If you’re a compassionate person who feels drawn to helping those in need of comfort and would like to be on the front lines of helping people recover from injuries and sickness, becoming a nurse or nursing assistant is a way to make a significant impact in the health care field. Nurses either assist doctors or are the lead medical point person, depending on the role they play, in tending to patients, doing everything from checking vitals and performing basic patient care like dressing wounds, to administering meds and discussing treatment plans, and to providing support for patients who may be hurting, agitated, scared, or otherwise emotionally vulnerable during treatment. Offering info on preventative care is also often an important part of a nurse’s job. You’ll need to be able to handle often-stressful situations, but if you think you’ve got what it takes, receiving a nursing degree and becoming a nurse can prove to be an immensely rewarding choice.
What do nursing majors work on in school?
First, it’s important to differentiate the different types of nursing pathways are available, and all of the different acronyms that go with them. With a practical nursing diploma, you can become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). Earn an associate’s (ADN) or bachelor’s degree (BSN) and become a registered nurse (RN), which also requires licensure. A master’s degree can lead to a nurse practitioner or anesthetist career, while a Ph.D. can lead to an eventual job in administration.
Classes will focus on taking care of injured and sick patients (meaning physical care, but also emotional care), covering such topics as pharmacology and administering drugs, surgical nursing, obstetrics, nursing ethics, care of the elderly and kids, epidemiology, and leadership.
There’s a decent salary for every level.
While nursing assistants and orderlies are entry-level nursing-related jobs on the lower end of the pay scale—the median salary for 2016 was $27,000 or so—the wages only go up from there. Licensed practical and vocational nurses see their median salary jump to around $44,000, and registered nurses to $70,000. Take that nursing degree to the next level and become a nurse practitioner or anesthetist and you’ll find a median salary in the six figures: $107,000 in 2016. Plus, the job outlook for all of these jobs through 2016 is faster than average or much faster than average—up to 31% faster for nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists. You’ll also enjoy job security not found in many other occupations anymore. Employer benefits can also be a perk, depending on where you end up working.
You can find a job in a variety of venues, and with your pick of specialties.
When people think “nurse,” they may automatically think of someone in a doctor’s office or hospital setting. But nurses and nursing assistants have so many different places where they can find a job, including schools and camps, blood banks, mental health facilities, nursing homes and rehab centers, prisons, military facilities—even cruise ships among others. If you decide to stick to research or teaching, you could end up at a trade school or university. If you don’t think you want to become an actual nurse, a nursing degree can help you branch off into other careers, including medical journalist, health care lobbyist, or a grant writer for health care–related nonprofits. Plus, what area you specialize in can be geared to your interests, whether that may be in geriatrics, cardiology, oncology, or pediatrics, to name a few.
Schedules are often flexible.
Although you likely won’t be able to have your choice of shifts when you’re just starting out—seniority status often gives the most-desired time slots to those who’ve been around awhile—you may eventually be able to carve out a schedule that works best for your work-life balance. This can be especially handy if you have kids or are planning to someday: You can work the overnight shift in an ER, for example, so that you’re home to get the kids on the bus and when they get home from school.
You’ll be helping nurse patients back to good health, both physically and emotionally, and perhaps even saving lives.
One of the reasons you likely gravitated toward nursing in the first place is because you feel empathy for others, especially those who are vulnerable due to injury or illness. Entering the nursing profession will enable you to show that compassion on a daily basis and use the knowledge you gained during your studies to collaborate with other medical staff and help treat patients. There’s no greater satisfaction than knowing the work you’ve done has helped another human being become healthier and happier. That satisfaction and sense of pride can also help carry you through during the more challenging days.
Your own health may benefit.
We’ll be frank: Nursing can be a physically laborious job. You’re often on your feet all day, and you’ll probably be doing a lot of lifting (equipment, supplies, and patients) and moving fast from one patient to the next. It might not be the equivalent of an hour of CrossFit, but it will likely qualify as physical activity moderate enough so you don’t have to check “sedentary” on fitness assessments.