Nursing is an excellent career to choose. Not only will you be making a significant difference in the lives of your community, but work your way up and you can earn a very respectable wage and, more than that, can start dictating true and lasting change. There are so many incredible roles at the end of a nurse’s career, from APRN positions, to leadership positions, to research and educational positions.
When you first start out, your career path will be linear, yes, but knowing your options and exploring your passions in healthcare and medicine is the single best way to grow into your career. Nursing is hard. It will feel like work, but if you truly believe in what you do and you feel fulfilled doing it, you can find your place in the world and make a real difference while doing it. That is why nursing is such a wonderful career, and with this guide, you’ll be able to plot every step of your nursing career:
Start in Nursing
Nursing is one of those excellent careers because it allows you to start work with very minimal experience. There is such a shortage and demand for nurses at all levels as well that finding and securing a job near you won’t be much trouble at all. By being able to start work with just a few weeks of training and then working while you continue your education from there, you can support yourself and gain the necessary clinical hours right from the bat.
For those just starting, you will want to find a Certified Nursing Assistant certification course. It only takes a few weeks to complete, and after you finish the state exam, you will be a CNA. CNAs work in hospitals and care homes and provide a lot of the holistic and palliative care for patients.
As you work, you will then want to start moving up. The next level of nursing is that of a Licensed Nurse Practitioner, which takes six months. After that, the only way up is with a degree.
Start with a BSN
There are two ways to become a Registered Nurse. The first is with an Associate’s Degree; the second is with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The BSN is the direct route. It means you don’t need to backtrack; you will have access to higher levels of pay, and, more importantly, you will be a BSN-RN, which many states are trying to increase their intake of. With a BSN, you will be ready to start your MSN.
You can often transfer many credits and what you have learned to a BSN later on, but this tends to be more expensive overall and does typically take longer in the grand scheme of things.
Working Your Way Up to an MSN
The Master of Science in Nursing is the gateway to the rest of your career. There are many specializations that you can choose from, and those specializations are necessary to qualify for the role you have in mind. If you want to one day open your own clinic, then earn an MSN-FNP. If you want to become an educator, then there is an Ed.D. There are so many different specializations out there that it can feel daunting.
Try to be sure of what role you want to work in before you start your MSN. Many institutions will require a few years as an RN anyway, so use that time to explore the APRN roles and which one will suit your best.
Some Example Nursing Specializations
There are four main types of APRN:
- Nurse practitioner
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Nurse midwife
- Nurse anesthetist
You can, however, be a nurse educator, a travel nurse, a set nurse, a school nurse, and so much more. The types of APRN dictate the age group you specialize in and the type of care you provide. Start first with the type of APRN you want to be, and then the age group or area of medicine that interests you the most. Do this, and you’ll find the best role for you.
Continuing into Leadership
You can end your career as an APRN in the role that you chose. You can work your way up into the upper bracket of wages and make a name for yourself in the industry that way. This is a perfectly acceptable option and one that many nurses choose for themselves, but that is not your only way forward. You can continue from an APRN into an executive nurse role.
There are nursing leadership courses available that are perfect for MSN-APRNs who want to do more with their career. The DNP is designed to take your experience as a nurse and to prop up your skillset with managerial and business leadership skills. From financing to hiring to managing, you will learn everything you need to become Head Nurse, Chief of Nursing, and other executive-level roles that will allow you to make the most significant difference for patients and nurses alike.
How to Find the Right Route for You
You will have a lot of time between when you first start out and when you finally reach the apex of your career. During this time, you will be exposed to a lot, from a wide range of different nursing roles to different areas of medicine. You’ll learn so much about yourself, from what you personally want out of your career to what works best for your mental health. Finding the perfect role can feel daunting, but the only thing you really need to focus on right now is learning what roles there are available. Talk with other nurses, look at the job board, and be honest with yourself. If you will be happier and more fulfilled in a small clinic than a big hospital, that is perfectly valid. If you love the thrill and feel that your calling is in the emergency room, then that is where you should work.
Don’t be afraid to explore your options, to talk about your interests, and to discuss what would be best for you with other nurses, even those at managerial levels. Finding where your calling is as a nurse takes time, but doing it right is imperative for your career and your personal life.