Nursing is a vital part of any medical system, and that applies as much in the US as it does anywhere else in the world. In many countries, nurses are considered to be the backbone of the medical profession and certainly they will provide care and attention that doctors may not have time for. There is no doubt that patient care is much improved because of nurses, but it is a job that requires a lot of patience and does not suit everyone.
Not all people considering the nursing profession as a career realize how highly trained they will need to be and how many years of studying and experience they will need to be able to advance their careers. If you are considering becoming a nurse, here are a few tips to help you achieve the position you would like to reach.
Where to Start
Whatever branch of nursing you are interested in, you will need to have finished high school and it helps if you have had an introduction to the sciences.
Some people are very happy and content being a Certified Nursing Aide (CNA), which involves just eight weeks of training. In some states they are known as a Certified Nursing Assistant, but the jobs they do are identical and can include:
- Helping patients to dress and undress
- Feeding patients
- Emptying bedpans and changing soiled clothing
- Generally helping to keep patients comfortable
- Spending time with patients
You need to be a good communicator to be a successful CNA and are likely to work in a hospital or nursing home, although some are employed by private individuals to work in their home environment. CNAs provide basic needs care to patients and often spend more time with them than any other medical practitioner. The average salary for a CAN is $26,000 per annum.
Others would like to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and many nursing schools offer a one-year course if this is the path you want to take. This job involves administering medications, checking vital signs, changing wound dressings, and collecting samples, among many other tasks. The average salary for an LPN is just over $40,000 per annum.
However, if you want to have a lot of choice in different areas of nursing you need to become a Registered Nurse (RN). Becoming an RN will involve getting the qualifications you need, which could be:
- A diploma from an accredited nursing program
- An associate’s degree in nursing (ADN)
- A bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN)
Whether you decide to become a CNA, LPN or RN as the first stage of your career, you will need to be licensed to be allowed to work, and in the case of an RN, will have to pass a licensing exam. Once you are a licensed RN there will be many options of areas of work available to you.
The Next Step
If you have chosen to become an RN, the next thing to consider is what path you want your career to take. An RN works together with other members of the medical team to support the care of patients and this could be in one of many different environments, including:
- Hospitals, including emergency rooms
- Clinics and doctors’ offices
- Community health
- Schools, colleges and universities
- Correctional facilities
In fact, anywhere that needs the support of nurses can be a perfect situation for a Registered Nurse. But you may want to take a different direction and perhaps become a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP).
Becoming an FNP
If you want to specialize in family primary healthcare, your next move needs to be further nursing education. You could take one of the RN to FNP online programs which can be completed while you still work. There are other advantages to earning your new qualification online, with just a few of them being:
- Online courses are usually cheaper, and you do not have huge costs for books and other stationery needs
- You can work at your own pace at times to suit your lifestyle
- You do not have to worry about commuting to and from a classroom-based course as you will be able to work from the comfort of your own home
- Online courses tend to have several start dates throughout the year, so you will not have to wait too long to get started
- Your location compared to the location of the educational facility is irrelevant as the course will be 100% online
All you need to get started is a reliable digital device and a good internet connection. You will get all the advice and help you need from your tutors online. Many experts think this one to one tuition help suits most students better than being one of many in a classroom.
The Role of an FNP
Before you can decide if the role of an FNP is the way forward, you need to know what the job usually entails. An FNP can act independently of a physician and can:
- Diagnose medical problems, no matter how serious they are
- Prescribe treatment and medication
- Interpret test results
- Admit patients to hospital, or discharge them
- Monitor and assist with chronic diseases such as diabetes
- Refer patients to other health care services such as social services and home care
- Counsel patients
- Teach patients preventative healthcare
- Pregnancy and associated care
It is not unusual for an FNP to set up their own practice. As they can treat patients of all ages, often they look after whole families for several years. Generally, they are curious and logical as well as being caring individuals who can be tactful and friendly. If you think this is how you are, taking on the role of an FNP may be for you.
In the US, the demand for this type of nurse is growing year on year and it is expected that this trend will continue. The average salary for an FNP is over $100,000, and it can also be a very rewarding career path to take.