Nursing is an excellent career option for many people, particularly if your goal is to give back and help your community somehow. However, never underestimate the importance of fulfillment when it comes to your career. You can do a job that you are paid well in, but if you feel like it holds no purpose beyond the paycheck, then, chances are, you aren’t getting the most out of your career.
Nursing is an excellent career option for those just starting out and those looking for a great career change. Once you move up towards the highest level of nursing, that of the advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), you can earn over six figures, and that’s just the start of the great benefits of working your way up the nursing ladder.
There is a lot to consider and a lot you should know when you want to get started with your career in nursing. This guide will give you a primer on the basics:
Your Route Into Nursing
To start, it is important to know the best route to nursing for you.
If you do have a BSc
If you already have a BSc, particularly in biology or other pre-med courses, then there is a good chance that you can use your existing credits towards a BSN. This is the easiest way to fast-track your career in a new direction and ideal if your current career trajectory does not interest you and you want to retrain in a different area of medicine or healthcare.
The other benefit is that, as you can use existing credits towards your BSN, you can actually save on this second bachelor’s degree.
If you don’t have a BSc
If you don’t have a BSc, then you have two options. You can either train and start your career as a Certified Nursing Assistant, or you can earn the full BSN in advance. The first option is ideal if you need to get a job and fast. The second option is perfect if you currently are in a job that pays well but wants to make a career change and are prepared to work while studying.
If you want to become a CNA, first, then this only takes a few weeks of training. The level of nursing above CNA is the Licensed Practice Nurse (LPN). You can then become a Registered Nurse (RN) either with a BSN or an associate degree.To move on to become an APRN, you will always need a BSN, regardless of which path you take to get it.The Nurse Licensure Compact
Something else that is worth understanding is the Nurse Licensure Compact or NLC. There is also the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact or eNLC.
The NLC was first adopted back in 1997, though the updated version (the eNLC) was created and superseded the original version back in 2018. Nursing was the first healthcare position to create an inter-state license that allowed nurses to easily transfer their license from one state to another.
States that are not participants of the eNLC do not allow nurses from outside of their state to come and work. So instead, nurses moving to this new state will need to retake the exam to earn their license.
What the eNLC does is it increases the mobility of nurses. This is a very important move for healthcare, as it allows states with the greatest nursing shortage to attract qualified nurses from other eNLC states to come and work, even for a short period.
How the eNLC works are very simple. Participating states all require the same standards, from education to training to even federal and state criminal background checks.
This means nurses can move and work more freely, and also that telehealth opportunities expand. For example, you can work as a nurse from home and have patients from remote areas that rely on you for their healthcare needs.
There are currently 29 states in the eNLC, with six further states or territories with legislation pending who could potentially be included in the eNLC in the next few years. These six are Guam, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
The Types of APRN
There are four main types of APRNs, though that is far from the full list of specializations that you can go into as an APRN. The four types include Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Midwives, Nurse Anesthetists, and Clinical Nurse Specialists.
The most common type of APRN is the Nurse Practitioner. Nurse Practitioners work directly with patients. Like the Family Nurse Practitioner, some are even critical to offset the physician shortage we are currently speaking about.
In the United States, the primary care physician shortage is expected to reach as high as 55,200 by 2032. The good news is that, in many states, FNPs are given additional powers. For example, in 23 states currently, FNPs can open their own primary care clinic, a much-needed move to give citizens throughout the country access to the primary care that they need.
FNPs also have prescription privileges in all 50 states and have a median annual wage of $110,700, which is around $36,500 more than RNs make. In short, it is a great move for your career. In addition, you gain privileges as an APRN-NP that are similar to many physicians. Together, it’s no wonder that NPs were ranked to have the 4th best job in healthcare and the 5th best job overall in 2020.
This is just one example. There are also pediatric NPs, geriatric NPs, mental health NPs, women’s health, etc. So, you can specialize your career towards the people you want to help and the area of medicine that you are most interested in.
Recertifying as an APRN
Backtracking through your education is not a bad thing at all. It takes extra time, yes, but it will never negate your efforts so far. If you aren’t thrilled with being the type of NP you currently are, then you can become a two-year FNP with a post MSN FNP certificate. These certificates allow you to skip the general credits that are consistent with every MSN since you have already earned those.
