Nursing is an excellent career to get into. Not only does it allow for massive room for growth and high pay, but it is also in huge demand. There are currently an estimated 800,000 open positions for RNs in the UK alone, and a further million are expected to retire by the end of the decade. Simply put, there are more open positions than there are professionals who qualify, and that is at the most standard level of nursing. RNs may make up the bulk, but the expertise and leadership, those with MSN degrees or even a Doctor of Nursing Practice, are the ones who really make an impact on the quality of care and even direct the future of healthcare towards a brighter future. You want options as a nurse. You want to be able to choose a role for yourself that allows you to accomplish your goals at a pay scale and work/life balance that are suitable to you. It is entirely possible; you just need the right direction to get you there.
The Nursing Career Route
When you first start out as a nurse you have a very long path ahead of you. You can occasionally cut corners, but your future is locked behind degrees and licensure requirements for the most part. Know where you can cut those corners and know in advance the route you want to take to adjust your expectations. Expecting to be done with your education in just a few years can make continuing beyond that later on very, very difficult. The right expectations can help you stay committed from your BSN all the way to that coveted Doctor of Nursing Practice title that will allow you to stand apart from the majority of nurses and make your career your own.
Certified Nursing Assistant
CNAs are the first level of nursing and work in supportive roles. Their jobs may not be glamorous, but they do provide key service and care to patients. What is more, they can begin working with just a few weeks of training.
Licensed Practice Nurse
LPNs are the next level up and are a good steppingstone for you to reach. LPN is where you will want to start looking into your BSN or ADN to become a registered nurse. In almost all cases, going immediately for the BSN is your better option.
You can become a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or an Associate Nursing Degree. If you want to become an APRN or even work your way up to earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice, then always choose the BSN route.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
APRNs, or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, are the highest level of nurses. They will have, at the minimum an MSN degree and a certification in their given specialization. The only APRNs that are higher than those with MSN degrees go the extra mile to earn their Doctor of Nursing Practice, which would put them at the top level of their field and perfectly suited for education or leadership.
There are a variety of degrees and certifications available to nurses. The exact path you take and commit to could be straightforward, or it could back-track and zigzag from degrees to certifications.
Certifications will be common throughout your career, and they are not just there to help you complete your training to qualify for a CNA or LPN position. They are also there to help make you eligible to use new medical tools or to certify you as qualified to complete a certain task or care regimen. You can truly customize your career by completing certifications throughout your years as a nurse.
You can become a Registered Nurse with an associate degree but doing so often means two years wasted. You cannot become an APRN with an associate degree, which more or less halts your career progression. As these degrees still take two years, they are not necessarily that much faster an option than the BSN, either.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
The BSN will help prep you for advanced roles and give you the tools and training you need to make significant differences to the quality of care and outcome of a patient’s prognosis. More BSN-RNs directly reduces the death rate in all healthcare settings, and that is just you at the start of your career.
Master of Science in Nursing
An MSN will qualify you to become an APRN. More importantly, it will be combined with a specialization to allow you to direct your career into the area of nursing you are most passionate about.
Doctor of Nursing Practice
Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees is the highest level of education a nurse can go for. They are both a Ph.D., and a Business degree rolled into one. They are what educators and leaders will want to achieve to rise to the top of their field.
The Nursing Specializations
There are dozens of specializations, allowing you to work in any field of medicine that strikes your fancy. The main roles available that branch off into different fields or facilities are as follows:
- Critical Care
- Family Nurse
Directors, head nurses, and others in leadership roles have the biggest impact on the quality of care and the state of nursing in their hospital, or, if they end up on a board, the entire county or state. Nurses with years of experience as an APRN and ideally, who also have a Doctor of Nursing Practice, are ideal for this role.
Ongoing Education and Training
As stated before, ongoing education and training must keep your skills sharp and knowledge up to date with the latest best practices, diagnostic tools, and care regimens. Not only is this ongoing training imperative for those who want to progress their career, and fast, it is actually a legal requirement.
