A crucial component of the healthcare community, nurses fill a vital role caring for patients in hospitals, residential care facilities, and ambulatory healthcare centers nationwide. Nursing professionals have long been a necessary part of the healthcare system, in-demand for their diverse specialty skills in areas like critical care, neonatology, midwifery, and geriatrics. Historically, nurses have enjoyed a high level of job security even in an unstable economy, and the BLS projects a 15% increase employment for registered nurses over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all national occupations.
In Wisconsin, earning an online nursing degree is an especially lucrative prospect for students looking to practice locally after graduation. Registered nurses make up the largest sector of nursing occupations in the state, earning an annual average salary of nearly $68,000. However, a recent workforce report
conducted by the Wisconsin Hospital Association noted that demand for skilled RNs is at an all-time high in the region, as many nurses began aging out of the field at the same time that the ACA exponentially drove up healthcare staffing demands over the last five years. Considering the cost of living is 9% lower than the national average in Wisconsin, nurses who are college educated and hold current licensure are rewarded handsomely for their time and skills, particularly in this area of the U.S.
How to Become a Nurse in Wisconsin
To become a nurse in Wisconsin, students can expect to undergo a process similar to that of nurses nationwide, but with a few minor differences. Once you have decided on the type of degree and credentials you plan to pursue, you may find that Wisconsin requires unique licensing exam fees, has its own individual prerequisites for your desired level of certification, and has state-specific renewal requirements. In Wisconsin, licensure for nurses and nurse specialists is awarded by the Board of Nursing, a division of the state’s Department of Safety and Professional Services.
Choose the Path That's Right for You
Online nursing degrees are available at every level of study and for every career ambition. LPN programs are available for students not interested in pursuing the RN credential, though they are not especially popular due to a lack of demand and earning potential for LPNs in the workforce. Students are required to complete an ADN or BSN degree in order to sit for the NCLEX exam to become a registered nurse; the BSN is the most popular path to meeting this minimum field requirement for nursing students nationwide. Nurses aspiring to enter a specialty field as an advanced practice nurse prescriber (APNP) must earn a master’s degree or higher from a nursing school in Wisconsin before pursuing national certification in their area of specialty. Research and scholarly positions including college nursing professors typically require a doctoral degree (DNP).
Earn Your Nursing Degree
For working students or those looking to take a nontraditional path to a career in nursing, a variety of online and accelerated nursing programs in Wisconsin are available. While requirements vary, most online nursing degrees offer students the opportunity to complete necessary clinicals, internships, and fellowships at a convenient location near their residence while completing the remainder of coursework online. Depending on the level of degree you are pursuing, nursing schools in Wisconsin typically require prerequisite nursing courses and/or a prior degree for admission, and may take between one and four years to complete online.
Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
Though study habits and routines will vary from student to student, you should plan to start studying for the NCLEX exam in Wisconsin at least two months in advance. Many external tutoring services offer NCLEX preparation programs for aspiring nurses, however most online nursing degrees in LPN and RN tracks prepare students for the NCLEX exam. Students have five hours to complete the test. The registration fee is $200, with additional fees for earning the “initial credential”, as well as for optional pre-registration or a temporary permit. Passing the exam does not guarantee employment in the industry, however it will ensure you meet state criteria for nursing jobs in your area.
Nursing Licensure in Wisconsin
There are two primary types of exams used to grant licensure to nurses in Wisconsin: the NCLEX-LPN and the NCLEX-RN. Aspiring licensed practical nurses need only two years of high school education or the equivalent to qualify to sit for the NCLEX-LPN exam in Wisconsin. Students must have an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which is required of all RNs in order to provide day-to-day care of patients and supervise LPNs in the state. As a member of the nurse licensure compact, Wisconsin requires new residents who hold nursing licensure in another compact state to obtain licensure in Wisconsin within 30 days; if not permanently relocating to Wisconsin, they may maintain residence in another state and practice in Wisconsin indefinitely. Nurses licensed in non-compact states may practice in Wisconsin for just 72 hours before applying for licensure by endorsement (for a longer stay). Wisconsin-licensed nurses should consult the licensure guidelines of other states if they plan to practice outside of their resident jurisdiction.
While the NCLEX-RN is the primary credential needed for registered nurses in entry-level jobs in Wisconsin, students aspiring to advanced nursing positions in a specialized field will need to seek additional certification in their concentration of choice. Earning the APNP credential enables RNs to prescribe medications, and further qualifies nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists, and certified registered nurse anesthetists to practice in these respective specialties. They must also take a jurisprudence exam to test their knowledge of state laws and mandates. While the NCLEX is administered to aspiring practitioners in this state by the Board of Nursing, additional APNP credentialing exams are governed by various national agencies, depending on specialization.
