Frontline workers have really worked hard this year to keep our communities going, and nowhere is that more true than with our nurses. They are there first and foremost for everyone who comes in sick and in need of care. Coronavirus or not, they have and always will be the backbone of their country, and being inspired by them and wanting to make a career change, or to specialize in your existing nursing career, is a great way forward.
Even if you are already a nurse, you are not living up to your true potential unless you are in the right specialty for your interests and passion. It isn’t even just about working your way up the career ladder, either. By focussing on the area of medicine that inspires you the most, you can improve your quality of career and, in most cases, enjoy a significant career boost.
What is there to know about nursing? It will depend entirely on where you’re starting from:
Career Change into Nursing
It is entirely possible to make a career change into nursing. If you want to continue enjoying the job security of your current job, for example, you can work towards your Bachelor of Science in Nursing part-time as you go. You can even fast-track your efforts if you have a current undergraduate degree in the sciences or just have a few courses or credits in relevant subjects.
Making a career change like this is a big deal. If you are already far up the ladder in your current job, and you like what you do but don’t feel fulfilled, then you may instead want to look at finding your job within healthcare. There are roles for everyone, from marketers to artists to IT specialists, that will help the healthcare industry stay strong and help others.
For those who want to work directly with patients, and who may even one day want to work for themselves either as a Family Nurse Practitioner or as a midwife, then getting directly into nursing is the ideal way to go. You can do it with or without a degree; it just takes time and dedication.
Specializing as a Registered Nurse
If you are already working as a nurse – even as a Registered Nurse – then now is the time to start thinking about what nursing certifications you want to work towards. Registered Nurses do a lot of the work, yes, but they are nowhere near the highlight of your career. They are merely the first platform to launch from.
There are so many different roles you can apply for, and along with that, so many new and inspiring workplaces you can work in. Here are just a few of the most popular options:
Nurse practitioners are the most common type of APRN, but that is just because nurse practitioners can really customize their career. There are a huge range of nurses in a variety of specializations that you can choose from. You can work as an oncology nurse, as a cardiac nurse, as a critical care nurse, and more. In this option, you take your MSN and specialize in nursing certifications that make you more advanced and knowledgeable in a specific area of medicine or with a specific demographic group.
As an APRN, you could even work your way to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. Due to the primary care physician shortage in the United States, many states actually allow FNP-APRNs to open and manage their own clinic and to diagnose and even write prescriptions.
Clinical Care Nurse
Clinical care nurses work with providers and other bodies to improve the quality of care and care standards. They use evidence-based research to recommend, and cerate improved care standards to benefit those in hospitals, clinics, and even in their homes. They may work in specific fields, for example, in mental health or in gerontology.
Nurse-midwives and all other nursing types under that umbrella that deal with birth from conception to aftercare are growing in popularity and in importance. In particular, nurse-midwives have seen a huge increase in interest as more families are looking to the custom and at-home care that a midwife can provide, over going to the doctors or to a hospital.
Nurse anesthetists are highly trained and paid very well. In fact, top-level nurse anesthetists can earn around the same as some doctors do and often earn far above the $100,000 threshold.
These specializations, of course, are for those who are at the height of their career. They will have both a BSN and MSN and have worked to complete the relevant nursing certifications. Nursing certifications are the key to being eligible for these roles and can help those direct their career in a new direction or rocket forward with purpose.
The Different Levels of Nurses
There are four main levels of nurses.
Certified Nursing Assistant
If you don’t have the time or means, or opportunity to work in your current career while earning a BSN, then the best option ahead of you is to first become a CNA. Certified Nursing Assistants perform many supportive roles for nurses, and to start working as one; you only need a few weeks of training.
Licensed Nurse Practitioner
It takes around six months to train to become an LPN, though you could start your BSN as a CNA and skip this position and directly start work as an RN. As CNA positions don’t earn much, however, you may find working to become an LPN first a better move so that you can bring in more to support yourself and your family while you work towards the BSN degree.
Though the previous types of nurses can still call themselves nurses, what the general public and even the healthcare industry thinks of when they say nurse is a Registered Nurse. These RNs are the ones who make up the bulk of healthcare, but even in RNs, there are different types.
