How to Choose the Right Nursing Career for You
Nursing is one of the best career paths available because it allows you to explore so many different avenues as well as make a real, definable difference in the lives of thousands over the course of your career. This difference can be in the worst moments of people’s lives when they’re beaten down and scared, or it can be at their happiest. Through thick and thin, nurses are there, and it doesn’t matter what country they operate in; they are the backbone of their communities.
They are the ones that we go to when we are hurting or in need of help. Doctors are essential, of course, but they come in after. Nurses are there at the start. They are there through your visit, and they are there until you discharge. It is the nurse that makes your healthcare experience, and it is as a nurse that you can make a tangible difference to those in your community.
If you are interested in becoming a nurse, then know that you have so many options to help others. Not only are there are a huge range of job opportunities for qualified nurses, working your way up the career ladder is as simple as choosing the right higher qualifications for your career.
This guide will help you decide where to take your career so that you will feel the most fulfilled day in and day out:
Why Do You Want to Be a Nurse?
It’s likely that you want to be a nurse because you want to help people, but the fact is there are many, many different ways to help people without being a nurse. Nursing is a demanding, exhausting job at times. It is high-risk and highly demanding, so why you want to be a nurse is often more complex than just a will to help others.
Perhaps you had a personal tragedy, or perhaps you are specifically gifted and interested in physically caring for others.
By understanding at your core the real reason why you want to be a nurse, you can start to get a sense of which direction you want to move to.
For some, they will want to care for families and help them grow up to be healthy. For others, they will want to save lives in the emergency room.
These are very different reasons to become a nurse, and they actually hint at the ideal job role you should work towards throughout your career. Want to help families and children grow up to be healthy? You are likely a good fit to become a midwife or a Family Nurse Practitioner. Want to help those in the emergency room and save lives? A Critical Care Nurse is likely a good fit for you.
By understanding the nuances of why you wanted to be a nurse in the first place, you can choose the right direction for your future.
Where Do You Want to Be a Nurse?
It isn’t just what area of medicine or what demographic you work in that matters for your career; it is also the pace of your workplace. Some thrive in big hospitals; others find smaller communities to suit them better. Don’t think that just because you want a slower pace that your letting people down. In fact, those in smaller, more rural communities consistently suffer from lower-quality healthcare.
Telehealth is set to fix many of those issues, especially when paired with 5G, but if you want to work for a small town in a rural doctor’s office, know that you are making a huge difference in that community’s health and quality of life.
There is no job too big or too small as a nurse. There is a reason that several states allow FNP nurses to start and run their own family health care clinics; the demand is greater than the supply. Listen to your heart, and work where you thrive. You at your best is important no matter the setting.
To give you an idea of just how open your career is as a nurse, here are just a few of the options you have:
The big one is in hospitals. Most nurses will work in a hospital at one point in their career or another. As a minimum, your clinic hours will likely occur in a hospital, and there are many teaching hospitals ready to train the next generation of nurses.
There are specialty clinics, family clinics, and emergency 24-hour clinics. In most cases, you will need to be specialized in something to work in these clinics. You may be a geriatric nurse, for example, or an oncology nurse, or even a critical care nurse. Though you will need to be at least a little specialized, you can work in clinics at any nursing level.
Elementary, Middle, and High schools all need a resident nurse. The same applies to universities and colleges. The need for a registered nurse grows with the total number of students. In particular, large schools have an entire nurse’s office on hand to help deal with minor injuries and concerns from students. When you work here, you aren’t just handling sports injuries, but you are also providing key sexual health and mental health to students who otherwise may not have access or easy access at home.
Nurses work in research, too. The most obvious example is the clinical care nurse, which works with providers and institutions to improve the quality of care for all patients. You may also work as a nurse in medical research and provide care to patients both taking medicine and the placebo.
Nurse educators are a great option for nurses who want to slow down but not stop providing key services to their community. There are a lack of qualified nurse educators, and you even have the option of where you want to work. You may supervise student nurses during the clinical hour requirement, or you may work directly for universities both in-person and on an online basis.
Other Nursing Workplaces
The fact is you can work wherever people work, which is why, as a nurse, you can work almost everywhere. You can work for a sport’s team and be there when players go down with an injury. You can work on a movie set and supervise stunts and crew health. You can be part of the essential crew for almost every big event, from big music festivals all the way to the Formula 1 racetrack. You could even be a travel nurse.
