EMT to RN: How to Transition into Nursing

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Transitioning from EMT to RN takes careful planning. To change careers, you must enroll in a nursing program that meets your needs, earn a nursing degree and pass the licensing exam. While not easy, transitioning into nursing is worth the work and investment.

EMTs with patient in front of ambulance

Becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT) is a logical path if you feel called to work in healthcare. EMTs can save lives, but sometimes the job’s realities may mean it’s not the right fit for you. Many EMTs decide they want to become registered nurses (RNs) after acquiring a few years of experience. But changing careers can be daunting.

Fortunately, accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs make the transition from EMT to RN simple. Felician University offers an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program that allows those with a bachelor’s degree or at least 60 college credits to earn their BSN in as few as 16 to 18 months.

Below you can find an exploration of the differences between EMTs and nurses and an in-depth explanation of what it takes to transition to nursing.

EMT vs Nurse: What’s the Difference?

EMTs and nurses play vital roles by providing life-saving patient care. However, the roles differ greatly. EMTs are part of the emergency medical services response team. They respond on-site to patients needing medical assistance and safely transport those patients to and between healthcare facilities.

EMTs provide a wide range of patient care, from minor first aid to life support. When a patient requires further treatment at a healthcare facility, EMTs work together to stabilize them for transportation.

RNs, on the other hand, provide direct care to patients in hospitals, long-term care facilities and even patients’ homes. RNs spend more time with their patients and focus on treating conditions and managing symptoms rather than stabilizing them for transportation. (However, there are instances where nurses may need to stabilize a patient for transportation.)

nursing student putting stethoscope in ears

Responsibilities of RNs also include:

  • Patient intake (recording medical history, taking measurements, etc.)
  • Monitoring patient vitals
  • Administering medication and recording doses/timing
  • Communicating status changes and other information to physicians and appropriate staff

While EMTs and RNs seem similar at first glance, further exploration of the two careers reveals greater differences. However, as you make the transition, you will find that your EMT experience has helped prepare you for a nursing career.

Why Transition from Being an EMT to Nursing?

EMTs who wish to diversify their scope of practice may find it worthwhile to transition from EMT to RN. In addition to providing more diverse patient care, EMTs who become RNs enjoy:

  • Higher monetary compensation
  • Career advancement and leadership opportunities
  • A flexible schedule
  • Diverse options for specialization
  • Positive job growth

If the above benefits sound appealing, consider taking the steps below to transition into nursing.

How to Change Careers from EMT to RN

Changing careers takes hard work and requires thorough planning. Consider each of these steps carefully as you prepare for your future career.

Hands on laptop with felician mug

1. Find the Right Nursing Program

Nursing programs are diverse. To be eligible for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), you must first earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a BSN.

Even though both degrees qualify you for the licensing exam, a BSN is the preferred credential. Studies have shown that greater numbers of BSN-educated nurses in healthcare facilities lead to improved patient outcomes. For example, a March 2022 study revealed that 30-day inpatient mortality rates decrease when more BSN-educated nurses are present.

A comprehensive BSN education offers a rigorous curriculum that provides students with more time and resources to develop clinical judgment. While traditional BSN programs take four years, ABSN programs are available to career changers and transfer students.

Felician’s ABSN program offers two delivery options for qualified students: a hybrid option that combines online coursework with in-person labs and clinical rotations or an on-ground option. The ABSN program condenses the comprehensive BSN education you’d expect from a traditional program into 16 months for the hybrid option or 18 months for the on-ground option.

Consider your educational history and a program’s location and length. This is an important decision that can affect your career trajectory.

nursing students in class

A BSN can open many doors for your career. Read more to learn the top ten benefits of earning a BSN.

2. Call an Admissions Counselor

Once you decide on a nursing program, it’s time to start the application process. Every school has different application requirements, so it’s critical to review their steps carefully.

At Felician, our admissions counselors are available to walk you through every step of the admissions process. Starting with the first call, our counselors will help determine whether our ABSN program is the right fit for you. Be prepared to discuss your educational history and why you want to become a nurse. While you don’t need official transcripts at this point, having unofficial copies on hand is helpful.

3. Create an Academic Plan

Meeting the prerequisites is a critical part of the admissions process. Felician ABSN prerequisites ensure that all students start with a strong general education foundation so they can focus on nursing coursework during the program.

