The Life of a Nurse: Examining the Long Term Life of a Registered Nurse

NursingOctober 31, 2013

Nursing is a rewarding career that affords numerous health care opportunities. As a registered nurse (RN), you have the option to pursue various training paths. Once you've decided that the daily routine of an RN is something you would enjoy you may want to think of the future. Is the life of a nurse something you've considered for the long term? How can you plan out your life as a nurse to give yourself the best options for the future?

The life of a nurse is covered by three main points:


RN programs have three different degree tracks:

  • Associates degrees in nursing (ASN) tend to be two years of full-time schooling and three years part-time.
  • Bachelors of Science degrees in nursing (BSN) tend to be four years full-time and approximately six years part-time.
  • Programs are sometimes offered for a dual award of BSN and Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN), which take about five years full-time and up to ten years part-time.

The program you choose is dependent on your lifestyle and career goals. You may already know that your dream job requires a four year degree. If this is the case, choosing a BSN or combined BSN-MSN program is necessary. However, if you already have a family, you may prefer the ASN since it is a less intensive time commitment. Whichever path is right for you, keep in mind that many nurses start out with ASN degrees and pursue their BSNs and MSNs later down the road.

Specialties & Work

Where can your degree take you?

After completing your degree, a RN generally would choose a job in the specialty they find most interesting and rewarding. If you have an interest in organ transplants, you can go into transplantation or surgical nursing. If treating cancer has always piqued your interest, you can go into oncology nursing. If you have always wanted to travel, you may work internationally or for the military. Each nursing specialty comes with a different lifestyle.

It is highly important to choose a specialty and job that is suited to the lifestyle you want and where you see yourself in the future. Someone who isn't comfortable with long shift work and varied hours is likely unsuitable for transplantation nursing despite their interest in the field. Alternatively, if connecting with patients is important to you, consider specializing in a field like obstetrics. Finally, salary may be of importance when looking at your long-term future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the mean annual wage in America for nursing anesthetists is $154,390 as opposed to the general mean annual salary of $67,930 across all registered nursing specialties.


Do you hope to eventually have a role as a university's guest lecturer or aspire to become a director of your nursing specialization? The answers to questions like these say how important leadership is to you. While every nurse has the opportunity for a leadership role, the choices you make related to your education and specialization directly impact how easy it will be for you to obtain a leadership role. Many colleges prefer to hire nurses with graduate degrees for teaching positions. If this is important to you, a MSN may be the right path to take despite the long time commitment. Today, a good deal of nursing supervisory positions require four year degrees. However, ASNs are often able to get these positions as well if they have been in the workforce for long enough.

Choosing the right education, specialization, and leadership role are all extremely important to the life of a nurse. Considering these three main aspects of a nurse's life and how they are interrelated can help you make the best choices for your future nursing career.

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