Rhode Island's demand for nursing school graduates dramatically outpaces the state's supply. Hospitals, nursing homes, family practice offices, schools, and clinics all struggle to fill nursing positions. As an aging population and a rapidly expanding healthcare industry put a premium on LPNs, RNs, and DNPs, employers seek to attract and keep skilled nurses by offering above-average salaries.
How to Become a Nurse in Rhode Island
Across the many types of nursing, aspiring nurses follow the same basic process to achieve their professional goals, beginning with education or training. Many candidates earn an online nursing degree, which combines hands-on study with convenient web-based coursework. Graduates then go on to pursue state licensure. All prospective nurses -- even LPNs -- must pass the NCLEX exam before they can work with patients.
1. Choosing the Right Path for You
Nurses in Rhode Island are not required to hold an online nursing degree or advanced credential. LPNs are qualified to work in the state after one year of training. However, nursing is like most other occupations -- with better education comes more job opportunities and better pay. All nurses fall into either the "practical" or "professional" categories, depending on whether or not they hold a degree. While most LPNs do not, the state is full of opportunities for nurses from all educational backgrounds. Students who enroll in a nursing school online in Rhode Island earn credentials from basic certifications to master's and doctoral degrees. Many LPNs work in nursing homes, while nurses who graduate from online RN-to-BSN programs in Rhode Island staff ERs and maternity wards. Online nursing degree-holders with a master's often teach, or earn a DNP and work as primary care providers.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
After choosing an educational path, the next step is to select a program. With a wide array of nursing schools in Rhode Island to choose from, prospective students enjoy a variety of program options. Whether you are seeking an online BSN program in Rhode Island or want to pursue a master's degree, educational opportunities abound. Before selecting a school, be sure to check program prerequisites and ensure that you meet all admissions guidelines. Many online nursing programs in Rhode Island require that candidates hold a relevant degree, an unrestricted nursing license, and complete at least one statistics course. Other points to consider include program length, school location, and internship or practicum requirements. Some online nursing degrees allow distance learners to complete hands-on coursework at local healthcare facilities, while others require students to fulfill their internships at a medical institution chosen by the school.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
Once you earn a degree from an online nursing program in Rhode Island, you must pass the state licensing exam. Rhode Island nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) to enter the workforce. Some nursing curricula closely adhere to standardized exam material, while others combine concepts featured on the test with coursework that stresses decision-making and critical thinking. Before sitting for the exam, applicants must provide proof of attending a nursing school in Rhode Island and state residency. They must also submit to fingerprinting and a background check.
Once you apply to take the test, the state of Rhode Island determines your eligibility based upon your submitted information. The amount of preparation needed varies for Every aspiring nurse must spend a significant amount of time studying for the exam, and many students at nursing schools in Rhode Island take at least two months to prepare for the NCLEX. The test takes about five hours, which includes a computer-based tutorial and two 10-minute breaks.
Nursing Licensure in Rhode Island
Much like nurses throughout the country, both practical and professional nurses in Rhode Island must pass an NCLEX exam. The NCLEX is a standardized test used nationwide to ensure that nurses are prepared to enter the workforce. Designed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the exam comes in two forms. LPNs sit for the NCLEX-PN test, while RNs take the NCLEX-RN. LPNs must complete at least one year of training before they are eligible to take the NCLEX. RNs need either an associate or bachelor's degree from traditional or online RN programs in Rhode Island. All nurses must submit their online nursing degree transcripts, proof of residency, and background check information to the state's Department of Health. Rhode Island is one of 25 Nursing Compact States in which licensed nurses can practice freely without having to relicense. Once you pass the NCLEX exam, you may work in 25 states without having to sit for the exam again.
State Requirements By Nursing Type
Registered nurses in Rhode Island can obtain state licensure by examination or endorsement. Applicants who do not hold a nursing license in another state must sit for the NCLEX exam, demonstrate that they have earned a nursing degree, and submit their official transcripts directly to the Rhode Island Department of Health. Individuals who are licensed in other states may apply for licensure by endorsement. Candidates seeking an endorsement do not need to provide their official transcripts, but must request verification from the state in which they are licensed. Both types of applicants must provide proof of Rhode Island residency and submit to a national background check. If you earned your nursing degree in another country, you should review the Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools' educational guidelines and ensure that you meet all prerequisites.
The state charges RNs $135 for initial licensure and the same amount for renewal. Licenses must be renewed every two years, and RNs receive a renewal notice 60 days before their license is set to expire. They must also pursue continuing education to maintain licensure. During each two-year period between renewals, you must complete ten hours of state-approved continuing education. Two of these hours must be related to substance abuse. Nurses who fail to complete their continuing education requirements cannot renew their license, although individuals who demonstrate that hardships have prevented them from fulfilling the requirement may apply for a six-month extension.
