursing.
- NAPNAP Kentucky: Founded in 2010, the Kentucky chapter of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners helps aspiring and practicing pediatric nurses further their education and career.
- Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse-Midwives: KCNPNM trains and assists nurses interested in midwifery. KCNPNM helps members obtain certifications, network, and achieve leadership roles. Annual conferences unite neonatal nurses from around the world.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Kentucky