If you are a nurse who wants to work in the United States, you may have heard of the NCLEX-RN exam. This is a national licensing exam that tests your knowledge and skills as an entry-level nurse. Passing this exam is one of the requirements to practice nursing in the US. However, not all nursing jobs in the US require the NCLEX-RN license. There are some opportunities for nurses without NCLEX to work in the US, depending on your qualifications, experience, and visa status. In this article, we will explain how to get a nursing job in the US without NCLEX, what are the benefits and challenges, and what are the alternative options.
What is NCLEX-RN?
NCLEX-RN stands for National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. It is a computerized adaptive test that covers four categories: safe and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity. The exam has a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 265 questions, and you have up to six hours to complete it. The exam is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), and you need to apply for it through your state board of nursing. The exam fee is $200, and you may also need to pay additional fees for registration, fingerprinting, and background check.
Why do you need NCLEX-RN?
The NCLEX-RN exam is designed to ensure that you have the competence and knowledge to provide safe and effective nursing care to patients in the US. Passing the NCLEX-RN exam is one of the criteria to obtain a license to practice as a registered nurse (RN) in the US. Each state has its own requirements for licensure, but most of them require the NCLEX-RN exam, along with a nursing degree from an accredited program, a criminal background check, and an English language proficiency test. Without a license, you cannot legally work as a nurse in the US.
How to get a nursing job in the US without NCLEX-RN?
If you are a nurse who does not have the NCLEX-RN license, you may still be able to find some nursing jobs in the US that do not require it. However, these jobs are usually limited, competitive, and lower-paying than the RN jobs. Some of the possible nursing jobs in the US without NCLEX-RN are:
Nursing care partner
This is a position that assists the RNs in providing basic care to patients, such as bathing, dressing, feeding, and monitoring vital signs. You may need to have a high school diploma, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) certificate, and a CPR certification to qualify for this job. The average salary for a nursing care partner in the US is $13.54 per hour.
This is a position that performs various technical tasks under the supervision of the RNs, such as drawing blood, inserting catheters, administering medications, and collecting specimens. You may need to have a high school diploma, a nursing student status, and a CPR certification to qualify for this job. The average salary for a nurse technician in the US is $15.29 per hour.
This is a position that provides guidance and support to patients throughout their care journey, such as coordinating appointments, educating on treatment options, facilitating referrals, and advocating for patient rights. You may need to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a valid RN license in your home country, and a case management certification to qualify for this job. The average salary for a nurse navigator in the US is $72,635 per year.
These are some examples of nursing jobs in the US without NCLEX-RN, but there may be other opportunities depending on the employer, the location, and the demand. You can search for these jobs on various websites, such as Indeed, SimplyHired, and Monster. However, you should be aware of the challenges and limitations of working as a nurse in the US without NCLEX-RN, such as:
To work as a nurse in the US, you need to have a valid work visa, such as the H-1B visa, the TN visa, or the EB-3 visa. However, these visas are subject to annual quotas, eligibility criteria, and processing times. Moreover, most of these visas require a sponsorship from a US employer, which may be difficult to obtain without the NCLEX-RN license. Therefore, you may need to explore other visa options, such as the J-1 visa, the F-1 visa, or the B-1 visa, which allow you to work in the US for a limited period of time, usually as a trainee, a student, or a visitor.
Working as a nurse in the US without NCLEX-RN may limit your career prospects and opportunities. You may not be able to apply for higher-level positions, such as charge nurse, nurse manager, or nurse practitioner, which require the NCLEX-RN license and additional education and certification. You may also face challenges in transferring your credits and credentials from your home country to the US, which may affect your salary and recognition.
Legal and ethical issues
Working as a nurse in the US without NCLEX-RN may expose you to legal and ethical risks. You may not be covered by the state’s Nurse Practice Act, which defines the scope and standards of nursing practice in the US. You may also not be protected by the state’s malpractice insurance, which covers the costs and damages of lawsuits and claims against nurses. You may also face ethical dilemmas in providing care to patients who have different cultural and religious beliefs and preferences than yours.
What are the alternative options to get a nursing job in the US without NCLEX-RN?
If you are a nurse who wants to work in the US without NCLEX-RN, you may consider some alternative options, such as:
Taking the NCLEX-RN exam
The best option to get a nursing job in the US is to take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. This will open up more opportunities and benefits for you as a nurse in the US. You can prepare for the exam by taking online courses, reviewing study guides, and practicing sample questions. You can also seek assistance from agencies and organizations that help foreign nurses to apply for the exam and obtain a license in the US.
Pursuing further education
Another option to get a nursing job in the US is to pursue further education in the US, such as a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in nursing. This will enhance your knowledge and skills as a nurse, and may also qualify you for the NCLEX-RN exam or other advanced practice nursing exams. You can apply for scholarships, grants, or loans to fund your education in the US. You can also work as a teaching assistant, a research assistant, or a student nurse while studying in the US.
Volunteering or interning
A third option to get a nursing job in the US is to volunteer or intern in a healthcare facility or organization in the US. This will give you a chance to gain experience and exposure to the US healthcare system, and may also lead to a job offer or a recommendation. You can search for volunteer or intern opportunities on websites, such as VolunteerMatch, Idealist, and Global Volunteers.
Getting a nursing job in the US without NCLEX-RN is possible, but challenging. You may need to settle for lower-level, lower-paying, and limited nursing jobs that do not require the NCLEX-RN license. You may also need to deal with visa restrictions, career advancement barriers, and legal and ethical issues. Therefore, you may want to consider taking the NCLEX-RN exam, pursuing further education, or volunteering or interning in the US as alternative options to get a nursing job in the US.