Nursing Licensing Costs in Wisconsin
Credential Fee $75
Exam Fee $15
Temp Permit $10
Career Outlook for Nurses in Wisconsin
While nurses are in high demand nationwide, Wisconsin nurses are experiencing a noted upswing in favorable job conditions, especially those in particular specialized areas. A study conducted by the BLS in 2016 reports that nurse anesthetists in Wisconsin represent both the second-smallest employment and the highest earners among nursing professionals in the state, earning in excess of $191,000 per year. Registered nurses outnumber all other nursing specialties in Wisconsin, with more than 55,000 Wisconsinites employed in this area, thus pulling in only a moderate salary due to a lack of competition and specialized skills. By contrast, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, both requiring additional credentials beyond the RN designation, compete for fewer prized positions available in the area and earn salaries of $104,350 and $98,250, respectively.
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Biggest Hospitals in Wisconsin
Nursing schools in Wisconsin depend on local hospitals and healthcare facilities to support field experiences for students in training. The larger the hospital, the more likely it is to have diverse clinical and internship opportunities for students earning an online nursing degree. Larger facilities also require a larger staff to serve patients, which means greater employment opportunities for recent graduates. Online nursing degree graduates in Wisconsin might want to take a closer look at two of the state’s largest hospitals, Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center and Froedtert Hospital, listed below.
- Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center South Shore: Wisconsin’s Aurora Health Care system consists of 15 hospitals and more than 150 clinics in eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center South Shore location in Milwaukee is home to more staffed beds than any other facility in the area, and employs 1,169 full-time RNs. Seeking employment through Aurora is a popular choice for graduates of online nursing degrees in all specialties, as the system needs nurses of all kinds to fill positions at numerous locations across the state.
- Froedtert Hospital: Froedtert, another comprehensive state healthcare system, encompasses three major hospitals and more than 20 health centers and clinics in nearly every county, through a partnership with Medical College of Wisconsin; Froedtert also recently acquired the United Hospital System, adding even more locations and providers to its network. The hospital is another smart choice for recent graduates of an online nursing degree in Wisconsin, especially RNs, who are looking for diverse employment opportunities, as there are 516 staffed beds and 1,268 full-time RNs at the Wauwatosa location, alone.
Additional Nursing Resources in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Nurses Association
The largest professional association of its kind in the state, Wisconsin Nurses Association is the parent organization of nine other groups targeting specialty areas of nursing, councils for workforce advocacy and public policy in nursing, and environmental and faith-related nursing support. As this state’s division of the American Nursing Association (ANA), joining the WNA actually grants you dual-membership in the ANA and affords you benefits including continuing education courses, free webinars, and access to the ANA Career Center.
Wisconsin Nurses Coalition
The Wisconsin Nurses Coalition is a networking system that joins together all other member organizations for nurses in the state, including the WNA, the Wisconsin Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, and the Wisconsin Center for Nursing. The WNC is intended to strengthen the collective voice of nurses in Wisconsin, through both inter-organizational meetings and hearings, as well as in a public forum, such as presenting to the media.
Wisconsin Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists
This organization was created specifically to support the needs of clinical nurses in Wisconsin. The WIACNS does not require membership dues to join, and is comprised of 100 members, with a committee of five elected officials at the helm. The organization centers on providing professional education and advocacy opportunities for clinical specialists in order to improve operations and policy in skilled nursing areas of the healthcare field. Current initiatives include raising awareness of the need for skilled APRNs in the state and developing a cloud-based medical records storage system for local patients.
Wisconsin Center for Nursing
The Wisconsin Center for Nursing was established to reinforce the nursing workforce in the state, through professional training and continuing education programs, fundraising efforts, and advocacy initiatives. The WCN is constantly searching for new methods of improving education options for nursing students, ensuring they can maximize their employment opportunities in the state by demonstrating advanced skills in their field of expertise. The WCN compiles comprehensive data on Wisconsin’s nursing workforce through reports and surveys, and offers students helpful links to nursing education resources in their area.
Wisconsin Organization of Nurse Executives
WONE is a unique organization for nurses who are interested in assuming a leadership or advocacy position within the industry. WONE encompasses a variety of committees and encourages membership in whichever area of executive nursing is of interest to you. Members may attend meetings or the organization’s annual conference, or join a committee focused on legislative policy reform, professional development, or communications. The organization also offers a mentorship opportunities.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Wisconsin
rsing professionals may take a variety of paths toward obtaining their online nursing degree. To address all levels of program options for aspiring nurses in this particular region of the Midwest, we’ve compiled a list of all accredited ADN, BSN, RN to BSN, MSN, and DNP online programs offered by nursing schools in Wisconsin.