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CNA to RN Transition

While you work as a  CNA, you make progress towards becoming a Registered Nurse (RN). Unlike CNAs, RNs directly coordinate and implement patient care plans with their superiors. They are trusted with a myriad of medical tasks, such as diagnostic exams, administering medication, recording a patient’s clinical data and directly assisting with sensitive procedures. They also  oversee the nursing staff under them such as LPNs and CNAs. Because of these increased responsibilities, RNs can enjoy significantly higher pay. According to Indeed, RNs currently make $83,772 annually or double the annual salary of the average CNA. This is on top of opportunities to travel, added benefits and even more career flexibility. 


If that all interests you, this segment provides a step-by-step guide on transitioning from CNA to RN. 


Apply for an Accredited Degree Program. 


The minimum educational requirements for an RN are either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN). The latter typically takes two years to complete, while the former normally takes four. The added investment is ultimately worth it, since RNs with BSN degrees enjoy better pay, more job opportunities and chances for career advancement. In most situations, BSN is highly preferred. 


For reference, the enrolment prerequisites for both are the following: 


  • ADN

    • High school diploma or GED

    • HESI exam 

    • A minimum GPA or certain schools

    • Completed High School Chemistry and Biology

    • SAT Scores

    • Personal essay

  • BSN

    • Cumulative G.P.A of 2.75 or higher from high school or associate’s degree program 

    • Completed laboratory-based classes like Anatomy, Chemistry and Biology

    • Personal Essay

    • Proof of Volunteer Efforts


Choosing the Right BSN Track 


There are a number of BSN programs to choose from. Each of them varies in length, format and requirements. What works best for you depends on your priorities and situation. 


  • Part Time Vs Full-time: Programs typically offer either a full-time curriculum or a part-time schedule. For those who want to study while working, part-time is preferred. If you have the time to fully commit to your studies, you can opt for a quicker full time program. Some of these programs are even online, which provides added flexibility

  • CNA to RN Bridge Programs: For CNAs, these bridge programs are the fastest and most efficient track towards becoming an RN.. Not only can you acquire your BSN in under a year, but the curriculum builds on your experiences and education as a CNA. 

  • Accelerated BSN Programs: If you have a bachelor’s degree in another discipline and you meet the GPA minimum, you can opt for an accelerated track. Whether it is online or in-person, these programs allow you to acquire your BSN in just 12 months. 

Pass the NCLEX-RN


Once you have completed your educational requirements, you can finally take the National Council Licensure Examination - Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). To ensure that RNs are prepared to safely provide medical care, they must pass this exam before they can get licensed. Applicants can call Pearson VUE to request for a preferred date and testing center. It is generally advised that you set aside at least one to two months in order to study for your exam. 


The exam uses an adaptive testing mechanism that evaluates your ability, based on how you answer questions of varying ability. It repeats this process until it is 95% sure of its evaluation. If you do very well, the test can be as short as 75 questions. After the test, you are assigned a “logit” that corresponds to your capabilities.  The NCLEX passing score, as of 2021, is a logit of 0. To get this, you need to correctly answer 50% of the medium-difficulty questions. As long as your logit is positive, you passed.


It takes approximately six weeks to get your test results. If you fail the test, you must wait 45 days before you can try again. If you pass, you can receive your license from your State Board of Nursing. Congratulations! You are now an RN!

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