When someone says that they are a nurse, the most common image that comes to mind is that of an RN (registered nurse) working in a hospital or medical office. Although this might be one of the more typical roles that a nurse can play in their career, there are actually a variety of different avenues that a nurse can take. This is because there are so many particular areas of nursing and medicine that require specialized healthcare professionals to develop and administer treatment.
Many nurses start their careers off by either earning a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. While both options will qualify someone to become an RN and take the NCLEX exam, many people these days opt for the BSN. This is mainly due to the fact that nurses feel more prepared for their careers when given more education and clinical experience prior to entering the workforce.
Furthermore, with a BSN degree, it is possible to pursue those more specialized and specific areas of medicine that are in need of experienced nurses. Since a number of such areas require an advanced degree beyond a BSN, only those who have completed their four-year degree can set out on the track to specialization.
If you have or are working towards your BSN and are looking to obtain more information about the different options that will be available to you going forward, here are six areas of nursing that you can consider pursuing during the next steps in your career.
1. Family Practice
One area of nursing that is growing in popularity is that of the family nurse practitioner. The job opportunities available to nurse practitioners are expected to rise steadily over the coming years as the demand for experienced nurses in this arena increases. Therefore, not only does this path provide one with the opportunity to pursue more leadership roles, but it also presents a fair amount of job security.
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) work to provide quality healthcare to a variety of individuals. The work of a family nurse practitioner is not limited to a certain disease or age group, but rather advanced training and a large number of clinical hours are used to prepare such nurses to cater to a wide range of illnesses and injuries.
Because there is a growing need for experienced family healthcare providers, there are some states that are permitting more FNPs to work independently without being under the direct supervision of a physician. It is no secret that the world of family medicine is lacking in qualified physicians, so by allowing FNPs to practice in this way, areas that have been underserved in this regard can benefit from the availability of quality healthcare.
In order to become an FNP, you will first need to have a BSN as well as several years’ experience working in the field. There are plenty of degree programs out there to choose from, and many of them are online so as to help make earning your degree more efficient and cost-effective.
You might wish to pursue a master’s degree, although you might have additional career opportunities in the future if you are able to earn a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. A BSN to DNP program might be the right choice for anyone looking to gain the experience and education required to work as a qualified family nurse practitioner.
For a time, common labor and delivery practices in the United States involved an expectant mother working with an OB-GYN who would oversee her prenatal and postnatal care as well as the actual delivery process. While many mothers still opt to enlist the services of a physician of this sort, more and more mothers are looking to nurse-midwives for their pregnancy-related healthcare.
A nurse-midwife is one with an advanced degree as well as loads of experience working in labor and delivery. Although these nurses occasionally work alongside an OB-GYN during the delivery process, they are fully qualified to act independently in such circumstances.
Most certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) have a master’s degree in nurse-midwifery. Their qualifications are not to be confused with those who are simply midwives, as the certification to become a midwife is not as in-depth a process as that of a CNM. In fact, CNMs have certain abilities that typically only physicians have, such as prescribing medications and working as primary care providers.
CNMs must also obtain and maintain certification by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. This national board ensures the quality of healthcare provided by CNMs remains at the highest of standards so as to better cater to the needs of expectant mothers and newborns.
3. Nurse Anesthetist
Become a nurse anesthetist is arguably one of the most lucrative careers available to nurses. Not only are nurse anesthetists in high demand in most places, with that demand expected to rise over the coming decades, but qualified and experienced nurse anesthetists can also potentially bring in a salary that is near or around $160,000 a year.
One of the reasons for this attractive salary is that the work performed by a nurse anesthetist is incredibly specialized and requires a skilled and highly educated nurse. The administering of anesthesia to patients in the surgical setting is something that is not taken lightly by the medical community, and for good reason. Moreover, these nurses play active roles within surgeries to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the patient.
In order to become a nurse anesthetist, one must naturally already have a BSN. A minimum of two years of experience as a nurse working in the field is also a requirement for acceptance into a program. Many nurse anesthetists hold a master’s degree. However, in order to reach the higher end of the salary scale and to obtain a good employment situation, it may be necessary to earn a doctoral degree. With expected job growth of 26% by the year 2028, the additional advanced degrees could be well worth it for any nurse.
