It is not uncommon for people who are starting in the world of work to choose a career path that they have not thoroughly researched, which is primarily based on their personal circumstances or location at the time. In many cases, those people eventually find that their chosen career does not suit their skills, personality, or lifestyle. Others might decide that they want more of a challenge, to work in an industry that makes a real difference in the world and possibly increases their earning potential.
If this sounds familiar, it may be time to make a career change, and you should give some serious consideration to the idea of becoming a registered nurse. Switching to nursing as a second career is surprisingly common as it offers people a varied, challenging, and exceptionally rewarding role with plenty of opportunity for progression. Nurses are some of the most respected professionals in our society, and they make a positive impact in their community every day.
Of course, deciding to switch to a new career is a big decision that should not be taken lightly, and this becomes even truer when you considering committing to training as a nurse. This guide is intended to help people who are considering a career change by becoming a registered nurse.
Why become a registered nurse?
Training as a registered nurse at any stage of life is a big decision, but the decision becomes even more important for adults who have personal and financial commitments. There are, however, many reasons why so many people do go ahead and become a registered nurse.
• A lot of the studying can be completed online (with some clinical experience hours and on-campus elements), which enables flexible learning.
• The demand for registered nurses is predicted to grow by 16% by 2024 due to the country’s aging population, improved health insurance, the baby-boomer generation reaching the age of retirement.
• A nurse’s day is never dull, offering plenty of variety and challenges every day as they care for numerous patients, work with lots of medical professionals, and master new skills continuously.
• Nurses provide comfort, care, and compassion for people during their most difficult times, and they make a difference in their communities by promoting healthy living and disease prevention.
• Nurses continue to learn and develop professionally throughout their career, and with further study, they can progress to positions of greater responsibility with higher salaries.
• Nurses can work in a wide range of settings, including hospitals, clinics, private practices, schools, colleges, or rehabilitation centers.
• During their careers, nurses can choose to specialize in a particular field of medicine such as pediatric care, geriatric care, mental health, neonatal care, and more.
• Nurses often work shifts which can offer many people a more flexible working pattern that can be adapted to suit their lifestyle and personal commitments. In some settings, such as private practice, nurses will work more traditional working hours, so there are plenty of options.
• The average salary for a registered nurse is over $70,000 per year, while nurse practitioners can earn as much as $115,000 per year (based on 2019 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
• Nurses have an excellent reputation as compassionate and hardworking healers and are highly regarded in society.
How to become a registered nurse
To become a registered nurse, it is necessary to complete a degree such as an associate degree or a Bachelor of Science in nursing. Generally, today’s employers prefer nurses to have completed a bachelor’s degree.
A major obstacle for many career changers is that completing this degree can take 3-4 years which is not ideal when you want to change careers sooner rather than later. For people who already have a bachelor’s degree, however, there is another option. Accelerated nursing programs are ideal for people who want to get their nursing career underway as they are open to anyone who has a bachelor’s degree, regardless of the discipline. These condensed courses involve around 16 months of fast-paced learning, much of which is delivered online. Many providers offer staggered start dates throughout the year, so you can begin your studies at a time that suits you.
It is important to realize that accelerated nursing programs are not easy and require a lot of commitment, studying, and plenty of long days and nights, but you will have changed your life for the better at the end of the course. In addition to theoretical study, students must complete the required number of clinical hours and practical placements to ensure they have the necessary skills and experience to begin their career. The programs are intense, and many people find that they cannot work even on a part-time basis as they have to commit so much time to the program. You should ensure that you are surrounded by a strong support network of tutors, fellow students, friends, and family.
With a completed nursing degree, graduates can then sit the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) to attain their nursing license in their chosen state.
What can be done with a nursing degree?
While your initial ambition may be to use your degree to work as a registered nurse, that is not necessarily the pinnacle of your career. Nurses continue to learn and advance throughout their careers to ensure that they are on top of the latest medical research and technology, and many choose to specialize in a particular field. Nurses can obviously work in a hospital, but that is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the healthcare environments they can work in.
After a few years of working, registered nurses can study for their Master of Science in nursing degree and/or a doctorate, which enables them to become a nurse practitioner. In several states, nurse practitioners have the same authority as a doctor (assessing, diagnosing, referring, and treating patients) and can run their own practices. Alternatively, some nurses progress on to specialize in their preferred field.
In addition, nurses can use their nursing degree in any state, as long as they are licensed in the state that they are working in. This provides nurses with great flexibility as they can move anywhere, and their skills will still be in demand.