Nursing is an in-demand and well-paying career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for professionals who hold nursing degrees will expand by 7 percent from 2019 to 2029. If you’re looking to fulfill your calling or to start a career in this vastly growing field, here is a road map that will help reach your career goals.
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Diploma or Certificate
With a CNA certificate/diploma, you can become a nursing assistant/aide. While getting this non-degree certificate won’t make you a nurse, it is a fantastic entry point for anyone who wants to get into nursing. You can get your CNA certificate from a vocational school or community college. Both on-campus and online options are offered, but you will need to perform clinical hours in person. The course takes 4-12 weeks.
What You Can Do With a CNA Certificate
CNA students are trained to provide patients with basic health care services as well as to assist them as they go about their daily activities. The curriculum includes emergency procedures, infection control and patient care skills.
In practice, CNAs connect medical professions with patients: They listen to patients’ health concerns, measure vital signs and move patients between their beds and wheelchairs. Additionally, they help patients eat, dress, use the bathroom and navigate their daily lives. Most CNAs find employment in skilled nursing facilities like rehabilitation centers, but you can also work in hospitals, retirement homes, home health care providers and assisted living facilities.
CNA Salary and Employment Prospects
On average, CNAs earn $29,640 per year, and between 2019 and 2029, the demand for CNAs will increase by 8 percent.
Licensed Practicing Nurse (LPN) Diploma or Certificate
Getting a Licensed Practicing Nurse (LPN) certificate is perhaps the ideal way of starting your journey into being a registered nurse (RN). The LPN certificate – or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) as it’s referred to in California and Texas – is offered in community colleges, vocational schools and hospitals.
The non-degree course takes 7 to 24 months, depending on your program. However, to be qualified to practice and to get the state license, you need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).
What You Can Do With an LPN Certificate
LPNs work under the supervision of RNs. They perform health monitoring and basic care for patients. Their work includes reporting patients’ conditions, improving patient comfort, changing bandages, taking vitals, administering injections and medications and assisting with procedures. You may also need to educate patients’ families on their care plan.
To gain an edge in the marketplace, you can take the additional certifications that are available to LVNs or LPNs. These specialty certifications cover areas like childbirth, IV therapy, developmental disabilities and more. As an LPN, you can find employment in hospitals, home health care service providers, physicians’ offices, government agencies and other providers.
LPN/LVN Salary and Employment Prospects
On average, LPNs earn $47,080. Between 2019 and 2029, the demand for Licensed Practicing Nurses is expected to increase by 9 percent.
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
Getting an Associate Degree is the doorway into being a registered Nurse (RN). It is the minimum requirement. Many community colleges and four-year institutions have ADN programs. Some schools even offer online nursing programs that blend online classes with on-site training.
It takes 2 to 3 years to complete an ADN. But for you to be licensed to practice as an RN, you will need to take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam.
What You Can Do with Your RN License
RNs are what most people think of as nurses. As a registered nurse, you play a wide range of roles in caring for patients. You are tasked with recording medical history, administering medicine, monitoring medical equipment and symptoms, contributing to or crafting a plan of care, collaborating with doctors to perform diagnostic tests and educating patients on self-care.
You may also be tasked with overseeing health care staff, including CNAs and LPNs. Your role is based on your patient’s needs and your work. RNs have opportunities to specialize in given demographics of patients or fields: for example, anesthesia nursing, emergency nursing, psychiatric nursing, pediatric nursing, neonatal nursing and more.
Most RNs choose to work in hospital settings, but you can also work in physicians’ offices, military and government agencies, travel nursing organizations, school health clinics, ambulatory healthcare, and other health-related fields/organizations.
With additional training, you can take many less traditional roles, including as a legal nurse consultant, mid-level nurse administrator, forensic nurse, nursing informatics specialist, occupational health nurse and more.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
A BSN degree is ideal for those who are committed to being RNs. A lot of four-year schools and colleges have nursing schools that offer BSN degrees. The nurse programs combine academic learning with hands-on clinical training.
In your BSN nursing program, you will explore scientific fields like chemistry, biology and anatomy. Besides, you’ll acquire knowledge on patient care, assisting with surgery, designing treatment plans and laboratory testing.
In some nursing schools, you are allowed to focus on a given specialty of nursing, like psychiatry, pediatrics, geriatric nursing, acute care and infectious disease. Being a specialist often boosts your earning and employability.
Once you have completed your course, you will need to get your RN license (if you don’t already have it) by taking and passing the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. With that, you can take any RN role.
RN Salary and Employment Prospects
The average salary of a registered nurse is $73,300. Within the 2019-2029 period, the demand for registered nurses is expected to rise by 7 percent. With a BSN degree, you’ll likely make more than a nurse with an associate degree in nursing.
Bridge Nursing Degree
If you already have an associate degree or a diploma and some work experience, bridge nursing degree programs allow you to get credits for your previous experiences and educational courses. It will take you a shorter time to acquire a bachelor’s degree.
Depending on your previous experience and education level, getting a BSN may take 1 to 4 years. You will need to complete more clinical experiences and cover liberal arts coursework that’s not offered at associate degree and diploma level.
Note: Ensure you join an accredited nursing school. That way, you won’t have issues with licensing and you’ll be able to transfer your credits as your rise up the career ladder.