Are you interested in a career in healthcare? Does the idea of caring for others inspire you? If you have compassion for those who are suffering and are not afraid of hard work, then a nursing career path might be the right answer for you.
The easiest way to get underway with nursing is to complete a short course and obtain registration as a Licensed Practical nurse. This is a great option if you’re just starting out and want to see if nursing is your vocation. Other ways to become qualified include studying for an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing, allowing you to become a Registered Nurse.
Once you have found your feet as a nurse and acquired sufficient experience, there are many career options available. You can study further, specialize in one of a number of nursing specialties, or develop a career as a Nurse Practitioner.
What Does Nursing Really Involve?
Nurses care for patients. Whether in hospitals, clinics, or homes, nurses provide basic medical care and treatment to their patients. While working under a degree of supervision, depending upon their qualifications, nurses are responsible for providing complete care. They see to a patient’s day-to-day needs, monitor their condition, and administer prescribed treatments.
Depending on where you work, as a nurse, you can expect to:
- Monitor and evaluate the condition of patients under your care
- Administer medicines prescribed by doctors
- Look after your patients
- Provide emotional support
- Perform physical examinations
- Assist in the delivery of babies
- Provide neonatal care
- Provide home and hospice care to elderly patients and the terminally ill
- Provide community healthcare services
- Assist in the OR
- Provide trauma care
Do You Have to Follow One Career Path as a Nurse?
Almost all nursing starts with basic patient care, and the skills learned during that stage are essential for further development. Even if you study for a degree, you’ll have to perform basic nursing activities such as monitoring patient health, administering medication, feeding, and washing ill or infirm patients.
Once you have completed the basics and found your feet, there are many nursing career paths that include working in different settings, such as:
- Hospitals: Besides basic nursing, there are many other opportunities, such as in emergency rooms, the OR, intensive care units, pediatrics wards, gynecology units, and nurse management.
- Physicians and medical specialists: Working in medical rooms assisting doctors and providing basic health care services.
- Home and hospice care: As the number of elderly increases, there are many opportunities for nursing in frail care, hospice, and geriatric settings.
- Armed forces: The army, navy, and airforce need nurses to care for ill and injured military personnel.
- Schools, prisons, and public health services:
- Business and industry: Nurses care for employees, investigate health care issues, and deal with insurance claims.
Many nurses start their careers in nursing in one field and then, as their interests change, move into another medical arena.
How Do You Train as a Nurse?
To become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), known in some states as a licensed vocation nurse (LVN), you must complete a one-year state approved course and pass the National Council of State Boards NCLEX-PN examination. Before applying to write the examination, you need to register with your local state board of nursing.
Registered nurses (RNs) need to complete and pass an associate’s degree in nursing, although a bachelor’s degree is preferred. This takes two to four years. As part of your degree, you have to do practical nursing work under supervision. Once qualified, you must take the NCLEX-RN examination to be registered as an RN.
Qualification as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) requires you obtain a master’s degree in nursing and pass the NCLEX examination. From 2025 onward, you will need to obtain a doctor’s degree in nursing science.
How Much Do Nurses Earn?
What Is the Career Outlook for a Nurse?
There is an increased emphasis on providing adequate medical care to all sectors of the population. Additionally, as people live longer, they require increased medical care. Thanks to these and other factors, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook anticipates the demand for registered nurses will increase by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026.
This is well above the national average and demonstrates an increased demand for the different nursing specialties over the next decade. This bodes well for you as you seek to develop your career in nursing.
Do You Have the Right Personality to Be a Nurse?
It’s important to appreciate that nursing is not for everyone. Apart from liking people and being able to work with them, you need to be organized and methodical with a degree of math, literacy, and communication ability.
Here are some of the qualities of a good nurse:
- Compassion: A non-judgmental understanding of patients’ suffering, their situations, and an ability to offer comfort and reassurance.
- Emotional strength: The ability to continue to provide care for patients in spite of difficulties, bad experiences, and stress.
- Stamina: The physical ability to push through and cope with long hours on your feet, and have the ability to continue with your duties, even when exhausted.
- Interpersonal skills: Good people skills that form the bridge between doctors, other members of staff, and patients, as well as an ability to take criticism constructively and to learn from mistakes and errors.
- Problem-solving skills: An ability to process information, identify what needs to be done, and to get on with it.
- Respect: Treat patients with dignity and respect and to communicate honestly with them.
- Attention to detail: Perform duties correctly, especially regarding administering medication and procedures, as well as accurately assessing and monitoring patients’ vital signs.
- Technological adaptability: Able to accept new technology and learn to use it quickly and efficiently.
While no one perfectly matches all these qualities, you need to be certain you have what it takes to be a nurse. If you’re not sure, do some volunteer work and see how it goes.
Nursing is a great career. There’s plenty of opportunity for working with people and making a difference. To be effective as a nurse, you need to possess qualities such as empathy and caring along with an ability to work hard, endure discomfort, and to give your best. The range of opportunities in nursing is extremely wide, from practical nursing through to advanced nursing work in specialized areas. In many ways, the sky’s the limit because you can advance yourself through further study and specialization, a factor that doesn’t relate to who employs you or who you work with. Choose the area of specialization that interests you, and take the first steps towards a career in nursing.
To discover more about a career in healthcare, read our vocation development article on How to Become a Nurse.