Nurses are in high demand in Nebraska and the United States as a whole. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 15% job growth for registered nurses (RNs) from 2016-2026 and a 31% increase in employment for nurse practitioners and other nursing specialists during the same period. Earning a degree in nursing in Nebraska can lead to numerous job opportunities in the healthcare field. Nurses are trained to administer treatments and medications and to assist physicians with patient care and medical procedures. Many nurses work in hospitals, schools, doctor's offices, or elderly care facilities.
Different types of nursing professions require various levels of education, licensure, and certification. Graduates often become registered nurses, nurse practitioners, or vocational nurses. Students can become a registered nurse with an associate degree. However, many professionals pursue a bachelor's in nursing to earn higher salaries and qualify for management roles. Nurse practitioners must have a master's degree in nursing. In Nebraska, registered nurses earn a mean salary of $62,210 per year and nurse practitioners earn $99,930, according to the BLS. An online nursing degree prepares students to enter the field while offering the flexibility to work full time while earning the degree.
How to Become a Nurse in Nebraska
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services oversees nursing licensure in the state. To become a licensed practicing nurse (LPN) or RN, candidates must complete an approved on-campus or online nursing program. RNs must complete a two- or four-year nursing program in Nebraska. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) must complete an upper-level degree and relevant specialized training. To apply for licensure by exam or endorsement, candidates must submit a $45.25 fee and undergo a background check.
1. Choose the Path That's Right for You
To become an LPN in Nebraska, students must complete a nursing program that lasts at least nine months. RNs must hold an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing. BSN graduates can pursue careers in areas including midwifery and anesthesia. Nurse practitioners must hold at least an MSN, which also qualifies graduates for specialized occupations such as psychiatric nurse, flight nurse, and neonatal intensive care nurse. Professionals need a DNP to teach nursing at the college level.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services maintains a list of approved nursing programs. Currently, no nursing school in Nebraska offers an online ADN program. Online nursing schools in Nebraska currently offer BSN, MSN, and DNP degrees. Practicing RNs who hold an ADN can enroll in an RN to BSN program through University of Nebraska-Omaha, Bellevue University, or Nebraska Methodist College. Several Nebraska nursing schools, including Clarkson College in Omaha, offer RN to BSN and RN to MSN programs online. Applicants to these programs must be practicing RNs. Students who do not hold licensure can enroll in one of the online BSN programs in Nebraska. All nursing students must complete an internship or clinical work experience at an approved site. Learners can complete online nursing degrees in 1-3 years, depending on their program and enrollment status.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
Students who earn an online nursing degree in Nebraska are prepared to take the state licensing exam, but most candidates complete additional study hours. The exam for nurses in Nebraska costs $45.25 and requires a background check. Candidates have six hours to complete the exam, which is computerized and varies in length. Because Nebraska is a member of the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC), nurses licensed in the state can also practice in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Nursing Licensure in Nebraska
Candidates for nursing licensure in the U.S. must pass the National Council Licensure Examination. Applicants must contact the Nebraska Board of Nursing 8-10 weeks in advance and pay a $45.25 fee. They must also pass a background check. The Nebraska Board of Nursing then verifies the candidate has completed an approved program from one of the nursing colleges in Nebraska or another state. Approved candidates can then register for the exam through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and pay the $200 exam fee.
The NCLEX-RN covers patient care, management, and nursing integrity. Test-takers must hold an RN license or BSN and have authorization from the Nebraska Board of Nursing. The exam lasts approximately six hours, with two breaks.
After passing the NCLEX-RN, individuals receive a Nebraska nursing license. Nebraska maintains a compact agreement with other states, so nurses licensed in Nebraska can practice in any of the 25 member states.
Nursing Licensing Costs in Nebraska
State Requirements by Nursing Type
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services handles professional certification for all levels of nursing in the state. Applicants for RN licensure must complete a two- or four-year degree from an approved nursing school. The Department of Health and Human Services maintains a list of approved programs, including 10 schools offering baccalaureate degrees and seven offering associate degrees.
To apply for initial licensure (licensure by examination) in Nebraska, candidates should ensure their nursing school sends their transcripts directly to the Department of Health and Human Services. Applicants must pay a $123 fee and submit fingerprints for a criminal background check. Candidates must also register with Pearson Vue to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which costs $200. Test-takers should arrive at the exam location at least 30 minutes early, with proper identification. The exam lasts up to six hours.
Candidates who hold active licensure in another state or were licensed within the past five years in another state can apply for Nebraska licensure by endorsement. Nebraska's membership in the eNLC allows Nebraska nurses to practice in the 28 other member states.
