Nurses help patients recover or maintain health and are critical to the medical field. The nursing field comprises several professional roles. Nursing aids assist health professionals in settings such as hospitals and nursing homes. Registered nurses plan and direct patient care and ensure that patients and families understand treatment processes. Physician assistants perform many of the same functions as doctors, diagnosing and treating medical conditions. Midwives provide prenatal and postnatal care, and nurse anesthetists administer anesthetics and other pain management drugs in operating rooms and intensive care units.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects faster than average growth for the nursing field, with demographic trends poised to drive growth in the nursing industry. The U.S. Census Bureau projects the number of Americans aged 65 or older will increase from 43.1 million in 2012 to 83.7 million in 2050. Older adults require specialized medical attention from trained nurses. According to a University of Virginia report, 20% of Virginians will be aged 65 or older by 2030, making now an ideal time to consider Virginia nursing schools.
How to Become a Nurse in Virginia
Since nursing is integral to the medical system and patient care, nurse licensing is an important public health issue. The Virginia Board of Nursing oversees licensure for nursing professionals throughout the state. All nursing candidates follow similar application processes, but specific procedures vary by specialization and applicant background. Virginia subscribes to the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC) standards, published by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, which means nurses licensed in Virginia may practice in any eNLC state.
Choose the Path That's Right for You
Before pursuing licensure, registered nurse candidates must complete accredited nursing programs in Virginia to earn at least an ADN degree. Many prospective RNs complete BSN degrees in Virginia to increase employment prospects and earning potential. Specialized nursing roles require higher degrees; midwives and nurse anesthetists need an MSN. The minimum requirement for nurse practitioners is an MSN, but many employers prefer candidates with a DNP. Nursing professionals who aspire to teaching positions at nursing colleges in Virginia must hold a DNP and have significant experience in the nursing field.
Earn Your Nursing Degree
Earning an online nursing degree is a cost-efficient way to enter the nursing profession. ADN-seekers entering RN programs in Virginia must have a high school degree and ACT or SAT scores and typically require two years to earn the degree. Online BSN programs in Virginia have similar admissions requirements and usually require four years of full-time study, although students in accelerated nursing programs in Virginia may earn BSN degrees more quickly. MSN degrees candidates should hold a BSN degree, and DNP applicants need an MSN degree and significant nursing experience. Many online nursing degrees require in-person clinicals, internships, and fellowships in addition to online coursework.
Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
Virginia subscribes to the eNLC licensing standards, set by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). To earn licensure, nursing candidates must pass NCSBN’s licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN. This standardized test ensures that practicing RNs have the skills necessary to safely provide nursing care. The exam, administered at Pearson Vue testing facilities, costs $200 and takes up to five hours to complete. Although nursing programs prepare students for the NCLEX-RN, most candidates devote several additional weeks to focused study. Although passing the NCLEX-RN is necessary to become an RN, licensure does not guarantee employment.
Nursing Licensure in Virginia
Because Virginia subscribes to eNLC licensing standards, RN candidates must pass the NCLEX-RN, a standardized test assessing candidates’ knowledge of medical theory and caregiving skills. To be eligible to take to test, aspiring nurses must complete an accredited nursing program, such as ADN or BSN programs from nursing schools in Virginia. After passing the NCLEX-RN and undergoing a criminal background check, prospective RNs apply for licensure through the Virginia Board of Nursing.
Although states reserve the right to impose additional requirements, most follow uniform licensing procedures set by the NCSBN. This standardization allows Virginia nurses to practice in any eNLC state. However, nurses must typically undergo criminal background checks in each state in which they seek employment. These national standards make attending nursing programs in Virginia practical even for students who intend to work in other states.
Nursing Licensing Costs in Virginia
Background Check $33.95
Career Outlook for Nurses in Virginia
As its population ages, Virginia depends on nursing professionals to provide care and comfort to state residents. Graduates of nursing schools in Virginia choose from several related career paths. According to the BLS, most nursing professionals in Virginia work as RNs in hospitals and clinics.
Many Virginia medical institutions care for more patients while adhering to tight budgets by hiring nurse practitioners rather than doctors. As a result, the BLS projects demand for nurse practitioners, who are qualified to perform many of the same tasks as physicians, to increase 31% by 2026, much faster than average. Specialized nurse anesthetists, who administer drugs to patients undergoing medical procedures, rank among the most highly paid nursing professionals in Virginia. Since nurses require significant academic training, nursing schools in Virginia need experienced teachers, creating job opportunities for nursing instructors.
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Biggest Hospitals in Virginia
Students in online RN programs in Virginia should learn about the state’s largest hospitals. Most nursing professionals work in hospital settings, and large healthcare institutions hire more frequently than small clinics and medical practices. Large hospitals also provide teaching facilities and practical, in-person nursing experience through internships and fellowships.
- Inova: One of the largest medical companies in the state, Inova operates six hospitals in Northern Virginia, has 1,700 beds, and employs more than 16,000 healthcare professionals. Inova’s hospitals serve more than 427,000 outpatients per year. Inova maintains relationships with educational institutions throughout the state, including some of the most respected nursing schools in Virginia.
- Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center: VCU Medical Center, based in Richmond, is one of the largest hospitals in Virginia, with 865 beds and more than 11,000 employees. In 2015, the hospital had 89,549 emergency visits and 631,874 outpatient visits. As a research-oriented teaching hospital connected to VCU, the medical center provides hands-on training for health science students and those pursuing online nursing degrees.
Additional Nursing Resources in Virginia
National Council of State Boards of Nursing
NCSBN sets licensing standards and leads efforts to establish uniform policies that allow nurses to practice in multiple states. Students attending nursing schools in Virginia should explore resources from this national organization, including up-to-date nurse licensing information and study materials for the NCLEX-RN.
Nurses Association of Veteran Affairs
Nurses who work with veterans encounter unique challenges and opportunities to learn from research. NOVA advocates for nurses who provide care to physically and psychologically wounded veterans and keep members informed about legislation and professional trends. NOVA’s conferences allow members to share information about new research and best practices relevant to the specialization.
Virginia Nurses Association
VNA, a constituent of the American Nurses Association, advocates for nurses in Virginia. VNA provides information about state laws and industry practices and advocates for legislation beneficial to RNs. The organization helps RNs access continuing education resources and connects members with online RN to BSN programs in Virginia.
Virginia Nursing Students' Association
VNSA helps nursing students achieve personal and professional goals. The organization, comprising students from more than 75 nursing schools in Virginia, holds events during which members share information about the latest trends in the nursing field. Joining this statewide student group is particularly beneficial for students pursuing online nursing degrees, since events provide valuable networking opportunities.
Virginia Association of School Nurses
Nurses who work in schools and with students face different issues than hospital nurses. VASN provides opportunities for school nurses to learn about best practices in this specialized profession. VASN holds conferences and social events during which school nurses from across Virginia meet and network.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Virginia