10 Steps to Prepare for a Career in Nursing

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No matter how the world evolves, there will always be a need for nurses. Throughout the US, qualified nurses are needed not only for bedside care, but for leadership positions, advocacy, and education too. As patient numbers surge, the population ages, and many nurses burn out from overwork, nurses who enter and stay with the profession have an opportunity to make a substantial difference.

If you see yourself in a nursing role, there are several steps you’ll need to take first. From obtaining the right credentials to learning transferable skills, here are the actions you must follow before stepping foot in the nursing world.

1. Choose the Right Nursing Program

The first step you must take before venturing into a nursing career is to find a nursing program that aligns with your career goals and endeavors. Each program comes with its own benefits, so you need to take your time looking at the programs on offer. This will help you decide what you need to do in order to succeed. It’s important to note that each school offers different degrees. It’s rare to find a nursing school that has every pathway, so you must review every degree option before making your final decision.

There are various things to take into consideration before enrolling in a course. These include your career goals, lifestyle, budget, and learning style. You need to establish what nursing level you want to start with and look into the program’s duration. Other things to think about include where the nursing school is located, whether you want in-person or online lessons, as well as the facilities the program partners with. For online classes, The University of Texas at Arlington offers this. You may visit their website to learn more about the program.

It may sound like a chore to do all this research, but you need to be confident with your final decision. Once you find the right nursing school that has the resources you require, you can be confident you’re on your way to succeeding in your nursing role.

2. Decide On Your Degree

When searching for a suitable nursing school, you’ll likely start doing so once you’ve picked your preferred degree. You need to put your full time and attention into the program to get the best results, so understanding the different types of nursing degrees and certifications is essential.

One of the most popular of these is a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant Diploma). This normally takes between four and 12 weeks to complete and is a non-degree diploma provided by vocational schools and community colleges. Throughout this course, you will learn how to offer basic healthcare services to a patient. Before practicing, you must pass a state licensure exam first.

For those interested in becoming an RN (Registered Nurse) there is an associate’s degree you can obtain. This normally takes between two and three years to complete. This degree is the minimum requirement for becoming an RN. Once you obtain this qualification, you will be qualified for most nursing roles. However, you must pass your state licensure exam first. There is the option to go one step further and study for a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). This degree is designed for recent high school graduates who have little to no experience in healthcare.

If you’d like to practice in a specialized field and become an APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse) you can study for an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing).

Nursing is a challenging field. Whenever you struggle to understand something, explore nursing resources that provide videos or visuals to simplify the topic you’re studying.

3. Research the Nursing Field

The last thing you want to do is study for a degree that doesn’t open doors. Think about what kinds of roles you’re interested in, as well as what your prospects look like in regard to landing your dream job.

Today, nurses are leveraging their medical expertise to start their own businesses. This approach is increasingly popular as nurses look for ways to work from home or take greater control over their careers. Business ideas for nurses generally fall into 4 categories.

  • Consulting and Coaching: legal nurse consultants, teleheatlh consultants, wellness coaches, nurse health coaches, and career coaches
  • Writing: nurse bloggers, freelance writers, course creators, and editors
  • Patient Care: childbirth doulas, childcare providers, fitness nurses, hospice caregivers, and other specialized care providers
  • Business Functions: medical product sales, and medical billing and coding specialists

The more you learn about career opportunities, the better prepared you’ll be to pick a program that gets you where you want to be.

4. Complete Prerequisites

To qualify for nursing school, you must meet certain program requirements and academic prerequisites. Depending on the kind of program you apply for, requirements will vary. For instance, some BSN programs are four years in length. Some options can last for two years and require you to possess an associate degree in nursing.

As the prerequisites will differ from program to program, it’s your job to speak to your admissions counselor or program advisor for advice. They can let you know whether you’re on the right path to pursuing your future program. Your grades matter too, so it’s vital you work hard to achieve the best grades you can.