RN licenses expire on October 31 of each even-numbered year. License renewal typically requires 20 hours of continuing education within the previous two years and a $123 renewal fee.
In Nebraska, this type of nurse is referred to as a nurse aide and is limited to work in nursing homes. Nurse aides in Nebraska do not need a high school diploma; however, they must be at least 16 years old and have no criminal background. Applicants must complete an approved, 75-hour nurse aide course of study.
Nurse aide applicants must pass a written examination of 50 questions with a score of 70% or higher. They must also complete a skills examination, which tests six randomly selected skills. Applicants may attempt each test up to three times. The written exam costs $20, and the skills test costs $32. Nebraska does not require candidates to submit an application form or fees. The names of those who pass the exams are automatically added to the state registry. Professionals maintain their active status by having worked as a paid nurse aide within the last 24 months. Those whose become inactive for at least 24 months must retest before working as a nurse aide.
Out-of-state CNAs can add their names to the active Nebraska registry by documenting that they have completed the 75-hour training in another state. Those who have not actively served as nurse aides during the previous 24 months must pass the Nebraska exam.
Individuals pursuing LPN licensure by examination in Nebraska must complete a year-long program of study from an approved nurse education program, which includes clinical training. Near the completion of the program, candidates register with Pearson Vue to take the NCLEX-PN exam, which costs $200. The exam tests the kind of high-level thinking nurses must apply. The computer-adaptive exam requires 85-205 questions, with 112 being the average number of questions necessary to determine competence.
Test-takers should arrive 30 minutes early, with proper ID and a well-rested mind. Candidates have up to six hours to complete the exam. After passing the NCLEX-PN, candidates for licensure must submit to criminal background check and pay a $123 certification fee to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
Candidates who hold active licensure in another state, or who were licensed within the last five years in another state, can earn Nebraska licensure by endorsement. Licensed practical nurses benefit from the flexibility offered by Nebraska's membership in the eNLC, which allows licensed professionals to practice in the 28 other states in the compact.
LPN licenses expire on October 31 of each odd-numbered year. Nebraska offers several options for license renewal, which typically requires 20 hours of continuing education within the previous two years and a $123 renewal fee.
Nurse practitioners must be certified with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services under the general category of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). The category also includes certified nurse midwives, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and clinical nurse specialists. All APRNs must be licensed in Nebraska as registered nurses or be licensed with a multi-state designation from another compact state. The specific APRN categories, including nurse practitioner, function as specialty certifications. In addition to holding a valid RN license, applicants for the NP certification must have completed a graduate-level degree in nursing and should have their university send their official transcripts to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
Applicants must also submit a current and valid APRN certification from an approved agency. For nurse practitioners, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services accepts certifications from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board, and the National Certification Corporation. The examination required by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners comprises 150 questions, the first 15 being non-graded, pre-test questions. In addition to the $123 RN licensing fee, Nebraska requires a $68 fee for APRN certification. Nurse practitioners must renew their license by October 31 of each even-numbered year. Renewal costs $123 for the RN license and $68 for the APRN certification. Active nurse practitioners must complete 40 hours of continuing education credits during the two years prior to renewal.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Nebraska
There are thousands of registered nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and advanced practice nurses in Nebraska, and BLS projects employment for RNs to increase 15% from 2016-2026. An online nursing degree prepares students for all these positions. Nurses can pursue careers at all levels at Nebraska's numerous medical facilities. Many nursing professionals in Nebraska work in urban centers or rural clinics.
According to the BLS, RNs in Nebraska earn an hourly wage of $29.91 and an annual salary of $62,210. Job outlook is also excellent for specialized nurses. For example, the BLS projects employment for nurse anesthetists to increase 31% from 2016-2026. In Nebraska, these professionals earn an average annual salary $186,250. Specialized nursing professions require a graduate degree in nursing, which students can earn through one of the online MSN programs in Nebraska.
Employment Data for RNs in Nebraska
According to a report by the Nebraska Department of Labor, the median hourly salary for registered nurses is about $28.50-$30.50, about 15% lower than the national average. Nurses serving in more populated areas, such as Lincoln or Omaha, earn the highest salaries. Registered nurses work in all but six of Nebraska's counties; however, another six counties report only one registered nurse serving the county. According to the 2016 Nebraska RN Survey Report, 95.9% of nurses indicate a high level of satisfaction with their careers despite earning salaries lower than the national average. The survey respondents cited lower salaries as their most significant frustration.
According to the same report, 57% of Nebraska RNs work in hospitals, and 10.1% work in outpatient settings. Another 11% work in either nursing homes or home health services. About 65% of the RNs work as staff nurses, and 10.8% are nurse managers. Approximately 7% of the registered nurses in the state serve as advanced practice nurses, such as nurse practitioners. These nurses earn considerably more than other RNs.
