RN Careers West Virginia: Becoming an RN

West Virginia needs nurses. Stakeholders came together in a 2017 summit to discuss the future of nursing within the state, addressing current and projected shortfalls.

A nursing career is not for everyone,but those who have the right attributes will find that their RN license can take them a surprising number of places – and that there are many who want to see them achieve their goals.

Hospitals constitute the most common RN work setting nationwide. Other common settings include health practitioner offices, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, public health and community organizations, and schools. Some provide services in workplace wellness programs.

Becoming a West Virginia RN

The West Virginia Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses issues West Virginia RN licenses to professionals who meet education, examination, and general eligibility requirements. Qualifying professional nursing programs may result in academic degrees at different levels. One doesn’t need a four-year degree to take the NCLEX-RN licensing examination (RN programs in WV). However, it can increase career options. Some health systems offer financial assistance in progressing from ADN (associate’s level) to BSN (bachelor’s level).

Hospital Nursing

The West Virginia Center for Nursing notes, in their careers handbook, that hospital staff RNs can specialize in different areas, including intensive care, surgery, psychiatric care, cardiac care, and obstetrics.

The actual number of hospital specialties and sub-specialties is far greater. Large hospitals have very specialized units. The following are drawn from early 2018 job postings:

  • RN-Progressive Care Unit
  • RN- Telemetry
  • RN-Cardiac Catheterization
  • Full Time Registered Nurse for Operating Room
  • Sepsis Critical Care Registered Nurse

Registered nurses develop expertise in particular roles and may be sought after by institutions that have positions that are a close match. It can of course be easier to find a position in an area where one has experience! Adept nurses, though, may seek out new challenges throughout their careers and be welcomed on very diverse units.

The WVU Medicine 2016 Magnet Nurse of the Year recounted the different roles she has taken on during the time she has been employed with the one health system (http://wvumedicine.org/news/article/work-here-thrive-here-magnet-nurse-ofyear-fulfills-her-dreams-at-ruby). She has been involved with — and indeed taken on leadership roles — in areas as diverse as radiology and dialysis. At the time she was profiled, she was coordinator for the diabetes center, helping people make changes that enabled them to live better with serious chronic illness. She holds a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) credential. (Many nurses do seek out third party certifications in their areas of expertise.)

Some units are more closely related than others, making cross-over easier. One well-respected West Virginia hospital, for example, recently posted a position for an interventional radiology RN, noting that the nurse would need prior experience in one of the following: interventional radiology, post-anesthesia care, intensive care, or emergency department.

Nurses in rural and critical access hospitals are more likely to be generalists, but ideally they are very adept ones! They may see many different conditions during their time on the job. Mississippi has 20 critical access hospitals. The critical access program exists so that people who don’t live near major hospitals have continued access — e.g. so that the hospitals they are relying on don’t shut down! Critical access hospitals offer emergency services, but some patients are transferred to larger facilities. Individual CAHs have no more than 25 acute care beds. However, they may have other services on the same site, for example, skilled nursing facilities. Roane General Hospital, for example, has 25 acute care beds and 35 skilled nursing/ intermediate care beds, as well as clinics where people can walk in for needed services.

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Nurse-Friendly Hospitals

West Virginia has one magnet hospital, West Virginia University Healthcare in Morgantown. The institution has maintained that status for more than a dozen years. The Veterans Affairs Medical Center- Martinsburg, meanwhile, is a Pathway-designated medical center.

Cabell Huntington made Hospital Becker’s Hospital Review list of top places to work in healthcare in 2017. Among the things that made the organization exemplary: employee recognitions. The Great Employees Making a Difference award program puts recognition in patient (and visitor) hands. Longevity is publically recognized. Employees celebrating five years with the organization are honored at an awards banquet.

Spotlight on Public Health Nursing

Public health nurses have duties that may include implementing immunization programs, carrying out other screening and prevention programs, providing health-related education and counseling across settings, monitoring disease outbreaks, and making referrals.

The Exponent Telegram recently published an article about West Virginia county health departments, noting the many roles they serve (https://www.wvnews.com/theet/news/county-health-departments-working-to-bring-more-services-be-proactive/article_6aab158f-f956-520c-85ad-422251d80f5e.html). One area of focus is prevention (for example, preventing diabetes and preventing smoking-related diseases). The director of Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department notes that prevention is an area where health departments are hoping to step up the pace in the coming years.

The Berkeley County Health Department Director of Nursing was recently honored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as a Public Health Nurse Leader for her work in helping faith-based organizations foster health among their memberships (http://www.futureofnursingwv.org/nursing-leadership-public-health). Her project involved creation of a toolkit that other nurses could use.

Average West Virginia RN Salary

West Virginia registered nurses made an average of $28.55 an hour in 2016 (potentially, $59,380 a year).

The West Virginia Center for Nursing compared West Virginia’s 2015 salary average with 2015 salary averages of neighboring states. West Virginia’s was the lowest, though only very slightly behind that of Kentucky. Wages varied from one region to the next within the state. There was approximately a $5.00 an hour an hour difference between highest and lowest. Morgantown’s average already topped $30.00 an hour, as did that of the Weirton-Steubenville area that spans parts of West Virginia and Ohio.

The type of facility has some bearing on wages. In reality, though, there are many factors that influence what a particular RN makes. When markets are tight, some healthcare organizations offer sign-on bonuses and other incentives. What did one West Virginia healthcare system offer to help staff a new facility? Free lodging to those who commuted to the area for work!

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