How to Become a Nurse in Iowa

Job growth for nurses is projected to continue amid the physician shortage in the US. This shortage is particularly acute in Iowa, where the state’s legislature has recognized it as a public health issue. The Iowa State Legislature notes that about 600 nurses in the state reach the minimum retirement age annually.

Attending one of the nursing schools in Iowa gives students a strong platform on which to build a solid nursing career and set themselves up to play a critical role in helping address the shortage in care. The Iowa Board of Nursing is the regulatory body in the state responsible for controlling all levels of nursing licensure. Learn about how to become a CNA, LPN, RN, or ARPN in Iowa below.

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

To work as a CNA, candidates must be registered on the Direct Care Worker registry maintained by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. To be certified, applicants need to complete a state-approved training program and then pass two different evaluations for competency — one testing knowledge and the other testing practical skills. CNAs undergo multiple background checks during the application process, including criminal histories and abuse registries.

Training programs to obtain an Iowa CNA license require at least 75 hours — 30 of which must be in clinical work. Examples of clinical work relevant to the CNA license are:

  • First aid, CPR and AED
  • Infectious disease control
  • Learning how to take and record patient vital signs
  • Workplace safety and protocol
  • Patient care and bedside manner
  • Range of motion exercises to accommodate patients who require rehabilitation
  • Communication skills, teamwork and team building

Staying on the Iowa CNA registry is dependent on the applicant’s ability to perform nursing-related duties for at least one eight-hour work day during each two-year period. Failure to do this will result in having to go through the Iowa nursing certificate application process all over again.

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

To obtain an Iowa LPN license, applicants must complete a state-approved nursing program. Upon completion of that educational program, applicants must do the following:

  • Furnish an official transcript from the nursing program to the Iowa Board of Nursing detailing all the relevant clinical coursework proving competency for the RN licensure.
  • Request fingerprint cards from the board, which must be mailed back in the same envelope as the rest of the application. There is a $143 fee for the criminal background check as well as the application itself.
  • Take the NCLEX-PN, which requires a $200 fee for the Board of Nursing to communicate eligibility to the testing center. Applicants should apply for the exam through Pearson Vue.

Applicants with an Iowa nursing license who wish to be authorized to supervise other nurses or perform IV therapy will require additional coursework, and LPNs who are employed as supervisors at long-term care facilities are expected to complete a board-approved course within six months of obtaining their LPN license.

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

Applicants for an Iowa RN license must have proof of graduation from an approved nursing program, which can be at the associate level or higher. The steps for the application include:

  • Furnish an official transcript from the nursing program to the Iowa Board of Nursing detailing all the relevant clinical coursework proving competency for the RN licensure.
  • Request fingerprint cards from the board, which must be mailed back in the same envelope as the rest of the application. There is a $143 fee for the criminal background check as well as the application itself.
  • Take the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN), which requires a $200 fee for the Iowa Board of Nursing to communicate eligibility to the testing center. Applicants should apply for the exam through Pearson Vue.

The renewal fee for this Iowa nursing license is $99, which is payable every three years and is due one month prior to the 15th day of the applicant’s birth month.

How to Get an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (ARNP) License in Iowa

An advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) in Iowa is actually referred to as an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP). To get an Iowa ARNP license, applicants must have completed at least a master’s level education in nursing in one of the following capacities:

  • Certified nurse-midwife
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist
  • Certified nurse practitioner
  • Clinical nurse specialist

Applicants must also have a valid RN license and be certified in one of the ARNP capacities by an approved national certifying organization. The ARNP application process includes the following:

  • Fill out an application through the Iowa Board of Nursing. If an applicant cannot complete the application online, they must call the board and request a paper application.
  • Pay an $81 non-refundable fee.
  • Furnish a copy of an active RN license.
  • Furnish a copy of any details that may arise during a criminal background check.
  • Provide a hard copy of official transcripts from an accredited master’s level (or higher) nursing program.

The fee for a renewal of this Iowa nursing license is the same as it is for RN licensure — $99, which is payable every three years and is due one month prior to the 15th day of the applicant’s birth month.

In Iowa, ARNPs are eligible to apply for prescriptive authority for Schedule II-V controlled substances.