Continuing Education Options for Nurses

Many graduates of nursing programs leave school and enter the work force only to realize that continuing education is not only a good idea to remain at the forefront of the field, but in most states is also a requirement to renew a nursing license. Options in the field can range from continuing education required to remain licensed, to advanced practice nursing degrees that further career opportunities, such as a Master’s of Science in Nursing or Doctorate in Nursing Practice.

Required continuing education can consist of a variety of options, from attending lectures or talks to participating in events or attending conferences. Classes, both online and on campus are also available at any nursing school. Requirements vary by state, and the number of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) can range from 5-30 or more in a period of one to three years. These educational requirements ensure that nurses keep their skills sharp, keep up with technological advances in the field, and learn new methods of performing job responsibilities. Once CEUs are completed, the accredited paperwork must be submitted to the state’s nursing licensure governing body, before or at the time of license renewal.

For nurses interested in expanding career opportunities in the nursing field and returning to school for an advanced degree, there are also many options. To become an LPN or RN, an associate’s degree is required. Those with associate’s degrees can go on to earn a bachelor’s degree, or enroll in an LPN-to-BSN or RN-to-MSN accelerated nursing program through a campus-based or online nursing school to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

With an MSN, along with specialized training in the desired field, one can become an advanced practice nurse. Opportunities at this level include: nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse midwife, and certified nurse anesthetist. Another plus to obtaining a MSN is that nurses can specialize in an area of nursing, such as psychiatric care, mental health, geriatrics, etc.

Doctorate degrees are also available for those who are interested, and do not necessarily need to be in nursing. Career opportunities that are available with a doctorate in philosophy, education, science, or nursing science include those in the nursing research and nursing education realms. Also available are doctor of nursing practice and doctor of nurse anesthesia practice degrees that are beneficial for a nurse who desires to own an autonomous practice, hold an advanced clinical role, or become an administrative leader.

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Mentoring Ideas for the Student Nurse

Gaining experience in various nursing disciplines and concentrations can help a nursing school student stand out among the other applicants when searching for a job. Many hospitals, clinics and medical facilities are on the hunt for nursing school students who have completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, and have the experience outside of the classroom to back up the knowledge gained while in a campus-based or online nursing school program.

Facilities searching for a nursing school student are often looking to provide the on-the-job training a nurse needs, while receiving help from the student through the course of the mentorship. Forensic nursing students can apply at local law enforcement agencies for mentoring programs that teach about the different aspects of evidence collection and the delicate nature of handling traumatic situations. Home health nursing students have the ability to shadow other Travel, Geriatric or Pallative Care nurses throughout the day or night, providing medical care within patients’ homes.

For nursing school students seeking employment within informatics, administration or case management, many medical offices or hospital administration departments can offer the hands-on experience needed to understand the various strategies and technologies available within those disciplines. Nurse educators and nurse researchers can always inquire as to the student teaching and assistant policies within colleges and universities.

Nursing school students attending a program to help gain an RN certification, Nurse Practitioner license or Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree may find mentoring programs within the school attended, or through local hospitals, state health agencies, clinics or medical facilities.

Mentoring and shadowing can help a student nurse gain insight and experience into the practical nature of nursing as a career, whether on the floor of a hospital or as an assistant in an administrative function. These types of programs are not only beneficial to the establishment sponsoring the mentoring or shadowing, alleviating stress and strain on current staff, but can also provide a wealth of information that can only be learned outside of the classroom.

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Nurse Practitioner Career Benefits

When it comes to providing  well-rounded treatment and care to those facing illness or injury, or educating the public about how to live longer and avoid health problems, a nurse practitioner can be a solution within the ever-concerning shortage of medical service providers. Nurse practitioners can give patients the knowledge and security that any and all health concerns are being treated, while providing support to those concerned with personal health issues or those affecting friends, family members and loved ones.

A nurse practitioner is able to work within the medical field as a blend of physician and nurse. With the education provided through a Bachelor of Science in Nursing campus-based or online nursing program, nursing skills are mastered, and continue to grow through a Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice program. The culmination of this education gives a nurse practitioner both the ability to provide the hands-on care of a nurse with the medical knowledge of a doctor, in many cases.

Nurse practitioners are able to specialize in many areas of medicine, including pediatrics and neonatology, gerontology, adult and family nursing and anesthesiology. These, and other concentrations, allow a nurse practitioner to diagnose, develop and treat patients with little to no supervision by a doctor or physician. The autonomy of a nurse practitioner can vary from state to state, but as more positions in healthcare need to be filled, the responsibilities of a nurse practitioner are growing, enabling many NP’s to establish independent practices.

Providing both the services of a physician and the care of a nurse takes an individual with a dedication to the health and wellness of others, plus the drive to succeed in a challenging career field. Nurse practitioners are some of the most highly-trained medical professionals around, and still maintain the supportive and friendly bedside manner that patients have grown to know and trust. Whether to fulfill career goals, to earn a high salary or just make a difference in the lives of others, nurse practitioners take nursing to a newer, better level of medical care.

