Career Paths in Nursing

Jumping into a career in nursing can be an exciting prospect for those who wish to provide hands-on care to patients and individuals facing illness, injury or who need the knowledge and wisdom of a caring medical professional. The field of nursing is as diverse as the population of nurses itself; nursing professionals can work with patients based on gender, particular illnesses, medical conditions or systems within the body. Age-specific nursing can help the youngest neonate to our seniors facing end-of-life health and wellness concerns.

With all of these different specialties and concentrations in nursing, the level of education and knowledge required for these positions also varies. Ultimately, however, there are three main paths in nursing that can be followed, LPN/LVN, RN or APRN, each with the ability to challenge a nurse, while encouraging a top-level nursing school education.

LPN/LVN: These Licensed Practical (or Vocational) Nurses practice general skills and can be found in many physician or medical offices and hospitals, nursing homes and therapy and rehabilitation centers and can even work as home health nurses. With at least an Associate of Science in Nursing degree and after passing the NCLEX-PN examination, a LPN or LVN can expect to earn an average of $35,000 upon completing a campus-based or online nursing school program.

RN: A Registered Nurse has the ability to work in a general hospital or medical environment, or specialize in several areas of nursing, given the appropriate education and experience. This level of nursing opens up many specialties for nurses, including Informatics, Pediatrics, and most clinical concentrations within hospitals and recovery centers.  Registered nurses are required to have a two- or four-year degree in nursing, and to pass the NCLEX-RN examination. The average salary for an RN is around $60,000 per year.

APRN: The Advanced Practice Registered Nurse must obtain at least a Master of Science in Nursing Degree, pass the NCLEX-RN examination and have clinical experience in the chosen specialization. APRN’s can work in any medical environment, including clinics, hospitals, treatment centers and rehabilitation facilities as well as teach the curriculum within nursing school programs or work autonomously in many states as Nurse Practitioners. The average salary for an APRN is around $75,000 per year.

With all of the choices available within the field of nursing, the opportunities for a satisfying and fulfilling career are endless. Whether currently attending a college, university or online nursing program, or taking advantage of an accelerated nursing program, nursing is a dynamic and diverse field that can grow a job into an empowering career.

The Impact of the Nursing Shortage on Nurse Education

Among career choices, it seems that there is a common theme within the area of public service and the lower salary amounts paid to those who care for, educate, and/or protect the population. For those who enter into nursing, teaching, law enforcement or fire safety careers, the value of the job is based less on wages, and more on personal gratification, and most enter into those fields knowing that high salaries are not always the answer to fulfillment in life, and the look on the faces of those touched by another person’s efforts can make all the difference.

With the nursing shortage only beginning, its far-reaching implications are only beginning to surface. Many new graduates of campus-based and online nursing degrees are confused about the high competition for jobs within metropolitan areas, while rural and underserved populations seem to be scrambling for health care providers at an astounding rate. One of the key elements of these problems combines both the fields of nursing and education, where Nurse Educators are rapidly decreasing in numbers, impacting the ability to educate and train the number of nurses needed to fill those positions.

Most Nurse Educators can be found within larger cities, due mostly to the accessibility of academic programs geared toward the advanced practice nursing degrees needed to qualify as a Nurse Educator. This presents a multi-layered issue as there are not enough instructors to guide those on the RN education track, much less advanced practice nurses, and the focus seems to be on the education and training of the RN’s, in order to increase the number of nurses able to provide general nursing care. This leaves little time and resources available to train nurses within the educator role, which inevitably impacts the higher level of education within nursing, and will ultimately affect all nursing concentrations. These factors, combined with the time commitment and salary offered to Nurse Educators, is just as important within the nursing shortage as the large number of nurses expected to reach the age of retirement over the next decades.

While several states and nursing schools offer incentives to those interested in pursuing a career as a Nurse Educator, these programs may not be enough to fill the increasing void of instructors, as well as all levels of advanced practice nurses. Many colleges, universities and online nursing schools have increased the accessibility to this academic track through online education, offering more students the ability to become nurses through a more flexible and convenient schedule. However, these programs may not be enough of a solution as the nursing shortage continues to grow. As a matter of proactive commitment to the overall health and wellness of the population, more legislation should be introduced that brings solutions to the nursing shortage, and to Nurse Education, overall, giving nurses the motivation and resources to continue to give back to the public, as well as continue to provide top-quality education within all levels of nursing.

International Nursing

When a student enters into nursing school, career options are abundant when considering the various specializations and concentrations available. Whether a nursing school student is enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program or even an RN to BSN or RN to MSN accelerated nursing degree program, the challenges of nursing school serve to provide valuable education and experience that can be applied to a wealth of nursing career paths. For the nursing school student interested in a career that defies traditional nursing, while providing care to underserved populations on a global level, International Nursing takes the already varied choices within the field, and adds even more layers to the pursuit of a dynamic and engaging career.

International Nurses are typically highly trained nurses that use the education and skills earned through a nursing program in the United States, but practice nursing in another country or territory around the world. These nurses can be specialists in areas such as rural health or nurse midwifery or offer a strong general nursing foundation through a typical nursing school program.  By providing the services many of these countries lack in terms of reaching underserved populations, women and children, an International Nurse can make a huge impact on the overall health of an entire region.