In these instances, it is recommended that you work to become a nurse practitioner. What type of NP you work towards will also matter, so know where you want to work. For the broadest number of options, a Critical Care Nurse or a Family Nurse Practitioner are good options. You could easily earn these through nursing certifications, and more than that, you can specialize in more than one area of medicine. When it comes to travel nursing, nurse practitioners often enjoy even higher earning potentials. Traveling nurse practitioner salary packages are designed to attract experienced and specialized practitioners to fill critical roles across various healthcare settings, offering a combination of competitive base pay, housing allowances, travel stipends, and other financial incentives that can significantly boost their overall compensation. These alternative nursing workplaces try to keep what you specialize in as broad as possible and more geared towards the everyday emergency or accident. You will find it hard to be an oncology nurse on a movie set, for example, unless one of the crew or the actors has cancer and the studio wants a professional to monitor their condition and provide care to that person.
Working Your Way Up The Nursing Ladder
Nursing is a unique career because moving up, and progressing is simple and straightforward. It isn’t easy by any means, but you don’t need to convince your employer of the importance of your skills. Nursing certifications are guaranteed to train you and teach you what you need to know to qualify for a certain position, and they can be customised to suit your individual career.
The Different Nursing Degrees
Regardless of which nursing pathway you choose, these degrees will be involved in the process:
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing
You can become an RN without a BSN by earning an Associate’s Degree in Nursing, or an ADN, of course, but if you want to move up to become an APRN you will be earning your BSN one way or another. This could be through an integrated course that allows you to complete your BSN at the same time as your MSN, or it could be by using your experience to fast-track through a BSN (if possible). Either way, this is the first big milestone for many nurses.
While you can specialise as an RN, and will need to if you want to work in a specific department or with a specific demographic, you won’t really reach your goals until you earn your MSN and become an APRN.
- Master of Science in Nursing
At the end of every nurse’s career dreams should be the status of an APRN. APRNs are at the top of their career, and they are paid appropriately. You will be able to move up from Band 5 into better salary ranges, even into Band 8, where nurses can even earn over £100,000 per year.
The nurses paid these great wages are very, very experienced, and exceptionally specialised. That being said, you don’t need to stress yourself out in choosing a specialised MSN right out of the gate.
Instead, you can work and complete your MSN and then finish with nursing certifications. You can even change your career path with these nursing certifications, though if you are switching nursing types, you should expect an additional ten months to your education.
For example, an NP with an MSN can specialise in FNP nursing certifications. Going directly from NP to FNP takes as little as eight months. Going from a non-NP to an FNP will take around 18 months, and that is after you already have an MSN.
Still, knowing that you do have the ability to change career directions after the fact with nursing certifications will take a lot of pressure off of a lot of nurse’s chests. You aren’t locked into your nursing specialisation; you have the option to defer your specialization, or switch later on in your career.
- Doctorate of Nursing
It isn’t essential to earn a doctorate in nursing, though it can be a good way to set yourself apart from your other APRNs and to qualify for higher-level roles. There are three main options you can go with a doctorate. You can earn the equivalent of an MBA, you can become a Nurse Educator, or you can simply earn a doctorate in your specialization. The most common Doctorate degree in nursing, for example, is the Doctor of Nursing Practice.
How to Explore Your Passions in Medicine
If you don’t know what you want to do as a nurse just yet, don’t worry. The freedom to defer what nursing certifications you work towards means you have more chance to get to know yourself and your interests.
You can explore your interests by:
- Shadowing different departments
- Reading and following medical news
- Exploring the job board to see what different nursing positions require and involve
- Attending events and workshops
- Asking and talking to other nurses
Love What You Do, And Take Care of Yourself
No matter what your passion is, no matter how long it takes you to reach your dreams, no matter your personal circumstances, there are two things you will want to remember as a nurse.
The first is that you need to love and believe in what you do. It may be hard. There may be really tough days or days where you want to quit, but when it all comes down to it, you feel fulfilled and that you are making the change you want to see in the world. You need that passion and dedication because nursing is no walk in the park, and that dedication is what will see you through.
Of course, you cannot do anything if your body isn’t there to support you. Care for your health and your mental wellbeing. Mental health services for nurses may only just be getting traction, but push for what you deserve. Your mental health and your physical health are imperative, so safeguard them, and you’ll see your dream through and be a better nurse for everyone.