How to Further Your Nursing Career


Nursing is a vocation that people enter because they want to care for other people. Nurses are professionals who will work hard to ensure that people in their care get the treatment they deserve. The nursing field has many different branches to specialize in and different ways to earn the accreditations you need to move up the ladder. Qualifications and experience are both important if you want to advance in your nursing career. These suggestions will hopefully help you on your way.

Understand the Nursing Profession

Before starting any training, you need to understand the nursing profession. According to the American Nurses Association, which protects the well-being of nurses in their working environment, the role of nurses is to assist with the promotion of health and the prevention of illnesses. Communities and physicians have high expectations of the men and women that become nurses. The demand for qualified nurses has grown in the last few years, and it is expected to continue to do so for some time yet.

There is, and always will be, a demand for nurses of high quality, which is why the rules relating to becoming a nurse are so strict.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Education

Whatever your chosen career path is, education will help you to progress to higher positions, and nursing is no exception to this. You will need to have a high school diploma or to pass the General Education Development test to be able to progress into nursing. The Sciences will be something you should pay particular attention to, along with Math and English.

Your next step is to earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN).  As the shorter of the two degrees, the ADN is the one most people opt for, but then move on to the BSN once they are working. This is because it is harder to progress past an entry-level nursing career without a BSN.

The BSN is a very comprehensive course that includes such subjects as sociology, communications, health assessment, chemistry, human biology, and social sciences among other things.

Once you have your degree, you will then need to get licensed to take up your role as a nurse. This involves taking the National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). This is the nationally recognized path to obtain a nursing license. Although the fees and requirements do differ slightly from state to state, you will need to have a degree from an accredited nursing program to be able to take this exam anywhere in the country.

Moving Forward

Once you are licensed and have found a position as a nurse, you may decide you want to specialize in one particular area or earn more qualifications to further your career. There are some areas that are very specialized and others that will open up a world of opportunities and broaden your scope of choices. Online BSN to NP programs is one such option.

An online course will allow you to work toward your degree without interfering with your work patterns and shifts. A Nurse Practitioner (NP) program will teach you how to assess, treat, and manage chronic diseases and how to work with patients to help prevent acute diseases from developing. NPs can also prescribe medications, examine patients, diagnose illnesses, and provide treatments much in the same way as physicians do.

NPs are becoming more sought after by hospitals and other medical facilities as they can be a very important part of any medical team. The rules do vary from state to state, but NPs can have many options, including:

  • Working in a physician’s clinic, assisting with the patients, and dealing with preventative care programs. Doctors who hire NPs are able to deal with more patients as they will lighten the workload that the doctor has. Research has also shown that patients like to be treated by nurses and that the satisfaction rate for their treatment is higher than for those treated by doctors.
  • Surgical hospitals have a need for nursing practitioners to assist with the care of patients before and after surgery. A surgical NP could choose to work in several different types of surgery. Cosmetic surgery is one option, or there is cardiothoracic surgery among others. The work experience for each different type of surgery is totally different, and an NP deciding to work in a surgical hospital will need to decide which type of surgery they want to specialize in.
  • Home health care organizations use nursing practitioners to visit the people in their care to ensure there are no health problems and to help with preventative measures. NPs in this role will diagnose and treat a large variety of illnesses and injuries, as well as educate the patients on how to take better care of themselves. This can be especially important if the person is housebound.
  • Outpatient care centers benefit greatly from having nursing practitioners as part of their team. They are able to take a lot of the workload from the physicians, which in turn means more patients will be seen. The NP will take diagnostic tests, record the results, record patient histories, prescribe medication, and develop treatment plans along with other medical professionals.
  • In some states, nursing practitioners are allowed to open their own practices. This is particularly popular in underprivileged areas, where there are many people that cannot afford the fees of a physician. They often become trusted and valued members of the community in which they are working, which makes it a very fulfilling career move. They will often manage a patient’s healthcare from birth to adulthood. It is important to check the rules for opening your own practice in the state you intend to work in.

Consider Advanced Training

An advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) has post-graduate education in nursing. They will usually have a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). MSN schools in PA have programs that provide those who are interested in becoming an APRN extended and expanded knowledge of assessing, diagnosing, and implementing the level of care needed. They tend to work in specialist areas such as a clinical nurse specialist, a nurse anesthetist, a nurse-midwife, or sometimes they will work as a nurse practitioner.

A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist was the first of the APRN specialties, and each year they administer about 65% of the anesthetics given to patients. A Certified Nurse Midwife will provide care in low-risk pregnancies and births, while the Clinical Nurse Specialist will usually work in hospitals dealing with physical and mental health problems.

Although every state has different rules and regulations for APRNs, they all have certification rules for licensing. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing is working towards a multi-state license that will enable APRNs to work in any state of their choice. In the meantime, if you are moving to another state, you need to check out the rules relating to APRNs.

Other Career Paths for Nurses

There are other career paths a registered nurse can take. Management roles within healthcare increasingly require a graduate degree in nursing, and for some people, they find this preferable to working in the front line of medical care.

Some nurses will head into the business side of healthcare and work for healthcare providers as advisors and consultants.

Then there are those that will move into education. Colleges and universities will always need people with nursing qualifications to teach the next generation of nurses. There is a shortage of nursing teachers in the USA, and two reasons are given for this; the salary is much lower than those working in a clinical situation, and for most of them, they trained to care for people’s health, not be in a classroom.

The U. S. Department for Health and Human Resources is so concerned about the lack of nurse teachers that they have introduced a new loan scheme. Under this scheme, accredited nursing schools can offer loans to nurses taking part in a graduate course. Those that go into nurse teaching can cancel 85% of the loan over the next four years. There are some states that cancel the loan up to 100%.

The amount of further education required to follow this career path involves earning a master’s degree in nursing and a doctoral degree. The standard of education has to be high because they are being trusted to teach future nurses.

The majority of nurse teachers are employed by colleges and universities, but sometimes hospitals and medical service companies employ them as well.

It Is Your Choice

There is a huge variety of career paths for nurses to take. You need to investigate and understand which one you think you would like to move into to save yourself the time of taking the wrong qualification. Although, that being said, any education in the nursing field will always be useful as will the experience you gain from working as a nurse. As long as you have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and your nursing license, the choice is yours as to the path your career takes.


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