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The Importance of Self-Care for Nurses

When it comes to nursing, there are few people who consider the health and wellness of the nurse, including the nurse him or herself. Time on the job is spent caring for patients, keeping administrative concerns in line and diligently performing the tasks at hand. Since nursing shifts can not only be lengthy, but also emotionally, mentally and physically demanding, the chances of nursing burn-out are high. Combine that with an overall nursing shortage that extends the responsibilities and hours of a nurse and nurses may unintentionally provide less than the best care for patients. One of the best strategies for nurses is to take time for their own needs by implementing self-care strategies.

Since patient care can be affected by a nurse’s frame of mind, it is important for all concerned to consider the needs of a nurse. Nursing is not an “around the clock” job, but a portion of a day or week during which the nurse has other obligations, including family, friends, school, and sleep. Each of these are important aspects of anyone’s well-being, but for those who give to others on a regular basis need to be sure to include those aspects of life in order to remain focused and centered and able to receive from others. Above all, the ability to remain within one’s personal boundaries with others, whether patients or loved ones, can be a way for nurses to maintain under pressure and stress.

Education can even play a role in the self-care of a nurse. Those with a degree from a local college, university or online nursing program may be able to discover from currently employed nurses the different strategies used on the floor of a hospital, clinic or medical facility, or through counselors or nurse educators. Knowing the right foods to eat, or finding a way to take a break outside of the hospital or floor can do wonders for the nurse’s frame of mind. Above all, the most important aspect of self-care is for the nurse to find something that works to reduce stress and anxiety, and allows for a feeling of excitement when it comes to patient care.

Nursing burn-out can be a hard obstacle for nurses, patients and medical organizations. Since no two nurses are different, it is important to discover the self-care strategies that work best for each nurse, and encourage nurses to consider their own needs, in addition to the needs of the patients under their care.

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Critical Care Nursing

Nurses have a wide range of choices when it comes to the type of medical care to provide to patients. For those who enjoy a fast-paced, challenging environment that can directly affect a patient during some of the most critical points in life, critical care nursing can be a rewarding field full of excitement and challenge.

Critical Care Nurses provide medical care to those who have been seriously injured or who are battling illnesses or life-threatening conditions. These specialized nurses can work in several different medical departments within hospitals, including emergency departments, intensive care units, neonatal intensive care units, pediatric intensive care units and cardiac care or telemetry units. Some Critical Care Nurses also work within a medical transport or emergency evacuation environment, stabilizing patients while they are moved to medical facilities that can fully provide care for injuries or other heath concerns.

In order to become certified as a Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) a nurse must have already completed the requirements for RN licensure, including a degree in nursing from a college, university or online nursing program. Most Critical Care Nurses have a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, but many have attained an advanced practice degree in nursing, like a Master’s degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice. In addition, a CCRN certification is offered by the AACN, upon completion of two years of care for critically ill patients. Critical Care Registered Nurses can expect to make a minimum average annual salary of around $60,000.

Caring for patients facing dire health concerns takes a special type of nurse who can provide medical care in a fast paced environment. Critical Care Nurses are able to understand the complexity of critical illness and injuries while making fast and accurate decisions. With the nursing shortage affecting specific areas of nursing on a higher level, including critical care nursing, the career prospects for those interested in being a part of medical decisions that can directly impact patient outcomes are continually evolving. A career in Critical Care Nursing is an exciting, adventurous choice for nurses and nursing school students with a high attention to detail and the ability to react quickly and efficiently under even the most stressful circumstances.

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How Do Online Nursing Schools Work?

The world of online education continues to grow, offering college students many educational options that eschew traditional academic instruction. Online degrees are nothing new these days, and many programs are easily completed online, especially those that are focused solely on textbook learning. When it comes to online nursing degrees, however, it may seem counterintuitive to spend the time and money on a program that relies on both academic instruction and hands-on experience. With the advances in online education, however, an online nursing degree can provide the same quality education as a nursing program based within a “real” classroom setting.

Whether a student is pursuing an Associates of Science in Nursing degree, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, a graduate-level degree or specialized certifications, the ease with which online education provides instruction can save both time and money. Most of these online nursing programs are not only accredited by the AACN, but offer flexibility to students that may be juggling other work or family responsibilities. The online format also allows the same, if not better, contact with instructors and advisers, with both students and teachers able to communicate throughout the day, rather than scheduling meetings, tutoring sessions or other one-on-one time. Through forums, e-mail, phone calls, chat sessions and the like, many students report a high level of satisfaction when it comes to keeping in touch with instructors.

Once the academic requirements are completed, or well underway, the focus of an online nursing program turns to the hands-on, clinical experience needed to fulfill the requirements of nursing licensure. Online nursing schools are able to form relationships with local nursing schools, hospitals and medical facilities, providing a learning partnership for students and instructors that easily provides the necessary clinical education time necessary for the online nursing degree. Additionally, much like in a traditional nursing school program, these online nursing schools can also use Internet- and computer-based technology to provide virtual simulations that help accustom nursing school students to a real medical environment. Even students within an accelerated nursing program can take advantage of these partnerships, completing academic requirements based on former educational experience while quickly jumping into the clinical education needed to fulfill a degree in nursing.

Online nursing degrees are just as rigorous as campus-based education, but can offer benefits that traditional education cannot. From the classroom instruction that occurs through the Internet, to the clinical education that provides the same level of experience as a nursing school program that takes place at a local college or university, an online nursing degree or accelerated nursing program is just as valuable as a traditional nursing school program.

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