It is certainly no secret that nursing is one of the most caring career options worldwide. Anybody who wants to spend their lives caring for and supporting other people, is highly empathetic and wants to do meaningful, rewarding work might be a good fit for nursing. Nurses not only provide direct patient care, but they also act as advocates for their patients and often provide valuable healthcare advice that impacts communities as a whole. As a profession, nursing offers a lot of demand, excellent salaries, plenty of opportunities to tailor your career with specialized areas and lots of opportunities for progression and growth. While nurses face some of the most demanding work both mentally and physically, there are plenty of reasons why people choose to do this career.
So, what are the main benefits of choosing a career in nursing, and how do you qualify to become a nurse?
Demand for Nurses
Today, the demand for nurses in the healthcare industry has never been higher. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the US was experiencing a shortage of both nurses and primary care physicians, coupled with an aging population. The events of the past year have only further brought to light the need to fill hospitals and other healthcare institutions with good nurses and other healthcare professionals to meet this growing demand. As a result, newly qualified nurses should have absolutely no trouble finding work that suits them. The majority of healthcare providers are looking to increase their intake of new nursing employees now and in the future.
Nurses are not only needed in hospitals and other primary health care areas; nurses work in various different places across communities and there are plenty of non-traditional options for nurses to consider as well. Although most registered nurses will start out by getting experience in a hospital, there are endless opportunities for nurses to move into other areas such as retail clinics, urgent care, doctor’s offices, prisons, schools, community care, nursing homes, research facilities and much more. Once you have qualified and gained some experience as a nurse, there are tons of different specialist areas to choose from, allowing you to create a career that lets you work in the areas you want with the people that you want to care for.
Find Work Anywhere
Once qualified as a registered nurse, you can work in any US state with the appropriate license. Once you have passed the NCLEX-RN exam for the state that you want to work in, you can begin looking for work there as a nurse, which should not take very long thanks to the widespread high demand for nurses. Nurses are also free to take the NCLEX-RN exam in any state that they like regardless of where they gained their nursing degree. You can also take the exam in several different states, which will permit you to work as a nurse in any one of them. This means that nursing is an ideal choice of career for anybody who might want to relocate in the future.
Not all nurses will work in clinical settings. In fact, some nurses do not have any direct contact with their patients at all and take a back-seat role that is just as important. There are various options that you can consider if you want to try something different once you have qualified as a registered nurse. For example, you could combine an education in both nursing and law to work as a legal nurse consultant or find a highly scientific role working on the latest medical research and clinical trials. If you enjoy teaching and mentoring others, you could take your nursing career in the direction of nurse education, providing guidance and mentorship to the next generation of nurses.
Management Career Options
If you like the idea of moving up into management within your career, there are several options for registered nurses to consider. Working your way up the ladder comes with a range of advanced career opportunities both for nurses who want to continue working in clinical practice or would prefer to take on a more administrative managerial position. With an MSN to DNP from Marymount University, you can prepare yourself to work as a nurse manager or nurse executive. You will be tasked with scheduling patient care, running clinics and other healthcare facilities, managing teams of healthcare professionals, and representing your patients in front of stakeholders.
Advanced Clinical Career Opportunities
There are endless opportunities for nurses who would like to pursue management. However, if you know that caring for patients directly is your calling and want to continue doing this as you progress through your career, you might want to consider becoming a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners are in higher demand than ever before in order to fill the gap left by the shortage of primary care physicians, since they have more career autonomy and responsibility and are authorized to diagnose and prescribe in most states.
As a registered nurse, however you decide to direct your career, you will be expected to keep your knowledge and skills up to date. And in a healthcare industry that is subject to constant change and evolution, this often means that you are learning new things on a consistent basis. Whether you are learning how to operate ground-breaking new machinery, putting new patient care techniques and policies into practice, implementing policies that make the healthcare industry more inclusive to all, or grappling with new diseases that you will need to treat, there’s always something new around the corner for nurses to learn.
Working as a nurse is certainly not easy or for the faint-hearted. But those who take on this career often report that it is one of the most personally satisfying jobs in the world. As a nurse, every day of your career is spent helping others and offering support to people who need it the most, allowing you to make a true and meaningful difference in your career.
