One of the most ultimately respected professions (even more so now after the outbreak and severity of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic in early 2020) and one that demands a great deal of focus, time, and effort from those in it, is that of a nurse.
So, with that being said continue reading to discover a comprehensive guide on how to begin and subsequently advance your career as a nurse.
The Most Common Reasons for Choosing to Become a Nurse
Obviously, across the length and breadth of the country and beyond, every single nurse has an entirely personal set of reasons why it is they chose a life of helping others in its purest and most practical form.
There is, however, also a more standardized set of reasons why many men and women choose a career as a registered and practicing nurse including, but categorically in no way limited to, the following:
- Nursing is a job that actually makes a real difference to many patients’ lives, as well as their family and friends
- Nursing affords the individual a more flexible working schedule as the work usually involves working in shifts
- Nursing is, has always been, and always will be an incredibly well-respected profession
- Nursing offers a range of different pathways and suits people of all ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles
- Nursing offers a wide plethora of exciting and challenging professional development and training opportunities
- Nursing provides a myriad of different opportunities to specialize in a specific field
- Nursing offers a highly competitive salary with ample opportunity to earn extra money alongside your actual designated role
- Nursing will afford you the opportunity to work in a wide range of different locations and medical institutions as well as the traditional hospital setting
- Nursing is a fast-paced, incredibly active career choice that is as physically demanding as it is emotionally stimulating
- Nursing is a career that is always in demand and therefore offers a certain amount of job security.
How to Become a Nurse in the United States?
One profession which is always both in-demand and wholly respected is that of the role of a nurse and if you are serious about and dedicated to the pursuit of a nursing career, then you have definitely come to the right place.
Education is absolutely mandatory as you will be working in a highly specialized and intensive environment and be placed at the forefront of responsibility when it comes to looking after individual people from all proverbial walks of life.
This first step is relatively simple, not in terms of degree content, of course, but the direction in which you begin on your journey, in that you must complete and successfully acquire a nursing degree from an accredited nursing program. Whether you are interested in becoming a vocational nurse (LVN), a licensed practical nurse (RPN), or else a nursing administrator, a degree in nursing is vital.
There are essentially five different types of nursing degree programs available in the United States, which are:
- BSN – Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- DNP/ND/PhD/DNSc – Doctoral Degrees
- Nursing Diplomas
- ADN – Associate Degree in Nursing
- MSN – Master of Science in Nursing
1. Choose a Nursing Pathway
After you have selected your nursing degree program and are well on your way to completion, it is then time to choose the nursing pathway and specialism you are most interested in.
Broadly speaking, nursing can be divided into four main categories, obviously with all of their own individual disciplines and specialist fields. The four main basic categories of nursing are children’s nursing, learning disability nursing, adult nursing, and mental health nursing.
There are a number of nursing specialisms that are currently in demand, not just in this country but across the length and breadth of the world, including, but in no way limited to, the following:
- Nurse Midwife
- Neonatal Nurse
- Infection Prevention & Control Nurse
- Clinical Nurse
- Dialysis Nurse
- School Nurse
- Public Health Nurse
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Informatics Nurse
- Public Health Nurse
2. Obtain Your Nursing License to Practice
Obviously, even after you have successfully completed your nursing degree, you cannot walk straight into the nearest hospital, roll your sleeves up and start giving a patient an IV.
Instead, after your education is complete, you will then be required to take a thorough and long examination to demonstrate and test your nursing skills and nursing knowledge which then lead to being awarded a license to practice.
To become a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), you need to pass the examination and then earn your license; to become an LPN, you need to pass the examination and earn your license, then pass the NCLEX-PN (National Council Licensure Examination); and to become an RN (Registered Nurse), you must do all the above and then complete an additional diploma.
To become an NP (Nurse Practitioner), you will need to complete the professional examination administered by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center as well as the other steps outlined above.
Options to Expand & Advance Your Career as a Nurse
Once you become a professional, licensed, and practicing nurse, you may well want to stay in that particular specialism or medical institution for the entirety of your professional career. This is, of course, both perfectly understandable and totally acceptable and it is certainly true to say that there is a wide number of incredibly talented, motivated, passionate, and innovative nurses who prefer ‘on the ground work’, as it were.
However, if you intend on expanding and advancing your nursing career and hope to climb the ladder in terms of gaining more responsibility and recognition, there are a number of viable options available, including the following:
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
Perhaps one of the highest accolades and most senior positions within the nursing hierarchical framework, both in the United States and beyond, is that of someone who holds a doctor of nursing practice doctorate degree.
Essentially, a Doctor of Nursing Practice involves clinical and wholly practical-based learning and is for this reason vastly different from the undertaking of a Ph.D. degree in nursing.
There is a multitude of experiences and invaluable working placements that cannot be experienced in any other degree program than that of a Doctorate of Nursing Practice, with modules including but categorically in no way limited to, the following:
- The accurate understanding and analysis of a DNP scholar.
- The identification of various theoretical and practical frameworks used in evidence-based practice.
- The development of an individualized DNP innovative aims and targets to personally meet throughout the doctorate.
Other Effective Ways to Progress Your Nursing Career Aside from a DNP
Aside from the reputable and renowned Doctor of Nursing Practice, there are also a wide variety of other practical and working ways to advance and expand your nursing career, including the following:
- Always be as honest as possible; with yourself, your colleagues, and your senior nurses.
- Be a leader and lead by example, taking charge of situations in a calm and expert way.
- Always, in all circumstances, respect each individual patient’s right to privacy.
- Be sure to develop a morning routine before your shift begins.
- Ask questions when you are unsure of something or do not see the logic behind a decision.
- Always represent the nursing profession to the absolute best of your ability.
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health as a Nurse?
If it can be said that one good thing emerged as a result of the outbreak of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, it would be that matters relating to mental health and emotional wellbeing are finally being seen as the serious and real issues that they are.
As a working nurse, you will regularly not only be under a lot of physical strain and pressure but also the work you have chosen to dedicate your professional life to can, at times, take a huge emotional toll on your mental health.
It is for this reason that one of the most important things to remember is that you must always fight to protect and (where possible) improve your levels of emotional health and wellbeing. The following suggestions may well offer some assistance:
- Indulge in hobbies and pastimes that bear no resemblance to your professional life, such as knitting, crosswords, coloring or even getting into a jigsaw puzzle of your favorite television franchise
- Teach yourself some basic, but just as effective, beginners meditation techniques and try to set aside just ten minutes every other day to calm both your body and your mind
- Try not to keep your emotions bottled up and if you feel the need to release how you feel, choose a trusted close friend or family member to confide in, rather than one of your work colleagues who is also going through similar experiences.
Nursing is a very respectful profession. And, a great alternative to the profession of a Doctor. If you are planning to pursue a career in the field of nursing then the information above would have given you a lot to get a start.