Prospective certified nursing assistants in Rhode Island must first complete a state-approved training program that includes at least 120 hours of applied study. After finishing the program, candidates submit an application, pay a $35 fee, and schedule a training exam. Candidates are given three chances to pass the training exam, which is offered at all three of the Community College of Rhode Island's campuses. Once licensed, nursing assistants gain the option to enroll in medication aide training and sit for the exam to become a licensed medication aide. Unlike other nursing licenses, CNAs may not obtain licensure by endorsement, and those who wish to become a CNA in Rhode Island must complete their training in the state. However, Rhode Island CNAs are not required to fulfill a residency requirement before seeking licensure, which may complicate the licensing process for out-of-state nurses who wish to practice in Rhode Island.
Nursing assistants and medication aides must renew their licenses every two years. The Department of Health issues a renewal notice 60 days before the expiration date. Nursing assistants do not need to meet continuing education requirements, but medication aides must complete four hours of continuing education during each two-year period to renew their licenses.
The process of becoming a licensed practical nurse in Rhode Island is very similar to that of RNs. LPNs follow the same basic requirements and obtain licensure by either exam or endorsement. LPNs who are already licensed in another state may request verification from that state, and do not need to provide official transcripts from their college or university. If you are not already licensed in another state, you must sit for the NCLEX exam and transfer official transcripts from your school. In either case, you must prove Rhode Island residency if you plan to both live and work in the state, and you must also submit to a background check. LPNs who studied in a country other than the United States are required to obtain their license by examination and complete any other requirements outlined by the Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools.
LPNs generally have different educational backgrounds from RNs, and thus perform fewer occupational duties. They must report any changes or incidents to their RN supervisor. LPNs also pay lower licensing fees. The same $45 fee also applies to renewal which, like RN and CNA licenses, is required every two years. LPNs are held to the same continuing education requirements as RNs, and they must complete ten hours of coursework during each two-year period, two hours of which must be related to substance abuse. Like RNs and CNAs, LPNs may request a six-month renewal extension in the case of hardship.
Candidates who wish to become a licensed advanced practice registered nurse in Rhode Island must meet all RN licensing guidelines, as well as several additional requirements. Prospective APRNs must hold a state RN license before applying for the APRN credential, and must earn a graduate degree in order to sit for the licensing exam. Applicants should present official transcripts, APRN certification, verification of any licenses held in other states, and proof of Rhode Island licensure. If you intend to live in Rhode Island you must prove state residency and pass a national background check. APRNs educated outside of the United States must meet the guidelines set by the Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools. New applicants are required to choose one focus population or area, such as women's health, neonatal care, or gerontology. This population focus must match the focus area listed on your APRN certification.
Applicants who meet all of these requirements pay a $145 licensing fee, and must renew their credential every two years for the same cost. APRNs are required to meet the same continuing education conditions as RNs and LPNs, and may request a six-month extension if any hardship prevents them from completing their continuing education. When submitting your APRN application, you may also apply for controlled substance registration. This designation allows APRNs to prescribe and order controlled substances, and costs an additional $200. Candidates seeking a controlled substance registration must first apply for Drug Enforcement Administration registration.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Rhode Island
Recent graduates and students at nursing schools in Rhode Island are poised to enter a thriving job market. The state's aging baby boomer population and recent changes in the healthcare industry continue to drive demand for LPNs and RNs. As a result, nursing schools in Rhode Island are expanding their programs to help address the state's critical nursing shortage. Graduates who have recently earned online nursing degrees can expect to face less competition for jobs and higher salaries as employers scramble to fill nursing positions. While much of this demand centers upon entry-level nurses, many healthcare industry sectors are reporting an increased need for qualified nurses of every kind.
One state-funded report tracking the fastest-growing occupations projects that demand for graduates of nursing schools in Rhode Island should more than one-third by 2024. Over 4,000 of these jobs are available to RNs who hold an associate degree. In an effort to attract skilled nurses, many employers are offering highly competitive wages, and Rhode Island RNs draw salaries that are considerably larger than the national average. As these factors indicate, there is no better time than now to earn an online nursing degree in Rhode Island.
Employment Data For RNs in Rhode Island
In 2017, 11,820 registered nurses were employed in Rhode Island, drawing a mean annual wage of $76,650. During the same year, the national mean wage for RNs was $73,550. Most RNs -- 14,460 -- found positions in the Providence-Warwick area of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Connecticut and Rhode Island's Norwich-New London-Westerly region employed 2,360 RNs in the same year. The overwhelming majority of RNs work at hospitals, health clinics, and other medical facilities in larger cities such as Providence. Others take positions with government agencies, nonprofit groups, or private practices.