It is, essentially, a way to fast-track an MSN-FNP if you already have an MSN degree under your belt. Though it takes around two years, this can be finished faster. However, whether or not you should aim to complete your certificate faster depends entirely on how well you can manage the course load with your career. The certificate, like the degree, are designed for working nurses.
The Ed.D or DNP
Though there isn’t a higher level of nurse, there are ways to further invest in your career as a nurse. For example, if you want to go into leadership roles, then a DNP is an excellent option. On the other hand, if you want to go into education, and to teach the next generation of nurses, then an Ed.D is ideal.
These are doctorate-level programs that offer excellent possibilities for your career. The first, and possibly most interesting for the widest range of people, is that DNP nurses earn more.
The average salary for all types of NPs with an MSN is $96,000 per year. Those with a DNP on average earn $106,000. Of course, roles like FNP will have higher averages for both.
DNP degrees are considered to be terminal degrees, meaning that it is the highest level of education that a nurse can earn. When you graduate, you will technically be a doctor, though in healthcare, you won’t be able to use that title colloquially for transparency’s sake. You may be able to have Dr. in your title, but you will need to clarify to your patients that you are a doctoral-prepared NP, not an MD, as this can and does cause confusion.
DNP NPs often go for leadership roles as well. As a result, you’ll find you’re experiencing and resume better prepared with a DNP when applying to roles like the Director of Nursing, for example.
The same applies to the Ed.D, only rather than advance your capabilities in the medical setting, the Ed.D or Doctorate in Education prepares nurses to take their practical experience and trains them to teach others. Therefore, if your goal is to transition from the medical setting into the academic setting, the Ed.D is an excellent choice after earning and working as an MSN-APRN.
Non-Medical Workplaces for Nurses
Working in administration or in education are two very popular workplace options for those who don’t want to work in the traditional medical environments like a clinic or a hospital.
Telehealth became crucially important during the pandemic, and the need for telehealth will only continue. Those in remote areas deserve the same level of healthcare as those in cities, yet that is not currently their reality. By offering telehealth, those in remote areas with no convenient access to a clinic or hospital can get quality care through secure telehealth that they can access right in their own homes.
That is, of course, just brushing the surface of telehealth and what it can do. With telehealth better, preventative methods of care can be provided to a greater number of people. With the right tools, the health of at-risk patients can be monitored remotely, and programs can notify the NP or physician of a significant change in the patient’s condition.
This will allow more to live at home with the comfort and security of a medical team right next door. To facilitate telehealth properly, of course, nurses will be essential, particularly APRN-NPs.
Nurses can and do work privately in a variety of settings. As a result, you can provide expert care for those who want healthcare right in their homes. Nurse-midwives have become increasingly popular for this very reason. Rather than go to the cold medical setting, those with the funds to do so are increasingly looking to bring healthcare to them so that they can experience expert care and the comfort of their own home.
Where you work privately can vary drastically as well. Rather than care for those in their home, you can work for a company on-site. For example, you can work as an NP in a remote place, like Alaska or Antarctica, for a research or oil company. They have no access to healthcare otherwise, meaning they will need to bring healthcare to them.
You can work in research directly as well. You can be the on-site nurse that is there to help take readings and care for the patients in a clinical trial, for example. However, rather than work directly to care for patients, your work will be instrumental in understanding diseases and conditions and developing new healthcare solutions.
Movies need nurses. Concerts need nurses. Every big event or production needs a healthcare team in case of emergencies. You can work at any one of these as a highly qualified nurse, bringing yourself into the thick of the action while simultaneously helping others who need it.
The fact is nurses are needed wherever people are. Don’t limit yourself solely to medical settings if that isn’t what interests you because you can work in so many different environments in many excellent roles. As a nurse, it doesn’t matter what you are doing because you are helping others no matter what.
Get Started with Your Career in Nursing Today
Regardless of which route you go for to get into nursing, know where you want to end up, and you’ll be able to get the experience, build the network, and understand what you need to do to get where you want to be. While working in a medical setting is very straightforward, to the point where you almost have a roadmap, it is not the only option ahead of you.
The more unique the job role, the bigger the competition for that job will be. By knowing what you want from the start, you can clearly direct your efforts towards reaching that goal.