How to Become a Nurse in Kentucky


Access to quality health care is an important goal for Kentucky, with a national nursing shortage contributing to a need for vital health care professionals. If you are looking to become a nurse, you can help be part of the solution to ensure access to health care services for Kentucky residents.

According to a recent report by the Kentucky Hospital Association, more than 1 in 5 nursing positions were vacant in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic escalated. Of the various disciplines in hospital staffing, registered nurses (RNs) held the highest annual vacancy rating of the hospital workforce. 

This blog will provide you with a step-by-step guide for how to become a professional nurse in Kentucky. We will first discuss the differences between various nursing programs and credentials. Then, we will explore the requirements set forth by the Kentucky Board of Nursing that will allow qualified nursing school graduates to obtain state nursing licensure.

Information from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that approximately 43,540 RNs were employed in Kentucky in 2021 with the average salary of Kentucky RNs being $67,260 per year. Outpatient care centers and acute care hospitals paid the highest salaries for registered nurses. Home health care services follow this as the next highest-paid work setting for RNs.

Governmental and legislative efforts are needed to support the development of Kentucky’s nursing and health care workforce. Solutions for the nursing shortage are essential for the continued operation of critical health care services. You can be part of the solution to address the nursing shortage in Kentucky and enter an exciting nursing career with plenty of opportunity and job growth.




Understand the Differences in Nursing Programs and Credentials

There are several ways you can begin a nursing career, but the first step is to complete a nursing education program. A program of study to obtain an associate degree in nursing (ADN) typically lasts two years. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a four-year nursing degree. Both are paths that will prepare you to become a licensed RN.

Choosing between an ADN vs. BSN program is largely a matter of understanding the future nursing professional landscape and aligning that with your individual preferences, desired time commitments and career goals. The BSN is preferred because RNs with this degree demonstrate quality care that results in improved patient outcomes. The BSN also opens up a variety of additional career and further education options. 

A Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice (MENP) program allows you to bridge from a non-nursing undergraduate degree to an entry-level professional nursing degree and is commonly completed in 12-24 months. By completing a direct-entry master's program, nursing becomes a second degree if you currently hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. There are helpful tips on surviving an accelerated nursing program that you may find encouraging if you are looking for a more rewarding career and considering accelerated online nursing education.

Once you have completed an accredited nursing education program, you are ready to embark on the nursing licensure application process. Next, let’s outline the specific requirements for becoming a nurse in the state of Kentucky.


Kentucky Nursing License Requirements

The licensure-by-examination process for RNs in Kentucky begins with completing an online application for a nursing license. You will also pay a non-refundable application fee with the submitted application. 

Next, a jurisprudence examination must be successfully passed with a score of 80% or higher. This short examination tests knowledge of Kentucky law as it relates to nursing practice, and you are permitted to reference your available resources while answering the questions. 

A state and federal criminal background check must also be completed for Kentucky nursing licensure eligibility. 

Completing and submitting your application to take the NCLEX-RN practice exam is the next step in the nursing licensure process. You must apply for authorization to test, set a testing date and time, and successfully pass the NCLEX-RN to become a registered nurse in Kentucky. Additionally, you will need to submit a transcript showing the completion of your nursing degree to the Board of Nursing to validate your education from an approved curriculum.

For those applying for a Kentucky nursing license who did not complete a program of nursing in Kentucky, the individual must complete continuing education credits within the first three years of licensure, in the following areas:

  • Domestic violence
  • Pediatric abusive head trauma, also known as shaken baby syndrome 

In addition, all Kentucky RNs regardless of the origin of their educational program or length of licensure must complete the following:

  • Suicide prevention
  • Implicit bias

Information on required content-specific continuing education is provided on the Kentucky Board of Nursing website to help applicants meet these mandates for licensure. 

As aspiring nurses look to obtain their education, more are turning to online nursing schools in Kentucky for flexible and affordable options. Next, let’s take a closer look at some of the unique benefits of online nursing education. Online RN programs in Kentucky and other eligible states are available in accelerated formats to help you achieve your goals faster to become part of the in-demand nursing workforce. 


The Benefits of an Online Nursing Education

You may wonder what to expect from an accelerated nursing program as it compares to a traditional in-person classroom education. Online nursing programs allow for peer connection through learning management systems where you will participate in many didactic, interactive experiences. Many online programs include on-campus immersion experiences to help you gain competency with nursing skills, and you also will be required to demonstrate competency with skills check-offs. You will likely encounter simulation experiences in addition to in-person clinicals. 

Online nursing programs often utilize asynchronous messaging systems, allowing you the flexibility to send correspondence and read replies from faculty and fellow students at different times of the day. Video conferencing tools can be used for face-to-face conversations to enhance interpersonal connection. 

When you are a student in an online education program, additional accountability and self-discipline may be required to set aside study time. Organizational skills help manage assignment deadlines, personal engagements and work responsibilities. You can be successful in online nursing school with these tips for success.

Are you ready to embark on your journey to become a professional nurse? If so, read on to learn why students are choosing Elmhurst University from the available online RN programs. 




Why Students in Kentucky Are Choosing Elmhurst University

Students looking for quality faculty and an academically rigorous program of study are choosing Elmhurst University. The online Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is a fast-track pathway to obtaining a bachelor’s in nursing using your current bachelor's degree in another field as the starting place. 

Likewise, prospective nursing students with a bachelor’s degree who want to complete a master’s level education are choosing Elmhurst University’s online Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice program. This program is specifically for non-nurses and is the first of this kind in the nation to be offered online. Graduates of the online MENP program will obtain a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree while also preparing to sit for the NCLEX practice exam and the clinical nurse leader (CNL) certification. The CNL certification shows leadership competencies in addition to clinical practice skills. 

The extraordinary value of a nursing education from Elmhurst University makes the exciting prospect of nursing as a second career attainable. Visit the program registration page today for more information and details on how to register.