EMT to Nursing: Your Guide to a Career Change

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Going from EMT to nursing is an excellent career decision. Nursing offers advancement opportunities and a greater scope of practice compared to working as an EMT. Plus, with an ABSN program like ours at PLU, you can earn your degree in as few as 16 months.

EMT nurse carrying bag outside

Are you an emergency medical technician (EMT) curious about entering the nursing field? While EMTs spend their careers saving lives, you may want to expand your expertise and grow in your professional responsibility. Becoming a nurse is an excellent way to advance your healthcare career in a growing and rewarding field.

The Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Pacific Lutheran University can help you earn your nursing degree in as few as 16 months, making the transition from EMT to nursing seamless.

This blog will discuss why you should consider the move from EMT to RN and how to make it happen quickly through an accelerated nursing program.

Why Transition from EMT to Nursing?

Making a career change to nursing can be a great way to expand your responsibility and take on more of a leadership role. A move from EMT to nursing can open countless doors for you. Among the many reasons to make the career change are the following:

  • Greater scope of practice
  • Higher compensation
  • More leadership opportunity
  • Professional growth options
  • Work schedule flexibility
  • Ability to work in many departments and healthcare practice settings
  • High demand and positive job prospects

The Opportunities of Nursing

One PLU ABSN student, Samantha Cheever, chose to pursue nursing after being an EMT because of the opportunities that nursing provided.

Nursing has endless opportunities. I can work in a hospital. I don't have to work in a hospital. I can work in a school… and also furthering education is endless. Once I’m done with this bachelor’s program, I could move on to a DNP program, or I can get a midwifery license.

Samantha Cheever, PLU ABSN student

Another reason why Samantha chose nursing was because of the schedule freedom that nurses have, with many nurses working three to four 12-hour shifts per week. “I want to be very involved with my future family. That was also a really big part of this. And also, if I want to travel, I can travel nurse. It’s just the opportunities, that’s why I want to be a nurse.”

5 Steps to Change from EMT to Nurse

If you are interested in the EMT-to-nurse career change, follow these steps to make it happen quickly through an accelerated nursing program.

1. Choose a Nursing Program

The first step to moving from EMT to nursing is choosing the right nursing program. While many nursing degrees are available, we recommend focusing on Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs. A BSN will provide value in your nursing career, including a competitive salary, advancement opportunities and eligibility for further education.

Nurse smiling talking with patient

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Beyond degree type, you should also consider whether to attend an accelerated or traditional nursing program. Go with an accelerated program if you already have at least 60 non-nursing college credits or a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing area. Accelerated programs leverage past credits to help you earn your nursing degree faster.

Other factors to keep in mind when choosing a nursing program include the following:

  • Program location
  • Program length
  • Opportunity for online courses
  • Quality and quantity of clinical rotations and nursing labs
  • Faculty-to-student ratio
  • NCLEX pass rates

Samantha opted to attend the ABSN program at PLU for several reasons, including the 16-month timeline and the flexibility of online courses. She had already completed a prior bachelor’s degree, so she gravitated to the shorter timeline of an accelerated nursing program. Plus, she thrives with independent learning and appreciates that she only needs to attend in-person courses two to three days per week, so PLU’s hybrid ABSN has been a good fit for her.

2. Apply to Nursing School

Once you decide on a nursing program, you can start the admissions process. Before applying, ensure you meet all the program requirements, such as minimum GPA, prior college credits and prerequisites. Accelerated nursing programs have a series of prerequisite courses you must take before enrolling. These classes ensure that students enter the ABSN curriculum with a solid foundation.

nursing student in lab working with IV

After meeting the admissions requirements, you will be ready to apply to the ABSN program. At PLU, we offer three start dates per year so that you can begin on your timing. Talk with one of our admissions counselors to learn more about prerequisites and the application process.

3. Earn Your BSN

Earning your nursing degree takes a lot of work but is well worth it. During nursing school at PLU, you will take several online courses that teach you the fundamentals of nursing practice. You will then apply what you learn in your coursework to nursing skills and simulation labs at the ABSN program site north of Seattle, Washington. You will care for real patients during clinical rotations throughout the Seattle area.

nursing student sitting and reading

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The 16-month program consists of four semesters of education. Upon graduation, you will be ready to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

4. Pass the NCLEX and Get Licensed

Passing the NCLEX and earning your RN license are the final steps before transitioning from EMT to nursing. Passing the NCLEX is a requirement for licensure in every state.

The NCLEX is a rigorous exam combining your clinical knowledge and reasoning from nursing school and asking you to make the most correct care decisions. The structure and format of the NCLEX are unlike other exams you have taken, so spend time learning how the exam works and studying independently. Our ABSN program curriculum will prepare you for the exam, starting in the first semester of nursing school.

5. Start Your New Career as an RN

Once you have passed the NCLEX and received your RN license, you can begin your first job as a nurse. The career change from EMT to nurse will pay off as you can choose to take your career anywhere you want. You could become a flight nurse, a surgical nurse, a labor and delivery nurse or a school nurse. You could even advance your career and become a nurse midwife or nurse practitioner. As Samantha says, with nursing, the opportunities are endless.

How EMT Experience Prepares You for Nursing

Your past work as an EMT can help you prepare for a transition to nursing. Being an EMT sets you up for nursing in several ways. For one, your EMT role has given you patient care experience, which means you will be ready to interact with patients during clinical rotations. Additionally, you have learned relevant technical skills, such as measuring vitals and administering medications. As an EMT, you already know how to handle stress and respond during complex health situations, an invaluable preparation for your nursing future.

Samantha values her two years of EMT experience because they exposed her to a fast-paced environment where she interacted with patients from diverse backgrounds. Her experience transporting patients to the hospital, delivering babies, performing CPR and more gave her a great foundation for nursing.

I think the hardest part about especially the initial part of nursing school is just being comfortable talking to patients. Being an EMT made me comfortable in that aspect.

Samantha Cheever, PLU ABSN student

Why Make the Career Change to Nursing?

Working as an EMT can teach you a lot about patient care and keeping a level head amid stress. But making the career move to nursing can be an excellent professional decision.

Samantha says if you are an EMT and feel like you have reached a point where you cannot further your education or learn more, turning to nursing can be a great decision. “I felt like there was nothing else more I could learn. The scope of practice [for EMTs] is so much smaller. If you feel like you are not able to reach your potential then yes, you should do it.”

Additionally, nursing gives you a more competitive salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average yearly salary for an EMT is $35,470, while nurses earn more than double that, averaging $77,600 annually as of May 2021.

nurse standing and smiling in room

Learn more about why you should make a career change to nursing.

Begin Your Nursing Journey at PLU Today!

Changing from EMT to nursing may be the best decision you ever make. As Samantha’s journey from EMT to nursing shows, an accelerated nursing program can open the door to greater opportunity and jumpstart your new career in as few as 16 months.

Take it from Samantha: “It’s 16 months. It’s fast. You don’t get any time off, but you’re 16 months from getting a nursing degree.”

Nursing students working together in sim lab

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Do you have 60+ non-nursing college credits or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree? If so, the ABSN program at PLU allows you to fast-track your nursing education to level up your healthcare career and earn a BSN quickly. Our combination of online and in-person learning offers flexibility and adaptability as you receive a comprehensive education.

Now is the time to make your future happen by pursuing your nursing degree at PLU. Contact our admissions counselors to learn more about the ABSN program.