So you want to become a nurse… That’s a great decision. Nurses are well paid, well respected professionals, who contribute an incalculable amount to our health care system. More importantly for you, nursing jobs will be extremely plentiful in the coming years, as a large segment of nurses retires, and as expanding health care mandates more professionals to care for more patients.
But once you’ve decided to study nursing, you have a few more decisions to make.
You might hear the word “nurse” used to describe any person who cares for patients, but within the field, there are important distinctions. Practicing nurses generally fall into one of three broad categories: registered nurses, or RNs; licensed practical nurses, or LPNs; and nurses’ aides, or NAs. While all three groups are directly involved with patient care, their mastery of the field and degrees of responsibility vary according to their titles.
Nurses’ aides usually work under the direction of a supervising RN, performing non-specialized functions and caretaking tasks like bathing or changing bed clothes. Nurses’ aides may also be called on to record temperatures or blood pressure readings, to assist patients with eating and walking, or to facilitate the movement of beds and other medical equipment.
Unlike NAs, LPNs are required to have completed some coursework and obtained licensure through their state of practice. This elevated skill set qualifies LPNs to provide more specialized levels of nursing, including taking vital signs and dressing wounds. Additionally, in some states, LPNs are authorized to administer medication.
RNs have a wide array of responsibilities because within the RN tier there are multiple branches and distinctions. All RNs must have a high school diploma, must have passed the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination), and must have one of the following advanced credentials:
• a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university
• an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) from an accredited two-year program
• a diploma from a hospital-sponsored program
Online Nursing Education
More and more, online nursing programs are helping students to fulfill one of the above requirements. Online nursing degrees are available to suit a variety of candidates, and are often the most convenient way to begin or advance a career in nursing. Online RN programs can be tailored to fit students’ day-to-day and budgetary schedules. Better still, being online means the ability to attend class from home – an invaluable timesaver for those who are already juggling work and family.
Online RNs can focus their study and career path in many different directions. They may choose to specialize in the functions of a certain working environment, like the emergency room or a geriatric facility. Alternatively, they may specialize in the treatment of a certain medical condition (e.g. cancer) or the health of a particular body system (e.g. the respiratory system). Completing an RN to BSN online program is a crucial step in the path towards promotion, not to mention self-satisfaction.
Some RNs continue their education and training to become nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists. Others may choose to explore the business side of the healthcare industry. In either case, the online Masters in Nursing (or RN to MSN online) is a great option for RNs who are already working in their chosen field, and want to advance. Beyond developing care plans and tracking patient progress, specializing nurses provide expert analyses and treatment. In most cases, they work independently from physicians and can also prescribe necessary medications. Some are hired to fill management, education or research roles. Needless to say, advanced qualifications open the doors to advanced opportunities, with salaries much higher than starting nurses’ salaries.
The Need for Nurses
Registered nurses comprise the largest number of healthcare workers – nearly 2.5 million – yet surveys indicate that there still aren’t enough. According to US Department of Labor projections, job opportunities for nurses have grown, and will continue to grow dramatically in the next ten years – much faster than jobs in other industries. Some of the reasons behind this upswing include the following trends:
• Baby-boomers are getting older. This very large segment of our population is approaching the age when increased medical attention – hospital visits and long-term home healthcare – is required. More nurses will be needed to meet this demand.
• Nurses are retiring. Whereas past generations of women were disproportionately drawn to the field of nursing, more contemporary graduates are distributed evenly throughout a full array of careers. This means, as the older classes are nearing retirement age, greater numbers of current graduates will be needed to replace them.
• Science and technology are advancing every day. As new procedures and courses of treatment become available, more new professionals are needed to understand and administer them. Nurses who’ve recently completed online health courses and/or online nursing programs will be at a premium.
Employers prefer BSN degrees
Given that nurses are in such high demand right now, it might seem like any level of nursing qualification would ensure a good position. But statistics show that job growth and advancement opportunities will more likely benefit RNs with a BSN or MSN degree. Why the discrepancy? And why apply for an RN to BSN online?
There are a lot of reasons why employers prefer – and in many cases, require – nurses with these advanced degrees. Among them, industry experts outline some of the following:
• Healthcare systems are increasingly complex. Employers need nurses who can effectively communicate, while demonstrating good judgment and critical thinking skills. The BSN degree is a comprehensive, dynamic course of study. The online BSN, in particular, reinforces students’ time management skills while emphasizing a well-rounded nursing curriculum.
• More and more aspects of hospital healthcare are being outsourced to outpatient facilities and doctor’s offices. These environments offer more attractive workday schedules and often provide higher nurses’ salaries. As such, competition for these jobs is tougher among RNs. The employers at these facilities can afford to be selective, and will favor the added education BSN nurses bring with them.
• Certain supervisory or management roles require advanced credentials. BSN and MSN degrees don’t just signify more experience; they also ensure that a nurse is well-versed in procedural and problem-solving situations. In order to comply with state or institution-issued quality codes, lots of employers will only consider candidates who have graduated from an accredited nursing program.
- Featured Nurses, Part 11 (organizedwisdom.com)