Nurses are always in demand. Whether it’s for bedside care, advocacy or leadership positions, healthcare needs good nurses to keep it running successfully and provide excellent standards of care to patients. When you learn how to become a nurse, you’ll find that the first step you need to take is getting a solid education. Whether you want to be an RN, a nurse practitioner, or an administrator, you’ll need to graduate from an accredited nursing program in order to get your license and start your career.
Choose a Nursing Path
Nursing can take you in a whole variety of directions. You can start out as a certified nursing assistant CNA or an RN, and work your way to up become a nurse administrator or a nurse practitioner. Think about the type of work environment that you will prefer when choosing your career path. If you want to work in a hospital, doctor’s office or another medical setting, you’ll want to be an RN. On the other hand, certified nursing assistants tend to work in nursing homes. Which type of setting appeals to you the most?
Because healthcare is made up of so many different areas, many nurses often choose to focus on working in a certain area, like critical care or pediatrics. Think about whether you would like to do this – if you are interested in or passionate about a certain type of nursing, consider the type of education that you will need to get there.
Get Your Degree
Typically, the nursing specialization that you’re interested in pursuing will determine the kind of nursing degree that you’ll need. If you’re not sure, or just want to train as a nurse first before deciding which area of specialization is right for you, consider getting a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). If you already have a bachelor’s degree you can sometimes obtain this faster with an accelerated 1-year BSN online.
The nursing degree options available include:
• Nursing diplomas, which are available at some community colleges and vocational schools.
• Associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), which you can study for at a community college.
• Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), which are available at universities and colleges, both online and on-campus.
• Master’s degree in nursing (MSN), which are available online and at on-campus colleges and universities. You will usually be required to have a BSN before starting this program.
• Doctoral degrees in nursing (DNP, Ph.D., NH, DNSc), which are available at universities and colleges and can be practice- or research-based. To complete a degree in nursing at this level, you will usually be required to have an MSN and significant nursing experience.
Getting Your License
Once you have completed your nursing education, you will need to take an additional exam to demonstrate your nursing skills and knowledge. Nurses need to be licensed in order to practice, and you’ll need to pass this exam to get your license. The exam that you take will differ depending on the career path or specialty that you have chosen. The licensing requirements for the different types of nursing are:
• CNA: A state competency exam.
• LPN: National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN)
• RN or APRN: National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
• Nurse practitioner: National certification exam from a professional organization like the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
• Nurse-midwife: An exam from the American Midwifery Certification Board
• Nurse-anesthetist: An exam from the National Board of Certification for Nurse Anesthetists
• Nursing education doesn’t stop when you graduate and pass your license exam. In order to be a successful nurse, you’ll be required to complete continuing education courses, usually every two years. Your state nursing board will provide you with any information that you need on continuing education requirements.
• If you decide to specialize in a certain area of nursing after qualifying as a nurse, you may be required to earn professional certification. Although it is not always required, it is a good option as it demonstrates your skills and commitment to the field to your future employers.
• You may decide to earn an advanced degree to further your career in nursing; this will qualify you for higher-level careers such as nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife, or clinical nurse specialist.
Changing Your Career to Nursing
If you have decided to change your current career and pursue nursing instead, accelerated BSN degree programs are designed to help students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field become a nurse faster.
If your background is in finance or law, for example, these programs allow you to switch your career completely without spending another four years in school. Most of the time, there are certain math and science prerequisites that will need to be completed in order to get onto this program, but you won’t be required to take general education courses all over again. Students graduate with a BSN and will be required to take the NCLEX-RN.
Changing Your Career within Nursing
Nursing is both a challenging and rewarding career with many different areas that nurses can choose from. After years of providing bedside care, many nurses look for a career switch within the field. There are plenty of different options on offer.
Specialize: Completing an MSN allows you to choose a specialist area of nursing like informatics or midwifery. Alternatively, you could enroll in a certificate program, which will take less time to complete and maybe cheaper compared to an MSN.
Teach: If you enjoy mentoring and guiding new and student nurses at work, you could be a good fit for nurse education. Nurses who hold an MSN or a doctorate degree are often hired to teach nursing programs at universities or colleges.
Research: Taking a Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc) or Doctor of Nursing Philosophy (Ph.D.) will qualify you to work in medical research, undertaking work that could help to make advances in the industry.
Is nursing the right career choice for you?
Founder Dinis Guarda
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