Nursing is easily one of the most rewarding careers in the entire world. Being able to work with a wide variety of people and help them through every aspect of the care process, you can make a positive difference to both the people and the world around you.
With ever-increasing healthcare demand across the USA due to an increasing and aging population, and more Americans signing up to affordable healthcare coverage, it’s likely that both the number of nurses will increase as well as nurses’ salaries.
In this exhaustive guide, we will help you figure out which nursing career could be the right one for you, as well as the necessary steps to get you working in the right field for you. Read our complete five step guide now in order to get the full overview of nursing from a fledging passion to a career working out in the field.
The first step, of course, is to:
Consider What Type of Nurse You Want to Be
Nursing is a very broad career encompassing a whole spectrum of care. Working within the healthcare sector, the aim is to focus on the wellbeing of both individuals, communities and families in order to optimize their health and overall well-being. Nonetheless, as the difficulties that people face can vary greatly depending on their condition, there are a huge variety of different nursing specializations around. It is really worth bearing in mind that different specializations require a wide variety of different qualifications, which can vary from the type of degree that you do to the type of extra accreditations and certifications needed.
Whether you are in high school or considering switching into a nursing career, it’s recommended that you develop a really clear idea of the type of nurse that you want to be before starting your Bachelor’s — this, of course, will give you a much clearer advantage both in terms of your individual focus to the types of different electives you choose.
A small array of the different types of nursing specializations include:
- Registered Nurse
- Neonatal Nurse
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Practitioner
- Health Policy Nurse
- Cardiac Nurse
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Emergency Room Nurse
- Mental Health Nurse
- Pain Management Nurse
- Geriatric Nurse
- Pediatric Nurse
- Oncology Nurse
- Orthopedic Nurse
- Military Nurse
As you can see from the list above, there are a fair amount of differences between these types of specializations. After all, it’s pretty obvious that the work a military nurse is involved with will vary hugely compared to the work of a pediatric nurse. While they are all united by a desire to care for and serve other people, it’s worth figuring out which option best aligns with your interests. Then once you have decided which branch is the right one for you, you can:
Get a Degree
The short list below outlines all the different types of degrees you can get in nursing, as well as explaining how useful they will be in order to follow certain careers. As mentioned, some careers require a much higher level of education than others. Furthermore, others may not formally require graduate education, but with some specializations being a crowded field, it is better to do whatever is possible in order to stand out from the crowd. In this section we will outline the four types of degrees that you can obtain, starting with an:
Associate Degree in Nursing
An Associate Degree in Nursing is one of the quickest ways to become a nurse, allowing you to go from enrolling to practicing in a hospital in just a couple of years. As a result of this, there are lower costs in getting started, as there are simply fewer study years involved. It combines some studies with a level of practical experience, giving you the necessary toolkit in order to work in a hospital or a clinic. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that for some hospitals and specializations, an associate degree in nursing simply will not be enough, which is why it may be better for you to pursue a:
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is an academic degree obtained at an accredited higher institute of education, usually a nursing school. Bachelor’s are licensed by The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. The degrees can differ on how much pure science is offered as part of the course, as well as the opportunity to take electives in non-science subjects such as English or liberal arts. Nurses learn the practical skill needed to do their job, as well as gather key experience in concepts such as communication, critical thinking, leadership and more. This is usually rated higher than an Associate Degree. If you have already been to college, you can always apply for an:
Accelerated Nursing Program
For people who have already obtained a bachelor’s in another subject, they are able to still become a nurse by taking an accelerated nursing program. As the name suggests, this means that you are able to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and start practicing within 11 to 18 months. This is also available at many institutions as a part-time or night school degree, but bear in mind that this will double the amount of months needed to complete.
Master of Science in Nursing
A Master’s of Science in Nursing is the graduate-level degree that ensures further, more in-depth study in nursing. This is a great option if you are looking to do a more senior role in nursing, such as working as a nurse practitioner, as well as a necessary step if you are looking to progress to a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing.
It is worth bearing in mind however that a Master’s of Science alone may not get you the job that you desire. For example, if you want to become a family nurse practitioner, you will need to complete an additional course. One great online option to make that dream a reality is offered by Marymount university. You can learn more about their MSN-FNP degree over at: https://online.marymount.edu/programs/online-msn-fnp-program.
Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing
If research in nursing appeals to you more, then you can always obtain that final step and go for a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing. This means more time running clinical tests, writing and working within a more academic setting. If you wish to obtain a doctorate but go through a more practical route, then there is also the option to study towards a Doctor of Nursing Practice instead. The latter may be more beneficial if you are looking for a more advanced hospital-based role, while the former is perfect if you want to commit yourself to research.
All nurses in the United States of America must have the right accreditations in order to become a Registered Nurse. In order to succeed, you will have to pass a National Nursing Licensure — usually shortened to NCLEX. This may sound daunting, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the pass rate for the exam is around 90% — at some institutions this goes all the way up to a 100% success rate!
There are usually three different types of exams. The first is the Certified Nursing Assistant one — which isn’t covered in this guide. The second is the National Council Licensure Examination: Licensed Practical Nurses for one to become a licensed practical nurse! The third one is likely to be the National Council Licensure Examination: Registered Nurses. To pass the exam with flying colors, you should bear in mind the key tips written below:
- Manage stress levels
- Get to grips with the computerized adaptive testing format
- Make and then execute a detailed study plan
- Avoid applying practical clinical experience and focus on rehearsed answers
- Take plenty of mock exams
- Practice questions with a friend or family member
- Do plenty of research
- Be very relaxed on the day, including eating well and getting a good night’s rest
Once you are accredited, there is only one thing to do:
Now that you have all the right certifications, it’s time to apply for jobs. By now you should understand which type of specialization you want to work in and whether or not you want to work in a hospital, private clinic, home setting or even overseas. Additionally, it’s worth checking out the different salaries available for different jobs state by state so you know exactly how much money to expect when you enter the industry and then you can learn to budget accordingly.
As there is a general increased demand for nurses across the USA, it’s not too difficult an industry to break into. Nonetheless, for more specialized professions and for more senior roles, there can be a lot of competition, so it’s worth following these key tips in order to stand out from the crowd:
- Subscribe to regular job news updates
- Use more than one job search engine
- Try and visit hospital and clinic websites directly to see if they are hiring
- Practice interview etiquette, including talking in front of a mirror
- Stress practical clinical experience, with key examples for the interview
- Regularly update and fine-tune your resume
- Identify both your strengths and weaknesses
- Network with like-minded people and go to job fairs
- Get a killer LinkedIn profile
- Scrub any embarrassing pictures from your Instagram or Facebook profile
If you follow these steps, you will likely find yourself a job in no time. Implementing all of them will make this process go as smoothly as possible for you. Do remember to stay relaxed during the job hunt, remember your core strengths, and do not work for less than you’re worth. With a little patience mixed with perseverance, you will be working as a nurse in no time.
Pursue Additional Certifications, Education and Training
The trick in a nursing career is to never rest on your laurels. Even if you have a job that you believe to be comfortable, always be hungry for new opportunities and educational possibilities. After all, like in life, nurses never stop learning. As two days on the job are rarely the same, there is always the possibility to learn more and become a better, more competent nurse in the process.
If you are looking to obtain a more senior position, retrain into a different specialization, or upgrade your salary, it’s always worth pursuing additional certifications, training and education possibilities. These can be obtained by going back to an institute of higher education, such as a nursing school, or via online learning; meaning that you can achieve additional success part time while still holding on to your original job. This is especially important if you find yourself working in a particular part of the industry that you are not enjoying. While it may seem daunting to retrain completely, there are plenty of resources and networks available online to avail yourself of in order to make that process as smooth as possible.
When you are established, this is the opportunity to build your brand as a nurse and really stand out from the crowd. You may be interested in holding a leadership position yourself. That’s why it’s important to pass your knowledge on through teaching, or to network with like-minded professionals at conferences. By doing this, you will become much better known in the field, thus boosting your opportunities for better career progress in the future.
In fat, this is something that you can get started with right away, making it worth fine-tuning your LinkedIn profile and setting up a personal blog or website to share your experiences. This can be a way to earn additional income too as it leads to opportunities such as book deals, speaking tours and high consultancy fees. This means more money for you to spend on the stuff and people that you love. But more than financial considerations, a career in nursing will provide immense rewards throughout your career through helping people. After all, making the world a better place is one of the best things you can do with your life.