The qualifications for International Nurses vary, of course, by the location and needs of the communities served overall. However, the education that is gained through an accelerated nursing program or other nursing degree track is highly recommended, in addition to other considerations such as international relations, languages specific to the area of interest and the ability to work within various medical environments. Salary for International Nurses can vary, as well, and the ability to travel and live within a wide range of cultures and regions can be a life-changing adventure, making this nursing career path more about the overall experience of exploring a side of nursing that few get to practice.

International Nursing is a career packed with opportunities for adventure and adjunct learning that is perfect for the career-oriented nurse looking to make a difference on a global level.  Whether a student is considering the options for a nursing career while in a nursing school program, or thinking about enhancing a current nursing specialization by adding the experience of working within different cultures, International Nursing is a voyage of opportunity, learning, and self-fulfillment.

Jobs in Healthcare and Nursing are Only Beginning to Grow

For students looking for a solid career full of growth potential, or those considering beginning a new career, experts all agree that the field of medicine, nursing and health care is one of the best areas to enter, and for many years to come. Despite the slow or sluggish economy and crisis over jobs throughout the nation, the health care industry is booming, and the boom itself has really just begun to explode.

Within the last year, the Baby Boomer generation has had its first wave of members reach the age of 65. This generation alone includes somewhere between 72 – 79 million members, easily beating the following generation by an estimated 10 million people, and with that amount of men and women reaching the age of retirement and beyond, a two-fold need for more health care workers, including nurses, has only just begun to evolve.

When taking into account the vast number of Boomers currently working in nursing and health care that are poised to retire, the following generations may not have enough qualified medical professionals with a degree in nursing or other health care concentration to fill the empty positions in hospitals, clinics, social service agencies and private practices. In addition, these retirees will also increase the number of nurses, doctors and health care workers needed to provide medical care specific to the needs of the Baby Boomers.

With these factors, as well as political changes within health care, the need for qualified individuals with a solid education in nursing, medicine and/or health care could impact the overall quality of medical services received. For those considering a career in nursing, particularly, can take advantage of the many programs available, including accelerated nursing programs, that allow students to save time and money while obtaining a degree or certification in nursing. These programs, in fact, can even assist current Registered Nurses earn a Bachelor in Science degree that takes into account any current college credits earned through accelerated RN to BSN degree programs.

For those considering a career in nursing or healthcare, regardless of a current career or level of education, the projections for new jobs, higher salaries and overall career satisfaction are extremely positive. Also, with the diversity of specializations and concentrations across the nursing and health care industry, a new graduate or second-career professional can be assured of long-lasting, challenging and fulfilling career options.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Nurse anesthetists date back to the late 1800’s when this field became the first clinical nursing specialty to be recognized. At that time, anesthesia’s mortality and morbidity rates were high, and doctors became concerned that patients under anesthesia needed more constant attention that they were not able to provide during procedures so, the most likely candidate to take on this role was the nurse. Nurses are medical professionals, and not only stand by during surgical procedures, but have more flexibility to be able to provide patients with their undivided attention while the doctor performs his or her duties. Thus, the Nurse Anesthetist specialty was born.

Today, this clinical nursing specialty is alive and well, and nurse anesthetists are the highest paid nurses in the nation, often earning in excess of $150,000 a year, depending on experience, location, and employer. Like any other clinical specialty, education above and beyond the traditional nursing school is required, and must be obtained through an accredited college, university or online nursing school. In addition to a Bachelor’s degree in nursing, aspiring nurse anesthetists must work in an INU or SIC unit for a year to learn to work under pressure. Then, two to three years are spent earning a Master’s degree in Anesthesia and Nursing, as well as acquire a CRNA accreditation.

Once a nurse anesthetist receives the CRNA designation, these nurses will likely work in a hospital, although with in-office procedures in private practice offices – especially the rapidly expanding cosmetic surgery field – there are certainly job opportunities outside the traditional hospital setting, as well. Unfortunately, those positions may be harder to find as a result of many private practices lacking the funds to provide malpractice insurance for nurse anesthetists, which tends to be rather high due to a higher risk of adverse side effects in this specialty of nursing than in others. Most often, hospitals do have the funds to cover these costs, and need to have nurse anesthetists on staff, while in many private practices their presence is optional because a doctor can always perform procedures at the hospital and utilize the nurse anesthetists there.

Becoming a nurse anesthetist is most certainly more expensive and time-consuming than traditional nursing school, and is by far the most difficult and demanding clinical specialty in the field of nursing. But the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices made in achieving this degree: nurse anesthetists are always in high demand, and as mentioned above, they are the highest paid nurses in the nation.

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Technology for Nurses and Nursing School Students

Those considering nursing school, or currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or other academic nursing school program are facing a much different experience than nurses in years past. The curriculum in nursing schools today is much more involved than in former eras. The “information age” is exploding throughout all industries, and the field of nursing is no different. Today’s nursing schools, both campus-based and online nursing programs, are bringing together nursing education in the classroom, hands-on, clinical training and the mastery of technology to help provide the best medical possible to patients.

