How to Become a Nurse in Pennsylvania

The demand for nurses in Pennsylvania is high due to an aging population. According to a study by the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission, the need for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) is particularly high in the state, with an estimated shortage of 2,310 LPNs by 2025. Upon graduation from one of the accredited nursing programs offered in Pennsylvania, individuals can work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), or advanced practice nurse (APN). Individuals licensed by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing can expect to earn approximately $47,070 as an LPN, $69,820 as an RN and $98,260 as an NP. Students considering a career in nursing will have the opportunity to work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, long-term healthcare facilities, schools, physician’s offices and more.

How to Get a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) License in Pennsylvania

CNAs play an important part in healthcare by ensuring that the basic needs of patients are met. Working under the direction and supervision of an RN or LPN, their duties include bathing, dressing, and repositioning patients, helping prepare rooms, and more. To be eligible to work as a CNA in Pennsylvania, individuals must meet the following requirements:

  • Be 16 years of age or older.
  • Submit to a criminal background check.
  • Complete a nurse aide training program approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education within the last 24 months.
  • Register with Pearson VUE (test administrator) to schedule a date and time to take the exam. Online registration is available and a reservation must be made at least 10 calendar days prior to the test date.
  • Pay testing fees.
  • Pass the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) examination. This exam is designed to determine minimal competency to become a certified nurse aide in the state. The exam is made up of both a written (or oral) examination and a skills evaluation.

Once individuals successfully complete their exam, they’ll be registered on the Pennsylvania Certified Nurse Aide Registry and can begin their career.

CNAs are required to renew their certification every two years. To be eligible for renewal, individuals must work as a nurse aide at least one documented day (eight consecutive hours) in an approved facility (such as a nursing home, hospital or home health setting) during the previous 24 months. Renewal can be done online at the Pearson VUE’s PULSE (Pearson VUE Uniform Licensing Solution for E-Government) website.

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

LPNs work closely with RNs and doctors to provide direct patient care. They assist doctors during procedures, keep detailed records, record vital signs, help patients with bathing and dressing, and answer questions or concerns patients may have about their conditions.

The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing issues and regulates licensure of LPNs. Earning a Pennsylvania LPN license begins with graduating from a board-approved practical nursing program. A list of approved programs can be found on the board’s website. Upon graduation from an LPN program, individuals can apply for licensure by examination by registering online at the Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS) and filling out the online application. Candidates for licensure must take the licensure examination for the first time within one year of completing their nursing education programs. Individuals can apply for a graduate temporary practice permit by answering a question within the application.

Other mandatory steps include:

  • Providing a recent criminal history records check (CHRC) from the state police or other state agency for every state in which an applicant has lived, worked or completed professional training/studies for the past 10 years.
  • Registering with Pearson VUE (test administrator) to take the exam and paying the set fee.
  • Once the evaluation of submitted information is complete and applicants are deemed eligible to take the examination by the board, Pearson Vue will send an Authorization to Test (ATT) email. Individuals will then be able to select the day and time to take the exam.

LPNs are required to renew their licenses every two years. A notice for renewal will be sent prior to the expiration date of the current license. Renewal can be done online. Requirements for renewal include:

  • Completing 30 hours of board-approved continuing education.
  • Completing two hours of training on the topic of child abuse recognition and reporting from an approved provider.

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

There are more than 143,000 RNs in Pennsylvania who are dedicated to caring for their patients’ physical and mental well-being. RNs perform many hands-on duties such as administering medication, providing wound care, monitoring vital signs, and performing diagnostic tests. They’re also tasked with educating patients about treatment options and counseling patients and their loved ones.

Individuals interested in pursuing a career as an RN must graduate with an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN). According to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing, candidates for licensure must take the examination for the first time within one year of completing their nursing education programs. Other required steps to earning a Pennsylvania RN license include:

  • Providing a recent criminal history records check (CHRC) from the state police or other state agency for every state in which an applicant has lived, worked or completed professional training/studies for the past 10 years.
  • Applying for licensure by examination by filling out an online application. Individuals can apply for a graduate temporary practice permit by answering a question within the application.
  • Registering with Pearson VUE (test administrator) to take the exam, which includes paying a fee.
  • Once the evaluation of submitted information is complete and applicants are deemed eligible to take the examination by the board, Pearson Vue will send an Authorization to Test (ATT) email. Individuals will then select a day and time for their exam.

RNs must renew their Pennsylvania nursing license every two years. A notice for renewal will be mailed prior to the expiration date of the current license. Renewal can be done online and requires the following:

  • Complete 30 hours of board-approved continuing education
  • Complete two hours of training on the topic of child abuse recognition and reporting from an approved provider

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

An APN is an RN who has earned a graduate-level degree (master’s or higher) from an accredited program approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing. An APN can become specialized in a certain area of medicine. The board recognizes two different types of advanced practice nurse: certified registered nurse practitioner (CRNP) and clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

Individuals are required to become nationally certified in the area in which they wish to practice by the appropriate board-approved independent national certification agency.

Once certified, the next step is applying to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing for licensure. To apply for a Pennsylvania advanced practice nurse license, individuals must submit:

  • A completed application to the board for review and approval.
  • Proof of completing a board-approved education program and an official transcript.
  • Proof of current national certification as a CRNP or CNS.

A CRNP may practice with prescriptive authority (the authority to prescribe and dispense medications) if they have an active Pennsylvania RN license, an active Pennsylvania CRNP certificate and active Pennsylvania Prescriptive Authority Approval.

A Pennsylvania APN nursing license is renewed every two years (along with one’s RN license and prescriptive authority approval). Individuals must complete at least 30 hours of continuing education in the two years preceding renewal. In addition, individuals must complete two hours of training on the topic of child abuse recognition and reporting from an approved provider.

APNs certified in a specialty should be in contact with the appropriate national certification agency for requirements for recertification.

CRNPs with prescriptive authority must complete at least 16 of the 30 hours of continuing education in pharmacology.