When it comes to the healthcare industry, it isn’t the doctors that keep society afloat, its nurses. They are the backbone of our health. They are the ones that are there through every painful step of recovery or diagnosis. They are at the forefront of our care, and without them, we would all suffer.
Nursing is one of the most vital jobs in the entire world. If you can push through the first few years and work towards higher qualifications, then it can also be very lucrative. Nurse Practitioners even replace doctors as the forefront of health and care for their patients.
Higher tier nurses earn over $100,000 and can work anywhere, from hospitals and clinics to universities and research centers. Thanks to the Nurse Licensure Compact, you can even travel and work as a nurse, filling in positions at hospitals as you need, while getting out and about and exploring the country to its fullest.
You can make your nursing career entirely yours. You need to know your options and, most importantly, how to make your goals become a reality. With this guide, you’ll know all the steps you need to take, but it is your own passion that will you see you through. Stay strong, stay passionate, and work hard up the career ladder because once you are at the top, the world is your oyster:
Different Levels of Nursing
Nursing is different than most other careers because it is so structured. It doesn’t matter who you know as a nurse; if you don’t have the necessary qualifications, they cannot legally hire you. Nursing is very clear-cut to get into with huge job opportunities in every sector. This means it is straightforward to work your way up the ladder and into the job you want.
For most, nursing begins as a Certified Nursing Assistant. CNAs work to clean out bedpans and provide non-medical care to patients and assist LPNs and RNs. The work is grueling, but it only takes a few weeks to study and earn your state certification, making it the most attractive option to start working.
Licensed Practical Nurses need to undertake a certification and a state exam. They can go on to become RNs, but you cannot go further. You cannot become an APRN without an MSN, and you cannot achieve a master’s in nursing without a Bachelor’s in Nursing. Employers are also increasingly insisting on RNs to hold BSNs, to have at least 80% BSN RNs on staff by 2029.
Registered Nurses make up the majority of healthcare. It is also the stage of your career where you will begin to specialize. You can start customizing your career with a special BSN, or you can earn your BSN and then work towards further certifications or even a specialized MSN.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
APRNs are the highest level of nurses, and they work in all areas of healthcare. Some go on to become Nurse Practitioners, which take over many of the duties of doctors. Others work in the surgery room as the on-site anesthetist. You can become a nurse-midwife, work in the ER, work in geriatrics, pediatrics, and beyond. APRNS hold more responsibility and leadership roles across the board, making them the most key players when it comes to a patient’s health.
There are three levels of nursing degrees, BSN, MSN, and doctorates.
Your BSN should be seen as the gateway to your future. Though you can become a Registered Nurse without one, you cannot get further. You also won’t be able to specialize as an RN. If you were wondering how to become a surgical nurse, then the answer is with a BSN. You can specialize even further with an MSN and then work to become a nurse anesthetist, but only if you have that BSN and essential experience under your belt, to begin with.
You deserve to have options, and you deserve to reach the top. You can’t do that unless you are at the starting line, and in healthcare, which starting line is your BSN.
You should not go on to complete an MSN until you know for sure what you want to specialize in. Most MSN degrees are in a specific area of medicine and will help you customize your career into the role that you want.
Only 1% of nurses hold a doctorate. They often go on to have administrative roles like Head of Nursing, or they go into teaching. Despite how it sounds, it is easier than you think to earn your doctorate, especially if you go into a degree that allows you to complete your MSN and doctorate in the same breath.
There will be plenty of prospects to further your education beyond degrees. Certifications are necessary for practically everything in healthcare. To use new technology, to be able to use a different area of medicine or new treatments – all of these need you to be signed off. Healthcare is very particular and careful, but that also means it is very easy to customize your degree and have employers take notice.
Not only that, but you can easily convince employers to pay for further certifications. If they bring on new medical equipment, they will need nurses to be able to use it. Rather than hire new nurses, it’s far easier and cheaper to train their existing staff.
You won’t be able to remain long without specializing yourself as a nurse. You will need to choose which specialization as soon as possible, because though you can work horizontally it takes time to qualify for more advanced roles, and being direct in your approach is the best way to realize your goals and save yourself effort in the long run.
Typically, there are four types of specializations to choose from within healthcare. These specializations include:
- Nurse Practitioner
- Clinical Nurse
- Nurse Midwife
- Nurse Anesthetist
Each of these specializations or nursing types gets broken down further and further into hundreds of individual roles. There are also dozens of roles for nurses outside of the healthcare setting. By learning what’s out there, you can keep your career path directed towards your goal.
The Nurse Licensure Compact
If you were contemplating moving to another state in the future, one thing that could directly impact your career is the Nurse Licensure Compact. If you are content in your current state, then don’t worry! Your license will be applicable and only need to be renewed when necessary, with no further steps required. If you are moving, then your future will depend entirely on the NLC.
What is the Nurse Licensure Compact?
The Nurse Licensure Compact is a series of agreements that allow nurses to relocate their licenses. The states that are in the NLC allow nurses to transfer their license with a few simple forms simply. You don’t need to retake the exams for that state and can much more easily move with minimal impact to your career.
What Does the NLC Mean for Your Career?
If you currently live in an NLC state, that means when you earn your nursing license that can be used in all other NLC states with very minimal disruption to you. If you currently live in a state that isn’t included in the NLC, or you will be moving to a state, not in the NLC, then you will need to retake your state exam. Being aware of what states are in it, and what states will soon be in will help you make informed decisions about your future.
Where You Can Work as a Nurse
Another thing you need to be aware of when starting your career as a nurse is where you can work. Hospital work isn’t for everyone, but most don’t know the full scope of career opportunities for nurses, thus limiting themselves unnecessarily.
Nurses can work in schools and universities as an on-site nurse. They can provide training, can work in recruitment, or even be researchers. They can work in offices, clinics, satellite clinics, schools, research centers, and even travel.
Where you work will have a huge impact on your work/life balance. You must listen to your body and strike that balance because without it you could hate a job you should love. There are enough vacancies in all areas of healthcare for you to find where you thrive, so explore all of your options as a nurse to find the right environment for you.
Getting Started with Your New Career
Starting a new career as a nurse can be daunting, but having all the information that you need in front of you can give you a clear understanding of what needs to be done, how long it will take, and what your possibilities are. Nursing is a hugely rewarding career that can be specialized and customized to suit the individual. Commit to finding your place in healthcare, and you will find you’ve landed in your dream job before you know it.
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