While Nursing Informatics has been a vital part of the field of nursing for years, the advances in treatments, therapies and diagnostics has led to more hospitals, clinics and medical facilities integrating informatics technologies within all nursing concentrations. From Electronic Health Records (EHR’s) to the use of hand-held devices at a patient’s bedside, technology is as much a part of nursing today as biology and pharmacology. Nursing school students are not only learning the science of nursing, but are also being trained to use various databases and reference books to help assist in the diagnosis, treatment and preventative care methods needed to help patients.

Many hospitals and medical facilities have integrated EHR’s into the procedures of patient care, allowing nurses and physicians the ability to access a patient’s information quickly and easily through laptops and other mobile devices. These records keep track of a patient’s history, as well as help with any issues with drug interactions, treatment options and can even suggest various diagnostic tests. Smartphones and mobile devices like tablets are enabling quick access to this information, saving time, money and helping to eliminate many medical issues that may be overlooked while sorting through a patient’s medical record on paper.  Because of the growing reliance on these EHR’s, nursing schools are also implementing instruction on the use of the devices, as well as the best sources for information outside of patient records.

As computers and technology continue to permeate the field of medicine and nursing, there is a growing need for nurses who can understand and implement it within patient care. From EHR’s to tablets to virtual reality simulations in nursing school, technology is becoming as much a part of nursing and nursing school as the curriculum itself.

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Nursing, Legal and Forensics Careers

Are you a nurse interested in working in the legal field? Or a legal professional interested in nursing? Then you may be interested in forensic nursing or legal nurse consulting. These professions are great ways to combine nursing and the law into one career, for those people who just can’t decide between the two!

Forensic Nursing - As a forensic nurse, your specialty is caring for both victims and perpetrators of violence. Responsibilities of the job include gathering evidence, consulting with medical professionals, law enforcement and legal agencies, and testifying in court when needed. Essentially, a forensic nurse is the liaison between the criminal justice system and the medical profession, often in an emergency room, with a strong knowledge base and training in both fields. Occasionally forensic nurses may also work alongside medical examiners to determine cause of death in cases of natural disaster.

Forensic nurses must attend nursing school and meet all requirements to become a licensed nurse. They also require training in evidence collection and other aspects of the legal field. This additional training can be completed through sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) training or coursework, or a post-baccalaureate program in forensic nursing.

Legal Nurse Consultant – Legal nurse consultants are specially trained to consult with the legal field for abuse, neglect and sexual assault cases. They are experts on nursing and the healthcare system, and can thus be called as expert witnesses in court. Attorneys often turn to legal nurse consultants when they have cases involving the medical field in which they need more knowledge than they currently have. Responsibilities of this profession include review of medical records, translation of terminology, and testimony in court.

After becoming a licensed nurse, you can begin training to become a consultant by attending certified legal nurse consultant (CLNC) training. Once you become a CLNC, you can begin practicing in the field. There are several options to take these training courses online. A nurse can also attend a college or university or online nursing school offering a degree or certification in legal nurse consulting.

Like any other career, salaries for forensic nurses and legal nurse consultants vary depending on experience, location, and employer. Because of the advanced training necessary to work in these professions, one can expect to earn more than standard nursing wages. Recent estimates state forensic nurses can earn anywhere from $26 to $100 an hour, while legal nurse consultants can earn anywhere from $100 to $150 an hour.

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Baby Boomers and the Nursing Shortage

The nursing shortage is considered one of the biggest challenges facing health care today. With the quality of medical treatments directly affected by a lack of qualified and educated health care professionals, the need for nurses to provide health care services is increasing at an astounding rate. One of the latest figures from the health resources and services administration is that the nursing shortage will grow to one million nurses by 2020, leaving plenty of room for new nursing school cohorts to find positions within medical facilities, and for currently employed nurses to advance along the nursing career path.

Much of the nursing shortage can be attributed to the large number of adults in the Baby Boomer generation. Because of the advancing age of this population, those particular health care needs are growing at a fast pace, driving the need for more nurses. Additionally, the nursing shortage is also affected by the high rate of Baby Boomers who are retiring from the nursing profession, leaving a gap in the ability to provide services throughout the career field, but especially in the advanced practice nursing paths, where years of experience are required in order to practice those skills effectively.

The benefit of the nursing shortage can be found in the increased number of career and educational opportunities. Hospitals and medical facilities are offering more incentives to new nurses, as well as implementing nursing retention strategies for those already employed. Many traditional colleges and universities are offering nursing programs that help fit into busy schedules, in order to increase the number of qualified nurses able to fill the gaps in nursing. Online nursing schools in particular are able to offer fully nursing school programs, as well as accelerated nursing programs that can help a nursing school student, or currently employed nurse, achieve educational goals faster, saving both time and money.

Since an average of 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, the need for medical care to address issues like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and other age-related medical conditions is increasing rapidly. The nursing profession is an important part of the entire medical community, providing both the hands-on care needed by patients, as well as the medical knowledge required to diagnose, treat and prevent illness, no matter the generation in question.

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