Nurses are in demand in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that nursing jobs will grow by 6% in the coming decade. For those at the cusp of entering the job market, nursing provides an excellent opportunity to have a rewarding career. For working professionals who are thinking about changing jobs, it is a chance to contribute to the medical community.
Nursing has always been regarded as a satisfying profession, especially for those who enjoy caring for others. Nurses are trusted and respected, and they are authority figures wherever they work. They are healers and they play an essential role in the healthcare system.
You may be thinking about choosing nursing as a career but are hesitant because you do not know what challenges you will encounter along the way. It is not unusual to be unsure about what career path to follow, especially if you are young with the rest of your life ahead of you.
To help you make up your mind about whether nursing is the right way to go, we will discuss the benefits of nursing in your personal life, as well as how to become a nurse and how to climb the career ladder.
Benefits of nursing in your personal life
- Healing the sick
People who choose nursing want to help the sick get better. It is a quick path to working in a clinical setting and helping others achieve health and wellness.
Nurses are highly valued because of their ability to provide treatments and therapies to those who are ailing. If you are a compassionate, caring individual who wants to alleviate pain in others you will find nursing a rewarding profession.
- Improve your community one patient at a time
Many people seek careers that allow them to contribute to the betterment of those around them. Nursing provides an excellent chance to do this. Patients you encounter need your help, and you have a chance to restore them to wellness.
- Nurses are well paid
Granted, you will not become a millionaire from nursing, but it pays well enough for you to live a decent lifestyle and support a family. Salaries vary from state to state and between employers, and you will earn more if you get additional training or become a nurse specialist.
You can find out how much RNs earn online by doing a simple Google search. To attract a higher nurse salary in Illinois, for example, you can get an advanced degree from a good nursing program. Such advanced degrees are also recommended for people switching careers. A bachelor’s degree is enough to get you a secure job in a good healthcare facility, but if you want to climb even higher you should enroll in a master’s program.
The best nursing jobs often require specialization. It means spending more time in nursing training. Specializations include certified registered nurse anesthetists, nursing administrators, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and nursing instructors. If you train for these roles, you can easily find a job that pays a six-figure salary.
- Training takes a short time
If you would like to be a medical practitioner without spending nearly a decade in training, nursing is your way in. There are online nursing programs that take as few as two or three years to complete, and they equip you with all the skills employers are looking for. Many are available online and you can study when it is convenient.
If you choose to specialize in a specific area you need an additional degree, but it too does not take very long. Most who take this option work and study at the same time, and they complete their course in a couple of years.
- Job security
Because of the nurse shortage in the United States, employers are careful to retain their nursing workforce. You do not have to worry about retrenchment or early retirement. Additionally, changing employers is not difficult because the shortage has left vacancies.
- The choice of where to practice
The opportunities to work in different settings are numerous, and it is up to you to choose where you want to spend your days.
- Gain essential skills that you can use outside work
During your course, you learn how to be a lifesaver. Nursing training teaches skills like CPR and how to provide emergency care. These are valued by family, friends and neighbors. They know you can help in case of an emergency. In any medical emergency, you are equipped to handle it until you can get the patient to the hospital.
- Nursing is an interesting job
If you do not enjoy being restricted to a desk, nursing is an excellent profession.
No two days present the same challenges. Whether you work in a hospital, a small clinic or a nursing home, each day is unique.
- You can specialize
You do not have to become a general ward nurse unless you want to. Practitioners can specialize in areas that they are passionate about.
If, for example, your dream has always been to work with children, you can take a specialist course after you complete your general nursing degree. After you qualify, apply to become a nurse in a children’s wing of a hospital, or work for a pediatric doctor.
Specialized jobs in nursing pay better than general jobs. You are regarded as an expert and finding a job should not be difficult.
- Add to your basic salary more with overtime
Nurses are regularly required to work well beyond their official hours, and for every additional hour, they are well compensated. The number of overtime hours you work every month depends on where you work and how busy it is.
If you work in a busy inner-city facility, for example, you can expect to earn more in overtime than if you work in a small practice that is only open during the day.
- You can work for an international organization
Your employment options are not limited to America. American-trained nurses are routinely employed by international organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. They get to travel to different parts of the world to deliver medical services and aid.
Nurses who work abroad tend to earn more, and they enjoy expatriate benefits. Those who work in hardship areas earn even more from hardship allowances.
A nursing career can allow you to visit different countries and learn about other cultures.
- Nursing jobs are flexible
Most jobs require employees to work from 8:00am–5:00pm, five days a week. However, nurses typically work in shifts. They may be asked to work for 48 hours and then take two days off. It allows them time to rest and recuperate and catch up with family, friends and chores.
- Develop your soft skills
Nurses are expected to be good communicators who are empathetic and highly organized. They should also be open-minded, good listeners who do not pass judgment regardless of the situation.
These are just some of the soft skills you develop as a nurse. They are not taught in school, but you can nurture them within yourself during your career.
- Support for higher education
Many employers are happy to pay for additional education for nurses who are willing to return to school and improve their skills. If a nurse is willing to transition from an RN to a BSN, they only need to talk to their employer to find out whether they will get tuition support.