Your admissions counselor will help you create an academic plan to satisfy all prerequisites before your target start date. The number of prerequisites you must complete will vary depending on your educational history. For example, applicants with a Bachelor of Science will most likely have fewer prerequisites to complete than those with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Once you have an academic plan, it’s time to get to work and complete your prerequisites. Schools have different passing requirements, so be mindful of your grades. At Felician, applicants must receive a C+ or higher in each prerequisite course.

4. Complete and Submit Your Application

After completing the prerequisites, it’s time to finalize your nursing school application. Take the time to review each of the application requirements so you submit the most competitive application possible. Your admissions counselor will help you to ensure you don’t leave out any materials.

5. Earn Your BSN

If your application is accepted, congratulations! You already got a taste of what it’s like to return to school by completing prerequisites, but now it’s time to commit fully. Nursing school is intentionally rigorous so that students are fully prepared for nursing careers.

student studying

Felician’s ABSN combines coursework with nursing skills labs, simulation labs and clinical rotations. If enrolled in the hybrid program, your coursework will be completed online through an interactive learning platform.

This allows you to complete coursework when and where it’s the most convenient while meeting deadlines. Felician’s on-ground delivery option may be better for you if you prefer in-person instruction.

When not completing coursework, you will participate in skills labs, simulation labs and clinical rotations. Skills and simulation labs serve as the training ground where students learn foundational nursing skills, such as head-to-toe assessments and nasogastric intubation, on high-tech medical manikins.

During simulation labs, you will work with other students, reenacting clinical scenarios in a risk-free environment. Finally, you will complete clinical rotations at local healthcare facilities, where you will provide direct patient care under the guidance and supervision of medical professionals.

Through these experiences and courses, students acquire the knowledge and skills needed to become licensed, practicing nurses. Upon graduation, students earn a BSN, qualifying them to take the licensing exam.

Nursing school can be challenging, but success is possible. Read more for eight things you should know about nursing school.

nursing students studying with tablet

6. Become Licensed in Your State

Once you earn a nursing degree, you’re ready to take the NCLEX-RN. The licensing exam assesses your ability to make the most appropriate choices in clinical scenarios. Instead of expecting you to memorize facts, the NCLEX-RN requires you to utilize your clinical judgment, often by asking you to choose the most suitable answer from several correct options.

It’s best to study for the NCLEX throughout nursing school and dedicate the weeks between graduation and exam day to full-time study. Once you pass the exam, you can register for a nursing license in your state and start practicing as an RN, completing the transition from EMT to RN.

Benefits of a Career in Nursing

A nursing career offers many rewards. From opportunities to specialize in patient care to career advancement, transitioning from EMT to nurse is worth the investment. Consider these benefits as you plan your future.

Diverse Opportunities

Nursing is diverse. You can explore many specializations, allowing you to treat unique populations and conditions. Nurses can work in various specialties, including:

  • Surgical
  • Labor and delivery
  • Neonatal
  • Pediatrics
  • Gerontology
  • ICU

This is just a sample of nursing specialties. School nurses, flight nurses, and public health nurses can also work away from the bedside. Consider your skills and strengths as you explore different nursing specialties.

students checking patient

High Demand and Attractive Salary Projection

There is a nationwide nursing shortage, creating a high demand for nurses. According to the American Nurses Association, this shortage is partly due to recruitment of new entrants struggling to keep up with the retirement rate and an increased need due to an aging population.

The projected job growth is promising. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nursing is expected to grow 6% between 2022 and 2032, double the national rate for all other occupations.

RNs also experience lucrative salary projections. While salaries vary depending on experience, specialty and employer, RNs have a median annual salary of $81,220 (BLS), significantly higher than the median salary for all other occupations.

Further Advancement

RNs also enjoy opportunities to advance their careers and experience high earning potential. A BSN is the minimum qualification for master’s- and doctorate-level nursing programs. Positions such as nurse practitioner, nurse midwife and nursing supervisor are a few examples of ways to advance your nursing career.

nurses wearing face masks sitting in classroom

There are many career advancement opportunities for nurses. Learn how getting an advanced nursing degree can positively impact your career.

Advance Your Career with Felician’s ABSN

Transitioning from EMT to RN and advancing your career is possible with Felician’s ABSN. Our accelerated nursing program allows career changers to follow their calling and start the transition to becoming a nurse. Our ABSN builds on students’ previous college education and provides them with the knowledge and skills needed to take the NCLEX confidently.

Contact an admissions counselor today to learn whether the Felician ABSN program is right for you and take the first steps toward becoming a licensed, practicing nurse.