Employment Data for LPNs in Nebraska
According to PayScale, licensed practical nurses in Lincoln, Nebraska, earn a median salary of $17.55 per hour, or $37,678 per year. LPNs in Omaha earn a median salary of $19.07 per hour, or $40,940 per year. These figures fall below the national average of $21.65 per hour, and LPNs cited low salary as their chief frustration in a 2017 report from the Nebraska Center for Nursing. Despite this frustration, 96% of LPNs indicated satisfaction with their current work situations.
Nearly one-third (32.1%) of Nebraska's LPNs work in the field of geriatrics, in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. Another 12% work in family medicine, across 20 specialties. LPNs are not distributed evenly across Nebraska's counties. The highest number of LPNs per capita serve in Boone County, and 12 counties report that no LPNs serve their populations. According to a 2017 report, the Nebraska Center for Nursing recognizes the current and future needs for all types of nursing. The center projects demand for 4,000 new nurses by 2020 and created a plan to boost the number of nurses and provide a more equitable distribution of nurses throughout the state.
Employment Data or NPs in Nebraska
Family nurse practitioners in Omaha, Nebraska, earn a median salary of $91,271 per year, according to PayScale. This falls below the national median of $110,930 per year. However, the national median incorporates all advanced practice registered nurses, including nurse anesthetists, who earn much higher salaries than nurse practitioners and nurse midwives. According to the 2016 Nebraska RN Survey Report, family nurse practitioners comprise 75% of all advanced practice nurses in Nebraska, while nurse anesthetists make up 18%.
The Nebraska Center for Nursing projects a need of 4,000 new nurses by 2020, with 10% of demand being for nurse practitioners. The major cities of Lincoln and Omaha, along with the central part of the state maintain the highest demand for NPs.
In an effort to expand patient access to high-quality medical care, the Nebraska legislature and governor modified the legal climate to allow advanced practice nurses to operate without physician supervision. In fact, the legislature passed the measure without any dissent.
Biggest Hospitals in Nebraska
Students pursuing an online nursing degree must complete an internship or clinical series, often at one of Nebraska's hospitals. Many hospitals and healthcare organizations maintain partnerships with nursing schools in the state. For example, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a nonprofit health system, works closely with Creighton University. CHI Health facilities are located in major cities including Omaha, Lincoln, and Kearney and in smaller towns. Omaha is home to the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Methodist Hospital. Additionally, numerous county hospitals in Nebraska hire nurses.
- CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center Bergan Mercy: CHI Creighton University Medical Center offers cancer, women's health, chest pain, cardiovascular, and maternity services. The medical center cares for uninsured and insured patients and participates in community health initiatives. The CHI hospital network employs more than 12,000 workers.
- University of Nebraska Medical Center: UNMC employs more than 5,000 workers and serves 3,700 students. UNMC is home to a cancer and disease research center, an eye institute, and colleges of nursing, public health, medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry.
Additional Nursing Resources in Nebraska
- NEBRASKA NURSING ASSOCIATION: The Nebraska Nursing Association unites nursing professionals from around the state to promote health, wellness, and patient advocacy. The organization advocates for nurses statewide and nationally. Members have access to continuing education opportunities, awards and scholarships, and the annual NNA conference.
- NEBRASKA STATE STUDENT NURSES ASSOCIATION: The Nebraska State Student Nurses Association keeps students informed about the latest nursing news. The association attends Nebraska Board of Nursing meetings in Omaha and is affiliated with the National Student Nurses Association.
- NEBRASKA ORGANIZATION OF NURSE LEADERS: The Nebraska Organization of Nurse Leaders is affiliated with the American Organization of Nurse Executives and the Nebraska Hospital Association. The organization advocates for nurse administrators and executives, promotes education programs, supports research, and provides information to nursing professionals.
- NEBRASKA SCHOOL NURSE ASSOCIATION: The Nebraska School Nurse Association promotes health education and school health services. The association offers job resources, news and information, and awards for members.
- NEBRASKA HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION: Most hospitals in Nebraska are members of the Nebraska Hospital Association, which promotes leadership, advocacy, and resources for hospital employees, patients, and communities. The organization also disseminates health news and resources for state residents.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Nebraska
There are several types of accredited online nursing programs in Nebraska. An associate degree in nursing is the minimum requirement to earn a nursing license. However, no school in Nebraska currently offers an online ADN program. Online bachelor's degrees in nursing prepare students to become registered nurses. Licensed nurses can pursue a bachelor's through an online RN-to-BSN program. Online master's degrees in nursing and online doctoral degrees in nursing can help nurses advance their careers, especially in the field of education.