Nursing is a vocation. While there are certain elements to the job that can and will become difficult, it is also one of the few roles that allow you to help people both one-on-one and also allow you to make the world a better place. Nurses are the backbone of healthcare, which means that not only are you working as part of one of the pillars that hold society up, you also have the ability to truly transform a family’s life.
Nursing has also come a long way from its early years. While some nursing roles have been around for almost as long as human society (for example, midwifery), the modern nurse as we know them today is a very new position overall. Nurses have been aiding physicians and providing lifesaving care throughout history, but it was only since the 1900s that the role has expanded and changed for the better.
Not only are there now full nursing degrees, but nurses today can also expand their knowledge and skillset with Masters and even doctorate programs. Nursing roles are now commonly used to help with the physician shortage, and there are many roles that put them in advanced positions working alongside, or instead of, doctors.
Building a thriving nursing career, however, means circumnavigating both the education requirements and also knowing which direction is right for you. Those with a background in nursing can work in many advanced positions both within healthcare and in the private sector. Finding the right track for you can be incredibly daunting, but with this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of what is available and how to create the perfect nursing career that helps you feel fulfilled again and again.
Paths Into Nursing
If you aren’t yet in a nursing position or have not yet worked towards your RN qualification, then choosing the right path into nursing is your first step. It isn’t cutting corners to choose the path that takes the least amount of time. At the end of the day, working and graduating with a BSN means you will have the knowledge and experience necessary to do your work as an RN and to also progress to the next step (an MSN).
You can take on a full-time BSN, a part-time BSN, an accelerated BSN, or a direct-entry MSN.
If You Have A Non-Nursing Degree
If you already have a degree that isn’t in nursing, then you can and should look into taking an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (ABSN). These accelerated degrees can be found with both full-time and part-time options. To enroll in an accelerated program, you will need to have a few prerequisite courses under your belt in advance. Many who have an undergraduate degree in a STEM field will likely have all, or at least most of the prerequisite courses necessary. If you have a non-STEM degree, however, don’t worry. Get in touch with the enrollment officer to be directed to online or local programs that allow you to earn the credits you need to enroll.
If You Intend To Work While Studying
There are many who need to work while studying. Perhaps you have responsibilities that require you to be employed to support. Perhaps you want to work so that you can pay off a bulk of the cost of your tuition and avoid high-interest student loans. Regardless of what option works for you, you will need to find an online degree option that supports working professionals. Not every BSN or accelerated degree will offer this, so it is important to keep an eye out when looking for programs and be very clear when getting in touch with an enrollment officer to ensure that it is possible to work while you study.
If You Want A Leg Up In Your Career
If you want to catch up, so to speak, then there are a few excellent options. One of the best options is a direct entry MSN. What this direct-entry MSN offers is the chance to earn your BSN qualification and also an MSN. The MSN you will earn is in Clinical Nurse Leadership. While the MSN through this program will not prepare you to become an APRN, it will help you immediately start a thriving career in nurse leadership.
When it comes to direct-entry MSN programs, you will need to take time off from work. These programs are intensive and require eight to ten hour days so that you can graduate with an advanced qualification in just 20 months. If you have the means, then this can be an excellent option for those looking to improve patient care and nursing as a whole from a top-down approach.
Finding The Right Specialization For You
It takes years and a lot of energy to become an APRN, and rushing through the experience can not only take its toll on your physical and mental health, but it can mean rushing into the wrong fit.
Working diligently through your BSN is fine. BSN is a foundational degree that will prepare you to work as an RN. From there, you can take certifications or work in different departments much easier. Advancing your career from there, however, needs to be taken into consideration.
Working as a travel nurse can be a great way to explore the different types of nursing, as well as which working environment and even which community you want to live in. Travel nurses almost always have worked as well, as the shortage of nurses means that hospitals and clinics are typically in need of temporary nurses to cover shifts and help with an influx of patients as they go.
Exploring and experiencing new facets of your career first-hand can help you learn more about yourself. Use this introspection and exploration to truly learn where you want to take your career.
