If you are interested in a career in nursing, you could not have picked a better time. Nurses are in great demand today, and with people living longer, this demand is only projected to increase in the years to come. And, nursing is also a great second career, for those who have been in the workplace and in another field.
In order to become a nurse you must pass a nursing exam, which is typically administered by your state’s Board of Nursing. And it is important to note that nurses are licensed within the state that they live in. So, you may want to look into taking the tests in other states, if moving to a new state is in the near future for you. Yet, in order to take this test, you must first complete a nursing education program from an accredited institution. For the majority of nursing education programs, the most common and in most cases the only prerequisite is a high school diploma.
There are three types of nursing programs for you to choose from; you can decide to get a hospital diploma, an Associate’s degree in nursing, or a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. When choosing a nursing program, be sure to choose one that best fits your budget and lifestyle. Today, there are distance and on-line programs, as well as traditional programs. Depending on the type of degree you are choosing it may take you from 2 to 4 years to become a registered nurse. Yet, if you have a degree already there are nursing programs that facilitate the ability to gain a nursing degree at a more accelerated pace. There are also programs for Certified Nursing Assistant which, if you need to get into a job quickly, is one of the fastest programs to complete. Due to a shortage of qualified nursing assistants, many employers will even pay for you to become certified.
After you have decided on a program, while working toward your degree, you may want to start thinking about what your specialty will be. The field of nursing is very diverse and no longer confined to the old fashioned white uniform or working in a hospital. Some of today’s most popular nursing specialties include forensic nursing, rehabilitation nursing, occupational health nursing, geriatric nursing, and holistic nursing.
Once you start looking for a job, there are a few things about nursing that you should know. Although there may be some differences due to specialty, most nurses are paid by the hour, instead of by a fixed annual salary. The beginning hourly rate will vary based on your location and the type of organization that you chose to work for (i.e. hospital, doctor’s office, local or state government, insurance company). Yet, the average beginning salary will be between $17.00 and $22.00 per hour. Also be aware that many states require nurses to stay current with new medicines, techniques, and the healthcare industry through continuing education credits. Fortunately the classes, lectures, and/or seminars are often easy to obtain and some can even be attended online. If you are starting nursing as second or third career, understand that nursing can be demanding physically, and be sure to consider these demands when choosing a specialty and/or a position. You should be prepared to work in high stress and/or emergency situations as well as working on the weekends and during holidays.
One of the last things for you to know is where to get help. There are numerous resources out there for nurses today. You may consider joining a trade association such as the American Nursing Association, the National League for Nursing, or the National Student Nurses Association. There are also trade associations for specific nursing specialties. Trade organizations are a great way to learn about nursing conventions, conferences, seminars, and opportunities for continuing education credits. They also provide a great support system and advice on ways to fight common problems, such as burnout.
If you are a man considering nursing, you should know that the common stereotypes of the past are being shattered today, as more and more men enter the field. And, there are trade organizations, magazines, and forums dedicated to men in nursing. Nursing is a profession that attracts and welcomes all people. So, there are resources for other specific groups, like minorities and those with disabilities who are also considering nursing.
Thanks to the popularity of shows like Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy the image of nursing has been romanticized, and it is a career that increasing numbers of people are interested in doing. Nursing is a rewarding career; but, make no mistake about, it is a challenging profession. Although, there are many things you can do to make sure this career path will suit you. One of the best actions to take before enrolling in a program of study is to talk to a registered nurse to ensure you have a realistic view of what lies ahead.