Nursing school is often out of reach for many people. Not only does it require a huge commitment of time and money, but nursing programs only have so many spots for students, and competition to get one of those spots can be fierce.
Over the past few years, a new option has been slowly gaining popularity. Although common particularly in Europe, nurse apprenticeship programs have been making their way to the United States, providing potential nurses an accessible way of becoming licensed registered nurses.
If you’re looking at becoming a licensed registered nurse while working in the field itself and making money, then Registered Apprenticeships may be the path for you. Here’s how you can find a nurse apprenticeship.
What Are Nurse Apprenticeships?
First off, nurse apprenticeships are not to be confused with nurse residencies or nurse residency apprenticeships. Residencies are for nurses who are newly licensed or who are switching specialties and looking to get more experience in their new specialty.
On the other hand, apprenticeships are a means of preparing currently unlicensed workers to become licensed by working as a nurse apprentice in addition to classroom work. That way, not only are they getting hands-on experiences that will prepare them for a career as a licensed nurse (and to take the NCLEX to become licensed), but they’re also getting paid for it and saving time by combining their work and learning together.
Where to Look for Nursing Apprenticeships
In recent years, the U.S. Department of Labor has allocated resources like grants towards encouraging the use of apprenticeship programs in the health care industry in an attempt to keep up with the growing demand for many health care professions.
Currently, the most common apprenticeships are for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and home health aides (HHAs). Although not registered nurses, they’re an important part of the nursing team, and people interested in becoming nurse aides can find apprenticeship opportunities in a variety of areas.
Apprenticeships for licensed practical nurses and registered nurses are at present a little more rare to find compared to those for nurse assistants, but they’re still out there and growing every year.
Qualification requirements for apprenticeship programs will vary depending on the program. Below are several places you can start looking to find a nurse apprenticeship.
Government Nursing Apprenticeship Programs
The U.S. Department of Labor runs a program specifically for Registered Apprenticeships. On their website, anyone who is interested in finding an apprenticeship can search for an apprenticeship job or program near them based on the occupation they’re interested in.
Nurse unions provide many resources and support options for nurses, and some may even offer apprenticeship options.
For example, California union SEIU Local 1000 offers its members the option of applying to an LVN-to-RN Apprenticeship Program. Any licensed vocational nurse (LVN) already working within the systems that the union has partnered with will keep their LVN job while working towards becoming a registered nurse. The program partners with several universities to provide classroom theory.
For LVNs, a nurse union may be a good resource to search for a nurse apprenticeship nearby.
Health Care Facilities and Systems
In 2017, Norton Healthcare in Kentucky started the first program for nursing apprenticeships in the United States. Their program lasts from a year to a year and a half, and students in their junior year of college or in the process of getting an associate’s degree are eligible to apply.
Also in 2017, Fairview Health Services in Minnesota developed an RN-to-BSN apprenticeship program. As the name implies, this program is specifically for registered nurses to get their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
Louisiana-based Ochsner Health System is another health care service that implemented a Registered Apprenticeship program for people with health care backgrounds to work towards becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN).
Although these types of programs are still relatively new, if you are already working in a large health care system, ask your supervisors or educational department if there are plans or apprenticeship programs available or in development.
States Nursing Apprenticeship Programs
Not all states in the United States offer nurse apprenticeship opportunities. As mentioned before, these types of programs have been popular in Europe, but they’re still relatively new to the United States.
Although the push and recommendation to begin health care apprenticeship programs has been around for a while, larger initiatives to begin developing these types of programs and opportunities began in just the last few years.
The following list below are some of the states that have begun developing and implementing nurse apprenticeship programs:
- South Dakota
As nurse apprenticeship programs are still relatively new in the United States, finding one near you may be a challenge. But if the more traditional way of becoming a nurse through a nursing program isn’t an option for you, it may be well worth the trouble of finding a program.
Apprenticeships are not uncommon in many industries, including health care, and the nursing field is just the latest that’s beginning to venture into using the option. By doing so, not only does it open up the nursing career path to more people, but the hope is that it’ll help us keep up with the rapidly-growing demand for licensed professionals.