Nurses assess patient needs and administer medications; some even serve primary care providers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median income for registered nurses is $70,000 and projects employment growth of 15% between 2016 and 2026. This projected increase would equate to more than 438,100 new nursing jobs.
In Louisiana, 33% of nurses of nurses hold more than 20 years experience. Louisiana offers multiple paths to enter the nursing field, and students can complete most associate programs in two years. Registered nurses (RNs) may earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) through an online RN-to-BSN program in Louisiana. Nursing colleges in Louisiana also offer opportunities to earn a master of science and a doctorate in nursing, with each degree providing more career opportunities and higher average wages.
How to Become a Nurse in Louisiana
Many states include similar requirements for nursing education programs, such as adequate clinical and hands-on practice and a demonstration of knowledge. Prospective nurses must pass the National Licensure Council Exam (NCLEX) for RNs, a rigorous six-hour test, and supply the Louisiana State Board of Nursing (LSBN) with all required transcripts and documentation, including fingerprints for a criminal background check.
1. Choosing the Right Path for You
Students can begin their nursing careers in two years through one of the many RN programs in Louisiana. Many nurses turn to online RN-to-BSN programs in Louisiana to earn a higher education and find more opportunities. Nurses who wish to specialize in a particular area, such as pediatrics, or become stand-alone medical providers or nurse educators must consider online MSN programs in Louisiana and doctorate of nursing practice degrees. Accelerated nursing programs in Louisiana can shorten the time it takes an RN to complete bachelor's and master's programs.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
A BSN degree requires at least four years of study. Master's programs require an additional two years, while a doctorate takes another three to five years to complete. While online nursing degrees offer students greater flexibility than traditional on-campus programs, students must still complete hands-on learning. Many schools begin with a pre-nursing curriculum that includes general education courses in English, history, and math, and foundational courses such as anatomy, physiology, and biology. Because nursing programs receive more applicants than schools can accommodate, students seeking admission to Louisiana nursing schools must focus on pre-nursing classes to ensure they complete all required prerequisites. Many programs may ask for personal and academic references and interviews with applicants.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
All nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN exam before being granted a license to practice nursing. The test utilizes the five-step nursing process with multiple choice questions, covering student's knowledge and testing their ability to judge and evaluate information and apply it to specific patient needs. Students have six hours to complete the test, with two short breaks. The test costs roughly $200.
Nursing Licensure in Louisiana
Every state regulates the nursing profession, setting minimum standards that applicants must meet before being granted a license. Graduates of approved doctorate of nursing practice degrees and nursing-degree holders may apply for an RN license from the LSBN. The state board provides an authorization to test, which the NCLEX requires to register for the exam.
Graduates must pass the test within four years of completing their nursing education and may only take the test four times. The state conducts a background check of all nursing applicants, and applicants cannot hold any pending criminal or civil charges. Because many nursing graduates often receive offers of employment when leaving school, Louisiana provides a temporary 90-day permit. Only residents of Louisiana are eligible for this permit. The expedited permit requires an additional fee. Louisiana recognizes advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) for certified nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, or nurse anesthetists.
Applicants for the APRN must provide transcripts of their education, such as transcripts from an online nursing program in Louisiana. The state grants licenses on a calendar-year basis, from January to December, regardless of the initial application date. Nurses must renew their license during the fall of each year to avoid fines or a lapse in their license.
Nursing Licensing Costs in Louisiana
App Fee $100
State Requirements By Nursing Type
The LSBN pre-approves several nursing schools that meet the state's standards for RN and BSN education. First-time licensure candidates must graduate from programs on this list or from schools that meet the same educational criteria. Applicants cannot hold any healthcare credential restrictions, pending criminal charges, or allegations that prevent them from providing care.
Graduates who meet these requirements must first apply through the LSBN online nursing portal. The portal requires copies of photo identification, demographic information, and affidavits of graduation. Applicants can also use the portal to pay the $100 licensing fees and the $38 background check fees. Only after candidates submit the online portion can they mail their criminal background check packets, notarized affidavits of verification, and original copies of the graduation affidavits. These forms may take a few weeks to process.
