Nursing Career Paths and Education in Idaho: Becoming an RN in Idaho

Idaho, like many states, keeps close watch on its nursing workforce. That’s because nursing is so vital! Today’s RNs take on more roles than ever. Shortages come and go, but there’s always a need for new generations of nurses, and prospects are best for those who develop a high level of expertise.

Becoming an Idaho RN

Registered nurse is one of three nursing licenses. It represents a scope of practice between Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). Duties can include patient education and coordination of care as well as provision of care.

RNs are licensed by the Idaho Board of Nursing after meeting education and examination requirements. Qualifying degrees are offered at different levels.

In recent years, Idaho institutions have been graduating more students with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees and fewer with lower degrees (RN Programs in Idaho). (Notably many nursing graduates who pursue the lower level LPN credentialing in Idaho do so through associate’s level programs.)

RN Job Settings and Roles

2017 finds organizations throughout Idaho advertising for RNs in diverse positions.

Registered nurses provide care in medical-surgical units and on specialized units such as the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU), perioperative, and ortho-neuro units. Nurses work in a variety areas of expertise such as infusion.

RNs also progress to management and leadership roles in these various specialty areas. The area of leadership or oversight can itself be specialized (for example, clinical review or quality improvement).

RNs also work in settings such as nursing homes, home health, and hospice. The role could include technical duties such as administration of IVIG treatments. Many duties in these settings, though, are performed by healthcare staff with lower levels of credentialing; delegation and supervision often figure as key RN duties. An RN employed in a home health setting may be a case manager or care coordinator; late 2017 found a number of home health organizations seeking professional nurses to act in this capacity. At least one sought a clinical liaison. Assisted living facilities also address resident health need. An RN in assisted living may count assessment and development of service plans among his or her duties.

Some nurses are sought for research. The role could entail identifying patients to participate in research and making sure that proper protocol is followed. St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute was among the organizations who recently sought an RN for clinical research.

Another less common setting is occupational health. Responsibilities could include ensuring safety on the job, offering on-site treatment, and providing case management for worker’s compensation.

There is a lifetime of opportunity and almost limitless potential for advancement. The most common setting for registered nurses, though, is the hospital. The vast majority of Idaho’s RNs are staff nurses.

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Premier Idaho Institutions

Magnet status is granted by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, or ANCC. Kootenai Health is one of two Idaho magnet hospitals (as of 2017); the organization cites nursing innovation and excellence in nursing among the common denominators.

Both magnets, Kootenai and premier children’s hospital St. Luke’s, cite wellness programs and educational advancement opportunities among the perks. St. Luke’s lists assistance with certification as well as assistance with obtaining higher degrees.

RN Career Outlook and Salary in Idaho

The Idaho Department of Labor placed registered nursing at #1 on its list of hot jobs for the 2014 to 2024 decade.

The Department of Labor’s 2017 Nursing Overview Interim Report finds that Idaho’s professional nursing supply and demand (below the advanced practice level) is generally balanced with a small surplus overall but shortages in some regions. It’s often the presence of large nursing schools that make a particular region a surplus region. Of concern is the potential to ‘bleed’ RNs to neighboring states where there is more shortage, particularly when the other state can pay more. (When one looks at Idaho and its surrounding states as a unit, there is some level of deficit.)

There is currently significant deficit in the Southwest and Northern regions of the state.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics placed the hourly income for Idaho RNs at $30.04 in 2016 and extrapolated this to a yearly salary of $62,470 (figuring 52 40-hour weeks).Data from the Idaho Department of Labor suggests the actual salary is lower but that there is a great deal of variability. The pay rate for a case manager is much higher than it is for a staff nurse and is indeed higher than for a nurse manager. Reported wages for nurse faculty are lower.

The Idaho Department of Labor compared Idaho median salaries and those of six surrounding states (Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) utilizing 2015 BLS figures. Median RN salaries in these states ranged from $61,000 to $83,800; Idaho was then at a median of $61,280.

Nurses with qualifying graduate clinical education can become advanced practice nurses. Nurse practitioners earn higher salaries; nurse anesthetists earn higher salaries yet (and by no small amount). Overall, there is a deficit of advanced practice nurses at this time, though this is not the case in all regions.

Cost of living also plays into the equation. Idaho Children’s notes that housing prices here are among the best.

Related Articles and Resources:

State of Idaho Board of Nursing

LPN Requirements in Idaho

CNA Requirements in Idaho

Medical Assistant Certification Requirements in Idaho

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