If you have dreams about entering the field of healthcare and making a difference in the lives of others, you may be wondering what to expect from the process of building a career as a nurse.
Here is everything that you need to know with regard to obtaining the necessary nursing certifications, excelling in your studies, and maximizing the experience when you first start working as a nurse following your graduation.
Becoming a Nurse
Unsurprisingly, prospective nurses need to study nursing certifications for a long while before they can qualify to work in a clinic, hospital, or doctor’s practice surgery. Most people who want to become nurses will get started by completing an accredited RN (Registered Nurse) program. Students can decide between nursing diplomas, associate degrees, or bachelor’s degrees. While it will prove faster to study towards a nursing diploma, this is one of the nursing certifications that can make it more challenging to advance your career.
If you have your sight set on becoming an FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner) or a Nurse Educator, for example, you will not be able to study further until you have a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) under your belt.
Getting an associate nursing degree will take around two years and should help to ensure that you are considered for slightly higher positions, although the same obstacle will stand in your way if you wish to pursue higher education at a later stage. Luckily, there are associate to bachelor’s registered nurse programs available that make it possible for you to obtain your bachelor’s degree in a shorter space of time than if you were to start from scratch.
A bachelor’s degree is undoubtedly the best of all of the nursing programs available, although it also takes the longest to obtain – usually around four years.
Once a nursing student has completed their relevant nursing certifications, they will then need to apply to sit for the NCLEX-RN examination by registering via the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The test is relatively straightforward, comprising of 119 questions and taking approximately six hours to finish (including a few breaks).
Upon passing the NCLEX-RN examination, the newly registered nurse will still need to research the specifics surrounding licensure within the state in which they intend to practice. All states require proper licensure, but mandates vary quite significantly from state to state. If nurses have any queries regarding what is required of them, they are urged to get in touch with their state board of nursing for answers and guidance.
From there, newly qualified nurses can begin to look for employment and start building a prosperous and respected career for themselves. Most will agree that while it is a long road, the end result is 100% worth it!
Why become a Nurse?
There are so many reasons to choose nursing as your profession. Here is a quick breakdown of the benefits:
- First and foremost, by becoming a nurse, you will be granted the opportunity to help people and make a real difference in other people’s lives every single day. You will play a part in healing the sick and the injured, as well as supporting their families throughout the difficult times and being there to celebrate with them during the good times.
- There is a lot of room for growth for individuals who are ambitious and who want to climb the ladder of success. Nurses can study towards doctoral nursing certifications, including a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) or a PhD. Those who are interested in teaching and training other nurses may also make the decision to become nursing educators.
- Nurses enjoy maximum employability, not only in the United States of America but all over the world, too. This is due to the fact that nursing is a highly specialized field, and nurses are desperately needed everywhere. In short, it would not prove difficult to find a job regardless of where you choose to settle down.
- Nurses earn decent salaries, although earnings are very much state-dependent. On average, according to PayScale.com, nurses earn $30.10 per hour, with some more experienced nurses bringing in up to $42.04 per hour.
- The industry is predicted to grow steadily over the next few years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment is set to grow a staggering 7% between 2019 and 2029. This is the fastest and most impressive average growth compared to any other occupation in the country!
- There are various employment opportunities available for registered nurses from a workplace perspective. For example, while most nurses find jobs in a clinic or hospital setting, there is also the option to work at a school or university campus, on a cruise ship, at a hotel, a corporate clinic, a care home, and more.
Who is Suited to a Career in Healthcare?
While nobody is necessarily ‘born’ to pursue a career in nursing, it is true that some personality types are better suited to this role. For instance, the most successful nurses are often individuals who genuinely care about others, possessing a strong sense of empathy. They naturally form good connections with their patients and are dedicated to helping them heal, recover, and regain a great quality of life.
Another important character trait of someone who might thrive in the role of a nurse is a strong work ethic. Nurses are often required to work long hours (and these hours are often rather erratic, too) and to spend a lot of time on their feet in high-pressure situations. A need for a strong work ethic starts early on, with most nursing certifications demanding a big chunk of time and effort. Luckily, if you are able to stay motivated and manage your time effectively, there isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t succeed and set the tone for a prosperous career.