Considerations To Further Specialize Your Career
What you specialize in is just one way that you can build a thriving career in nursing. You also need to consider:
- Where do you want to live
- What working environment supports your health and wellbeing
- What roles are out there
Where You Want To Live And Work
If you have a nursing license from a non-eNLC state, then your options in terms of where you can work are within your state, unless you make the big change to transfer your license. If you live and have earned your license within a participating eNLC state, however, then you can travel and work within the majority of the country.
Regardless of which type of license you hold, do yourself a favor and get out there to find the right community for you. Too often, we get comfortable with where we have grown up, but if you don’t love getting out, and don’t feel like you have found the right place for you, then exploring and moving to a new city or town can be the best move you can make for yourself, and your career.
Nursing gives you the opportunity to work anywhere, as there is always the need for healthcare services, and traditionally rural communities have a lack of options in comparison to their city counterparts. If moving to a little town is right for you personally, then know you are going to give that community greater access to quality care than before. You can make a big difference this way.
Telehealth is also going to expand your options in terms of where you can live and work, and also the level of care you can offer to those who previously would have had to travel hours to get the regular care they needed – much less the advanced care.
The Working Environment
Some thrive in hospitals, others in clinics. Even with these different types of healthcare workplaces, there are variations depending on the department and unit you work in. You may find providing house calls or working privately the better option. You may want to work in a hospice or in a care home.
There are so many different types of workplaces for a nurse today, and many of those options are open regardless of your specialization. What is important is that you find the right pace for yourself. While most nurses will work in a hospital at one point during their career, that doesn’t have to be the only place that you work in throughout your career – not unless it’s the right fit.
The right work/life balance for you will allow you to care for your health and wellbeing while working productively. After all, if you are at the top of your game and feel great health-wise, you are going to provide a higher standard of care compared to if you are stressed, wrung out, and unhealthy.
Knowing Your Work Options
Knowing the types of roles that nurses work in, especially outside of the healthcare sector, is an excellent way to help you build a thriving career. People change, or more accurately, their needs and priorities change. While you may be happy in a demanding role as a nurse when you are single or don’t yet have a family, chances are your priorities will change once kids are in the picture, or alternative as you get older and would like to slow down to start enjoying the life part of your work/life balance more.
Acknowledging that you will likely change is a great way to prepare your career for that inevitable future.
You can “slow down” your career by moving from an active nursing role to an educational role and start training the next generation of nurses. You can look into moving to a smaller town or practice, and in some states, depending on your specialization, you could even look at opening your own clinic.
Know your options and have a few that interest you that exist both inside and outside of nursing. Transitioning your career to continually support your interests, goals, and wellbeing is how you thrive in your career at every stage.
Career Option Examples
There are so many career options for you to strive for. Here are just a few of the more advanced and unique opportunities that are available to you as a nurse:
Work On A Project’s Health And Safety Team
One example of a non-traditional career option is to look for projects that need a health and safety team. From construction to movie sets to research expeditions, there are various projects that have some level of risk that require a health and safety team. You could work in a consultancy role or alternatively could work directly as an on-site nurse.
Educate The Next Generation Of Nurses
Working as a nurse educator is one of the best ways to step away from nursing while actually working to help improve the state of nursing as a whole. New nurses are necessary, and with online education becoming more accessible, there will be an increase in interested students. Earning a Ph.D. or an EdD and taking your nursing career into education can help you put your knowledge to work while still adopting a more balanced work/life balance.
Work in Nurse Leadership
If you want to help improve the quality of care for patients and also the quality of life for other nurses, then working your way into leadership positions is a great option. You can work as a leader directly in nursing or can go into policy to help inform new and better standards across your state (or even the country).
There are so many leadership options, and a great way to get started with this position is with a CNL certification. That doesn’t mean you have all the qualifications you could need, however. Many also look into earning a DNP that helps expand their practical and leadership knowledge (not to mention helps them stand out from the competitors).
With so many great ways to take your career, and so many unique job options that only nurses can fill, your career can be vibrant, and it can thrive. Know your options, care for your health and wellbeing, and stay motivated throughout your career and you will be able to continually work in the best position for you.