In spite of the weak economy, the U.S. still has a dramatic shortage of nurses. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, job openings for nurses will rise rapidly in the coming decade.
Because the healthcare industry keeps growing and always keeps changing, a nursing degree can not only give you opportunities today, but can also provide you with growing options in the future as you increase your experience and your specialized nursing knowledge.
Many people assume that all nurses work in hospitals. But the real picture is a lot more diverse than that. Although about 60% of nurses in the U.S. are, in fact, employed by hospitals, the other 40% work in a wide array of settings, including school clinics, physician’s offices, military clinics and long-term care facilities like nursing homes.
Are You A Good Fit For This Career?
What are the main qualities you need to be a successful nurse? Two big requirements are that you are compassionate, and that you’re able to stay cool and controlled in stressful situations (particularly if you want to be a hospital nurse). A good nurse also needs to be very responsible and detail-oriented, since patient care is so complex nowadays. It also helps to be in good physical condition, since it tends to be an “on your feet” type of job.
But one basic underlying truth that hasn’t changed in 100 years is that, in order to be a good nurse, you need to be able to deal human suffering, or at least learn how to deal with it as you move through your nursing career. The good news is that there nurses can get a great deal of satisfaction in helping people get through their medical problems.
Here’s an overview of where nurses with particular degrees and specialties work:
Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN’s, sometimes called “vocational nurses.” Requires a certificate and passage of NCLEX-LPN exam in your state).
LPN’s provide basic patient care — measuring patients vital signs, dressing wounds, taking weight and temperate and even helping patients eat. They work under RN’s in hospitals, but often serve as the top level of nursing staff in clinics and long term care facilities. Some also visit the homes of elderly or chronic care patients. An LPN degree can provide you with fairly quick and affordable entrée into the nursing profession (cost of lpn cert: https://www.successdegrees.com/cost-of-licensed-practical-nurse-degree.html ), but LPN’s do face some limitations. They are allowed to give injections in only some states, and can face competition for nursing jobs in the large university hospitals, particularly in major cities where there happen to be a lot of RN’s available for employment.
Most LPNs are generalists. To move up into the higher-end nursing specialties or get a job as a supervisor of other nurses, it’s usually necessary to go back to school and get certification as a registered nurse. Keep in mind that both LPNs and RNs, particularly in hospital settings, can be required to work evening or weekend shifts. LPNs who work in doctor’s offices sometimes handle clerical duties like record keeping and making appointments.
Registered Nurses (RNs, requires an associates degree in nursing and Requires a certificate and passage of NCLEX-RN exam in your state. More on courses you take for RN associates degree here)
RNs also handle very basic patient care in many hospitals. But they are also frequently put in charge of managing teams of LPNs and nursing aides, and handle more advanced duties like:
- Analyzing a patient’s symptoms, to help a doctor make an accurate diagnosis.
- Created a “plan of care” for a patient’s overall health issues, which may include rehabilitation and plans to maintain health even after a patient has recovered from a near-term problem.
- Giving injections and medications, and handling the important responsibility of making sure patients do not receive medications that interact with each other or which patients are allergic to. Some RNs have authority to prescribe certain drugs.
- Performing diagnostic procedures, as well as therapeutic procedures.
- RNs also play a critical role in being a source of information to patients and their families. This is an area where your “people skills” are extremely important.