If you are keen on and good at subjects like biology, science, and mathematics, you will also certainly find the different aspects of what a nursing job entails extremely interesting. This will help you to stay inspired and to work harder. If these subjects are not quite your cup of tea, you may find your studies relating to obtaining your nursing certifications taxing and perhaps even tedious. If you are interested in these subjects but find that they do not necessarily come ‘naturally’ to you, you can still become a nurse. The key here is to ensure that you have adequate support to see you through your studies and to help secure a solid foundation for your future career.
What are your Options in Terms of Studying?
Along with the different types of diplomas, degrees, and nursing certifications available, prospective nursing students will also have a choice between how they learn and study. Some will opt to attend traditional in-person colleges, while others will find it endlessly more convenient to pursue their nursing certifications online.
The main reason why online nursing certifications have become so popular is the fact that they provide students with maximum flexibility. This is great news for students who have other responsibilities to attend to throughout the average day, such as caring for their children or other dependents or perhaps holding down a job to finance their studies.
The vast majority of the time, online nursing certifications are also significantly more affordable than traditional college nursing certifications. You get to make the most of your time and money without having to sacrifice on a world-class education. Some of the most respected universities and colleges in nursing are now offering prospective nurses the option of studying towards their nursing certifications online!
It is possible to pursue both undergraduate and post-graduate nursing certifications online. If you are a post-graduate nurse, you can continue working on advancing your career by improving your education all while constantly adding to your work experience and bulking up your resume.
Ultimately, studying nursing certifications online requires plenty of diligence and discipline. If you are concerned that you might require a more traditional ‘school-like’ setting to get the most out of your efforts, then this route might not be a good fit for you. Do your research before choosing the path that suits your needs, your preferences, and your budget.
What to expect when you first Start working as a Nurse
Considering the times in which everyone finds themselves, be prepared to be thrown into the deep end, so to speak, shortly after you complete your nursing certifications! There is a high demand for nurses to help fight the COVID-19 virus, so you can expect to work long hours and to have to power through days (and nights) that demand a lot of your time, strength, and energy. You will find yourself working day shifts, night shifts, over weekends, and on holidays. Do not let this exhaust you – it is simply an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and to maximize your prospects for career growth. So, invest in a comfortable pair of shoes, drink plenty of water, sleep as much as you can, and keep a close eye on your posture.
It is also important to expect to be faced with challenges during your first few months and years of working as a registered nurse. While your nursing certifications will have equipped you with the knowledge required to perform satisfactorily, many of the necessary skills are learned on the job. For instance, you will have been taught how to develop an appropriate ‘bedside manner,’ but you might not have been trained to deal with unruly or hostile patients or rude, impatient relatives. Fear not! You will become a master at handling the many different types of people within your workspace soon enough. All that it takes is practice!
In order to alleviate the shock to the system when first starting out as a nurse, some RN’s recommend signing up to work as a nurse’s aid while you are still completing your nursing certifications. This type of job will afford you the chance to see what really happens in a hospital setting and how best to adapt in order to handle it on your own when the time comes. It will also make it possible for you to start forming important relationships with other nurses and superiors, which could help to jump-start your career quickly after you qualify. As with all careers, networking is key to climbing that ladder of success within the healthcare field.
Along with working as a nurse’s aide before finishing your diploma or degree, it is also vital that you do not hesitate to ask questions, both before you find employment as a nurse and long after! Becoming a nurse means that you will never stop learning, no matter how senior you become. Even nurses with a Doctor of Nursing practice find that they pick up new skills and knowledge most days on the job! So, take the opportunity to soak up as much expertise and wisdom from your colleagues as you can, and make it known that you are always eager to grow. After all, when senior nursing staff pick up on a person’s willingness to learn, they will be a lot more likely to want to mentor you during that first stage of your young career.
The road to becoming a nurse is probably not quite as straightforward as you had imagined – and nor is the actual job itself. However, with so many incredible paths to follow and growth opportunities to embrace, you will be setting yourself up to savor a career that is both worthwhile, challenging, and rewarding.
If you know that you have the personality type required to excel and you have always dreamed of becoming a nurse, do not let anything stop you from turning those aspirations into reality. Rest assured that with the right support and the right mindset, you will be pulling on those scrubs and taking care of patients in no time at all. Good luck on your exciting career path!