In some states, you have a choice. You could demonstrate working hours as a nurse, educational hours, or both. In other states, you absolutely need to showcase a minimum number of hours of training and education to be eligible to renew your state license. Though it depends on the state what you personally need to have accomplished, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and aim to increase your certifications and keep training throughout each year to stay on top of any changes to the renewal requirements.
What you learn does not have to qualify for your license renewal or be essential to progress your career to the next level like a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree can, either. If you want to be at the top of your field and apply to the highest-paid roles and have a real say about where you take the role, you need to be committed to your education personally. Read medical journals and magazines. Attend conferences. Take advantage of any training opportunities. If you have to pay for it and it is not included through your work, petition your manager or board to sponsor your education. If what you learn helps them, you would be amazed at how accommodating they can be. If something proves to be beneficial for one, they may start sponsoring your colleagues for similar opportunities as well.
Certified Ongoing Training
If there are any chances for you to undergo training and earn a certification that allows you to do more with your career, do it. Being one of the few people who can use a new machine is a powerful place to be, both in your workplace and on the job market.
How to Stay Healthy and Well While Working and Studying
Completing a BSN all the way up to a Doctor of Nursing Practice is hard. It is hard on the mind and on the body. You need to safeguard and care for both to get through the challenge of something like a Doctor of Nursing Practice (even online) when you are still working full-time.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to improve your overall health is to prep your meals in advance. This can be as elaborate as prepping and storing all your lunches ahead of time in the fridge, so you just need to take it and go. It could also be more laid-back by prepping different parts of your meals so that you have minimal work to do in the mornings or after work to put together a great meal. Focus on foods that are full of minerals and vitamins to help support your health and brain the most.
Find a Way to Exercise and Socialize
Exercise keeps blood flowing. It makes us feel more awake and alert and makes us stronger so we can handle more activities throughout the day. If gyms, running, or biking is not for you, then do not worry about it. Instead, try taking an exercise class. Do it with your friends so you can combine essential exercise with socialization. It would help if you had your friends, but when you take on a degree like the Doctor of Nursing Practice on top of your job at the hospital, friends end up taking a back-seat in your priorities. By making time for them and exercising simultaneously, you can get two birds with one stone.
Drink all the coffee you want; it will never replace the importance of a good night’s sleep. However, if you work in rather chaotic shifts, you have a challenge in front of you. The best way to get a better night’s sleep is to simply eat better, drink water regularly, and most importantly, be strict with your bedtime and wake-up times. With shift work, you need to trick your body and your mind. You will already want to try to get at least eight hours of sleep no matter what, but the quality of that sleep might suffer. To improve the actual depth of sleep you get, try to use routine. Go through the same motions before you go to sleep, keep it dark, and avoid the blue-white light of daytime or your phone.
By using routine, you can wind your mind and body down to hopefully improve your sleep quality, even if it is in the middle of the day.
Keep Stress Low
Stress does a serious number on your health, and when you work towards your Doctor of Nursing Practice or any other nursing career and continue to work in healthcare, stress is bound to happen. To keep your stress low, you will want to combine activities, like studying on your commute or socializing while you exercise so that you can do more with less time and energy. Breaks are also crucial. Not only will they help you stay on track during your study hours, but they are also imperative to help keep your mind rested. Take a short break every thirty minutes, and a longer break every other hour. During these breaks, try to have fun or treat yourself, so you feel refreshed and ready to get back into studying.
Stay on Track, But Do not Race to the Finish Line
Your nursing career is not a rat race to the finish. You do not have to rush yourself. Setting your own pace is the biggest factor to success in a profession such as nursing. It is a hard job to do. It is emotionally and physically exhausting, and to take on an additional responsibility like an MSN or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is not an easy ask for anyone.
By measuring how well you are handling work and study, and adjusting so that you do not overdo it, you can make continual steps towards your dreams. Ask for help, use tools, the tips and tricks in this guide, and your own intuition to strike that perfect balance all nurses need to stay healthy and safeguard their mental health.
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