How to Become a Nurse
If you’ve decided that nursing is the ideal choice of career for you, there are various options to consider when it comes to getting into the career. The options that are available to you will depend on a number of factors including the qualifications that you already hold and the amount of time that you would like to spend training.
Traditional Nursing School
Many nursing students decide to attend traditional nursing school with on-campus classes in order to get their degree and qualify as a registered nurse. It is often the popular choice for nursing students who have recently graduated high school and are going on to attend college. Most traditional BSN programs will require you to study full-time, although some schools offer part-time options to students who will be working throughout their studies or have other commitments that might make attending full-time classes difficult. You will have on-campus classes and lectures to attend on a regular basis, group work, assignments, and exams. In addition, you will also typically be required to get a certain number of hours of clinical practice, which will be carried out under supervision at a healthcare facility such as a hospital.
At nursing school, you can choose to study general nursing, or opt for a degree that focuses on a specific area such as psychiatric or pediatric nursing.
Online Nursing Programs
Online nursing programs are becoming more and more commonplace today. They are especially useful for nursing students who are changing careers since they offer additional flexibility to continue working while you study, and you can tailor your study schedule to suit you best. Online classes are usually offered for all classroom-based work, and these might be at set times or available for you to attend whenever is best for you, depending on the school and the program that you choose.
Accelerated Nursing Programs
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a different subject and want to become a nurse as quickly as possible, an accelerated BSN program could be the perfect choice for you. These qualifications often run much shorter compared to traditional on-campus or online nursing degrees and allow you to build on the qualifications that you have already gained to get your nursing degree in half the time or even less. This is a very intensive program, however, since you are cramming a lot of learning into a very short period of time. As a result, they are only usually recommended for student nurses who are able to commit to the program full-time.
Become an LPN
You may be able to get into the workforce faster by skipping getting the BSN and instead completing a program that qualifies you as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Once qualified, you will need to pass the NCLEX-PN exam for your state, and can start working as a nurse right away. However, bear in mind that since you will not be as highly qualified as a registered nurse, the number of career opportunities available to you may be lower. However, it is an ideal way to get your foot on the ladder of a nursing career as you can choose from various BSN programs to study online while working. Many colleges offer programs that LPNs can take to get their BSN in a much shorter period compared to those without the previous nursing qualifications and experience.
If you prefer a more hands-on method of learning, a nursing apprenticeship might be worth considering. Apprenticeships in nursing might not be as popular or well-known as the traditional method of getting a degree; however, they are more frequently offered by healthcare employers. An apprenticeship allows you to qualify as a nurse while learning on the job and getting paid for the work that you do at the same time. If you are worried about the mounting cost of nursing school, an apprenticeship could be the ideal alternative for you.
Once you have gained a BSN, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam for your state in order to qualify as a registered nurse. Passing this exam will provide you with the correct licensure to work in your state in this career. Bear in mind that if you want to relocate to and work in another state, you may need to take the NCLEX-RN exam again in order to be permitted to work there. It’s a good idea to check with the state licensing board before making any plans.
Advanced Nursing Degrees
Once qualified as a registered nurse, there are a huge range of advanced nursing degrees that you can choose from. Advanced degrees are offered in traditional classroom settings or online, with flexible online programs that are designed with busy nurses in mind, enabling you to fit additional study around your career.
For many nurses, the next step after graduating with a BSN is to get an MSN, or Master of Science in nursing. This degree provides even more career opportunities and allows you to work in more advanced areas of nursing such as nurse management and leadership. It is also a prerequisite for certain specialist areas and will pave the way to getting a DNP or Doctor of Nursing practice, which is the highest-attainable nursing degree available and qualifies you to work as a researcher, nurse educator, nurse executive and more.
Another advanced degree option that is very popular among nurses looking to progress is the FNP or family nurse practitioner degree. Progression into the family nurse practitioner role is available to all registered nurses and allows you to enjoy more career responsibility and autonomy. Nurse practitioners have the freedom to work independently of supervising physicians in many states, giving you the opportunity to even start your own healthcare clinic if you wish.
If you are a caring person and like the idea of a career where you can make a real difference to others, becoming a nurse could be ideal for you. As a career, there are many options for those who want to get into nursing, and even more for nurses who want to progress.