Choosing a career path is a daunting task, especially when you’re still in high school, so it’s no surprise that many of us change our minds later in life and decide we want to retrain in a new field. Thankfully, these days it’s easier than ever before to embark upon a new path, in large part because of the availability of online learning programs that enable us to get qualified in a different field while still meeting our existing work and family commitments. Therefore, you shouldn’t let age or life circumstances put you off chasing your dream job.
If you’re not yet sure what your ideal career is, there are lots of options out there to choose between. However, for those who would like to dedicate themselves to helping other people and making a positive difference in the world, nursing is a fantastic choice. Becoming a nurse means you can work with patients on a daily basis, providing both medical assistance and emotional support during what is often a painful or difficult time in their lives. It’s an extremely rewarding career to have, and thanks to online BSN to DNP programs and other distance-learning courses in nursing – it’s also a convenient area to retrain in.
This post will go into more detail about exactly what the role of a nurse involves, as well as career progression options and the advantages of working in the field. It will also cover the skills and traits required to succeed in the industry, to help you decide if nursing is the right choice for you. If so, there’s some information at the end about how to get started.
The role of a nurse
We often think we know a lot about certain jobs because they are very visible on TV or in movies, and nursing is a good example of this. However, the reality is much more nuanced than we see in popular culture. In fact, it can be quite difficult to define the role of a nurse, because it actually covers a very broad range of jobs and specializations. Therefore, we’ll be more specific here and focus on the role of a registered nurse, also known as an RN, which is one of the more common job titles to aim for when you initially qualify.
RNs can work in a number of different settings ranging from hospitals, clinics and nursing homes to community centers and schools. As you’ll learn about online BSN to DNP programs, an RN has the option to specialize in many different areas of healthcare depending on their personal interests and past experience, including for example pediatrics, geriatrics, mental health, critical care and public health. Whichever field you choose to work in, you will be a vital member of the healthcare team.
As you can tell from the above description, the exact duties and responsibilities you will have as a nurse are going to differ depending on the healthcare setting you work in and the type of patients you treat. Online BSN to DNP programs will go into this in more detail, but the list below is a helpful overview of the sorts of tasks you can expect to carry out:
- Running diagnostic tests to help determine what conditions a patient is suffering from
- Taking the medical history of your patients and updating their records
- Monitoring and recording your patients’ vital signs and progress
- Collecting any lab work done
- Creating individual care plans for your patients
- Administering certain treatments and medications
- Getting patients ready for surgery and other procedures
- Assisting other healthcare professionals with certain medical procedures
- Drawing patients’ blood and dressing wounds
- Educating patients and the general public about healthy living, disease prevention, and other relevant topics
- Offering patients and their families emotional support
- Carrying out a range of general administrative tasks
The advantages of having a career in nursing
Qualifying via online BSN to DNP programs and embarking upon a career in nursing can bring you a whole wealth of benefits. Firstly, it’s a role in which you get to spend your time helping others and making a genuine difference to your local community. This is great for job fulfillment and satisfaction, as well as ensuring that you feel a sense of purpose in your life. This in turn is key for our health, happiness, and even our longevity.
In addition to these psychological benefits, working as a nurse also brings more practical advantages. It’s a field in which there will always be a need for people, and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of jobs for registered nurses will grow by 7% between 2019 and 2029 – which is much faster than the average jobs growth rate. This is no surprise given the aging population and increasing rates of conditions such as heart disease and cancer. As such, you can expect to enjoy high levels of employability, job security and financial stability after taking online BSN to DNP programs and getting your RN license.
Nursing is also an interesting and varied job to have. There are many different areas in which you can choose to specialize, plus you’ll meet a wide variety of people from all walks of life. In line with this, there are lots of professional development opportunities available, meaning that you can carve out the exact type of career you want and continue learning and honing your craft as you do so.
Career progression for nurses
As discussed above, nursing is a field in which there are always chances to level up your skills, further your knowledge, and advance your career. So, whether you want to take high-level academic courses such as online BSN to DNP programs or shorter professional development courses in your workplace, there are bound to be suitable options available to you.
