How to Become a Nurse in Washington, DC

Like many other areas in the country, Washington, DC, is experiencing a growing need to fill nursing positions within its healthcare system. According to a report compiled by the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, 44 states and the District of Columbia are projected to have nursing shortages by 2020. Another study from Georgetown University reports that there will be approximately 6,700 job openings in the capital city for registered nurses by 2020. Although the District of Columbia is small, it’s important to note that many hospitals in the area also serve residents in Maryland and Virginia, thus increasing the need for nurses. Nursing programs in Washington, DC, arm students with the tools and skills they need to work as a registered nurse, certified nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, or advanced practice registered nurse. The District of Columbia Board of Nursing issues and regulates nursing licenses for RNs, LPNs, and APRNs. Aspiring nurse aides can also earn CNA certification. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses in the District of Columbia can expect to earn approximately $90,110 per year, while licensed practical nurses and nurse practitioners can expect to earn $53,050 and $107,950, respectively.

How to Get Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) Certification in Washington, DC

Working under the supervision of RNs and licensed practical nurses (LPNs), certified nurse aides (CNAs) help provide care to patients. CNAs provide essential hands-on care to patients, including bathing, feeding, dressing wounds, repositioning and turning patients. CNAs also observe and report the conditions and changes relating to their patients’ physical and mental well-being.

To be certified and included in the Washington, DC, Nurse Aide Registry, all CNAs must first complete a 120-hour CNA training program that has been approved by the Board of Nursing. The training program includes 45 hours of classroom instruction, 30 hours of clinical laboratory practicums and 45 hours of nursing home practicums.

Taking and passing the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) exam is the next step to receiving Washington, DC, certification. The test must be taken within 24 months of completing a training program. This test consists of two parts: a written or oral portion and a skills demonstration portion. Individuals can go to Pearson Vue Credential Management System to apply to take the exam.

Applicants must also pass a criminal background check.

CNA certification is renewed every two years, and renewal applications can be found online. Individuals must work eight hours or more as a paid nurse’s aide during the two-year period before renewal.

How to Get a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) License in Washington, D.C.

There are approximately 1,820 licensed practical nurses (LPNs) in Washington, D.C., who provide a range of medical care to patients. LPNs work under the supervision and direction of RNs and physicians to perform a range of duties — from taking vital signs and inserting catheters, to assisting with tests and procedures. The Board of Nursing, a division within the D.C. Department of Health, regulates LPN licensure in the capital city. There are several steps one must take to acquire a Washington, D.C., nursing license.

Individuals applying for a Washington, D.C., LPN license must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). This exam evaluates an individual’s knowledge and skills in several areas, including health promotion and maintenance, safe and effective care environment, psychosocial integrity and physiological integrity.

Individuals must have ATT by Pearson Vue to sit for the exam. In order to receive ATT, individuals must register online, pay the testing fee and be approved to take the exam.

Other requirements for becoming an LPN include:

  • Undergoing a criminal background check and scheduling an appointment for live scan (electronic) fingerprinting services
  • Submitting an Application for Licensure by Examination for review and processing to the Board of Nursing
  • Sending official transcript (with seal) from the applicant’s school of nursing with the application in a sealed envelope
  • Paying applicable fees

LPN licenses expire on June 30 of odd-numbered years. Individuals must complete 18 contact hours of continuing education.

How to Get a Registered Nurse (RN) License in Washington, DC

The Board of Nursing, a division within the DC Department of Health, is responsible for the licensure and regulation of registered nurses (RNs). RNs in Washington, DC, cannot practice without being actively licensed. There are several steps to earning a Washington, DC, RN license, starting with graduating with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited program.

After graduating from an accredited nursing program, individuals are required to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). To sit for the exam, individuals must have Authorization to Test (ATT) by Pearson Vue, the test administrator. In order to receive ATT, individuals must register online, pay the testing fee and be approved to take the exam.

Other requirements for receiving a Washington, DC, nursing license include:

  • Undergoing a criminal background check and scheduling an appointment for live scan (electronic) fingerprinting services
  • Submitting a District of Columbia Board of Nursing Application for licensure by examination for review and processing
  • Sending official transcript (with seal) from the applicant’s school of nursing with the application in a sealed envelope
  • Paying applicable fees

District of Columbia RN licenses expire on June 30 of even-numbered years. Renewal notices are mailed three months prior to the expiration date. Individuals must complete 24 contact hours of continuing education prior to renewing their license.

How to Get an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse License in Washington, DC

An advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) is an RN who holds a master’s or doctoral degree from an accredited program approved by the Board of Nursing. APRNs in the District of Columbia can be trained in one of four roles: nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, nurse midwife or clinical nurse specialist.

To receive initial certification as an advanced practice registered nurse prescriber, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Submit an application form and fee
  • Provide evidence of holding a current license to practice as an RN
  • Provide evidence of current certification by a national certifying body as a nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, nurse midwife or clinical nurse specialist
  • Provide evidence of a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing or a related health field
  • Provide evidence of passing an examination for advanced practice registered nurse prescribers
  • Complete a criminal background check (individuals who have completed a state or FBI criminal background check for licensure in another jurisdiction within the last four years don’t require an additional background check).

Washington, D.C. advanced practice registered nurse licenses expire June 30 of even-numbered years (at the same time as RN licenses). Twenty-four continuing education hours (must include a minimum of 15 contact hours in a continuing education program that includes a pharmacology component) are required to renew an APRN Washington, DC, nursing license.