EDITOR’S NOTE: The following piece was submitted by Watershed Voice reader Julia Merrill on the field of nursing. If you would like to submit content to WSV, you can do so here.
By Julia Merrill
Nursing can be a very rewarding career. A nurse’s responsibilities vary greatly by specialization, but there are many commonalities and the basics are the same. Nurses monitor patient care, deliver medications, communicate with family members, provide treatment, offer compassion and emotional support, and educate patients and their family members. Nurses also work with healthy people, too. Providing preventive health care and wellness information is an increasingly crucial service that nurses are providing.
Are you thinking of a career in nursing? From one-year certification programs to master’s and doctorate degrees, there are a lot of options for people interested in the healthcare profession. Let’s take a look at a few.
The kind of education you need at every level
There are various education requirements for certain levels of healthcare. The licensed practical nurse (LPN) and licensed vocational nurse (LVN) certifications require the shortest amount of time to complete. A registered nurse (RN) is someone who has completed a hospital-based nursing school or a four-year college and passed the licensing exam (in the US, NCLEX-RN). You can earn a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) and/or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN).
Nursing is a career with unlimited heights. For folks already in nursing, you can elevate your career by earning an online master’s in nursing education, nursing leadership, and management, nursing informatics, or health leadership and administration. An online degree program lets you manage your pace so you can earn your degree, even while working full time.
How to find a good first job in nursing
There are more than a hundred different nursing specialties out there — many of which require specific education and training. A lot of hospitals and doctor’s offices won’t hire a nurse who has no experience in their specialty — that kind of training is expected much earlier.
But if you don’t know what you want to specialize in, there are a few ways to get the experience. If you want to work in a hospital, settle into orthopedics, oncology, cardiac, or neurology. If you would rather have regular patients, consider skilled nursing. If you feel drawn to the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and/or want to work with kids, consider a path as a school nurse.
You will have to take practicums with any level of nursing education. These are great opportunities to narrow down your specialty choices while also building your network. Landing the right first job can be as much about who you know as what you know.
What kind of qualities should you cultivate and grow
Nurses are compassionate people who, first and foremost, make sure their patients feel heard and seen. Being in the hospital or at the doctor’s is often an anxious and unsettling time for most people. Nurses not only provide medical care but they also put patients at ease. A good nurse has the ability to quickly create positive rapport, which often leads to making patients more comfortable in sharing an honest account of their medical history and other behaviors.
These days, it is also more important than ever that a good nurse examines their own internal biases so that they can offer compassionate care for all patients equally. There are many resources for doing this kind of self-reflective work, from podcasts on anti-racism like The Unapologetics to top-rated personal development online workshops.
Becoming a nurse is a very rewarding career — one you can see has many opportunities for advancement. Whether you are just starting out or interested in a new direction, caring for others in any setting is a valuable career in more ways than one.
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