Why Become a Nurse
Overall job opportunities are expected to be excellent for registered nurses. Employers in some parts of the country and in certain employment settings report difficulty in attracting and retaining an adequate number of RNs, primarily because of an aging RN workforce and a lack of younger workers to fill positions. Qualified applicants to nursing schools are being turned away because of a shortage of faculty. The need for nursing faculty will only increase as many instructors near retirement.
Top Reasons Why Becoming a Nurse Makes Sense
Despite the slower employment growth in hospitals, job opportunities should still be excellent because of the relatively high turnover of hospital nurses coupled with increasing demand from private clinics. To attract and retain qualified personnel, hospitals may offer lucrative signing bonuses, family-friendly work schedules, or subsidized training. Although faster employment growth is projected in physicians’ offices and outpatient care centers, RNs may face greater competition for these positions because they generally offer regular working hours and more comfortable work environments. Generally, RNs with at least a bachelor’s degree will have better job prospects than those with an ADN. In addition, all four advanced practice specialties including clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, and nurse anesthetists will be in high demand. This will be particularly true in medically under-served areas such as inner cities and rural areas. Relative to physicians, these RNs increasingly serve as lower-cost primary care providers.
Salaries for Nurses
One of the biggest benefits of becoming a nurse is the pay and the opportunity for advancement. While the rewarding nature of helping people in need is often cited as the number one reason for entering the healthcare industry, few will dispute the fact that salary also appears near the top of the list. While wage growth has been flat to negative in many career fields, stability and steady growth continues to make nursing an attractive career choice.
Opportunities to Specialize
There are many options for RNs who specialize in a specific work setting or type of treatment. Below you will find a brief overview and job description for some of the most popular specialties. These are areas where strong job and wage growth are predicted over the next decade.
Ambulatory care nurses provide preventive care and treat patients with a variety of illnesses and injuries in physicians’ offices or in clinics. Some ambulatory care professionals are involved in telehealth, providing care and advice through electronic communications media such as videoconferencing, the Internet, or by telephone.
Critical care nurses provide care to patients with serious, complex, and acute illnesses or injuries that require very close monitoring and extensive medication protocols and therapies. The pay can be significant but with it comes the need for extensive knowledge and attention to detail. Critical care staff members often work in critical or intensive care hospital units dealing with some of the most challenging patient care scenarios.
Emergency, or trauma, nurses work in hospital or stand-alone emergency departments, providing initial assessments and care for patients with life-threatening conditions. Some emergency care providers may become qualified to serve as transport nurses, who provide medical care to patients who are transported by helicopter or airplane to the nearest medical facility. The pay is usually very attractive and the job is highly rewarding but the scheduling can be difficult and it has a tendency to be stressful at times. This specialty would be ideal for someone who likes to be challenged and enjoys a fast-paced work environment.
Holistic nurses provide care such as acupuncture, massage and aroma therapy, and biofeedback, which are meant to treat patients’ mental and spiritual health in addition to their physical health. These specialized care providers often get the opportunity to know their patients on a personal level and see people return for continuing treatment over time. Home healthcare specialists provide at-home nursing care for patients, often as follow-up care after discharge from a hospital or from a rehabilitation, long-term care, or skilled nursing facility. This is another area where long-term patient relationships are often built. Students who select this specialty get the opportunity to experience the rewards of their hard work by seeing how it impacts people from one day to the next.
Another area to consider specializing in is Hospice and palliative care. Here the objective is to provide care, most often in home or hospice settings, focused on maintaining quality of life for terminally ill patients. While this type of work can be mentally difficult at times, the service being provided to patients is of the utmost importance and is greatly appreciated by the patients and their families as well.
Infusion nurses administer medications, fluids, and blood to patients through injections into the veins. While they may also perform other tasks, the critical skill set focuses on working with a wide variety of intravenous medicine or therapy. Precision and compassion are key personal attributes to a successful career in this specialty.
Long-term care specialists provide healthcare services on a recurring basis to patients with chronic physical or mental disorders, often in long-term care or skilled nursing facilities. This area of focus requires individuals with patience and compassion to deal with those who may not fully understand their own health and medical needs or are not capable of taking responsibility for them on their own.
Medical-surgical nurses provide health promotion and basic medical care to patients with various medical and surgical diagnoses. Occupational health specialists seek to prevent job-related injuries and illnesses, provide monitoring and emergency care services, and help employers implement health and safety standards.
Perianesthesia specialists provide preoperative and postoperative care to patients undergoing anesthesia during surgery or other procedure. Perioperative nurses assist surgeons by selecting and handling instruments, controlling bleeding, and suturing incisions. Some of these professionals also can specialize in plastic and reconstructive surgery. This type of work typically involves employment through a hospital or surgical center. Another closely related are of focus is Radiology. Here, highly-trained professionals provide care to patients undergoing diagnostic radiation procedures such as ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging, and radiation therapy for oncology diagnoses.
As you can see, there is a nursing specialty to suit almost every personality or unique interest. The key to a satisfying career is to identify the one that best fits with who you are and what you enjoy doing. While the pay is often enough to guide nursing school students into a specific specialty, making it a deciding factor can be a mistake. Considerations such as scheduling, the type of patients you will be working with, and the availability of advancement opportunities are most often cited by active RNs as the factors most important to maintaining a high level of job satisfaction.
More Great Reasons to Become a Nurse
Most RNs begin as staff nurses in hospitals and, with experience and good performance, often move to other settings or are promoted to positions with more responsibility. In management, there are opportunities to advance from assistant unit manager or head nurse to more senior-level administrative roles of assistant director, director, vice president, or chief of nursing. Increasingly, management-level nursing positions require a graduate or an advanced degree in nursing or health services administration. Administrative positions require leadership, communication and negotiation skills, and good judgment. The information provided here is meant to provide a basis introduction to some of the available areas of specialization. Before embarking on a focused career path, individuals are encouraged to meet with active professionals in there are of interest to gain additional information and insight into a particular specialty. With so many unique paths to choose from, it is easy to see why becoming an RN can put you a path towards a rewarding career.
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