Nursing is a very popular and rewarding field in which to work. You get to spend your days helping people, while also benefiting from high levels of employability, job security, and financial stability. Not only that, but there are also plenty of exciting career progression options available as your skills improve and you gain more knowledge and experience. So, if you’ve been thinking about retraining to become a nurse, this post will help you out by explaining the job in a bit more detail and going over the steps you need to take to become qualified.
What Does a Nurse Do?
Nursing is a more diverse role than you might realize, because there are so many different places you could work and different types of patients you could see. For example, nurses can be employed everywhere from hospitals, clinics and physicians’ offices to schools, prisons, assisted living homes, and specialist treatment centers. Some even work with the military or nonprofit organizations.
Nurses generally function as part of a wider healthcare team alongside other medical professionals such as doctors, providing primary healthcare services to patients of all ages and backgrounds. The specific tasks and responsibilities will vary according to your exact job role; however, you can expect to have at least some of the following duties:
- Taking patients’ medical histories
- Running diagnostic tests and screenings
- Monitoring and recording a patient’s vital signs and progress
- Drawing blood
- Collecting lab work
- Dressing wounds
- Administering medications and healthcare treatments
- Preparing patients for surgery and other medical procedures
- Assisting with some medical procedures
- Creating treatment and care plans for patients
- Educating patients and the wider public on issues such as healthy living and disease prevention or management
- Providing emotional support to patients and their families
- Updating patients’ medical records
- Completing other general admin tasks
What are the Career Progression Options for Nurses?
As your knowledge and skills improve and you gain more experience, you’ll find a wide variety of opportunities opening for you to progress in your career. You can choose to specialize in an area of nursing that is of particular interest to you and matches your talents and personality. This could be in either direct patient care or indirect patient care. For example:
- Pediatrics – working with children from infancy all the way through adolescence, treating a wide range of healthcare conditions and educating them on healthy living
- Geriatrics – working with elderly citizens and specializing in the treatment of diseases related to aging such as dementia and arthritis
- Oncology – assisting with the treatment of patients suffering from cancer, and helping them to manage any side effects
- Anesthesia – administering anesthetic for medical procedures, monitoring patients throughout surgery, and then assisting them as they recover
- Midwifery – working with expectant mothers and assisting with the delivery of babies, as well as providing postpartum care and education for new parents
- Mental health – helping people who are struggling with psychiatric conditions such as OCD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and schizophrenia
- Education – training the next generation of student nurses, as well as designing and evaluating nursing curriculums
- Research – designing and facilitating research studies, then analyzing the data with the intention of publishing your findings
- Health policy – combining nursing and politics to lobby lawmakers, plus review and revise policies, laws and regulations relating to healthcare
- Informatics – blending nursing with computing and information sciences to implement new technology and systems in your workplace that can improve patient care
- Management – ensuring your workplace runs smoothly for patients and staff by handling issues such as budgeting, hiring of nurses, and development of care procedures
How do I Train to become a Nurse?
Education is key when it comes to training as a nurse, and the best route to take is studying for an accredited degree in nursing. There are a few different options you can choose here, and the one that’s right for you will depend on a number of factors such as your existing qualifications and specific career aspirations. The four main types of nursing programs are:
- Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
- Doctoral degrees in nursing (DNP, PhD)
These days, most employers prefer you to have at least a BSN. This normally takes four years to complete, however if you already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject then you will be eligible for accelerated BSN programs. These are more intensive courses that enable you to get qualified in just 11 to 18 months, so are perfect for mature students who wish to retrain in the nursing field quickly. If you have high ambitions to reach the top level of nursing jobs, a master’s course is likely to be your best choice. For those who wish to work in academia or research, a doctoral program will be especially well suited to your needs.
Whichever type of degree you choose, you’ll be required to complete a mixture of taught academic modules and hands-on clinical placements. These are a bit like internships and give you the chance to put what you’ve learned into practice in a real-world healthcare setting. You will be able to choose a location that’s relevant to your specific career goals, and benefit from the support and guidance of experienced professionals. Be sure to make the most of the opportunity by asking for advice and feedback, and broadening your professional network.
After you graduate, the next step will be to take the NCLEX-RN exam in order to become licensed as a Registered Nurse (RN). This is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). There may be other additional criteria you have to meet, so be sure to check the specific requirements for the state you wish to work in. Then you can begin looking for jobs.
Of course, your learning doesn’t stop when you become licensed or get your first job. As a nurse, you’ll have to keep your knowledge and skills up to date by engaging in continued professional development. This could be by attending workshops and conferences, studying for specialist certifications, or reading books and other resources in your own time. This will enable you to keep on top of all the latest developments in healthcare technologies and treatments, and therefore provide the best possible care to your patients.