While we all want to be able to earn a living, money is not always the only motivation behind a career choice. In fact, for a lot of people, it is just as important (if not more so) that our career is challenging, rewarding and stimulates their creativity and problem-solving abilities. Many consider the longer-term prospects for development and progression. For some, they also want to be able to make a positive impact on their local community and society in general. It may seem like it is a lot to ask for from a career, but for people who choose to pursue nursing, it is achievable.
This guide will outline some of the key reasons to work as a nurse, how to train and potential future opportunities.
Why train as a nurse?
You would be making a difference
If you are someone who wants to make a difference to the lives of people in your community (and further afield if you become a traveling nurse) a career in nursing could be ideal. While doctors are generally responsible for the physical diagnosis, prescribing treatment and carrying out medical procedures or surgery, a nurse is there to take care of the patient as a person. In addition to delivering medical treatment, nurses are there to provide day-to-day care, advice and support for patients and their families during incredibly difficult times. When a patient thinks back to the medical care they received, it is often the quality of the nursing they experienced which makes the most impact.
Nurses are in high demand
In terms of growing demand, Registered Nursing (RN) is one of the top careers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections. Between 2016-2026, the workforce is expected to grow from 2.9 million to 3.4 million, which is an increase of 15% with a need for over 200,000 extra nurses each year. This is partly because more and more registered nurses are reaching the age of retirement; this will result in a considerable loss of expertise and experience in a wide range of settings which rely on nursing. Combined with the fact that more and more people are living to old age and in need of support, a career in nursing offers fantastic job security.
There are lots of opportunities for progression
By training as a Registered Nurse, you are taking the first step on what could be a long and varied career. You can then advance your career through further study and by taking on more responsibility. You could also focus your knowledge and skills to specialize in different areas and to work in different settings. For example, nurses can work in hospitals, schools, prisons, care facilities for the elderly, midwifery, community care, mental health facilities or rehabilitation facilities.
Further study would not only enable a registered nurse to develop skills which are relevant to settings and types of care but also to improve skills in leadership, analysis, research, management, and critical thinking. You could become a nurse practitioner which, in many states, gives you the same authority to diagnose conditions and prescribe treatments as a doctor.
You will have a varied, challenging and rewarding career
People working in a healthcare environment need to be able to work under pressure and to adapt to new challenges at short notice. Even nurses who are not based in the emergency room may find that a patient’s condition deteriorates or changes rapidly. The role involves lots of multitasking and problem-solving in addition to a high level of responsibility, so there is never an opportunity to become complacent.
How to Build a Career in Nursing
If a career in nursing sounds like it could be the right choice for you, here are the steps you will need to take to get started.
1. Complete an accredited registered nursing program
The first step is to complete a certified nursing program such as a nursing diploma, an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. An associate degree usually takes approximately 2 years, while a bachelor’s degree can take 2-4 years depending on the provider and whether the study is part-time or full-time. Nursing programs include theoretical learning in a classroom as well as practical, clinical experience.
2. Get licensed
When you have completed your degree, you will take an NCLEX exam before taking an exam to be licensed in your state, i.e. the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).
3. Continue to invest in your education
When you are a licensed nurse, you need to continue to refresh and deepen your knowledge and skills through regular nursing courses. If you want to specialize in a particular field of nursing such as midwifery, you will need to take on additional training. According to Online nursing degrees, nurses who want to progress on to a career as a nurse practitioner would need to study for a master’s in nursing which would cover advanced practice, leadership skills, and research.
How to Advance a Career in Nursing
In addition to pursuing further study such as a master’s degree, to take your nursing career to the next level and make the most of your potential, you should be investing in your soft skills and professional network. This could involve networking with other nursing professionals and doctors and/or joining a nursing association or society. These associations enable nursing professionals to deepen their knowledge, discover new ideas, improve skills, and expand their network.
It can help to find a mentor who has more experience and a more comprehensive range of skills. They should be someone you feel comfortable with so you can ask questions of them and feel fully supported, but possibly not someone you work with directly. They do not even need to be working as a nurse or in healthcare, as a professional who has been successful in any field will be able to inspire and motivate.
Finally, while working on your clinical skills and knowledge is crucial, you should also recognize that the way you conduct yourself with your patients and colleagues is also paramount. A successful nurse is someone who can cultivate strong interpersonal relationships while being honest and professional. A nurse needs to be able to establish trust and maintain confidentiality where appropriate. Nursing can be a challenging and demanding job that requires a high level of resilience and a positive attitude to provide the best level of care possible.