Getting Started and Advancing in a Nursing Career

Nurses are essential healthcare professionals who provide care, support, and medical expertise to patients around the clock. Nursing is a vital profession that plays a crucial role in healthcare. It’s a challenging and rewarding career, offering opportunities to make a real difference in people’s lives. Nursing is a great choice for individuals who are passionate about healthcare and helping others. However, getting started and advancing in this field can be challenging, requiring a combination of education, hard work, and dedication.

Starting nursing school can be nerve-wracking and thrilling. The process of learning, studying, and getting licensed is daunting. However, once you pass your NCLEX-RN exam and enter the world of nursing, your career in this field can feel like a breeze.

Nursing is a vital and rewarding career that requires a solid educational foundation and a commitment to compassionate patient care. As a nurse, you will play an essential role in the healthcare system and make a significant impact on the lives of your patients. Before embarking on this fulfilling career path, it is important to know how to prepare for a nursing career. 

As healthcare becomes increasingly complex, nurses are taking on more advanced roles and responsibilities. Advanced degrees equip nursing professionals with specialized knowledge and skills that allow them to excel in highly specialized fields and deliver a higher level of care. 

Having earned a degree and worked in the field, nurses can advance their careers by pursuing advanced nurse degrees from Rockhurst University. These degrees provide nurses with an in-depth knowledge of the healthcare system and equip them with the skills necessary to deliver expert care. The programs are designed to give nurses the skills and knowledge needed to provide specialized care, navigate complex healthcare systems, and become leaders in the profession. With a focus on evidence-based practice and interdisciplinary collaboration, the programs provide rigorous and comprehensive education for nurses seeking to advance their careers. 

What does it take to pursue a nursing career?

Well, becoming a nurse is a noble career choice filled with challenges and rewards. Nurses play a critical role in the healthcare industry, providing a wide range of services to patients in a variety of settings. Whether you are just starting your journey towards a nursing career or are already on the path, there are many steps you can take to help prepare for success. Proper preparation involves a combination of education, practical experience, personal qualities, and integrating activities that can help relax your mind.

You must begin by applying to a nursing school, which can be stressful – and the stress doesn’t end when you get accepted. As such, you must never forget why you’re interested in becoming a nurse. This will help you stay motivated and persevere through the late nights of studying to achieve success. Here are a few reasons why enrolling in a nursing school is a prudent idea:

It’s a growing field

Nursing is a fast-growing field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by six percent in the next decade, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Registered nurses can find jobs in a wide range of healthcare settings and specialties, from hospitals to physician’s offices and more. 

It’s fulfilling

Many nurses report that the reason for their choice of career is a strong desire to help people. Nurses are vital members of the healthcare system and play a critical role in patient care. They deliver expert medical care at all levels and ensure patients receive the treatment they need to recover quickly and return home healthy. Although nursing can be difficult at times, it’s a rewarding career because it gives you a sense of accomplishment when you make a difference in people’s lives.

You can enter the workforce relatively quickly

As you learn the basics of nursing and apply them in the real world, you will begin to advance within your career. Nurses can enter the workforce quickly since there’s a growing need for healthcare professionals, especially nurses. It’s important to note that, depending on your specialty and state of employment, you may have to complete a specific duration in clinical practice before you can practice independently.

There are different pathways to licensure

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), and registered nurses (RNs) are the three different types of registered nursing professionals. Each falls under the umbrella of nursing, but they each have varying entry and advanced education requirements. Registered nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN exam, but most states have different pathways to licensure, including the traditional way of completing a BSN from a four-year college or university.

You can work in different healthcare settings

Depending on your qualifications, you may find employment in a variety of healthcare settings. such as hospitals, outpatient care centers, home care services, and nursing education facilities.

Preparing for nursing school

Deciding to pursue a career in nursing is a commendable choice. However, before becoming a registered nurse (RN), you must complete a rigorous nursing program. Preparing for nursing school can be overwhelming but taking the right steps will make the journey smoother and more achievable. With adequate preparation, potential nursing students can lay a strong foundation for future nursing careers.

Whether you’re just about to start your program or are still considering applying, you must check some boxes to prepare for nursing school. Knowing you’re ready to kickstart your nursing career will give you peace of mind. Follow these key steps to prepare for nursing school:

Choose a type of nursing degree

Once you know you want to become a registered nurse (RN), the next step is to choosing the best nursing degree for your needs. There are many different types of nursing degrees you can pursue, but note that there’s little consensus among nursing schools about which is the best. Depending on your preferences and clinical experiences, you might opt for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an associate degree from an RN-to-BSN program. 

Here are the different types of nursing degrees:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) diploma or certificate– This is a state-licensure-approved credential for nursing assistants. To attain this level of qualification, you must complete basic and clinical training to prepare you for the demands of nursing practice. This comes with an associate degree in applied science or a nursing diploma, depending on your location. There are two paths to achieving CNA certification: an 86-hour program or a program that takes less than two years to complete.
  • Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN) diploma or certificate– This credential is a state-certified license for healthcare practitioners. To attain this qualification, you must first become a CNA and then advance to LPN. This requires additional training and a minimum of one year to complete. New York, California, and Nebraska require LPNs to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
  • Registered Nurse (RN) via an associate degree in Nursing– Known as an ADN, this is the diploma for registered nurses. This type of nursing degree has been in existence since the 1940s and is registered with the state board of nursing in your home state. It takes 2-3 years to complete depending on where you attend school and if you have any previous experience. You can choose from a wide range of specialties to pursue, such as pediatric, cardiovascular, or psychiatric nursing.
  • Registered Nurse (RN) via a Bachelor of Science in Nursing– This nursing degree is also known as a BSN. Nursing students can pursue this diploma by taking four years of undergraduate coursework. This can be combined with your associate degree if you already have one in a related field.
  • Master of Science in Nursing– This nursing degree is known as an MSN. You can earn this degree in as little as one year. To complete this degree, you must complete advanced nursing science coursework focusing on nursing theory and research.
  • Doctoral Degree in Nursing– This nursing degree is known as a Ph.D. It takes 4-5 years to complete this degree program in research. You can choose this degree path if you plan on pursuing a doctorate in nursing, but it’s not necessary to practice as a registered nurse.