Working professionals who return to school can talk to management about rearranging their schedules to accommodate their classes.
- Use your love of technology to enhance your nursing career
Technology has changed healthcare, and nurses have not been left behind. Several nursing jobs call for nurses to be well-versed in IT. Nursing informatics uses IT tools to gather data that is used to improve patient services.
Hospitals, clinics and other facilities also need nurses who understand billing systems and can help get claims processed faster.
- A great community of support
American nurses enjoy the support of different organizations and groups where they can share ideas and concerns or keep each other up to date about new developments in their field. They also support one another and share information and tips about patient care.
Getting started on the nursing journey
You have read about the benefits of a nursing career and found out the nurse salary in Illinois or wherever you live, and you may be wondering what steps you ought to take next.
Navigating the hierarchies of nursing can be confusing. For some jobs you do not need a degree, while for others, it is essential.
How to become a CNA
If you want to join the profession at the very bottom, you can study to become a certified nurse assistant (CNA). You will do the most basic nursing tasks like bathing and dressing patients and helping them move around.
To qualify for employment, you need to complete a state-certified program and then pass a state-administered exam.
How to become an LPN
You can opt to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). To get a job you need to complete a diploma nursing program. The course usually takes about 12 months to complete. You are required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination before you can practice.
LPNs have the option to specialize by undergoing additional training.
How to become an RN
You can choose to join the profession a bit higher up the ladder by becoming a registered nurse (RN). The term RN is often used to refer to nurses in general, but strictly speaking, it is a nurse practitioner who has a degree. RNs can specialize in a particular field, and they do not have to work in direct patient care.
There are two ways that you can become an RN: by getting an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Some employers are keen on employing only nurses with bachelor’s degrees, so it may be a good idea to enroll in a BSN program instead of getting an associate degree. Whether you choose an associate or bachelor’s degree, you will be required get to state certification to work as a nurse.
Numerous nursing schools offer BSNs but not all of them are accredited. Employers check whether applicants are from accredited institutions, so this is something you should take seriously.
The course typically lasts four years but you can fast-track it by enrolling in an online course. These courses are designed for students who do not want to learn on campus. They can access all learning material online, as well as notes and assignments.
Students choose the online option because it is flexible and allows them to work and learn at the same time.
How to become an APRN
An APRN, or advanced practice registered nurse, has more career options. This professional usually works at the management level and earns more than other types of nurses. To qualify, one needs to first become an RN (preferably with a BSN), and then do a master’s degree in nursing.
There are four career options that APRNs can pursue. They can become nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists. Many also become nursing instructors in universities.
Is online learning a good option for nursing school?
The idea of getting an online degree may seem a little outlandish. However, do not dismiss online learning just yet. It is catching on fast, and millions of American students opt for this form of instruction every year. According to one report, half of all college students in America are taking an online course.
If you are a mature student or have a family or other commitments that require your time, an online course is a convenient way to get your nursing credentials.
These courses require self-discipline. You do all the work yourself, and it is up to you to decide how you want to study. Because of this, online learners tend to drop out of courses at a higher rate than classroom learners. Before you enroll in an online course, make sure that you have the necessary motivation to complete the curriculum.
There are certain things you can do to increase your chances of success:
- Know what is needed before you enroll — online nursing courses have detailed brochures that explain what students need to do to graduate. The course is usually divided into two parts. The first is about theory, while the second is a clinical placement. The placement allows you to work in a real hospital so that you can put into practice what you learned in class. You also learn from other more experienced professionals in the workplace.
- Plan properly — it helps if you can reorganize your schedule to accommodate two or three hours of learning each day. Talk to your employer about your plans and work with the HR office to free up time for study and assignments.
- Carve out a study area — hospitals are hectic places, and you may have difficulties finding a quiet space where you can study. Look for an area that does not have much foot traffic, is comfortable and well lit, so that you can put in a few hours of study at work. Alternatively, you can create a study room at home or use the local library.
- Acquire the necessary study materials — the admissions office will let you know what materials you need for the course. They include textbooks and notebooks, and you may also be asked to purchase a stethoscope and a comfortable pair of shoes.
- Join study groups — at the beginning of every semester, students are asked to join groups to discuss ideas and exchange views. Become a member of at least one group and be an active participant.
- Talk to your teachers — they are available to answer questions, and they can help clarify difficult concepts. Nursing instructors can also point you to job opportunities after you complete your course.
- Take assignments seriously — many students flunk out because they do not complete assignments. Complete your homework well ahead of time. If you cannot meet a deadline, let your instructor know in advance.
- Look for a mentor — an older nurse who has taken a similar course is a useful resource. They will give you guidance on how to study and what you need to do to succeed.
- Do not forget rest and recreation — take some time to unwind at least once a week. Do something fun that relaxes you.
Some people are attracted to nursing by the money, others by the desire to help their communities. Some would like to use it as a stepping-stone into their medical career. Whatever your reason for choosing it, it is a rewarding career because you get to spend your days helping to heal the sick.