The US healthcare sector stands proudly at an upward of $4 trillion, making it one of the largest industries in the world. You can find numerous career opportunities within this impressive sector, including the demanding nursing field.
Being a nurse makes you no less than a hero. The amount of dedication, resilience, and perseverance your work asks of you is incomparable. The nursing community’s role best illustrates this during the pandemic by rushing to look after patients without hesitation. Whether as a pediatric nurse, critical care nurse, or healthcare administrator, a nurse’s work never gets finished. But, how do you find a spot for yourself in this competitive profession?
Nursing is not a linear career choice. You can pick from multiple specialties of varying lengths, which will lead you down different paths. However, before making a lifelong commitment to your work, you need to gauge where you stand. Therefore to help you sort through a multitude of nursing programs, here’s what you need to do:
1. Know how long it will take
Time is an investment. You must sacrifice much of your interests and hobbies to pool your attention towards one goal. Nursing is one such field that requires a heavy commitment in the form of your time. Information like going from RN to BSN degree will help you prepare yourself for what’s to come and enable you to align yourself with the prerequisites of your degree. To get one foot in the profession, you will need to complete at least one year of community college to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN).
Similarly, if you wish to become a registered nurse, you need to spend the same amount of time getting your Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) to become an RN. Going from an RN to earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is another four years of your time.
While going from a BSN to a master’s degree is asking for two more years. If you wish, you may even jump from a BSN to a terminal degree such as DNP. But this poses a whole new set of challenges and can be stressful since you will need to balance work and education.
Most advanced degrees also need at least six years of your time before getting the hang of it. Consequently, depending on how far you want to take your career, you may spend one to eight years becoming a certified professional.
2. Picture your interests
Not all nurses are alike. Some enjoy working alongside patients, diagnosing their illness, assisting physicians, and ensuring the patient is comfortable. In comparison, other nurses relish working with data more than people.
Your personality type has a significant role in helping you pick a nursing program. If you’re an introvert, it’s natural to gravitate towards fields like clinical nursing. You create long-term coordinate programs for patients. An alternate option includes becoming a Health Policy Nurse (HPN). You dedicate yourself to developing new healthcare policies, researching, and looking for inclusivity in the healthcare sector.
But, if you have an extrovert bone in you and prefer being with people, specialized fields like cardiac care and dermatology nursing are for you. You will look after patients with heart disease or those recovering from heart surgery as the first choice. While the latter provides care for patients with skin conditions and planning to go under cosmetology surgery.
3. Learn about the cost of the program
Nursing schools can be financially debilitating, and sometimes passion alone cannot sustain the fees. At the same time, the price of a nursing program depends on various factors, such as the state you choose to study in and the school you plan to attend. Public nursing schools cost over $9,000 for completing a bachelor’s degree, while private schools may go up to $35,000.
Therefore, before you enroll in any program, think about how much you can afford. Your options include applying for student loans and financial aid. The latter of the two is a much more feasible option since it takes care of your tuition fees without expecting returns.
On the other hand, loans may add more to your financial stress. So, go on the institute’s website you wish to attend and look up what federal financial aid they offer and work-study programs. You may even opt for an online degree since these are more cost-effective than in-person classes. If you have a solid academic background with many extracurricular lining your student profile, try your luck with scholarships.
4. Verify state accreditation and passing rates
Not every nursing school is accredited. While you can choose to enroll in these programs, it limits your career choices. By going for accredited institutes and schedules, you get the chance to apply to different hospitals, clinics, and private practices. Lack of accreditation deprives you of financial aid and prevents you from transferring credits to enroll in advanced degrees.
You can quickly check the accreditation status by looking online and verifying with the American Association of Colleges Nursing. You should also remember that school accreditation and program accreditation are different. So search for accredited schools and have programs that are also verified. The list of accrediting bodies includes the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
When you’re satisfied with the accredited status of the program of your choice, ensure you also pay the NCLEX exam pass rate. This is a crucial licensing exam every nurse has to give and is slightly heavy on the pocket. Therefore, you need to pass on the first attempt programs, and schools with a minimum of 86% passing rate should be on your list.
5. Look into classes and clinics
You need to know how classes are structured in your chosen program. Learn if the lessons are more lecture-based or more research-intensive. You should also figure out if you got to see practical demonstrations or stick to theories shared in class. This helps you prepare yourself for what’s to come and lets you gauge how you feel about attending your classes.
If a program enables you to do your degree online, you may want to consider that, especially if you want a self-paced learning environment. Attending clinics is also an integral component of nursing education. Some colleges have an attached hospital making it easy to participate in the university and clinic.
In contrast, others may have clinics spread across the city. Factoring in how much you will have to travel will help you decide on living accommodations. If you need to travel downtown frequently for clinics, you may get living quarters. But if you’re not comfortable being on the road constantly, stick to universities with an attached hospital unit. You can also lookup the names of professional nurses and educators who will teach you to get more into the spirit of nursing.
Choosing a nursing program can be one of the most tedious decisions of your life but a necessary one. If you have to spend eight years of your life trying to get a degree, you want to be sure you get it right. Therefore, to begin your research, first think about how far you plan on going with nursing.
If you simply want a BSN that you can do from anywhere and start your career in no time. But, advanced degrees ask for a longer commitment. No one likes a mismatched job where your interest and specialization don’t see eye to eye, so be sure you know what kind of nurse you want to be.
Leverage the cost of attending a nursing school by looking for scholarships and financial aid, with loans being the last resort. Your program’s accreditation status and passing rate matter since it exposes you to better working opportunities. Finally, find out what campus life and the clinical journey you are signing up for. Once you’re satisfied with your choice, enroll in a program.