There are so many options for nurses, and limiting yourself solely to the most obvious routes is doing a disservice to yourself and to patients everywhere. Yes, there is a nursing shortage, but that shortage exists at all levels. It means that you can and absolutely should specialize where you are interested most and that there is nothing that should stop you from exploring workplaces outside of hospitals and clinics.
You being passionate, fulfilled, and cared for as a nurse is critical. Patient care and patient outlook are directly tied to how well you can do your job, and if you are feeling burnt out and fatigued at your job, you are not giving those patients your best. Finding the right career path for yourself as a nurse is one of the best ways that you can give back to your community best. It is how you can better take care of yourself, improve patient outlook, and get the most fulfillment and even enjoyment out of your day.
Some people thrive in the trauma ward. Others find themselves working best in primary care clinics. Others still work best behind the scenes, either in education, research, or policy. Finding the right career path for you will make a difference in your quality of life and the world. Every person deserves quality health care, which means that you can work where you want to, in the position that interests you the most. To help you better understand your options and how to choose the best career path for yourself, follow this guide:
Always Go For The Higher Degree
The best way to progress your career and to keep your options open is to always go for the higher degree qualification. This means going for the BSN instead of the ADN, and today it also means earning a DNP degree instead of an MSN. DNP Degrees are set to become the next entry-level degree requirement for nurse practitioners. The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) has set a goal to increase the degree requirement by 2025, so earning your DNP now can put you in the perfect position when the transition happens.
There are several ways that you can go about earning that DNP. You can either go for it directly from your BSN, which takes around 75 credits, or you can earn your DNP after your MSN, at which point the DNP is only 31 – 35 credits. The times are different because you essentially earn your MSN while completing these BSN to DNP degrees, qualifying you to become an APRN while also allowing you to become a doctorate-holding nurse.
Going for a higher degree means you have the most options and the least amount of restrictions on your career. In addition, earning a BSN outright means you will have an easier time finding work as an RN and will also put you in the right place to earn an MSN or DNP later.
Earning a DNP from your BSN allows you to become a qualified APRN, prepares you for leadership roles and patient advocacy roles, and generally opens up so many doors. Also, try to take advantage of online courses which allow you to expand your medical knowledge and get your ACLS certification.
Explore Your Options by Shadowing
There are so many different specializations that you can work towards, which does pose quite a few problems of its own. For example, nurse practitioners often focus on a specific demographic, whereas Clinical Nurse Specialists focus on an area of medicine. Midwives work throughout the birth process, including pre-natal and post-natal care. Nurse Anesthetists are qualified to provide anesthesia in a variety of settings, from surgical to dental.
Even within these four types of nursing, there are specializations within them. For example, NPs can specialize in geriatrics, family care, and so on. Clinical Nurse Specialists can specialize in areas from oncology to mental health.
You need to know what areas of medicine interest you the most and the types of patients you are most comfortable or passionate about. If you are a big advocate of women’s health, this will direct you to a different specialization than if you were to go into family health.
Shadow different departments, ask questions to those who work in those different roles, and generally try to get a feel for your options. You should have a few ideas to narrow down your efforts to start with, but don’t let that stop you from introducing yourself to something new. You may find a new passion you didn’t know about that will keep you engaged and fulfilled throughout your career.
Be Honest About the Pace of Work that Suits You
You could be absolutely fascinated about trauma care and not be suited for it. The medicine and theory are going to be very different from the practice of it. You need to ensure that the pace of work is good for you; otherwise, you and your patients will suffer. While you can easily push yourself through a busy night at the trauma or emergency ward once in a while, can you do it regularly? Can you work in a high-pressure environment? If you can, and you thrive in it, then there is no better place for you. However, if you find the pressure starting to build and feel like something has to give, finding a more relaxed work environment is paramount.
Explore Non-Traditional Nursing Roles
Finding a workplace and role that allows you to do work you are interested in at the pace that suits your health and wellbeing is the best thing you can do for yourself. Don’t limit yourself, however, as there are so many non-traditional roles out there that can suit you perfectly. For example, there are so many more places where nurses can work than hospitals or clinics. There are so many more options than urban or rural workplaces.
You can work everywhere, from movie sets to research expeditions to private care. Keep an eye out on the job boards throughout your career, so you can see what is out there and, more importantly, keep track of what you need to qualify for the roles that interest you the most.