Next, applicants register to take the NCLEX-RN and pay the $200 exam fee. Applicants who successfully complete the exam receive their RN licenses in Louisiana.
Nurses practicing in other states can transfer to Louisiana through endorsement. These professionals should send the same LSBN documents as new licensees, as well as license verifications from previous states and nursing school transcripts. Out-of-state nurses can also apply for 90-day temporary licenses, which allow them to start working while the LSBN processes their paperwork.
RNs are required to practice nursing 1600 hours or more and complete five contact hours of accredited nursing continuing education each calendar year to renew their licenses in Louisiana. RNs who hold less than 1600 hours must complete between 10-15 contact hours.
While candidates seeking RN and nurse practitioner (NP) licenses go to the LSBN, applicants for certified nursing assistant (CNA) licensure refer to the Louisiana Department of Health Health Standards Section (LDH-HSS). First, candidates complete Nurse Aide Training and Competency Evaluation Programs (NATCEPs) Nurse Aide Training and Competency Evaluation Programs. Skilled nursing facilities, trade schools, and hospitals often offer these programs. RN or licensed practical nurse (LPN) students who possess sufficient nursing coursework can take the test for certification to become CNAs as well.
Once candidates graduate from NATCEPs, they can RN or licensed practical nurse, the company that administers the licensing exam. The CNA examination application requires identifying information, training verification, and a $125 fee. Once Prometric approves an application, the candidate schedules and takes the written and skills sections of the exam. The written section includes 60 multiple choice questions that testers have 90 minutes to answer. During the skills section, candidates perform five CNA skills for a proctor. Prometric forwards passing scores to the LDH-HSS, which issues licenses.
Out-of-state professionals can transfer by requesting reciprocity and apply through Prometric. CNAs working in skilled nursing facilities must apply for the direct service worker registry. Louisiana also grants temporary CNA licenses for relief workers during states of emergency. Relief workers holding CNA licenses can practice for 30 days before they must apply for reciprocity.
CNA licenses last for two years. To maintain their license, CNAs must work at least eight hours of nurse-related tasks every two hours and ensure the employer reports the work to the LDH-HSS. Professionals who lapse in this requirement must retake the licensing exam to return to work.
The Louisiana State Board of Practical Nurse Examiners (LSBPNE) sets the licensure procedures for LPN candidates. First, applicants complete programs approved by the LSBPNE or programs with similar education requirements. The LSBPNE provides updated statistics on NCLEX-PN first-time passing rates for the schools it approves. First-time LPN candidates apply with the LSBPNE to take the licensing exam. Applicants must provide a two-square-inch photograph, official transcripts, money orders for $100, and any board-requested court documents relating to their criminal histories.
Next, first-time applicants submit their information to Pearson Vue. Once both the LSBPNE and Pearson Vue approve an exam candidate, the candidate receives notice of eligibility and schedules an exam time. The NCLEX-PN uses computerized adaptive testing, a program that helps shorten the exam. The computer changes the difficulty of the questions based on the tester's answers. When the software is 95% sure a candidate's ability is above or below the passing standard, the test ends.
Out-of-state candidates applying for endorsement must hold current LPN licenses from their previous jurisdictions, submit transcripts from their LPN programs, and agree to background checks. If a candidate's previous education does not meet the LSBPNE standards, the applicant must apply by examination.
The LSBPNE does not require LPNs to take continuing education, but some employers do. Licenses expire on January 31 each year. LPNs apply for renewal starting November 1 of the previous year. Professionals renew online for a fee.
First-time NP candidates should complete LBSN-approved graduate programs or attend similarly accredited schools. Then, graduates earn national certification through any of the recognized agencies, including the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Applicants must earn degrees and certifications in the subject and population areas in which they plan to practice. Before applying for NP licenses, candidates should hold active RN licenses in Louisiana, even if they transfer from out of state.
Applicants who meet all these requirements, pass a criminal background check, and carry no disciplinary actions against their healthcare credentials can apply through the LSBN and pay the $100 fee. The paperwork can take a few weeks for the board to process and additional documentation may be requested. In some circumstances, the LSBN grants temporary NP licenses to experienced professionals from outside the state.
