Job security and satisfaction make nursing an attractive career, but there are some things that you should know before pursuing a degree in this field.
1. Nurses Take on a Wide Range of Responsibilities
Nurses have a wide range of responsibilities. No two days will be the same, as no two patients are the same.
Nurses care for patients in a variety of ways, including:
- Performing physical examinations
- Caring for new moms before and after childbirth
- Administering medication and treatment prescribed by doctors
- Educating families and patients on treatments and recovery
- Helping patients and families find the best mix of health and social services
- Observing, evaluating and assessing patient conditions and progress
- Operating and monitoring medical equipment
- Consulting with other health professionals, including pharmacists and doctors
Many nurses also provide emotional support to patients and families during difficult times.
2. Nurses Can Work in a Variety of Settings
When most people think of nurses, they think of hospitals. Hospitals could not run without nurses, but these health professionals can also work in other settings, including:
- Abroad in developing countries
- Ambulances and helicopters
- Private practices
- Surgical and recovery units
- Operating rooms
- Psychiatric centers
Nurses can be found wherever there are patients in need of medical care.
Regardless of the setting, nurses are still required to wear uniforms, or scrubs. You’ll be responsible for buying these yourself. There are entire stores dedicated to scrubs, and some even specialize in men’s scrub tops or maternity scrubs.
3. There are Different Degrees Available
There are a few different types of nursing degree programs available, including:
Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nursing (LVN)
LPN or LVN programs are the quickest to complete. Most students get through these programs in about a year. In most cases, training can be received at a local hospital, community college or vocational school, which makes it a convenient option for students with busy schedules.
Completing this type of program will make you eligible for licensure after passing the state-administered nursing exam NCLEX-PN.
Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)
An Associate of Science in Nursing degree, or ASN, will focus more on technical nursing skills than theory. About a third of graduates will use this degree as their stepping stone to a BSN.
It takes approximately two years to earn this degree, which is typically offered at vocational schools and community colleges. An ASN degree may be a good option for you if you want to pursue a BSN but want to start earning money more quickly.
An LPN-to-BSN is a bridge program. These programs account for LPN work experience, so you won’t be taking the conventional route for a BSN. Once you complete this program, you’ll be eligible to work as a registered nurse, or RN.
It’s possible to take classes part-time, which is more convenient for students who are working while in school. When taken full-time, it’s possible to complete this type of program in as little as four semesters.
Earning a BSN will open up the opportunity to work as a managing nurse or to pursue a higher degree later on down the road.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is preferred by most nursing leaders and will provide you with the most employment opportunities.
A traditional BSN program will take four years to complete, which means you’ll have to make a serious commitment. These programs require an extensive amount of coursework and lab time, so it may not be practical to work while completing your degree. There are hybrid BSN programs, which allow you to complete part of your coursework online.
BSN degrees are now required for many positions in the nursing field, and you’ll need this degree if you plan to pursue a higher degree later on.
An RN-to-BSN bridge program is designed for registered nurse graduates. RNs can save time by going this route, as credits are already received for skills learned through work or school experience. Instead of taking four year, this program will only take two years to complete.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
Pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN, will allow you to specialize in a certain area, like research. A conventional MSN degree program takes 18-24 months to complete, but is very intensive. These programs are ideal for nurses who want to narrow their focus in the field.
Doctorate Nursing Degrees
Nurses may also pursue a doctorate degree, which will take an additional four to six years to complete. These advanced programs will open doors to careers in health administration, advanced clinical practice and clinical research.
It’s important to understand and research the types of degrees available, so you can choose a path that best fits your lifestyle and career goals.
4. Nurses Work Long Hours and Have Unpredictable Schedules
Nurses do not have conventional work schedules. They work long hours, and their schedules are often unpredictable.
Those who work in care facilities and hospitals will be expected to work around the clock. Expect to work holidays, nights and weekends. Working as a nurse can be physically exhausting, and days are often long and tiring. But the reward of helping people often outweighs the drawback of the long hours.
If you still want to work as a nurse but would rather have a more balanced schedule, working as a nurse in an office, school or other establishment may be a good fit for you.
5. Nurses Require Certain Skills and Abilities
Nursing isn’t for everyone. You must possess certain skills and abilities to succeed in this field.
Nurses should have excellent:
- Communication skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Problem sensitivity skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Active listening skills
- Instruction skills
- Time management skills
Many of these skills can be learned on the job and in school, but the best nurses are naturally empathetic, compassionate and emotionally intuitive.