What Does It Take to Become a Registered Nurse?

what it takes to become a registered nurseIf you’re considering a career in nursing, you’re probably asking yourself, “Do I have what it takes to become a registered nurse?”

It’s a valid question. Because you’ll be caring for patients facing all sorts of health challenges, a nursing career isn’t something to enter into lightly. It often takes a mix of qualities including compassion, empathy, attention to detail, integrity and more.

To be the best caregivers they can be, nurses must use these and other inherent traits in addition to the ones they learn along the way. Whether you have these traits before you enroll in the Utica College Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN), you’ll graduate with the kinds of qualities today’s health care employers are looking for when hiring new nurses.

Can you become a registered nurse online?

No. You can take classes to get your BSN online. However, practicing the hands-on components of nursing is crucial in preparing to take the NCLEX and become a registered nurse.

We outline some of these characteristics below:


Nursing is an incredibly rewarding profession, but it also has its fair share of trying situations. Having what it takes to become a registered nurse involves developing a thick skin and remembering what motivated you to want to enter the field in the first place. Thinking about that reason throughout accelerated nursing school—and your shifts as a future nurse—can help you to stay motivated to persevere through the especially tough days.

Utica ABSN student, Lester

“For the stress and the amount of time you have to put in, go into nursing because you love it and you’re interested about the field,” says Lester, ABSN Class of August 2017, who now works as a nurse in the cardiopulmonary ICU at Upstate Medical University.


The Utica College ABSN program compresses the same amount of nursing theory coursework, onsite lab experience and clinical rotations at top healthcare facilities you’d find with a traditional nursing program into 16 months. To be successful in our program, you’ll need to devote between 40 and 60 hours a week to your studies.

“Before starting accelerated nursing school, do your research and make sure nursing is 100% the career you want to do,” says Jessica, ABSN Class of December 2019. “It also doesn’t hurt to get some health care experience before you start classes. That experience always applies to a nursing program and can help you decide if nursing is for you or not.”

That same level of perseverance still applies on the job. In fact, sometimes working as a registered nurse can be even more intense than nursing school. Your patients will be counting on you to come to the job ready to care for them every day.

“You’re helping people’s lives. What if that is your family member in the bed? You want to give them the best care possible and not treat them like a number,” Lester says.


The most successful nursing students in our ABSN program maintain a rigid study schedule and prepare for labs and clinical rotations in advance. Many even treat their time in the program as a full-time job. The theory-based portion of our curriculum is online-based, but you have to remain self-disciplined to stay on top of instructors’ deadlines and exam schedules.

“Really think about if you are ready to be in an accelerated program and do the majority of your work online,” says Cody, ABSN Class of December 2019. “Some don’t realize that this means a lot of time-management, self-control, and organization because we’re doing something that others take double the amount of time to do.”

Honing your self-discipline in accelerated nursing school will take you far in your nursing career. Always putting your patients first — even when you have five minutes left in your shift or it’s time for your lunch break — epitomizes this trait.

Organizational Skills

Managing your time well goes a long way in nursing school, especially in an accelerated program like ours. Students who schedule study sessions for themselves and with their peers, have a dedicated study space at home and otherwise organize their lives, set themselves up for success not only in school but in their future nursing careers as well.

ABSN student working with manikin“You have to put in study hours every single day in the ABSN program,” Jessica says. “You definitely can’t leave anything to the last moment.”

Maintaining a structured schedule is also a significant part of being successful during clinical rotations and later in your nursing career. Your colleagues and patients depend on you to be on time to provide the best patient care possible. For example, from a time management perspective, you’re responsible for administering medications and performing patient assessments at specific times — someone’s life could depend on it!


The original definition of the word “courage” comes from the French word corage, meaning “heart and spirit.” You’ll need both attributes to become a successful nurse. Indeed, because of some of the harrowing situations, nurses may encounter, the profession is not for the faint of heart.

You’ll discover this quickly as you begin your nursing education, especially during your clinical rotations beginning your first semester. Embracing these experiences and facing these obstacles head-on will help you venture outside your comfort zone and grow into a successful nursing student.

All these characteristics will also help you as you pursue a successful nursing career. No one day on the job as a registered nurse is ever the same. Sometimes your job may involve comforting a sick or dying person, questioning a colleague’s recommendation, or attempting a new medical procedure.


Flexibility will get you far in just about any career path you pursue, but it’s especially important for nurses. Not only do you have to be ready to roll with the punches as soon as you step onto the floor for your shift, but you’ll also have to be flexible with working hours and responsibilities, too. Nurses are often required to work overtime, late or overnight shifts, and weekends.

You learn how to be flexible starting with the simulation lab portion of your nursing education in our ABSN program. During this element of our program, you’ll participate in a simulated clinical experience associated with a specific scenario that instructors can adapt on the fly as you progress through the simulation. We designed the experiences this way to help you prepare for the real-world interactions you’ll have with patients during clinical rotations and later in your nursing career.

Wisdom, a Utica ABSN student

“The condition of your patients may change. You can’t go into their room as a robot and accomplish a specific task,” says Wisdom, ABSN Class of December 2019. “All patients are different, so you have to be dynamic and flexible. You have to be ready for that.”

Do you think you have what it takes to become a registered nurse? The Utica College ABSN program can help you become a nurse in as few as 16 months! Call us or complete the form to have an admission representative call you to learn more.

Don't Wait on Your Nursing Future

Our ABSN has three start dates a year, so you can begin nursing school whenever you're ready.

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