After earning their licenses, NPs seeking prescribing abilities must apply for prescriptive authority. These candidates must hold 500 hours of clinical practice within two years and submit additional documentation to the board.
All NPs must renew their licenses each year. The continuing education requirements for NPs vary based on the number of hours they work in the previous year; however, all NPs earn six hours of continuing education in pharmacology each year. Professionals in other advanced types of nursing, like clinical nurse leaders and certified registered nurse anesthetists, go through the same application processes as NPs.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Louisiana
The BLS projects 15% employment growth for nursing occupations through 2026, a rate which exceeds the growth rate of most other occupations. The LSBN found that hospitals continue to employ most graduates of on-campus or online RN programs in Louisiana. These large care centers offer services to all ages and provide vital preventative services and community outreach.
An increasing number of graduates from nursing schools in Louisiana also find work in physicians offices. Additionally, the state reports an increase in nursing jobs at long-term care facilities. Healthcare providers boast a continued demand for qualified nurse practitioners willing to serve a growing population of patients in need of primary care services.
Employment Data For RNs in Louisiana
Louisiana is home to 45,970 RNs. The BLS reports a $63,500 mean salary for RNs in Louisiana and a national mean annual wage for RNs at $73,550. While these figures may disappoint some nurses in the region, they should consider the many factors that can change an RN's pay. For example, RNs in New Orleans earn an average of $68,800 per year, while those in the Houma-Thibodaux area make $58,900.
Specializations and additional certifications can also make a significant impact on a nurse's earning potential. Monster reports that RNs who specialize in wound, ostomy, and continence care make an average of $83,500 annually. Nurses who work for hospitals and outpatient centers earn salaries above the national average as well.
RNs across the country enjoy high demand. The aging population and financial concerns at hospitals drive this expansion. Furthermore, new graduates find an increasing number of positions available as nurses reach retirement age. Outpatient centers also create many new positions for nurses and pay higher-than-average salaries.
Employment Data For CNAs in Louisiana
The average pay for CNAs is lower than the national mean, but graduates can increase their earning potential with the regions and employers they choose. The BLS estimates that the 20,550 CNAs in Louisiana earn $21,880 per year and reports a national average earning of $28,540 annually for CNAs. Since Louisiana allows students in LPN and RN programs to apply for CNA licenses, this can be a foot in the door for learners pursuing other types of nursing.
CNAs in the Shreveport, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Houma-Thibodaux areas earn above the state's average. However, those in the Alexandria, Hammond, and Lafayette metropolitans make below-average wages. Roughly 37% of CNAs work in nursing facilities, which pay just under average salaries. However, hospitals pay their CNAs more than most employers with a national average of $30,640 annually.
Specialty hospitals, like pediatric and heart care, give CNAs even higher wages with means of $31,120 per year. As people continue to live longer and baby boomers age, nursing facilities will require more skilled caretakers. The BLS projects employment for CNAs to grow 11% between 2016 and 2026.
Employment Data For NPs in Louisiana
The BLS reports that the 2,420 NPs in Louisiana earn an average of $98,780 per year. Across the country, NPs earn a mean of $107,480 annually. Although NPs in Louisiana earn below-average wages, they can increase their earning potential with certain locations and employers. Similar to RNs and CNAs, NPs earn above-average salaries in hospitals and outpatient facilities with earnings of over $111,000 in each area.
NP salaries range from city to city. In the Alexandria area, these professionals earn an average of $144,010 annually. Their colleagues in Lafayette earn considerably less at $90,580 per year, and NPs in Monroe make just $76,040 annually. NPs throughout the country can also enjoy incredible growth over ten years. The BLS projects the NP profession to expand by 36% between 2016 to 2026, more than five times the average growth rate.
Some NPs choose to become part-owners in their practices. The BLS reports that top executives in healthcare earn an average of $160,940 annually; however, the bureau does not project this field to grow as quickly as NPs. Instead, the demand for executives may only increase by 8% in the decade.
