The world went through the wringer these past two years, and as it did, our nurses’ importance and hard work entered the forefront of all of our minds. Nursing isn’t easy. It’s hard, grueling, and in many instances, it is an underpaid job for the difficult work you do. Add in the fact that many states are increasing the education requirements for registered nurses, and soon advanced practice registered nurses, and the difficulty of becoming a nurse just increases.
It is, however, one of the most important jobs in the world. You will be working directly to help improve the health, and the lives, of those in your community. Nurses are by far one of the most respected positions in the public’s eyes and one of the most trustworthy.
The difficulties that have arisen due to the pandemic have shone a light on the importance of nursing and admiration and interest from the public. If you want to give back in a visceral, meaningful way, then nursing is by far one of the best roles in which to do it.
Becoming a nurse is also one of the most accessible options for your career. There are multiple ways to get involved with nursing and multiple career paths ahead of you.
To help you plan and to become a nurse in 2021, all you need to get started is follow this guide:
How to Get Started with Nursing
There are a few ways to get started as a nurse. You can either work your way up, allowing you to work and earn as a nursing figure from the start, or you can jump right in by going for a BSN degree.
As a Certified Nursing Assistant
If you want to work as a nurse, then the best way is as a CNA. Certified Nursing Assistants only require a few weeks of training, and once you are done and qualify, you can then get started working in a hospital or other medical situations in a supportive role. Of course, you won’t want to stay in this role, as it is the lowest-paid of all nursing positions, but it is a great jumping-off point to help you understand if nursing is right for you and to also get you working while you continue to learn and train.
With an Associate’s Degree in Nursing
An associate’s degree in nursing, or an ADN, only takes around 2 years to complete, though it isn’t always recommended. While it is the faster way to become an RN and start earning an RN salary, it can also limit you. No matter what, to progress your career further, you will need to earn your BSN. This means you will need to go back twice before you can become an APRN.
Many states are also trying to limit the number of ADN-RNs and increase the number of BSN-RNs. This is because RNs who have BSNs provide consistently better care for patients, to the point where there are fewer deaths on average the more BSN-RNs there are on staff.
Earn Your BSN
You can and will qualify to be a nurse by completing a BSN. Your BSN not only covers the essential information that you will need to know to be a nurse, but it also offers placement and training to ensure that you qualify for the exam and the state license. Technically you can start your career by earning a BSN at any time, but it is important to know that you can often fast-track your BSN if you already have a degree, and especially if your existing undergraduate degree was in a STEM subject.
If you do already have a degree, get in touch with your enrolment officer or advisor in advance to ask what can be done and if there are any options to help you. It’s cheaper to fast-track your degree as well, as it allows you to use the credits you already have instead of requiring you to earn them again.
Know Where You Want to Take Your Nursing Career
There are many excellent nursing roles available, but you will only be able to really control where you work and in what capacity as an APRN. Advance-Practice Registered Nurses are those who have, at minimum, an MSN. You can even go further and earn a DNP, which will prepare you for a leadership position in nursing later on.
There are four different types of nurses.
- Nurse Practitioners
- Clinical Nurse Specialists
- Nurse Midwives
- Nurse Anesthetists
How to Determine Which Specialization is Right for You
To specialize you will need to choose a specific MSN. There is no general MSN degree. However, you can earn an FNP-MSN, for example, to learn and be qualified as an FNP-APRN. That is why it is so important that you know what specialization is right for you.
There are a few ways to help you decide what specialization is the best fit.
Learn, Learn, Learn
Read, listen to talks, watch documentaries, ask questions – even shadow. There are many ways that you can learn about APRNs, what they do, and what specializations are out there. It’s hard to make the best decision for yourself if you don’t know what your options are, so try to get as much information together as possible while you work as an RN first.
Know Yourself, and Be Honest
There are so many roles available for nurses, especially highly qualified nurses like APRNs. You can work almost anywhere as well, so you won’t be restricted to a hospital or clinical setting if it isn’t right for you.
With telehealth taking off as well, there are more opportunities than ever to help people directly, in a capacity that suits you and helps you take care of yourself and your needs. Nurses deserve to be cared for, just as they care for others. If you find it is too stressful to work in a medical setting, you can work elsewhere.
It’s important to be honest with yourself, however, so that you can choose a route that supports your health and mental wellbeing. Burning yourself out doing something that doesn’t suit you will not help anyone, especially when there are so many places that need nurses for you to explore and apply to.
What Are You Most Passionate About?
By the time you are an RN, you should have a fairly good idea of what subjects you enjoyed, and which were a bore. Use this a good launching point to help you determine what you should specialize in.
Nurses need to continue their training, even after they graduate from something as high up as a DNP. This is a necessity to renew your nursing license, but it is also important for the quality of care you offer to keep your knowledge up to date on the best current practice that is available.
A doctor or nurse who uses old, outdated methods puts patients at risk. You need to stay on top of what goes on in your field and specialization – especially as an APRN. As your career demands lifelong learning, you need to enjoy what you are learning.
Can You Change Tracks Later On?
Though it does take effort to change your specialization, it is possible. Your MSN can be used to fast-track through another MSN, allowing you to qualify in another role. It isn’t easy, but if you find you are burning out in your current role as an APRN, then it is the only way forward for you.
Changing career tracks as a nurse doesn’t mean your hard work was a waste. On the contrary, everything you have done until now will be used to help you get the dream career you are hoping for.
Where You Can Take Your Nursing Career
As stated before, you are not beholden to a medical setting as a nurse. You can work in so many different areas, including:
1. Nurse Education
The world needs more nurses, which means it needs more nurse educators. Nurse educators are all fully qualified nurses themselves, though you will need to earn an Ed.D to become a nurse educator.
The administration isn’t just about filing; it’s about leading. Become the Head Nurse or Director of Nursing, and you can help support nurses from all levels in your hospital or clinic.
Work on movie sets, work at events, for a sports team – the list goes on. Whenever there is a lot of money in a project, there is room for a highly qualified nurse. This alone opens up so many fun, exciting projects that you can work on.
4. At Your Own Clinic
Certain kinds of APRNs are able to open, and operate, their own clinic. The type of APRN you will need to be is an FNP. This is because there is a mass shortage of primary care physicians. FNP-APRNs are the best choice to help fill that shortage, which means you can become a business owner and nurse all at once.