Many people will find that becoming a practicing nurse has the potential to be extremely rewarding and stable – a dream career in the down economy of recent years. But there are pitfalls that can trip up the most well-meaning candidate. Nursing is not an appropriate choice for just anyone, it takes hard work and can involve stress levels, depending on the specialty, that can be difficult at times to handle.
For these reasons, it is important to have a full understanding of the nature of the work and options available to aspiring practitioners. Nursing involves a range of specialties that vary country to country. Nurses work with patients of any age who may be well or who could be ill or injured. Typical work days are decidedly un-typical, so the profession appeals to people who prefer variety and non-static work environments.
Regular duties may include preventative medicine, promotion of healthy lifestyles and the care of the ill, injured, disabled and dying. Some nurses even work in the realm of government advocacy lobbying for policies that promote research, education and healthcare reform.
Nurses may find work in a variety of medical settings including, but not limited to: doctor’s offices, hospitals, schools, residences, resorts, camps and cruise ships, retirement homes, hospice care facilities, military facilities and in research laboratories. As such, a nurse could be involved in helping doctor’s diagnose and treat ailments ranging from a cold or flu to a yeast infection, high blood pressure and more serious conditions like cancer or HIV.
In the course of day-to-day work, a nurse must be able to communicate clearly and accurately to patients and guardians while showing empathy and patience, even under duress. Having a strong stomach is a beneficial trait because a nurse has to be ready for any situation and prepared to handle patient situations that may involve communicable diseases, blood and bodily fluids.
In general, there are three main categories of accredited educational requirements for nurses, depending on the specialty being pursued. An aspiring nurse may achieve an Associate of Science degree that involves two to three years of college-level study that focuses on clinical knowledge and skills. A diploma in nursing is also available after three years of study at a hospital-based school of nursing. The final option is a Bachelor of Science in nursing that involves four to five years of study with a focus on leadership, research and clinical practice.
With the appropriate academic experience achieved, these are the three main types of nurses:
- Licensed Practical Nurses – LPNs can administer most medications, take individual data and incorporate it into patient records, conduct basic care and perform certain life-saving procedures.
- Registered Nurses – RNs supervise LPNs, orderlies and nursing assistants. They provide immediate care and determine treatment options. They may also provide scientific, psychological and technical information in the course of patient care. RNs must possess an associates or bachelor’s degree in conjunction with significant clinical experience.
- Advanced Practice Nurses – APNs are holders of advanced education and maintain similar skills. They perform primary health care duties and services, diagnose and prescribe medications, conduct research and teach.