You can become an RN in most places, either with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. BSN RNs, however, are the ones that can go on and specialize with nursing certifications. They can start to work in specific departments, like in critical care or in the cardiology unit. This preliminary experience will do wonders to helping them advance their career with an MSN.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
APRNs are the highest level of nurse, though there are ways to increase your specialization and your qualifications from there. You could earn the equivalent of a Ph.D., for example, and become a Doctor of Nursing Practice. This would make you eligible to call yourself a Dr., but in the medical community, you will need to clarify that you are a Doctorate Nurse to differentiate from the medical doctors to your patients.
Another option is to earn your Ed.D and become a professor or Nursing Educator. These roles are ideal if you want to slow down and continue to make a big difference in the healthcare industry and society as a whole, as there are a lack of qualified nursing educators available today.
The Different Nursing Degrees
There are Associate’s Degrees, there are certifications, and though these are just as important for just getting you up on the first rungs of the career ladder, the degrees you will want to ensure are accredited, designed to be completed by working professionals, and above all are designed to be completed online.
What this looks like in practice are small digital classrooms of 20 to 25 students and short study weeks between 10 to 15 hours. A highly successful learn and work model is the 7-1-7, where each course is seven weeks, then you have a one week break before going into the next course.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
A BSN is an ideal way to become an RN. Though you can fast-track and go from an ADN-RN to an APRN, you will still need to earn your BSN along the way. The only difference with the fast-tracked option is that you will work first towards a BSN degree before immediately working towards your MSN.
Having a BSN will also give you greater job security and, in many cases, higher pay. It is a better option and will cost you less in the long run.
Master of Science in Nursing
MSN is your gateway to becoming an APRN. Though many Master’s degrees include nursing certifications as part of the curriculum, you don’t need to specialize right off the bat. You can become an APRN and then work towards the nursing certifications that interest you. This includes changing nursing type. For example, a non-Nurse Practitioner can become a Family Nurse Practitioner with the right nursing certifications.
Ed.D in Nursing
You can become a nurse educator again with the right nursing certificate or a doctorate in education. These are great options if you find compassion fatigue to be wearing you down or if you want a change of pace.
Doctor of Nursing
You can also earn a doctorate in your specialization. You can become a Doctor of Nursing Practice and put yourself ahead of other APRNs in your field, or you can earn a doctorate that is essentially the equivalent of an MBA, which would position you well for leadership roles, for example, the Director of Nursing at a hospital.
There are many different nursing certifications available for you to customize your career with. Though there is always the option to work towards a nursing certification during your MSN, know that you don’t need to pigeon-hole your career right off the bat. If you aren’t yet sure where you want to specialize in, you can complete your MSN and then work towards the relevant nursing certifications that interest you later on when you are more sure. You can also switch, so even if you aren’t a Nurse Practitioner, you can still become a Family Nurse Practitioner with a Post-MSN nursing certificate.
This applies to a wide variety of roles, so you can work to become a specialist in Adult-Gerontology from a non-NP position.
Making a Game Plan for Your Future
Wherever you are now, it is important to make a game plan. Managing expectations is one of the most important aspects of furthering your dreams. If you expect it to be easy or it to take less time than it actually does, then you will have to trudge through to see your goals. If you know what you are in for when you start, right down to how long specializations take and how long it would be to earn that nursing certificate depending on which route you take, then you can better prepare for your future.
Don’t Rush Yourself
Compassion fatigue is a serious issue in jobs like nursing and taking on a new career while working to pursue higher qualifications as you work your way towards the dream position you want is a serious undertaking that should not be underestimated.
Think of working while studying like taking on a part-time job after your full-time career. The payoffs are well worth the effort, but considering how stressful nursing can be (especially this year), you need to be gentle with yourself.
We highly recommend taking the minimum number of courses at a time, which often means focussing on just one course. It does take longer, but managing your health and wellbeing will mean you can keep going. Don’t risk burnout because both physical and emotional burnouts can be devastating to your progress. Take care of yourself so that you can achieve your dreams and provide the best level of care for all your patients.
Be your best self, and you will thrive. So don’t rush. Lives are at stake on top of your career, so slow, steady, and correct is the best way to go forward.