Some other requirements include a resume, letter of intent, a GPA of 2.0-2.5 (or higher), and a professional letter of recommendation. There’s also an application fee you’ll need to factor in. Some programs require you to go for an interview before being accepted too. You can also develop a fluency in medical terminology with references like StraighterLine.

5. Complete Your Nursing Program

After you’ve been accepted into nursing school and you’re on a program that correlates with your career goals, you can begin learning the foundational elements needed for success. Whatever program you pick, there will be coursework you’ll be expected to deliver. Coursework can cover anything from understanding medications and diseases to communicating with patients. The amount of time you spend in the classroom each week will depend on whether you’re attending on a part or full-time basis. However, in general, for each hour you spend in class, you can expect to spend two or more completing assignments.

Your nursing degree will also feature clinical field experience. This normally takes place towards the end of your degree. To succeed in your nursing program and come out the other side with the right grades, you must adhere to deadlines, prioritize your coursework and ask for help as and when required. While you may feel nervous at the beginning of your course, as you begin to settle in and understand each module, you’ll gain a profound sense of accomplishment. You mustn’t rush through modules. Instead, take your time to get to grips with each aspect.

6. Pick a Specialty and Obtain a Certification

After you’ve completed your nursing degree and gained the experience required to work as a general nurse, you may aspire to go one step further. If you have more specific goals, you can get certified in a specialty that interests you. Like with your nursing program, there will be a wide selection of specialties to pick from. Don’t rush into making any decisions. Instead, take your time to look at what options are available to you.

One popular specialty is to become a family nurse practitioner. This specialty focuses on family health care. If you are passionate about helping members of a family unit keep healthy, this may be a role you want to explore further. Another specialty is to become a mental health nurse practitioner. This kind of role involves you working with patients through a variety of mental health conditions, helping them to feel at ease and comfortable.

Other specialties include pain management, dialysis, neonatal, and informatics. Understandably, each of these specialties requires different skills and experience. You may find you’re unable to complete a specialty without the right degree behind you. Therefore, it pays off to do your research and establish what entry requirements the course entails.

7. Obtain Your License and Credentials

There are various types of credentials and licenses nurses must obtain before they can perform their role. Each state varies in terms of these requirements, so you should check out the specific process in the state you plan on working in. Also, every state has its own board of nursing which comes with different requirements.

8. Find Employment

After you’re licensed and credentialled, you’re nearly there on your path to becoming a nurse. All you need to do now is find the right role for you. You can do this by starting your job search. Once you know what state you’d like to practice in, this will make the process easier and straightforward. You can begin by looking at positions in your area or checking out popular job boards. There’s also the option to reach out the local healthcare sites to ask whether there are any openings. When talking with potential employers, make sure you demonstrate your passion and enthusiasm for nursing, and what makes you suitable for the role.

Before you start working as a nurse, you’ll need to undergo interviews first. This gives the employer a chance to meet you, find out what you can bring to the team, and what skills and traits you have that make you stand out from other candidates.

9. Continue to Learn

In nursing, there is always something new to learn. With technology continuing to evolve and practices and regulations changing yearly, it’s a good idea to keep an open mind and always be eager to learn. This will show you’re dedicated to your profession and will do whatever it takes to succeed in the field.

Throughout your nursing program and specialty, you’ll gain a wide range of transferable skills that can help you flourish in your role. From learning how to communicate effectively with patients, to working well under pressure, these skills are must-haves for any nursing role. Once you step into your position, you can hone these skills and learn others that will take you far in nursing.

10. Earn a DNP

To be at the top of nursing, you may want to consider earning a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice). This degree will demonstrate your expertise in the nursing sector. Some of the benefits attached to a DNP include obtaining a lucrative salary, gaining respect and recognition from your peers, and working in senior-level roles.

Becoming a nurse won’t happen overnight. There are several steps you must take to get you into the field. However, if you’re passionate about nursing and are ready to make a difference, you’ll have no problem following the steps above.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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