How to Become a Nurse
Nursing is a career path with a lot of potential. The need for these skilled and compassionate professionals continues to grow and, as our population continues to expand and age, that need isn’t likely to shrink. So, if you’ve decided that nursing is the right career path for you and you’re happy with the average nursing salary, immerse yourself in this guide which will walk you through the steps you need to take to become a nurse. Some of the steps and requirements will of course vary by location and, because nursing is such a broad field, there are a number of different branches and pathways. We’re looking at the foundational pathway into a nursing career.
Nursing Career Person Specification
If you just want to get into nursing for the money, it’s probably not the right career path for you. While nursing salaries continue to grow and with many institutions offering generous remuneration, you’ll never be successful or have a fulfilling career if the paycheck is all you’re concerned with. Alongside the all-important education and training, it takes the right kind of person, equipped with specific, invaluable soft skills to succeed as a nurse. Here’s a list of those crucial but intangible, challenging to measure soft skills that make up the person specification or the personality of an outstanding nurse:
- Is empathetic
- Has a caring manner
- Is self-aware
- Capable of reflection
- Is committed to patient care
- Is committed to lifelong learning
- An effective communicator
- Ability to adapt to rapidly changing situations
- Has attention to detail
- Physical and mental stamina/endurance
- Problem-solving skills
- Good interpersonal skills
- Emotionally stable
What Skills and Education do You Need to Become a Nurse?
Even if you meet every item on the personal skills list, you won’t get into nursing without the right hard skills and education. At the most basic level, you need to be competent in numeracy and literacy. You don’t need to be a math genius or the next Shakespeare, but you do need basic math and English skills.
The level of education varies considerably based on the nursing specialism and the work environment. And, like all career paths, nursing salaries vary by location and nursing type. According to data gathered here at Paysa, for example, an LVN/LPT can expect an average nationwide salary of $54K while the median RN salary is $72K and the average nurse practitioner remuneration is $100K.
Someone looking at an entry-level career path will be pursuing a qualification for a Licensed Practical Nurse or a Licensed Vocational Nurse. LPN/LVN posts require a one-year educational program, usually taught at technical or vocational schools and community colleges. These learning pathways include a mix of classroom-based learning for essential knowledge like anatomy and nutrition and clinical practice sessions where you’ll learn vital clinical skills outside of the classroom and gain practical experience in a hospital or other healthcare setting.
While many people enter nursing as LPN/LVNs and work their way through additional qualifications while they’re already on the job, others choose to skip this stage and instead begin with an Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN, which is a two-year course that, upon successful completion, awards the registered nurse, or RN qualification. ADN courses are usually offered in hospital-based nursing schools or, in some areas, at community colleges.
For a higher starting salary and a qualification that provides greater learning opportunities, a deeper understanding of healthcare delivery, and more expertise in clinical practices, then a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is the qualification you’re looking for. Over four years, the BSN degree covers, in depth, physical and behavioral science, social, political, economic, and cultural influences on patient health, recovery time, and adequate care delivery, and nursing theory. This diverse learning pathway gives you a solid grounding in all aspects of professional nursing practice, and you’ll find yourself covering everything from anatomy and physiology to health informatics and health policy.
Once you’re a qualified nurse with one of the listed credentials under your belt, you do have the option of further study to advance your career, which we’ll cover in detail elsewhere in the Nursing Career Hub. Here’s an overview of educational advancement options: Consider a Master’s Degree in Nursing for advanced practice nurses, nursing specialties, educator, and administrator career paths. If you’re looking for a teaching or research role within nursing, consider pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD. For those looking to advance in expert clinical practice or nursing leadership role, a Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP degree is a smart choice. There are also all kinds of other credentials and certifications you can pursue to advance your career in nursing or to move into a new specialty.
Professional Body Registration, Getting Set for Success, Finding Great Opportunities, Application Tips, and Interview Advice coming up next.
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