Nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human responses, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations.

Types of nurses

Registered Nurses


  • Perform physical exams and health histories
  • Provide health promotion, counseling, and education
  • Administer medications, wound care, and numerous other personalized interventions
  • Interpret patient information and make critical decisions about needed actions
  • Coordinate care, in collaboration with a wide array of healthcare professionals
  • Direct and supervise care delivered by other healthcare personnel like LPNs and nurse aides
  • Conduct research in support of improved practice and patient outcomes

Settings: RNs practice in all healthcare settings: hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, ambulatory care centers, community health centers, schools, and retail clinics. They also provide healthcare in more surprising locations such as camps, homeless shelters, prisons, sporting events, and tourist destinations.

Common areas of specialization (a variety of areas exist; check specific program websites for areas offered):

  • Medical-Surgical Nursing: Adult/ medical-surgical clinical nurse specialists care for adult patients with acute and chronic illnesses, as well as play active roles in disease prevention and health promotion.
  • Community/ Public Health Nursing: Clinical nurses who specialize in community and public health promote good health practices and disease prevention throughout diverse populations.
  • Psychiatric/ Mental Health Nursing: Psychiatric and mental health clinical nurse specialists treat patients’ mental health needs in hospitals, private practices, jails, substance abuse centers, and other locations.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner: From treating a child’s flu symptoms to promoting good health in the community, family nurse practitioners’ duties involve patients of all ages.
  • Gerontological Nurse Practitioner: Nurse practitioners who specialize in geriatrics and gerontology treat aging patients for illnesses common to the elderly, such as delirium and dementia.
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Pediatric nurse practitioners work with sick infants, children, and adolescents. A PNP may also play an active role in community health promotion and disease prevention.
  • Nursing service administration: Nursing service administration courses help students build skills in financial management, marketing, and human resources management.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

Advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) is an umbrella term given to a registered nurse who has at least a Master’s educational and clinical practice requirements beyond the basic nursing education and licensing required of all RNs and who provides at least some level of direct care to patient populations. Under this umbrella fit the principal types of APRNs:

  • Nurse practitioner (NP)  – Working in clinics, nursing homes, hospitals, or private offices, nurse practitioners provide a wide range of primary and preventive health care services, prescribe medication, and diagnose and treat common minor illnesses and injuries.
  • Certified nurse-midwife (CNM) –  CNMs provide well-woman gynecological and low-risk obstetrical care in hospitals, birth centers, and homes.
  • Clinical nurse specialist (CNS) – Working in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, private offices, and community-based settings, CNSs handle a wide range of physical and mental health problems. They also work in consultation, research, education, and administration.
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) – The oldest of the advanced nursing specialties, CRNAs administer more than 65 percent of anesthetics given to patients each year.

Licensed Practical Nurses Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) complement the healthcare team by providing basic and routine care consistent with their education under the direction of an RN, APRN, or MD/DO in a variety of settings.

– American Nurses Association

St. Olaf Nursing Program Requirements

After four years of study in the St. Olaf nursing programs, you are prepared to take the Minnesota Board of Nursing licensure examination, which certifies you as a registered nurse. With this registration and the bachelor of arts degree in nursing, you are fully qualified for professional practice or entrance into graduate school. Students are eligible to complete the licensure examination for registered nurses offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, and, upon successful completion, can apply for certification as a public health nurse in Minnesota.

Students must meet all college requirements for graduation, as well as complete eight prerequisite courses, one supporting course, and eleven upper division nursing courses.

Prerequisite Courses 
Eight courses to be completed before beginning upper division nursing courses are:

 Biology (3 courses)  BIO 143, BIO 121, and BIO 243,
 Exploration in Healthcare (1 course)  ID 110
 Pathopharmacology (1 course)  ID 210
 Psychology (2 courses)  PYSCH 125 and PYSCH 241
 Sociology (1 course)  SOAN 121, SOAN 128, SOAN 260, SOAN 264, SOAN 267
 Supporting courses NURS 390: Research Methods in Nursing

STAT 110, 212, or 214

PHIL 250: Biomedical Ethics

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Nursing Assistant Registration are required before entering the nursing program.

Colleges, hospitals, and Red Cross offices offer Certificate Programs in Nursing Assistance.  Finding a CNA course, obtaining CNA certification, and registering with the MDH are the prospective nursing student’s responsibility. If taking a CNA course outside of Minnesota, the student is required to check with the MDH Nursing Assistant Registry to make sure it is a course they will accept.

According to the Financial Aid office at St. Olaf, students may choose to use loan funds to cover the costs of a CNA course. If you have any questions about this process, please contact Steve Lindley in Financial Aid (Tomson 122).

Application to the Nursing Major 
Information for Students

1. Consult with the Nursing Department chair as soon as possible to express an interest in the completion of a nursing major.

2. Seek advising assistance to select courses prerequisite to the nursing major. Four prerequisite courses must be completed by the applicant by the end of the fall semester of the sophomore year. (St. Olaf Nursing Program Planning Sheet).

3. In the fall semester of the sophomore year and by appointment, applicants will:

  • Complete an essay
  • Complete an interview

4. Students will be notified of their conditional acceptance into the nursing major by a letter from the Nursing Department chair before spring semester of the sophomore year and will be based on the following criteria:

  • Cumulative grade point average after 3 semesters of 2.85 (0-4 points)
  • Cumulative grade point average in a minimum of 4 prerequisite courses of 2.70 (0-4 points)
  • Essay (0-4 points)
  • Interview (0-4 points)
  • Student status (enrolled at St. Olaf College= 4 points, graduate of St. Olaf College = 2 points, transfer = 1 point, graduate from another college = 0.5 points)

5. Conditional acceptance into the nursing major will become final, if students meet the following criteria at the end of the sophomore year:

  • Minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.85.
  • Prerequisites must be taken for a letter grade, cumulative grade point average 2.70.
  • Only one prerequisite course may be below C- and this course (or an alternate course approved by the Nursing Department chair) may be repeated once.
  • A minimum grade of C- must be achieved in the repeated or substituted course.
  • If a grade of C- is not achieved in the repeated or substituted course, the student may not continue in the major.
  • If two or more prerequisite courses are below C- the student may not continue in the major.

6. Students not accepted may choose to be placed on a waiting list and will be notified of their rank on that list. If openings occur, admission will be offered to waiting list students by rank, highest rank first. Students not accepted, may appeal the admission decision to the Dean of the College (see College catalog, Nursing Department section.)

7. Students on the waiting list may reapply for admission to the nursing program the following year. They will be considered in the next pool of applicants but will not be guaranteed admission because they apply a second time.

8. The nursing major begins in the fall semester of the junior year.

Beyond St. Olaf (Master of Science and Doctorate (DNP, PhD) programs

With a master’s in nursing, nurses can perform a full range of health services. Students may focus on areas such as geriatrics, nutrition, and women’s health. Most programs are two years in length. Requirements 1. Official transcripts verifying Baccalaureate degree from an accredited program in nursing. 2. Licensure as a registered nurse.  Experience Many programs require or recommend one to two years of work experience as a registered nurse. Be sure to check the admission requirements for the specific programs you will be applying to!


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