Nursing is a great career option that gives you the opportunity to help people and make a difference. Nursing as a whole is also becoming more technical, giving you the opportunity to practice healthcare and provide for your patients in a way that fits your ethos.
Today, with the rise of APRNs and doctorate-holding nurses, the division between physicians and high-level nurses is blurred. In some states, you can practice independently and can even start and manage your own clinic. This isn’t the case everywhere, but more states are looking for nurses to fill the physician shortage.
What is the difference, then, between a highly-trained nurse and a physician? Your approach to care. Doctors are trained to place a higher emphasis on the medical and scientific side of care, which is an important component and essential when it comes to diagnosing and highly specialized treatments. Nurses, on the other hand, focus on the patient side of care.
Together they work to get patients back up on their feet, and together they work to make a difference in someone’s life.
If you want to help others, are interested in medicine and care, and are willing to go through many years of training (and, in some cases, training while you work), then nursing can be the perfect fit for you.
There are ways to get started in nursing, and the option that is best for you will depend on your needs and what responsibilities you will be working around.
Your Path Into Nursing
There are different ways to get started in nursing.
Become a Certified Nurse Assistant
If you need to be employed fast, then you can work towards becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant. These roles are usually slightly better paid than minimum wage, plus as a full-time worker, you get several benefits. It only takes a few weeks to train and earn your certificate. After you earn a said certificate, you will then need to take the exam. CNAs work in care homes and hospices and provide supportive and holistic care.
Become a Licensed Nurse Practitioner
The nursing role is higher than a CNA but lower than a registered nurse is a Licensed Nurse Practitioner. It takes about six months to become an LNP, and once you do earn your license, you can work in more healthcare settings in supportive roles.
Earn a Degree
If your goal is to jump right into working as an RN, then you will want to skip the previous roles and enroll in a nursing degree. Typically earning a degree will take up to four years, but there are ways to shorten the time. While you can earn either the Associate’s Degree in Nursing or the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, know that having a BSN is essential if you plan or even want to have the option of farthing your career later down the line with an MSN.
Fast-Track Your Degree
If you have a bachelor’s degree (particularly if it’s in a STEM subject), then you should absolutely use that credential to fast-track your BSN. The accelerated bachelor of science in nursing or ABSN is a full-time intensive option that lets you transfer the credits you already have under your belt and then puts you through a condensed degree with the aim of having you graduate sooner. It is the fastest way to earn a BSN and get started as a BSN-RN.
In fact, if you already have all the necessary prerequisite credits, it is the fastest way to become an RN. It takes 16 months to complete the accelerated Rockhurst Online nursing programs, which is still faster than the ADN route.
There is an associate’s degree in nursing that you can complete that will let you become an RN in just two years. This degree option, however, is becoming increasingly phased out. Not only that but if you do not then go back to complete the missing credits that make up a BSN, you will not be allowed to complete your MSN.
There are, however, options to help. You could earn your ADN and then transfer credits over to complete a BSN. There are also ADN to MSN degree paths that include the BSN credits you are missing so that you can earn your MSN along the same stretch.
These options suit those who already have an ADN and those who need to start working as an RN as soon as possible.
Part-Time vs Full-Time
When you work towards your BSN or any nursing degree, you will usually have options between full-time and part-time. Always double-check in advance what type of degree you are looking at in advance. If it is essential that you continue to work while you pursue a degree, then you will need a part-time option. If your goal is instead to jump into nursing as fast-as-possible, then you will want an intensive full-time option. There is no better option, just the one that fits your priorities and needs best.
Where You Can Work as an RN in 2022
Most licensed professions are location-specific. What this means is that you will, at the very least, need to take the state exam if you ever intend to move. Keep in mind that to take the state exam, you must have completed a degree that is recognized by said state.
Transferring your license is no easy task, which is why one of the most important considerations you will need to make before you get started is to decide where you want to work. This could be where you currently live or where you have always dreamed of moving. It could be where nurses are paid the highest wages.
In some cases, you might not need to relocate or be specific with which degree you earn, even if you intend to move states at some point in your career. This is because the majority of states are in an agreement. This agreement means that nurses can simply switch their licenses with minimal fuss and work.
Not all states are a part of the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact. California, for example, does not have an agreement with the other states. If you want to work in California, then you will need to either already be in California or, alternatively move before you get started.
If you want to work in a participating eNLC state, on the other hand, you just need to make sure that the degree you earn is applicable. You may already be in an eNLC state, or you may move to the closest or cheapest participating state during your education.
Furthering Your Specialization
In most cases, you will want to further your specialization. The good news is that there aren’t any specialization requirements for the BSN. What this means is that you don’t need to make any big decisions about your career just yet.
Similarly, you will need to work for at least one year as an RN before you can apply to MSN programs – even if you have a BSN. Use this time to try to explore the many different roles and departments in your hospital. You will also want to investigate roles and you can ask about specializations and what that person did to get where they are.
In some cases, it is just a matter of choosing the right MSN specialization or post-graduate certificate. In others, there are additional hoops. To become a Nurse Midwife, for example, you usually need to have worked directly on a mother-baby team or under a midwife before you can get started with the formal education part of your career.
Looking Outside of Healthcare
One of the best things you can do for your career is to know your options. Priorities change, we get older, and what we want out of our careers will evolve. Even if you never actually go through with a big nursing career change, it is always worthwhile to know what is out there. This is particularly important for those working in understaffed hospitals.
Knowing you can relocate to a clinic or another hospital is fine, but knowing what roles you can use for your nursing experience outside of these healthcare institutions is better.
You can work directly as a nurse in the private sector, for example. You could also transition and train to become a nurse educator. You could work in research. You could even work in policy. There are many unique roles out there that are available specifically for those who have a background in healthcare.
These roles, however, are rare and, therefore, more competitive. If you want to keep your options open outside of healthcare as well as inside healthcare, you will need to commit to networking.
A good way to do this is to consider yourself a consultant or entrepreneur. If you build a brand around yourself, even if that brand is just useful in networking circles, then you can expand your opportunities and keep doors open for your career from day one.