So You Want To Be A Nurse: Now What?

Nursing programs are filled with variety, and the job opportunities that come from completing one are endless. However, to be a nurse, you have to find the right school and apply! First, ask yourself how much time — and money — you want to put into school; once you do that, you'll be well on your way to one of the best professions in the nation!

Practical Nursing

Two levels of nursing are available to you: Practical nursing (PN), sometimes referred to as licensed practical nursing (LPN), or licensed vocational nursing (LVN) — the fastest way to get into nursing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national median salary for practical nurses is $41,540 annually. Not only is this great pay, there is also a solid demand for PNs. The BLS reports that the number of PN jobs is expected to increase by 25 percent into 2022.

According to the BLS, some of the job duties of PNs include:

  • Checking patient vital signs and monitoring their health
  • Performing basic patient care activities (like changing bandages)
  • Helping patients bathe and dress and providing other comfort measures
  • Listening to and discussing patients' health concerns
  • Reporting to doctors and RNs a patient's status and any concerns
  • Maintaining patient records

Registered Nursing

Job growth for registered nurses (RN) may be lower at 19 percent, but that is still well above the 14 percent national average for all U.S. jobs combined, reports the BLS. As a RN, you could earn a median annual salary of $65,470 nationally and would have a wider scope of practice and number of responsibilities. The BLS lists a sampling of your potential duties:

  • Perform diagnostic tests and analyze results
  • Develop and maintain patient care plans
  • Administer treatments and medicines
  • Observe and record patients' status
  • Use and care for a variety of medical equipment
  • Discuss issues with patients, healthcare professionals and families
  • Teach patients how to care for illnesses and injuries

Diploma, Associate or Bachelor's Degree

It is critical that you understand the education and training involved in being a nurse. Practical nurses attend two semesters of training that includes class and field work; the difference is that you will earn a diploma and must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

If you opt to become an RN, you have two educational pathways available: You can pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN). An associate degree requires you to attend a two-year nursing program. Sometimes, certain prerequisites are required in things like algebra, English and biology. Comparatively, a BSN is a four-year, liberal arts degree that includes multidiscipline learning and a more intense focus on nursing theory and concepts. Both PN and RN programs require extensive supervised field practice and require you to pass the NCLEX. Whether you are a PN or RN, you must have a license to practice in all 50 states.

To be a nurse means being one of America's most trusted professionals. You'll be able work within a wide range of populations and settings. Once you decide to be a PN or RN — and whether you want to pursue an associate or bachelor's degree — the rest comes down to hard work, devotion and flexibility.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Tags: allied-health, associate degree in nursing, Healthcare and Medical, LPN, nursing, patient care, Registered Nursing

Charles R. Hooper, MSW

About Charles R. Hooper, MSW

With over 20 years experience as a medical social worker and a master's degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I have been honored to dedicate most of my professional life to service in health care. I have worked in multiple medical/nursing settings, including cardiology, orthopedics, neurology, trauma care and others. I also founded the medical social work program at a regional trauma center and a very busy emergency department. View all posts by Charles R. Hooper, MSW →