Research the field

Because you’ll be spending a lot of time working with patients, it’s important that you look at the field and understand what it entails. Research online or contact vocational nursing schools or nursing programs in your area to learn more about the field and what to expect during your program. If you already have a nursing degree, take a refresher course to keep up to date on advanced practice knowledge and clinical knowledge necessary for the job.

Complete the prerequisites

Many nursing schools require students to complete some prerequisites before starting the program. This step is crucial in getting ready to enter nursing school. It includes good grades in high school, college, and prerequisite courses. You will need to have passed well in key subjects such as biology, chemistry, and mathematics.

Take the TEAS test

Many nursing schools require you to take the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS), a computer-based exam that evaluates students’ academic readiness . It helps assess science, math, and English language reading and usage skills. The TEAS exam helps nursing schools make sure you have what it takes to complete their program. Take some time and study how you can pass this test and prepare for your future career.

Update your immunizations and certifications

It is very important to keep up to date on your immunizations. Nursing schools usually require that you show proof of having all the required immunizations before getting accepted into the program. In addition, some certificates, such as the CPR certification, are required by some nursing schools. You may need immunizations for the following:

  • Pertussis
  • Chickenpox
  • Meningitis
  • Hepatitis B
  • Mumps
  • Rubeola
  • Rubella
  • Tuberculosis
  • Tetanus
  • Influenza

Bonus tips to help you prepare for the nursing career

Becoming a nurse requires significant commitment and dedication, from completing rigorous educational requirements to hands-on training in clinical settings. With so much preparation required, it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity to enhance your readiness for this rewarding endeavor. As you begin this exciting journey, there are some bonus tips that can help you prepare, gain confidence, and succeed…

Refine your study skills

As you look forward to your new career, it’s important to give yourself as many study opportunities as possible. Take advantage of free classes or continuing education opportunities available in your area. These types of activities give you a chance to refine your study skills and learn about topics that will be relevant once you’ve graduated from nursing school.

Learning how to study is a vital skill for any student, but it’s especially important for current and future nurses. It ensures that you can retain information from your classes and gain experience with the material before you graduate. It also helps you avoid falling behind, which can be common in a nursing program. And if you find yourself falling behind, learning how to study is even more important. It will give you the tools necessary to catch up and stay on track with your coursework.

Network with nursing mentors

It’s essential to find a mentor who can guide you through your educational and career journey. These mentors might be friends or family members who’ve already successfully navigated their way to a nursing position. 

A strong network of nursing mentors can be the most valuable resource in your new career. Networking with a mentor helps you get used to working with other healthcare professionals, and it can also prepare you to stand out in the workforce. Your mentors could be nurses who are employed at different healthcare facilities, or they could be nurses who have been in your position previously. Nurse mentors typically provide coaching and support to help you make the most of your new career path. They help and offer advice along the way if you have any questions or concerns.

Take practice exams

Exams are a common feature in nursing school. To prepare for these exams, you should take practice exams to test your knowledge and determine which topics you need to study. Taking practice tests is ideal for any medical or nursing student because it lets you see what the test will look like and allows you to understand some of the questions that could be on there. Some students report that practicing with these exams helped them do better during their final exams.

Establish a healthy balance

It’s important to take care of yourself during your studies and to establish a healthy balance. You will have to work hard in school, so you need to make sure you are getting enough sleep and time off. Make sure you are not always stressed out about what is going on in the classroom or hospital setting. It might be difficult but try to step away from it and focus on other activities that can help you relax.

Organization is everything

It is important to have your life organized, just as it is to be organized in school. As a nurse, you will want things to be done right and on time. It will be hard to do that if you are not organized enough to get through school. You also need a planner, calendars, and to practice organizational routines that work best for you.

Becoming a nurse will require you to organize yourself and your finances. You also have to prioritize your time to complete the program efficiently and effectively, without putting yourself or anyone else at risk. Begin by planning time for studying, exercising, spending time with family, eating, and finishing other tasks. Make time for breaks, and find a comfortable place to study where all your materials are at hand so you can truly focus.

Keep the long run in mind

While it’s important to consider what you want to accomplish immediately after graduation, don’t forget to look at long-term career goals. Many schools have career counselors who can help you plan for your future, and you can develop a strategy to achieve your goals. It’s important to keep those long-term plans in mind when it comes time to make decisions about your studies or clinical rotations.

Get ready for success in your nursing career!

Nursing school is no easy feat; however, with the proper preparation, you can become a nurse! To prepare for your nursing career, make sure to stay focused on the learning process. Learn how to study effectively and find techniques that work best for you. You will also need to establish healthy habits such as eating healthily and exercising regularly.

Nursing is a long-term commitment, so it’s important to be ready from day one. If you’re dedicated to success and preparation, you can become a nurse and work towards your career aspirations! Above all else, take care of yourself so you can stay focused on school and your studies without getting overwhelmed or pushed aside by life’s responsibilities.

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