A Career In Nursing
So why would you want to be a nurse?
Despite the notorious long hours that most nurses have, nursing is a fulfilling job. You are taking care of people and saving lives. Aside from that, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, there will be over approximately 400,000 Registered Nursing jobs opening between now and 2024. Nursing is a booming field, and in most states there is a shortage of certified and skilled nurses, especially in the West and the South. Registered Nurses also average more than $30 per hour.
So what types of nurses are there?
Registered Nurses (or RNs) are the most prevalent nurses, but they are by no means the only. There are also Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNS, or LVNs in some states), neonatal nurses, nurse practitioners, home care RNs, nurse supervisors, midwives, legal and forensic nurses, and many more. Approximately 60% of nurses work in hospitals (in many different capacities), but the remaining work in schools, doctor’s offices, research facilities, businesses, drug rehab, nursing homes, teaching nursing, military, prisons, and in home care. While some of these workplaces might offer a more traditional set workweek, many nurses work long shifts or are on-call.
What would I do as a nurse?
While there are many different specialties to choose from, a nurses’ responsibilities can be similar. The following are some of the general duties of a nurse:
- provide care for patients, such as bathing, feeding, or applying/checking bandages;
- monitor patients by checking vitals;
- educate patients and families about health conditions;
- administer medications and treatments (some states require special licensure for this);
- give emotional support and advice to patients and families;
- provide preventative care and wellness information;
- work with doctors to provide the best care possible for patients.
Some of the more advanced nurses are even able to make decisions about a patient’s medical exams and treatments, and in some states can even stand in for a physician.
What type of education do I need to become a nurse?
The education level necessary to become a nurse can depend on the specialty you’re interested in, and the state you’re located in. But in most cases, there are four levels of nursing degrees: Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral. Most workplaces and states also require that a person pass the National Council Licensure Exam prior to employment as a nurse, as well as potentially obtaining other nursing certifications from the nursing boards for a particular specialty.
The most popular path to become an RN or LPN is the Associate’s degree in nursing (AND, sometimes ASN or AASN), which is offered country-wide at many community colleges, nursing schools, and vocational schools and even online schools. Typically, and associate’s degree takes two to three years to complete as a full-time student, though some programs many offer accelerated tracks. Typically, those earning and associate’s degree take courses in the basic sciences of biology and anatomy, as well as general education for the fundamentals of nursing.
Many nursing specialties or workplaces require or prefer that employees have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which gives a person more advanced training than an associate’s degree in nursing. While studying for you BSN, you will learn the same information as in an associate’s degree path, going into more detail and having more hands-on, supervised clinical work. Most educational institutions also have various specialty programs that students can select from in order to get more hands-on training in whichever branch of nursing they’re interested. Typically, most colleges and universities accept associate’s degree credit hours towards obtaining a Bachelor’s. A Bachelor’s degree is typically a four-year program.
The next step in your nursing career would be to obtain a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), which would allow you to become a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or other various advanced practicing nursing options. A master’s in nursing also prepares students for teaching nursing, becoming a nurse supervisor or manager, or even entering certain fields of research. Typically, it takes two to three years to complete this degree type.
Research and graduate universities as well as career and vocational schools and online schools, typically offer MSN programs, some of which can be completed partly online. Courses and curricula vary, but most schools offer students advanced training in the theories, research methods, and leadership skills APNs and nursing administrators employ in a wide variety of clinical settings. The table below highlights a few MSN courses offered by graduate nursing schools.
The final step one can take in their nursing education is to obtain a Doctoral Degree, generally either a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing. Though most people do not go on to obtain a doctoral degree, those who do generally cater their education and coursework on their specific desired advanced skills.
When searching for an institution at which to get a nursing degree, make sure that it is fully accredited, and if you’re interested in a specialty, make sure that they have the appropriate coursework to prepare you to pass that specialty’s certification exam and obtain a job in that field. It is also important to either check into the need for your desired nursing specialty in your area, or be open to moving around the country for a specific specialty.
So do I have the skills it takes to be a nurse?
Good nurses are generally compassionate people, hardworking and able to stand for long shifts. They are patient and well-organized, with great attention to detail. A very important skill is the ability to stay calm and think well in high-stress situations. Once you receive your nursing degree and certification and are hired into the field, it is important to remember that nursing and healthcare is an ever changing field. It is best to find all opportunities to learn and continue your education, whether by volunteering in healthcare or by attending classes and seminars on changes in healthcare today. Once you’re a nurse, join a nursing organization, such as the American Nurses Association and National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service, who offer members continuing education opportunities as well as seminars and materials explaining changes in healthcare.
No matter how many advances we have in healthcare, the world will always need qualified nurses.