How to Become a Nurse in Colorado

There's a growing demand for nurses in every state across the country, but the shortage in Colorado is estimated to be twice the national average. This rate is projected to grow from 11 to 31 percent by 2020. Students considering this field can help fill the vital need for skilled nurses while finding job stability in a rewarding career. Entering the Colorado nursing field gives students the opportunity to work in many types of health environments and in different roles. Whether they want to work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice nurse (APN), there's a range of specialties and subspecialties to choose from. Accredited nursing schools in Colorado provide students with the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to excel in their careers working in hospitals, doctor’s offices, schools, clinics, and private homes.

How to Get Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Certification in Colorado

Under the direct supervision of an RN or an LPN, a CNA assists patients with necessary daily activities. Their tasks include bathing, transferring and repositioning patients, tending to wounds, and many other essential tasks.

The first step to earning a Colorado CNA license is to complete a state-approved training program that includes at least 80 hours of instruction. Various community colleges in the area offer training programs.

Upon completion of training, an individual must pass an exam known as the Certified Nursing Assistant/Aide competency examination. The test consists of two parts: a knowledge test and a skills test. Individuals can register and schedule their exam online at Pearson Vue.

After passing the test, an individual may apply for certification. Colorado's CNAs are credentialed by the State Board of Nursing. Applications can be found on Colorado's Department of Regulatory Agencies website.

CNA certifications are valid for two years. All certifications expire on Jan. 31 of odd-numbered years. Renewal is available online by visiting the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies website and clicking on "Renew Your License."

How to Get a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) License in Colorado

An LPN plays an important role in healthcare by providing basic nursing care to patients under the direction of an RN or physician. LPNs perform a range of duties, including taking vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, and pulse), maintaining patient records, bathing and feeding patients, and teaching families how to properly care for their family members.

Colorado has a mandatory practice act, which means an individual may not practice as a practical nurse in the state without a Colorado license. The process of receiving a Colorado LPN license begins with graduating from an accredited LPN program.

There are several community colleges and technical schools throughout the area that offer such programs. The curriculum includes courses such as human anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and human growth and development. Students will also receive hands-on experience in a clinical setting. The program takes approximately 12-14 months to complete when individuals attend full-time.

Upon graduating from an LPN program, an individual can apply for licensure by examination through the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. Requirements include verifying healthcare licenses held in other states or countries, paying the application processing fee, providing a social security number, and answering screening questions related to criminal history. Individuals are also required to create and maintain a Healthcare Professions Profile.

Aspiring LPNs must also pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nursing (NCLEX-PN) to apply for licensure. Individuals can register for the exam online with Pearson Vue.

LPN licenses must be renewed every two years. All licenses expire on Aug. 31 of even-numbered years.

How to Get a Registered Nurse (RN) License in Colorado

The daily responsibilities of an RN vary greatly in the healthcare setting, but generally, they're tasked with monitoring patients, administering medications, acting as a liaison between patient and doctor and managing medical records.

All nursing licenses and certificate applications are regulated and issued by the Board of Nursing at the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. Colorado has a mandatory practice act, which means an individual may not practice as an RN in the state without a license. To obtain a Colorado RN license, an applicant must first earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited program. Individuals applying for licensure must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Pay the application processing fee of $88
  • Verify other healthcare licenses held in another state or country
  • Complete the Affidavit of Eligibility to work in the United States
  • Submit fingerprints to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in order to conduct a state and national background check and answer screening questions related to criminal history
  • Provide a social security number

Applicants must also complete a Healthcare Professions Profile. This profile is required for healthcare professionals in Colorado and must be maintained for each active license held.

RN licenses are valid for two years. All licenses expire on Sept. 30 of odd or even-numbered years and depend on the issuance date.

How to Get an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) License in Colorado

An APN is an RN who has an advanced degree such as a master’s degree or higher. APNs may choose to become specialized as an NP, certified nurse-midwife, clinical nurse specialist, or certified registered nurse anesthetist. The duties of APNs vary widely depending on their area of specialization. In general, they work in collaboration with doctors, prescribe certain medications, order diagnostic tests and help determine various treatment plans.

In order to be issued a Colorado APN license, an individual must first be licensed as an RN. The next step is completing a graduate-level APN program approved by the Colorado Board of Nursing. Individuals may choose to specialize in one or more areas (nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, etc.) and take courses focused on that area. Individuals must become nationally certified in the area in which they wish to practice by the appropriate independent national certification agency.

Once certified, the next step is applying to the Colorado Board of Nursing for licensure.

There are different application packets for each field that must be submitted. For example, a nurse practitioner must fill out the Application for Advanced Practice Registry-Nurse Practitioner, while a clinical nurse specialist must submit the Application for Advanced Practice Registry-Clinical Nurse Specialist. Each of these applications requires different documentation. All the applications and instructions can be found on the Colorado Board of Nursing website.

Colorado APN licenses expire every two years and are renewed at the same time as RN licenses. APNs certified in a specialty should be in contact with the appropriate national certification agency for requirements for recertification.