Interested in becoming a nurse? That is great news! The world always needs more nurses. They are the backbone of healthcare, which means they are the backbone of humanity itself. You make a massive difference every day as a nurse, whether or not you recognize it.
You don’t have to be the one operating in order to save lives. The everyday care goes a long way towards patient outlook. You are making a difference as a nurse, and people? They remember the good nurses they have had their entire lives.
Nursing is a great career, but it is difficult. The training and education necessary is extensive, and the work you will be doing can be grueling. You need to be fully aware of what it means to be a nurse, and go into it with eyes wide open to the realities of being a nurse.
If you do that, then you will be prepared for anything, and can then get started with these steps to launch your nursing career:
Are You a Good Fit for Nursing?
The first thing you need to do is make sure that nursing is a good fit for you, and that you are a good fit for nursing. Nurses are hard-working, compassionate, detail-oriented, and great in a crisis. Though you can and will learn a lot of the skills you will need during your education and training, there are things that can hold you back.
If you are terrible in a crisis, then you will need to be careful. There are absolutely nursing roles that can be a good fit for you, but you will need to be aware of your limitations and apply to jobs carefully. If you cannot handle a crisis, for example, then working in a hospital may not be the right fit for you. Instead, try to find work in a clinic, or in a care home, where the demands are far less severe and your work will mainly be focussed on patient care.
Your Career Steps: How to Become a Nurse
If, after researching, you have decided that nursing is absolutely the route for you, then you will need to take the first steps as a nurse. You can immediately jump in to become an RN, or you can start right from the bottom.
The nursing ladder is diverse. You will have a lot of decisions to make – especially later on in your career – but for the most part the ladder looks like this:
Certified Nursing Assistant
Certified Nursing Assistants are the first level of nursing that you can apply for. You only need a few weeks’ worth of training in order to become a CNA as well, allowing you to get started with working fairly quickly. If you have personal responsibilities and need a job, now, this can be the best way to get into nursing.
Licensed Nurse Practitioner
LNPs are one step up from CNAs and to become one you need to take a six month course and to pass an exam. Their wage is higher, and their responsibilities are slightly bigger than what you will be doing as a CNA.
Registered nurses (RNs) are what people commonly think of when they think “nurse”. They make up the bulk of healthcare and are the kind of nurse that patients see most often. They dispense medicine, provide palliative care, and are generally there to help patients feel more comfortable between appointments and treatments. There are two ways to become an RN; either with an Associate’s Degree, or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Advance Practice Registered Nurse
The highest level of nursing is the APRN. There are many, many different kinds of APRN. You can become a Nurse Practitioner, which is a primary care nurse that works directly with patients in a variety of settings. You can work as a Clinical Nurse Specialist, which focusses on the behind-the-scenes patient care. You can also work as a midwife, or as a Nurse Anesthetist.
It is important to note that not every APRN can do every job. You will need to specialize your career with an MSN, and if you change your mind you will need to retrain.
The Certificates, Courses, and Degrees You’ll Need
There are CNA courses that take around six weeks to complete. There are LNP courses that take six months to complete. To become qualified to be an RN, or an APRN, however, you will need a degree.
What You’ll Need to Become an RN
There are two ways to become an RN. You can either earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing, which takes around two years, or you can earn a BSN, which takes around four.
Though this may make it seem like the sensible option is to earn an ADN, as it takes less time, it does restrict you. You will need to earn a BSN in order to qualify for an MSN, and that is non-negotiable. Furthermore many states are trying to increase their number of BSN nurses, so you may find it more difficult to get work with just an associate’s degree.
For the sake of further advancement, and your employability, it is better to opt for your BSN from the start.
What You’ll Need to Become an APRN
APRNs hold, at minimum, an MSN. Some APRNs even hold doctorates, though having a doctorate doesn’t put them at a higher nursing level. The Director of Nursing at a hospital, for example, will also be an APRN, even with a DNP.
APRNs are very highly trained, and also earn the highest out of all the nursing types. In some states, FNP-APRNs can manage their own clinic, can make diagnoses, and can even write prescriptions.
DNP and Why You Might Want One
The DNP, or Doctorate of Nursing Practice, is similar to an MBA and a Ph.D. all in one. It won’t make you eligible for a higher tier of nursing, but it will better prepare you for leadership positions. You can also often negotiate a higher salary with a DNP.
To earn a DNP, you must first have an MSN. You can either go for an MSN to DNP degree or find a BSN to DNP degree. With the second option, do note that you will be earning your MSN during your course, as it is an integrated degree.
If you want to move up and start working as an APRN first, then, by all means, earn your MSN, and later on, when you are interested in advancing to leadership positions, go for the DNP. Once you graduate from the DNP, you will technically be a doctor, but it is important to clarify your title for patients as you won’t be a medical doctor.
Doctor of Nursing is the highest qualification that you can earn, and it can help open many new paths for your career as a nurse. There is even talk of requiring more APRNs to earn their DNP, both through incentives and hiring practices.
So, while it is not an immediate requirement, earning your DNP can be a great move for your career. It can help you stay in charge of your career, can help keep you hirable, and of course, will also make it easier to earn higher wages than you did before.
Remember: You Can Change Your Mind
Though it isn’t easy, you can retrain and backtrack through your career. For example, if you specialize as a midwife but then want to work as a nurse practitioner, you will need to go back and complete the courses that would have allowed you to specialize as an NP.
The good news is that your existing training does not just disappear. Instead, you will use what you have to fast-track through your retraining process. That, and your professional experience, will make it far easier to reach your goals.
The important thing is that you are passionate about what you do. You don’t have to love it every day, but if you can imagine yourself doing something else, especially if it is within your field, you owe it to yourself to pursue it.
It’s normal to not make all the right decisions, but so long as you know, you can retrain and focus on new areas in medicine that suit you and your interests, you don’t have to worry too hard about it. Just go with what feels most right. Nine times out of ten, this will be just the right choice for you.
Nursing is a great career, and there are so many places that you can work as well. If a hospital setting isn’t right for you, go somewhere else. You can work almost anywhere, including movie sets, at concerts, and other big events.
Your job is others’ health, which means your options as a nurse are massive. If you love helping others, then you cannot go wrong with a career in nursing, especially if you know your options and are willing to work towards what you are passionate about.