Feb 21, 2007

Planning Ahead: Thinking about a Career in Nursing

Why Should I Consider Nursing?
As the U.S. population continues to grow and we live longer and more active lives, there is an increasing need for nurses, especially those with advanced education and skills. Health-care costs are increasing, doctors are becoming more specialized (and spending less time with patients), and nurses are providing more direct health care to patients. All this points to a profession that has one of the highest starting salaries of any field. Add to that the current shortage of nurses, which is expected to grow from more than 300,000 to more than 600,000 over the next 10 years, and you have a career path well worth considering.

Besides a good salary and job security, nursing has other benefits. It can be very flexible. You can work in a variety of places: hospitals, private-practice physician's offices, a federal nursing agency, schools or in the military. You can work part-time to accommodate your family demands. You can spend your days seeing to the general comfort of a patient or working as an administrator, manager or researcher. Nurses can specialize. Some of the most popular specializations are pediatric nursing, psychiatric nursing, critical-care nursing, neonatal nursing and working as a nurse anesthetist. Nowadays, nurses even form their own new businesses such as nursing informatics (combining nursing and computers), legal nurse consulting (combining nursing and law) and home health-care businesses. And men are starting to realize the potential that nursing presents for a challenging and rewarding career; approximately 5 percent of nurses are men, and the number is growing.

How do I become a nurse?
Each state has a Board of Nursing that sets the licensure requirements for that state. The most basic-level license is the LPN or Licensed Practical Nurse (or LVN, Licensed Vocational Nurse, depending on the state). To earn the license, you must complete an approved LPN program and then sit for a state-administered nursing exam known as the NCLEX-PN or the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses.

The most common or sought-after license is the RN, or registered nurse. There are a few different paths to becoming an RN. You can enter a two-year associate degree program, where you focus more on technical skills than theory, earn an associate's degree in Nursing (A.D.N.), and then sit for NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses), a state-administered, five-hour, multiple-choice exam. You can also take this route if you are planning to go on to earn your bachelor's degree in Nursing (B.S.N.), which is preferred in the job market, but wish to work and earn money as an RN while studying for your bachelor's degree.

Or you can go directly to a four-year college, take the standard bachelor's degree prerequisite courses, and apply to the college's nursing program. Each college has different requirements for entering their nursing programs, so you need to check the procedures carefully. You would then sit for the NCLEX-RN exam upon graduating.

Whichever path you plan to take, keep in mind that accreditation is very important. The LPN program must be accredited in order to sit for the exams given by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, and the bachelor's degree program must be accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commissions (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Certification and Graduate Degrees Take You Even Further
Once you are a registered nurse with a bachelor's degree and are working in the field, you may discover a particular area you'd like to specialize in. You can then earn certification as a nurse practitioner, a nurse anesthetist or a nurse midwife. There are two- to three-year master's degree programs that allow you to specialize in areas such as geriatric nursing, neonatal nursing or school nursing. Some go on to earn joint degrees in fields such as business or public health. And there are four- to six-year Ph.D. programs that prepare nurses for careers in health administration (nurse executives), in clinical research and in advanced clinical practice. The possibilities for personal fulfillment and career satisfaction are unlimited.

One thing is clear. Nurses, who have always given so much to others in terms of care, comfort and compassion, are now getting the respect, recognition and reward they truly deserve.

CHECKLIST - ABC's of Nursing
Here are some common abbreviations used in the field of nursing.

A.D.N. - Associate Degree in Nursing

ACNP - Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

ANP - Adult Nurse Practitioner

APN - Advanced Practice Nurse

B.S.N. - Bachelor of Science in Nursing

CNP - Clinical Nurse Practitioner

CNS - Clinical Nursing Specialist

D.N.Sc. - Doctor of Nursing Science

LPN - Licensed Practical Nurse

M.S.N. - Master of Science in Nursing

N.D. - Doctor of Nursing

NCLEX-RN - National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses

Ph.D. in Nursing - Doctor of Philosophy degree in nursing

RN to B.S.N. - A program in which registered nurses study to obtain their B.S.N.

RN - Registered Nurse

RNA - Registered Nurse Anesthetis

Information provided by Petersons.com

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