As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for CNAs, LPNs, and RNs has never been higher. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that nursing careers have one of the highest growth projections out of any field. Understanding how to climb the nursing ladder is essential for growing as a healthcare professional and achieving your long-term goals. Throughout this guide, we’ll provide valuable insights to help you obtain the ideal nursing certifications and advance your career in the medical industry.

What is a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)?

CNAs play an essential role in the delivery of healthcare services. These professionals aid patients with activities of daily living and provide valuable support to nursing teams throughout the treatment process. This is one potential path to starting your nursing career, but as you grow in your role, you may want to consider pursuing higher-0level opportunities as an LPN or LVN. In these positions, you’ll be interfacing directly with Registered Nurses (RNs) to develop treatment plans and coordinate clinical workflows. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, achieving these licenses will also increase your annual income from $30,920 to $48,070.

Transitioning from a CNA to LPN/LVN

To pursue LPN or LVN roles, you’ll first need to complete an in-person or online nursing education program. These typically take 12 months to complete. After you’ve finished the course, you’ll be eligible to take an exam with the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses and obtain your license. This will enable you to manage more challenging aspects of patient care, including wound care, catheter changes, vital sign monitoring, and medication administration. An LPN or LVN position will also allow you to acquire valuable healthcare experience to help you pursue a Registered Nurse (RN) position. For more guidance, visit our Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) Resume Building page.

Transitioning from an LPN/LVN to an RN

You’ll need to complete additional education requirements to pursue a Registered Nurse (RN) career. One path is to complete a two-year program and achieve an associate’s degree in nursing from an accredited university. The other is to pursue a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), which will require four years to complete. Although the BSN is the longer road, obtaining your bachelor’s degree will positively impact on your long-term career prospects, as organizations will be more likely to hire candidates who complete a four-year program. For additional insights, you can visit our Registered Nurse Resume Building page.

Why Pursue an RN License?

The major difference between an LPN/LVN and an RN is the type of role you play in hospital operations. Registered Nurses (RNs) are responsible for coordinating with physicians to provide direct care to patients, whereas an LPN takes on a support role to aid the RN. As a Registered Nurse, you’ll also open up opportunities to pursue management positions and lead teams of medical personnel, which can result in much higher salaries. For some examples of leadership-centric nurse resumes, you can visit our Nurse Manager Resume Building page.

Consider Pursuing a Clinical Specialization

Pursuing a certification in a specific clinical area can be highly advantageous for facilitating your growth within the healthcare space. This will expand your clinical expertise and open up additional pathways to improve your long-term career prospects and salary. When deciding what clinical certifications to obtain, you should take the time to ask yourself what areas of nursing career you’re genuinely passionate about. For example, if you’re particularly interested in pediatric care, you might consider obtaining a Pediatric Critical Care (CCRN) certification. By targeting a nursing specialization, you’ll put yourself in a position to take on a more prominent management role within the clinical area that best fits your long-term goals.

Below, you’ll find a list of prominent clinical specializations that you may want to consider as you continue to advance as a Registered Nurse (RN):

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Pediatric Critical Care (CCRN)
  • Gastroenterology (CGRN)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Cardiac Surgery (CSC)
  • Perioperative Nurse (Surgical/OR Nurse)
  • Progressive Care (PCCN)
  • Dialysis (CDN)

Join a Medical Association

Becoming a member of a medical association can be a strong asset for building out your professional network and growing as a thought leader within the healthcare industry. You’ll also have the opportunity to garner valuable insights from experienced medical professionals who provide mentorship as you continue to grow as a Registered Nurse (RN). Highlighting your involvement within the medical community on your resume may also draw the attention of hiring managers and prospective employers, which might help to differentiate you from the competition. Some of the top nursing associations you can join to grow your career include:

  • The American Nurses Association (ANA)
  • The American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS)
  • The National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
  • Emergency Nursing Association (ENA)
  • National Association of Licensed Practical Nurses (NALPN)
  • The National League for Nursing (NLN)
  • American Association of Neuroscience Nurses (AANN)
  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
  • Society of Pediatric Cardiovascular Nurses (SPCN)

Continue Your Nursing Education

Although there is a great need for CNAs, LPNs/LVNs, and RNs on the open market, you’ll still encounter strong competition for the most lucrative positions in the healthcare space. Obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing or a Ph.D. in Nursing can open up even more career pathways, such as becoming a nurse educator or hospital administrator. Some prominent nursing positions that require additional education include:

  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Nurse Educator
  • Nursing Director
  • Chief Nursing Officer (CNO)

Build a Strong Nurse Resume

Once you’ve secured the right nursing credentials for your career path, you’ll need to build a strong accomplishment-driven resume to market yourself effectively during the job hunt. The key to crafting a winning resume is to tell a compelling story for the hiring manager using metrics, numbers, and tangible examples from your career. You’ll also want to research the hospital before applying to understand the organization’s values, mission statement, and culture. You’ll be more likely to generate interviews by tailoring your resume to specific job opportunities.

Nursing Careers are a Lifelong Journey

Whether you choose to become a CNA, LPN/LVN, or an RN, a career in nursing is a lifelong vocation. Each day, you’ll continue to expand your clinical knowledge as you provide medical care to your patients. The key to driving your professional development is to use every available resource to improve your healthcare skill sets. Whether you pursue a clinical specialization, advanced degree, or join an association, remember that this is a gradual process. Each day is another learning opportunity to help you grow as a nurse and caregiver.

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Frank Hackett

Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)

Frank Hackett is a professional resume writer and career consultant with over eight years of experience. As the lead editor at a boutique career consulting firm, Frank developed an innovative approach to resume writing that empowers job seekers to tell their professional stories. His approach involves creating accomplishment-driven documents that balance keyword optimization with personal branding. Frank is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) with the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PAWRCC).