If you are thinking about switching careers, you may wonder how to become a nurse in the Washington metro area. Nursing can be a fantastic career choice for people who want to contribute to the health of their community and support patients on their lifelong journeys through health and sickness.
You might have already given some thought to why you would like to change careers. Maybe your current role isn’t as satisfying as you want it to be. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to be in a science-related field. Or, maybe you’re impressed with the work you have seen nurses do — especially during the pandemic.
No matter the reasons pushing you forward, read on to learn more about why being a nurse in the Washington metropolitan area might be an excellent choice for you.
There is a nursing shortage in the D.C. area
As we have all heard in the news, nurses and other health care workers have been burdened by the pandemic. This has prompted some of them to leave positions, either to protect family members from possible infection or because the overwhelming patient load has pushed them into early retirement.
This has made an existing nursing shortage even worse. The Virginia Employment Commission estimates that 7,746 registered nurses and 2,550 licensed practice nurses are needed to fill the state’s health care demands by 2028. The Maryland Hospital Association reported that 25 percent of nursing positions were vacant in 2022, with a shortfall of 9,000 nurses.
One response to these staffing issues in the D.C. metro area has been Maryland’s House Bill 1208, or the Health Care Workforce Expansion Act. The bill, which is supported by the Maryland Hospital Association, proposes income tax credits for registered nurses and nurse practitioners. A clinical extern certificate program would allow nursing students to provide supervised care as they pursue board certification.
Now is a great time to become a nurse in the Washington Metropolitan Area
Important considerations for any career choice are job opportunities and salary, and nursing is no different.
Job opportunities for nurses in the D.C. area are plentiful, no matter what region you live in. If you run a search for “nursing jobs in the Washington metropolitan area,” thousands of listings will pop up. Some employers will be looking for experienced or specialist nurses (such as operating room RNs or endoscopic RNs), but some are welcoming new nursing graduates as well. Some employers are even looking for nurses who can work remotely — so opportunities abound.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 130,070 registered nurses worked in the D.C. area in 2021. This total included 66,980 in Virginia, 51,550 in Maryland and 11,540 in Washington, D.C. The Projections Management Partnership lists the following projected job growth in each state by 2030:
RN salaries in the D.C. area
High demand for registered nurses in a densely populated district translates into above-average compensation. The BLS lists a mean annual salary of $98,540 for registered nurses in the District of Columbia. This salary slightly exceeds the $98,370 mean annual salary for all occupations researched by the bureau.
RN salaries in Maryland
Registered nurses in Maryland earned a mean annual salary of $82,660 in 2021, according to the BLS. The mean annual salary for all occupations in Maryland was $65,900 in the same year. The Baltimore-Columbia-Towson area offers the state’s highest mean salary for RNs at $83,080.
RN salaries in Virginia
The mean annual salary for RNs in Virginia was $76,680 in 2021 based on BLS data. This salary represents a good return on investment compared to the $62,330 mean annual salary for all occupations listed by the BLS. RNs find compensation above or near the mean in Virginia communities, including:
- Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria: $89,060
- Richmond: $76,940
- Charlottesville: $75,950
- Winchester: $75,410
Matching different nursing roles with different educational degrees
“Nursing” is a very big umbrella term that covers a wide range of skills and responsibilities. If you are thinking of entering the field, though, here is a quick guide to the typical roles first-time nurses can fulfill.
A licensed practical nurse (LPN) can enter the field after a one-year certificate program that covers physiology, anatomy, medications and basic hands-on skills. LPNs work with registered nurses and other professionals to provide frontline patient care, such as taking vital signs, administering medications, keeping patient records and communicating care instructions to patients and family members.
A registered nurse (RN) usually enters the field after completing a longer program of education. Here are some options:
- Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a two-year program
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can be achieved after a four-year program of study or through an accelerated program that takes about 16 months if you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field
Most employers now prefer the BSN degree for RNs because of the depth of academic preparation and leadership training incorporated into the best programs. In addition, studies have shown that BSN-educated nurses deliver better patient outcomes.
Steps to become an RN in the Washington Metropolitan Area
In broad terms, there are three requirements to become a registered nurse — getting a degree, passing a licensure exam and applying to the state board of nursing for a license.
The educational institution will inform a graduate’s state nursing board when he or she completes the approved program of study. In the Washington metro area, licensing boards include the D.C. Board of Nursing, the Maryland Board of Nursing and the Virginia Board of Nursing.
The board will contact the graduate to let him or her know if they are eligible to take the National Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to be licensed to practice. The exam is given about one month after graduation. Applicants with a passing score must then apply with the following items:
- Application form and fee
- Proof of completion of Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting course
- Criminal history check
- Educational transcripts
- NCLEX-RN exam results
Advantages of an accelerated BSN program
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you can apply to an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. Because you have already completed the general education requirements with your first bachelor’s degree, you can concentrate on nursing science and complete the degree more quickly — sometimes in under two years. This lets you move swiftly into your new, second career.
Advantages of choosing an online ABSN from Marymount University
The online ABSN program from Marymount University has been designed to fully prepare students for a new career as a registered nurse. Academic coursework is offered online, allowing you to learn while remaining at your home base. Hands-on skills are taught through an on-campus residency and clinical rotations that are arranged by the University’s placement service. Throughout the program, students will engage with fellow students and faculty, and Learn with Purpose.
The ABSN program is organized around these pillars:
- Introduction to Nursing builds foundational knowledge in nursing science, theory and evidence-informed practice
- Clinical Care focuses on care for patients across the lifespan with acute and chronic illnesses
- Community-Specific Health explores cultural and social determinants that influence the health of patients and their families
- Research and Clinical Reasoning teaches you how to evaluate evidence to support care decisions
Marymount University’s online Nursing programs are fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and the institution is now ranked as a Best National University by U.S. News & World Report. Its BSN is also the second-highest ranked undergraduate nursing program among all Virginia private institutions. For the past five years, Marymount’s NCLEX pass rate for students has been over 90 percent. Fast-track your path to becoming an RN with our ABSN.