Nurses are one of the most trusted groups of professionals. After receiving the required education, nurses must become licensed in their practicing state and are required to complete continuing nursing education courses to maintain their licensure, depending on their state’s regulations.
What are the Roles of Nurses?
Nurses work in a variety of settings and specialties. They may choose to practice in hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, ambulatory care, occupational health, and community health centers, schools, clinics, camps, and shelters.
Nurses perform many professional tasks which may differ based on where they work or what area they specialize in. The American Nurses Association (ANA) lists nursing responsibilities to include tasks such as:
- performing physical exams
- obtaining medical/health histories
- providing patients with health promotion, counseling, and education
- administering medications, wound care, and other health interventions
- coordinating patient care collectively with other members of the healthcare team
- supervising staff such as LPN’s and nursing assistants
- taking part in critical decision making
- research responsibilities
The degree they hold may also dictate which are of specialty they are competent in practicing in. There are over 100 nursing specialties, including:
- Burn care
- Camp or school
- Diabetes care
- Emergency nursing
- Forensic nursing
- Home health
- Labor and delivery
- Medical-surgical care
- Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
- Obstetrics and gynecology
- Psychiatric care
- Wound, ostomy, and continence care
Some specialties and practice settings require certain educational criteria such as an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN or ASN), Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN), Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN), ), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP,), Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD), or for legal nursing specialties, a Juris Doctor (JD) may be required. A registered nurse can also earn specialty certification.
Advanced practice nurses
Some nurses may choose to extend their career by earning a graduate degree to advance their clinical training by going on to receive a master’s or doctorate. These nurses are called Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). Some APRN specialties include:
Nurse practitioner (NP): These advanced practitioners work in a variety of specialties and provide comprehensive care to patients. Depending on their state licensing boards, they are able to provide primary and preventative care, diagnose and treat certain conditions, and prescribe certain medications.
Nurse practitioner specialties may include acute care, adult health, family health, gerontology, neonatal health, oncology, pediatric or child health, psychiatric or mental health, and women’s health. Nurse practitioners provide care to patients in settings like hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and private practices.
Certified nurse-midwife (CNM): These advanced practice nurses are able to provide healthy and non-high-risk women with obstetric and gynecologic care. They may practice in settings such as hospitals, birthing centers, and patient homes.
Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA): These advanced practice nurses provide anesthesia to patients for surgery or certain procedures.
Clinical nurse specialist (CNS): Experts in an area of nursing practice, a CNS may be found working in many settings like hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, offices, and within the community.
Fast facts about nursing:
Nursing is one of the most trusted professions in the U.S., polls show.
Nurses can choose from a wide range of specialties.
Qualifications range from a 1-year certificate to a PhD, depending on the role. Most nurses begin with a science degree.
Training can take from 1 to 4 years, depending on the desired entry level.
There is an ongoing need for nurses, resulting in good job security, a competitive salary, and a range of professional opportunities.
Becoming a nurse
There are 2 types of nurses, a licensed practical nursing (LPN) or in some states referred to as licensed vocational nursing (LVN), and a registered nurse (RN). Educational requirements vary for each and depend on the degree to which a nurse plans on accelerating their career.
The education that an LPN/LVN or an RN receive differ, as does their scope of practice.
An LPN/LVN receives a 1-year certificate or degree from a vocational or hospital or trade school. They can perform certain nursing duties, but they are not able to provide the same level of care to patients as an RN. To obtain a license as an LPN, they must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX-PN.
An LPN/LVN may continue their education and pursue either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) through bridge programs. These can take anywhere from 2 to 4 years, depending on the chosen degree.
Some RNs choose to obtain an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), a 2-year technical skill-focused program.
There are many ways to enter into a nursing career and become an RN, but the preferred degree to obtain is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
This is a 4-year college program. It includes a curriculum based on coursework, lab time, and clinical skill development through a hospital or other medical experience-based program.
In order to practice as a registered nurse, the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX-RN must be taken and passed.
How long does it take to become a nurse?
Becoming a nurse can take anywhere from 1 to 4 years, depending on the level of nursing education planned.
- LPN/LVN: 1 year
- Associates degree RN: 2 years
- Bachelor’s degree RN: 4 years
Nurses seeking an advanced degree will require additional education beyond their basic nursing education, which can range from two to five years depending on the degree being obtained.
Benefits of a nursing career
Shortage of nurses will offer potential job security, an option to advance or change career paths within the scope of nursing practice, and advanced education opportunities.
In addition, nursing currently offers a chance to work in non-traditional work environments, such as schools, government agencies, parks, and offices.
The wide range of specialties means that nursing can appeal to people with varied interests. They can use their nursing skills in a multitude of practice areas.
- Always in Demand
The nursing field is one that is always in demand. We are living much longer, the elderly population is constantly growing and will require more medical care in the coming years. Hospitals and medical facilities are almost always in need of qualified nurses, so the chances of being laid off as a nurse are minimal.
- A Rewarding Career Path
Nurses help people. As a result, they receive the unmatched satisfaction of knowing that they have made a difference to patients and their families.
A nurse can enjoy a long and rewarding career of helping those in need – and often, those in pain. They are the key link between doctors and patients, interacting with patients on a daily basis, caring for and attending to their various health needs. This level of patient care – this ability to work so closely with people in need – is something that fulfills a desire in many nurses, to give back to humankind.
Few careers are as flexible as those in the nursing field. Many nurses aren’t nine-to-fivers. Healthcare is needed around the clock! The beauty is, nurses can choose to work when and where they want. Would you like to work part-time, full-time, or freelance? Would you like to work four days on, three days off? How about nights and weekends for family obligations, or a second job? All options are possible in the field of nursing.
- Nurses are trusted, respected, and appreciated.
Nurses are viewed as the most honest, ethical, and trusted professionals in the United States. In fact, nurses have been ranked the most trusted professionals for 19 consecutive years, including in 2020, when they fought relentlessly against the COVID-19 pandemic. This underlines how important nurses are to Americans, and how much nurses are appreciated by patients and communities alike.
- There is great job security.
Simply put, there will always be a need for nurses. There will always be a need for qualified, compassionate healthcare professionals. No matter where you are in the world, the skills and knowledge that you carry as a nurse will be both valued and vital. In fact, the need for nurses is expected to grow, promising job security for nurses both old and new.
If 2020 taught us anything, it is the need for nurses and healthcare professionals. The global COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the importance of having nurses staffed at all stretches of our communities – in hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, and more. It heightened the need for nursing employment, which was already growing at above-average rates even before the pandemic hit.
Nursing is a responsible and rewarding career, but it is not always easy. Developing skills such as stress management, listening skills, compassion, and inner strength can help nurses face the daily challenges of their chosen career path.