Nursing school is a three- or four-year post-high school educational program usually offered by hospitals or colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.
The goal of nursing education is to prepare students, who typically have an associate’s degree in another field, for careers as licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or registered nurses, depending on their particular state’s requirements.
Students typically receive classroom instruction in anatomy, physiology, biology, and other sciences that are relevant to nursing.
In addition, they often participate in clinical courses where they learn how to provide patient care under the direction of a nurse educator or practicing RNs.
Some students choose to get an associate degree in nursing (ADN), which can be completed in two years, while others decide to continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) which allows them to work as an RN after graduation.
The BSN is typically a four-year program although some programs are offered on a three-year basis.
- 1 Why is a Degree in Nursing Important to Have?
- 2 The Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Nursing Program
- 3 The Value of a Nursing Education
- 4 Nurse Specialties: What Is Right for You?
- 5 Why Choose to Go Down the Specialty Route?
- 6 Conclusion
Why is a Degree in Nursing Important to Have?
At the beginning of the twentieth century, nurses were primarily educated on the job.
An accelerated course of study was developed that lasted three years and consisted of very practical skills.
Today, nursing school is a more academically rigorous program with a much more testing curriculum that focuses on critical thinking and problem solving as well as learning to read critically.
This educational foundation provides graduates with the ability to think critically, analyze information from many sources, and develop research skills and complex problem-solving abilities.
Nursing school is designed to prepare students for practical skills exams and an additional clinical year during which graduates will examine their clinical performance.
The Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Nursing Program
Earning an Associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing (ADN or BSN) typically takes between one and two years depending on the institution.
The length of degree programs also depends on the areas of specialty in which students choose to study, as well as how many clinical rotations they are required to complete after graduation.
Where you go to nursing school will also determine the resources available to students and how much tuition you will have to pay.
A student should consider cost when selecting a nursing program because entering the profession does not come cheap.
The Value of a Nursing Education
Older members of the nursing profession will tell you that a nursing degree prepares students for many things:
- It prepares students to care for ill and elderly people.
- It prepares them to provide health care in smaller towns, rural areas, and abroad.
- It prepares them to work security and other support functions in hospitals.
- It trains students to become nurses because they will have the academic background necessary to succeed in professional nursing programs.
- It trains graduates on how to make efficient use of resources, how to work as part of an interdisciplinary team, how to manage patients’ needs effectively, and how to contribute as an effective nurse leader in healthcare facilities.
There are lots of different pathways in nursing too, and this allows students to decide which specialties they would like to enter and how long it may take for them to complete their degree.
For instance, a nurse can choose to pursue a master’s or doctorate in nursing or focus on a particular specialty like emergency nursing or neonatal nursing.
They can also choose shorter periods for longer-term programs where they are required to take courses aligned with their chosen area of specialty.
Either way, getting an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing means that you will have acquired the skills and knowledge necessary for entry into a national professional nursing association.
Nurse Specialties: What Is Right for You?
There are a huge variety of nurse specialties available for graduates who want to work in the healthcare field.
The number of nursing specialties continues to grow, thanks to the prevalence of new medical technologies which require nurses who have different physical and mental attributes than those of the traditional nurse.
To make matters worse, many hospitals have been outsourcing their healthcare functions to private companies, which makes it even more important for nurses with specialized skills to be in high demand.
For example, there is a trend toward hiring more registered nurses who are bilingual, allowing hospitals to serve English-speaking patients as well as patients who speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, and other foreign languages.
Additionally, some states are now requiring that nursing students are “bilingual” before they can obtain licensure.
Some of the nurse specialties you may be interested in pursuing include:
1. Pediatric Nurse
These nurses work with children and help them grow and develop physically, mentally, and emotionally.
They provide immunizations and care for patients with the flu or the common cold, among other conditions.
They also work with children who have chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes.
They can perform procedures like feeding and administering medications that are used in the treatment of pediatric conditions.
2. Geriatric Nurse
Nurses who work in this area of healthcare provide care for the elderly.
They can provide home care to nursing home patients and help them get the medical attention they need. If a patient is not able to recover at home, the nurses will be responsible for transferring them to a hospital setting.
3. Psychiatric Nurse
Psychiatric nurses care for people with mental illness, typically if they need help with geriatric issues or substance abuse problems.
Many psychiatric nurses also provide outreach services to people who are mentally ill, as well as help them on their journeys to recovery.
They work in settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient settings.
4. Acute Care Nurse
Acute care nurses give immediate attention to a patient’s needs when they arise, usually because they have an acute medical condition that requires immediate attention to prevent the person from getting worse.
The job description will include such things as assisting in surgeries, giving IVs, and administering medicines that are used to treat problems in these areas of health care.
5. Occupational Nurse (Occupational Therapist)
This type of nurse works with physically disabled people and helps them improve their functional mobility and independence as a person.
Occupational therapists also treat problems resulting from occupational injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, which can result from repetitive wrist movement over an extended period.
6. Home Care Nurse
Home care nurses have the responsibility of making sure that people who are typically independent get the support they need.
They provide care to patients recovering from illness, surgery, or other health problems, and can help them with everyday activities like bathing, dressing, eating, and going to the restroom.
7. Critical Care Nurse
Critical care nurses treat people suffering from severe medical conditions and usually must perform surgeries.
They are also responsible for monitoring patients for complications that can lead to death, such as complications resulting from anesthesia.
8. Cardiac Nurse
Cardiac nurses give attention to a patient’s heart condition, which can be caused by several different problems, including cardiac surgery.
These nurses work with patients who are recovering from heart surgeries and help them with their recovery while they are being monitored in the hospital.
9. Intensive Care Nurse
Intensive care nurses work with a patient who requires intensive, or “high level” care, to keep them stable and recover.
They work in acute care hospitals and provide intensive monitoring of the patient’s condition to prevent complications that can cause death.
Why Choose to Go Down the Specialty Route?
There’s nothing wrong with becoming a standard registered nurse, but there are many benefits to becoming a nurse in a specialty area.
You will have the opportunity to learn how to apply your education in the field and stand out from other nurses who only apply what they learned in school.
You will also have more opportunities to have jobs that use skills you’ve acquired in nursing school, which means you can make more money.
When your nursing degree is designed by an accredited program, you know that you are getting specialized training right away. This means that it’s easier for employers to take advantage of your talents if they’re looking for someone with these types of skills and experience.
Degrees in nursing specialties allow you to learn more about specific aspects of healthcare and work toward a goal of becoming a specialist in that field.
By going down the road toward licensure in a specialty area, you will be able to work with problems that are common to that category of patients, which will provide you with a stronger platform as an expert in your field.
You’ll also have the opportunity to get higher-paying jobs and have greater flexibility at your job site.
If you’re interested in becoming a nurse, there are many options for how you can use your specialized education after graduation.
A nursing degree program is usually a good starting point, but there are many different paths to take and specializations to choose from.
The best thing to do is talk with an advisor at the school that you’re interested in attending and find out what your options are.