4. Nursing Administrator
A specialty that takes a nurse out of the hospital or clinical setting and into the world of upper management is that of nursing administrator. Hospitals and health systems are in need of administrators who have been on the frontlines of patient care in order to help manage and govern things. Because nurses know first-hand what is going on with patient care, they make excellent candidates for such roles.
Moreover, a nurse’s education and experience allow them to be able to make informed decisions about issues pertaining to human resources within a hospital setting. They understand the challenges and obstacles facing the nursing profession today and are therefore more than qualified to weigh in on decisions in such areas.
In order to become a nursing administrator, you will first need a fair amount of experience. This is because it is only through the practical, first-hand knowledge that you gain working in patient care that you will be able to properly step into an administrative role. Many nursing administrators also have at least one graduate degree under their belts.
Anyone looking to step into an administrative role one day should choose the advanced degree that they pursue accordingly. For instance, there are a number of nursing leadership degree programs that would help you acquire the leadership skills necessary to be an effective administrator. With the right degree and enough experience, you can make an excellent career for yourself in the world of healthcare administration.
5. Nurse Educator
Another role that takes a nurse out of the clinical practice setting and into a completely different facet of the healthcare system is that of nurse educator. This career path is precisely what it sounds like. It is where a nurse takes on the important task of educating the nurses of tomorrow and helping to prepare them for the demands of the job.
One aspect of nursing in general involves a certain level of educational capabilities. It is, after all, the job of a nurse to instruct patients about what their treatment is going to entail and the best personal healthcare practices, among other things. Since all nurses are familiar with educating others, stepping into a classroom setting can be an incredibly natural transition.
Those who wish to become nurse educators will need a great amount of experience working as a nurse. You are going to be preparing future nurses for their careers in healthcare so it only makes sense that you will have a great deal of experience behind you to pass along to your students. You will also need an advanced degree of some sort.
Depending on the institution that you are looking to teach at, you might need a certain level of education. For instance, while in most cases a master’s degree will suffice to qualify you to become a nurse educator, some of the more prestigious schools might want their instructors to hold a doctoral degree. Moreover, if you are proficient in a particular field of nursing and wish to become an instructor for others looking to specialize in that same field, you will almost certainly need an advanced degree in your specialty as well.
It is an admiral goal to wish to help prepare the next generation of nurses for their careers in medicine. It is also a career path that can prove to be incredibly rewarding for those who wish to pursue it. Think back to your own nursing school experience. Did you have a certain instructor who inspired you to persevere through hours of rigorous coursework and clinicals? You very well might play a similar role in the life of another future nurse.
6. Pediatric Nurse
The area of nursing and medicine that caters to pediatric patients is one that will always be in need of experienced and passionate healthcare professionals. Working in pediatrics is almost a different world in and of itself, one where the demands of the job are extremely challenging and emotional. It is an important job, though, that can prove to be a rewarding and fulfilling specialty for a nurse to pursue.
As the name suggests, pediatric nurses work with younger patients as opposed to adults. A pediatric nurse might work in the clinical setting or in an intensive care unit. You might need additional education and experience in order to qualify you to work in intensive care, but that is certainly an area worth pursuing.
A fair number of pediatric nurses only hold a BSN. However, the majority of nurses working in pediatrics have a master’s degree or higher. This is mainly due to the fact that there are a variety of specialties within the field of pediatrics that require a nurse to have obtained a certain level of education in order to be qualified for the work.
One aspect of pediatric nursing involves neonatal care. This is another specialty that will require a different set of qualifications and a specific degree. One must also be willing and able to accommodate and work with families while they go through what is likely a very difficult time. In this way, neonatal nurses – and pediatric nurses in general – are rather in a category all on their own.
The patience and empathy that one must have to take on this nursing role must know no bounds. Not only will such nurses be faced with the difficult task of administering treatment that their young patients don’t understand or feel comfortable with, but they must also be able to effectively communicate the parameters of a child’s healthcare to their parents or guardians. This is certainly no easy task and is not a job that everyone is cut out for.
That being said, the fact that the ratio of nurses to patients is so much greater in the world of pediatrics than that of adult patient care means that there will always be a need for qualified pediatric nurses. Before taking steps to enter into this role, consider having a conversation about the job with someone currently working as a pediatric nurse.
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