In terms of advanced job roles within nursing, these can be roughly categorized into direct patient care roles and indirect patient care roles. Taking direct patient care first, one of the most common pathway that RNs choose is to complete online BSN to DNP programs and then become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). This enables you to take on more tasks and responsibilities, for example by being able to prescribe certain medications. The four main types of APRN are:
- Certified Nurse Practitioner
- Certified Nurse Specialist
- Certified Nurse Midwife
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
When it comes to indirect patient care, there is a surprisingly wide variety of options out there. For example, you could become a nurse researcher or work in nursing informatics if you enjoy science and data, or move into nursing education and train up the next generation of nurses. Alternatively, you could try for a career in healthcare policy, lobbying for nationwide changes to improve patient outcomes. Another popular option after online BSN to DNP programs is to move into management and leadership roles, helping to run healthcare facilities such as hospitals.
Key skills required to work in nursing
When you study online BSN to DNP programs or other nursing qualifications, you will gain a lot of specialist knowledge about the field and also build up your clinical skills. In addition to these, however, there are a number of transferable or ‘soft’ skills that will prove very useful in your career as a nurse. Some of these you’ll develop while studying, but all of them will improve with experience on the job.
To begin with, communication and other interpersonal skills are absolutely vital for nurses. This is because you’ll be working with patients of all ages and backgrounds, as well as numerous other healthcare professionals. You may find yourself having to explain complicated concepts, medical conditions and procedures to people who have no background knowledge of the subject, who are in a state of distress, or who may even be hostile.
As a medical professional, you will also be dealing with precise details regarding physical and mental symptoms, dosages and types of medication, and other similar information. That means attention to detail is absolutely crucial, because mistakes can sometimes have serious consequences. Likewise, you’ll need to have strong organizational and time-management skills in order to cope with the large number of patients that you see every day, as well as the ability to make decisions in high-pressure situations.
The traits of an excellent nurse
In addition to the clinical knowledge and technical skills that you learn on online BSN to DNP programs, there are a number of more personal characteristics that will help you to be the best possible nurse that you can for your patients. Perhaps the most intuitive of these are kindness, compassion and empathy, which help you to understand what your patients are going through and support both them and their families. Other important traits in this regard include professionalism, honesty and integrity, all of which are central to the field of nursing.
It’s no secret that nursing can involve working long shifts and being on your feet for most of the day, therefore having good levels of physical fitness and stamina will go a long way towards making your job easier. Similarly, it’s also important to have a certain degree of grit and mental strength. You are likely to come across cases that are troubling or difficult to deal with, including possibly losing patients. As such, you need to be able to draw a clear line between your work life and your home life in order to stop incidents like that from having a damaging effect on your wellbeing.
It’s also important for nurses to be adaptable, because unexpected problems or issues can arise at any time. This is especially true if you work in an emergency room, critical care, or similar field of healthcare. Remember, if you are concerned about any of these issues be sure to talk to the advisors on online BSN to DNP programs or people who are already working as nurses. They can give you an honest insight into what the job entails, and help you to figure out if it’s the right choice for you.
How to become a nurse
Having read through all the information in this article, if you’re convinced that becoming a nurse is the right career path for you, then it’s time to think about the next steps. For those who have no existing qualifications in the field, the best advice is to first study for a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). This degree usually takes four years on a full-time basis, and will involve taking academic modules on a wide range of topics such as biology, psychology, sociology, nutrition and ethics. You’ll also get plenty of hands-on practical training and clinical experience where you can put what you learn into practice and get ready to work in entry-level nursing roles after graduation.
Having successfully completed an approved BSN degree, you will be required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (also known as the NCLEX-RN) in order to apply for a registered nursing license. Each state has slightly different guidelines for licensure, so be sure to check the specific details for where you want to work. After you’re licensed, you’ll be able to apply for jobs.
Depending on where you will work, you might need to obtain one or more advanced medical certifications. These include BLS, ACLS, PALS certification and each can be obtained and renewed online.
Once you’re a little further on in your career, you might want to consider applying for a master of science in nursing (MSN) or going straight to online BSN to DNP programs (doctor of nursing practice). These will qualify you for higher-level roles with correspondingly higher salaries and responsibilities.
Applying for nursing degrees
When applying for a nursing degree at any level – from an associate degree to online BSN to DNP programs – you’ll likely need to complete a form and submit it with supporting materials such as your resume, academic or professional references, and evidence of your existing qualifications. You normally also need to write a personal essay about why you want to take the course, and what your career aspirations are. If you’re completely new to nursing, having some relevant volunteering experience can be a big help here. The main purpose is to prove to the admissions tutors that you’re passionate about nursing, and have the dedication and ability to successfully complete the program. So, let your enthusiasm shine through and you’re sure to do well!