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Nursing Apprenticeships: What They Are and How To Get One

March 1, 2021

Earning a degree can be quite expensive, which is why many students look for opportunities to earn an income while they're in school. Unfortunately, these positions are frequently irrelevant to the career you're pursuing. Nursing apprenticeships address this issue by allowing nursing students to make money as they gain valuable experience and training in the healthcare industry. In this article, we explain what a nursing apprenticeship is, what nurse apprentices do, the benefits of apprenticeships, their prevalence in the United States and how to get one.

Related: Learn About Being a Registered Nurse (RN)

What is a nursing apprenticeship?

A nursing apprenticeship is a way for nursing students to work in a healthcare facility while completing their practical nurse (PN) or registered nurse (RN) programs, allowing them to start their nursing career and make money as they complete their education. A nurse apprentice is able to perform a specific list of approved care activities, making these nurse apprenticeship jobs a wonderful hands-on training opportunity.

As nursing apprentices develop their skills and knowledge, their duties typically become more advanced. Nursing apprenticeship programs give aspiring nurses the chance to:

  • Be mentored by senior medical staff
  • Gain experience working in a clinical setting
  • Develop important patient care skills, like bedside manner

Related: A Day in the Life of a Nurse: Typical Daily Activities and Duties of a RN

What do nurse apprentices do?

An apprentice nurse usually has a wide range of responsibilities that focus on daily patient care and administrative tasks, such as:

  • Assisting patients as they familiarize themselves with the facility and their room
  • Changing bed linens
  • Transporting patients
  • Collecting specimen for testing
  • Installing IVs
  • Performing EKGs
  • Checking and charting vital signs
  • Removing stitches or staples
  • Replacing bandages
  • Bathing and dressing patients
  • Recording a patient's fluid intake and output

Nursing apprentices are also often asked to participate in staff meetings and contribute to the care planning of patients. As you advance in your apprenticeship and your skills continue to develop, you are typically allowed to perform more complex tasks. For example, though you are still under supervision, you may be authorized to perform catheterizations, care for ostomies and administer medications.

Benefits of nurse apprenticeship programs

A nurse apprentice program is beneficial for students and healthcare facilities alike. For students, the advantages are clear: You get hands-on experience and training as you complete your education, and you are compensated for your work and time. As a result, you are adequately prepared to enter the workforce.

Additionally, apprenticeships often give prospective employers an opportunity to get to know you, your skills and your work ethic, increasing the chances that you can get hired directly after graduation.

The availability of nursing apprenticeships in the U.S.

Nursing apprenticeship programs are becoming increasingly more popular in the United States, but until recently, these opportunities were found primarily in Europe. The nurse apprentice programs in the U.S. typically have students start their education in the classroom before they advance to hands-on clinical training. The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) received an award from the U.S. Department of Labor allowing them to develop and implement apprenticeship training models in a number of states, including:

  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Washington

Additionally, Nevada's state board of nursing has designed and employed apprentice nursing programs, allowing students to put the clinical skills they are learning in the classroom to practice.

Related: How To Become a Registered Nurse: Career Guide and Requirements

Other alternative routes to becoming a nurse

If you're hoping to become a registered nurse, there are a number of paths you can take. Though an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is the minimum requirement to become a registered nurse, many employers favor candidates with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Aside from making you a more competitive candidate, a BSN can also boost your earning potential and provide you with more opportunities for career advancement in the future. For this reason, many aspiring nurses decide to pursue a BSN.

Aside from the traditional method of enrolling in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, earning a four-year degree and taking the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), you could also complete a practical nursing program at a community college and earn your licensed practical nurse (LPN) designation. From there, you'd need to take the NCLEX-PN to become licensed and be able to gain employment as an LPN.

Some decide to become a licensed practical nurse before enrolling in their Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Much like a nursing apprenticeship, this path allows you to enter the workforce as you pursue an advanced degree in nursing.

How to get an apprenticeship

Depending on the state and the nursing apprentice program, you may be subject to different prerequisites and program requirements. In order to find and complete a nursing apprenticeship and become a registered nurse, you should follow these general steps:

1. Start a nursing program

Before you can be accepted into an apprenticeship program, you typically need to be either working toward an associate degree or a bachelor's degree in nursing. If you're pursuing your BSN, you may have to be in your junior year of the program to be eligible for nurse apprenticeship jobs.

2. Locate a program in a state near you

Since nursing apprenticeships are still being developed in the U.S., you're going to need to find out whether your state, or a nearby state, offers these opportunities.

3. Apply for an apprenticeship

After you learn more about your state's apprenticeships for nursing, you can begin looking for and applying to healthcare facilities that participate in these programs.

4. Perform your duties

Your apprenticeship supervisor must ensure that you are enrolled in an accredited nursing program, so you might be asked to provide some form of verification of your enrollment. Your supervisor is also responsible for making sure that you complete your responsibilities efficiently and competently. In many cases, they perform a checklist of your qualifications and skills at the beginning of each new term.

5. Graduate with an Interim Permit

When you graduate from a nursing apprenticeship, you are typically awarded an Interim Permit that allows you to practice nursing.

6. Take the NCLEX

Before you can gain employment as a licensed RN, you must take and pass the NCLEX-RN. Your training through your degree and the apprenticeship prepares you for this examination, but most aspiring nurses do a fair amount of studying on their own before taking the exam as well.

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