Biggest Hospitals in Louisiana
Many nursing graduates find employment at hospitals. These facilities serve a large number of patients with around-the-clock care and feature numerous job openings for qualified, credentialed nurses. Hospitals also serve as clinical sites for nursing students attending nursing schools in Louisiana, providing an opportunity to develop job-specific skills and form professional relationships with mentors and peers. These connections can help new nurses find employment and obtain professional recommendations.
- Ochsner Medical Center: Ochsner Medical Center is a 473-bed hospital in New Orleans. The hospital includes three Centers of Excellence: Ochsner Multi-Organ Transplant Center, Ochsner Cancer Institute, and Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute. The center has earned numerous quality awards and designations. The Women's Pavilion offers state-of-the-art obstetric services, and Ochsner continues to break new ground in areas of utero surgery. The center also boasts the first hospital in the region to offer the only FDA-approved artificial heart. Ochsner offers merit-based pay increases, tuition assistance, and bonuses for earning additional certification.
- University Medical Center-New Orleans: This academic research hospital employs more than 2,000 people, with specialized treatment offered in areas of oncology, infectious disease, heart and vascular disease, gastroenterology and urology, and behavioral health. More than 650 physicians serve the 446-bed hospital, which partners with Louisiana State University and Tulane University School of Medicine. With a focus on research and training, University Medical Center provides access to cutting-edge technology across all medical disciplines. The hospital also earned the Joint Commission's Gold Seal of Approval for Hospital Accreditation.
Additional Nursing Resources in Louisiana
- Louisiana State Board of Nursing: The LSBN grants nursing licenses and renewals, sets standards for nursing practice, ensures compliance with applicable laws, and serves as the disciplinary authority for nurses in the state. The state agency also helps promote the nursing field to attract and retain a skilled workforce. The State Board of Nursing sets minimum standards for nursing education programs in the state, maintaining a list of approved nursing schools in Louisiana.
- Louisiana State Nurses Association: The Louisiana State Nurses Association offers registered nurses continuing education and networking opportunities. The organization represents all nurses, regardless of their level of education, at the state and national level and provides membership discounts for educational activities and merchandise. The annual Nightingale Awards offer professional recognition, and the yearly gala supports philanthropic efforts.
- Louisiana Association of Student Nurses: Students at nursing schools in Louisiana can get involved in advocacy and service through the Louisiana Association of Student Nurses. The statewide organization provides scholarship opportunities to reward academic achievement, meet financial needs, and encourage nontraditional students studying in the field. Learners seeking an online nursing degree from one of the 21 member schools may join.
- Louisiana Organization of Nurse Executives: LONE, an affiliate organization of the Louisiana Hospital Association, serves nurses in leadership and management positions. LONE provides leadership development opportunities, legislative advocacy, and a platform for the exchange of ideas to improve healthcare delivery. Continuing education includes instruction in management issues that nurses did not study while attending a nursing school in Louisiana.
- Louisiana Association of Nurse Practitioners: The Louisiana Association of Nurse Practitioners promotes awareness for the recognition of nurse practitioners as primary care providers and offers networking, mentoring, and learning opportunities. The association serves more than 2,200 nurse practitioners working in the state and provides almost $1 million worth of donated service to the state each year.
- Louisiana Council of the Emergency Nurses Association: LENA, an affiliate of the national association, works to improve public safety for patients and promote the emergency nursing profession. LENA offers continuing education and professional learning opportunities. While registered nurses working in emergency medicine make up the majority of the association, students seeking an on-campus or online nursing degree may also join. Scholarship programs promote advanced nursing study.
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing: AACN helps establish educational standards for nursing schools in Louisiana and across the county. The association also advocates for improved nursing education, research, and funding. The organization promotes diversity in the nursing profession and establishes nurse residency programs for doctor of nursing practice candidates. AACN also operates a centralized nursing school application platform to streamline the admissions process.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Louisiana
Louisiana features many options for students seeking an online nursing degree, including associate degrees, RN-to-BSN programs, and master's degrees. The State Board of Nursing recognizes 13 associate programs and 14 BSN programs in Louisiana. Many schools also completed voluntary accreditation through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The CCNE accredits programs at the bachelor's and master's levels, while the ACEN accredits associate through doctoral programs. The following list includes accredited online nursing schools in Louisiana.