Employment Data For CNAs in Rhode Island
As of 2017, Rhode Island CNAs throughout the state drew a mean salary of $30,540 per year -- slightly higher than the $28,540 national mean. Considering the state's low license and renewal fees, Rhode Island is a good place for CNAs to find work. In 2017, 9,950 certified nursing assistants were employed in Rhode Island. Much like RNs, the majority worked in the Providence-Warwick areas of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, where there were 11,700 practicing CNAs. In contrast, only 1,520 found employment in the Norwich-New London-Westerly region of Connecticut and Rhode Island. CNAs may take on roles in clinics or hospitals, but many find employment in assisted living facilities. While CNAs do not qualify for certain positions available to RNs, many graduates begin their nursing career in Rhode Island by becoming a CNA.
Employment Data For APRNs in Rhode Island
Sometimes known as nurse practitioners, APRNs are the highest paid and most educated nurses. The national mean salary for APRNs in 2017 was $110,930, while APRNs in Rhode Island enjoyed a mean salary of $108,630. APRNs' earning power within the state contrasts sharply with the national mean wages, particularly when compared to the highest and lowest wages.
Rhode Island is home to fewer APRNs than RNs, with only 640 nurse practitioners employed statewide in 2017. In the same period, 810 APRNs worked in the Providence-Warwick areas of Rhode Island and Massachusetts and only 80 in the Norwich-New London-Westerly region of Connecticut and Rhode Island. This is most likely due to a lack of qualified candidates instead of a lack of positions, as APRNs are less common and in higher demand than RNs. While APRNs are qualified to work in any settings commonly staffed with RNs or CNAs, APRNs often take on leadership positions, applying their extensive knowledge and versatile skill sets to both patient care and healthcare staff management.
Biggest Hospitals in Rhode Island
Ask any recent online nursing school graduate where to begin looking for work, and they'll likely refer you to a big hospital. Large hospitals employ many nurses, and tend to offer great entry-level options and advancement opportunities for new graduates and students attending nursing schools in Rhode Island. Major medical centers typically offer numerous training opportunities, and many nurses turn to these large facilities to fulfill their practicum and internship requirements. for grads with a new After earning online nursing degree, many individuals begin searching for jobs in cities that serve as regional healthcare hubs, or at large hospitals like the facilities described below.
- Rhode Island Hospital: The single largest medical center in the state, Rhode Island Hospital is a private, nonprofit facility based in Providence. Home to 719 beds and a reputation as one of the best cardiac units in the nation, the hospital's level one trauma center is part of the Lifespan Health System, which employs more than 12,000 people. According to recent surveys by FlexJobs and the American Heart Association, Lifespan ranks among the state's top employers in the state. RIH is also the teaching hospital for Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School, and hires many online Rhode Island nursing school graduates.
- Miriam Hospital: Another Lifespan hospital and a Brown University affiliate, Miriam is often rated as Rhode Island's best hospital in patient satisfaction surveys. Founded in 1926 by Providence's Jewish community, this large medical center is nationally recognized for its HIV/AIDS treatments, joint replacement services, minimally invasive surgeries, and preventative medical research. The hospital boasts more than 2,800 employees, almost a quarter of which are nursing staff members, and consistently receives high employee satisfaction scores at GlassDoor, Indeed, and similar sites. Miriam frequently recruits staff from RN programs and online MSN programs in Rhode Island.
Additional Nursing Resources in Rhode Island
- Rhode Island State Nurses Association: RISNA is an American Nurses Association affiliate and the go-to professional organization for nurses throughout the state. Providing a wealth of continuing education programs, networking opportunities, publications, and career service resources, RISNA membership benefits nurses at every experience level. The association's dual membership option allows nurses to join both ANA and RISNA simultaneously.
- Rhode Island Department of Health: As the state government's regulatory arm, RIDH offers an array of useful resources for recent graduates of nursing schools in Rhode Island. RIDH's webpage addresses licensing requirements, relevant statutes, continuing education opportunities, and up-to-date healthcare news.
- Student Nurses Association of Rhode Island: Representing Rhode Island's nursing schools, SNARI hosts community outreach initiatives, advocates for nurses, and provides leadership training. SNARI's annual convention provides new nurses with an excellent opportunity to strengthen their professional network.
- United Nurses and Allied Professionals: Serving as Rhode Island's local nurses' union, UNAP represents more than 6,500 nurses throughout New England. The organization advocates for ethical patient care and improved working conditions for nurses and healthcare workers.
- Organization of Nurse Leaders: ONL is an executive nursing association serving nurses from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Members manage more than 4,000 nurses across New England and over $1 billion annually. ONL sponsors an annual conference, produces several publications, and maintains a members-only leadership academy and career center.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Rhode Island
Finding an affordable, high-quality online nursing degree in Rhode Island is easy. Whether you wish to begin at the LPN level, climb the ladder from an RN-to-BSN, or pursue your DNP, nursing schools in Rhode Island have a program to meet your needs. The following database includes all fully accredited online ADN, BSN, RN-to-BSN, MSN, and DNP programs in Rhode Island.