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Nursing is a career that will bring you into close contact with patients and their families. While physicians, nurses and therapists act as a team in the healthcare of a patient, it is a nurse who is most often responsible for making sure the team plan is carried out. Nurses have the unique privilege of being the healthcare provider that spends the most time with patients and their families. This means they are often the ones who notice changes in the patient's status and help families cope with having a loved one in the hospital. A nurse is often a patient's best advocate.
A good nurse is someone who has patience and is not afraid to work. A friendly bedside manner and the ability to multitask go a long way towards creating a successful nurse. In addition, as a nurse gains more experience she can advance in her career by becoming specialized and obtaining more training. This makes nursing a truly dynamic field. If this sounds good to you, then you may find nursing a rewarding and meaningful career.
Most nurses in the hospital setting work 12 hour shifts, working for two days and then being home for two days. Although this long shift work can seem grueling, it helps in the continuity of care for the patient. The alternation of days on and days off also mean nurses have a unique schedule that gives them some time off during the hours most people spend working. Taking night shifts often works for many nurses who like to spend the daytime hours with their children. The longer a nurse spends with a particular hospital the more likely she is to obtain the shifts that she prefers. Nurses also have great flexibility if they choose to work in other settings. The demand for nurses is always high and a good nurse should have few troubles finding employment.
There are several routes to becoming a Registered Nurse (Note that vocational and practical nursing degrees are different and not discussed here). All nursing pathways involve attendance at a state approved school of nursing. One can choose to pursue a four year Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a two year associates degree program or a three year diploma program. In general, the four year program will give you the most flexibility in terms of future advancement in your carer as well as increased starting salary.
Two year Associate Degree programs are the most popular route for entering the field of nursing. Often these programs require prerequisites which may add an additional year of education prior to starting the nursing program. As this varies by program it is best to check with each program you wish to attend to make sure you meet the requirements for application. Many RN's who enter nursing through this path choose to go back to school while they are working to complete requirements to obtain a bachelor of science degree. In this way they can earn a salary while obtaining additional education.
Three year diploma programs were the most popular route of entry to nursing before associate degrees became popular. Students take 30 to 60 credit hours in anatomy, microbiology, physiology, nutrition, psychology, and other subjects before moving on to intensive nursing classes. These programs, usually run by hospitals, are slowly disappearing as academic institutions take over the field of nursing education.
The four year degree provides a more thorough grounding in the theory of nursing as well as the framework for seeking specialization in the future. It is composed of two blocks of two years. The first two years usually involve scientific and humanity coursework while the latter two focus on the theory and practice of nursing.
Regardless of which route you take you will be required to sit for and pass a state licensure examination.
Once practicing, many nurses choose to further specialize. Nurses can obtain a masters degree enabling them to become a nurse practitioner, a nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse leader or clinical nurse specialist. In addition some nurses obtain a PhD in order to participate in nursing education, healthcare administration, clinical research or advanced clinical practice.
More information about becoming a Nurse Practitioner can be found on our Nurse Practitioner Career Page.
All nurses must take a state licensure examination after completing their initial training. This exam is called the National Council Licensure Examination for registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The test can vary based on requirements in each state. This means that if you plan on moving to a new state you should contact the state licensing board to find out if you will need to complete any new requirements.
In addition several professional nursing organizations offer voluntary examinations to test competency in their specialty area. Passing these exams allows you to place a designation after your name. For instance an RN that has passed the American Association of Critical Care Nursing examination can place CCN at the end of her name.
There is no unifying nursing school application process. Instead you must investigate each school of nursing you wish to apply to and complete their application requirements. All programs require a high school diploma or equivalent. Several schools require college level prerequisites. It is wise to stay organized and make sure you complete all prerequisites. Often schools will ask for an essay about why you wish to become a nurse. Most schools of nursing do not have an interview process.
If you have an interest in a specialty field of nursing please contact us! We will post the information here.
Student Doctor Clinicians Forum - A place where RN's NP's and PA's and those interested in these careers share information.
Nurse.com - Nurse.com is the home of Nursing Spectrum and NurseWeek, a leading source of local and national nursing news, nursing jobs, nurse continuing education, and a thriving nurse community.
American Nurses Association - Information for Nursing hopefuls and current nurses.
NCLEX - Official website of the creators of NCLEX-RN examination
American Nurses Credentialing Center - Offers over 30 specialty examinations for RN's.
Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association (OJNA) - A community of Orthodox Jewish nurses with links to a facebook group, a Message Board and more!