Nurses Take Dedication, But They Are in High Demand
Demand for healthcare workers is expected to continue over the next several years as the population ages and access to health care is expanded under federal reform measures. Nurses can expect to find many career opportunities and continue to earn competitive salaries. Those interested in becoming a nurse can choose from several specialties and practice settings. Training and education will vary depending on those choices, but there is a basic path that all nurses must begin:
All nurses must receive a basic education and earn a degree from an accredited program. Those interested in earning a basic degree that will allow them to start working as soon as possible can choose to complete an associate degree in nursing, which can take 1 to 2 years to complete. Those who complete only an ADN will have limited practice privileges and career opportunities. Most who complete an ADN become Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs).
Most nurses will complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing to become registered nurses. Advanced degree programs can prepare nurses for administrative work, research, or specialization. Accelerate and online degree programs are available. Just be sure to choose an accredited degree-granting institution.
A certain number of hours of clinical experience will likely be required as part of a degree program. If it is not, it will definitely be required before licensure is granted or advancement attained. The number of hours required will vary depending on the degree program and the state granting licensure. However, clinical hours can be completed in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, community centers, and more. Rotations can be completed in a variety of departments, including pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry, and more.
Before a nurse can begin practicing, licensure must be obtained. The first step is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), a nationally recognized exam that is seen as a measure of core competency to work as a nurse. Depending on the state, additional testing may also be required for licensure. Additional requirements can include a background check, letters of recommendation, and more. Check with the licensing agency in your state for detailed information.
Finally, nurses interested in advancing their careers or expanding their opportunities may consider training in a specialty, such as hospice or palliative care, emergency or critical care, pediatrics, or surgery. Additional training or education may be required, as well as a number of clinical hours within the area of specialization. Pursuing specialization can create a number of career opportunities for nurses, including greater income potential or more senior roles.
The training and education required can vary greatly depending on individual career goals. However, a basic path to this fulfilling career includes completion of a degree program, attaining clinical experience, and passing exams and other licensure requirements. Every career path will be as different as the individual directing it.