What Nurses Do
All nurses promote health and wellness, but they do so in many different ways and in numerous locations. They may specialize in a particular field of medicine, such as pediatrics, oncology, geriatrics, or obstetrics, and they can work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, physician offices, outpatient settings, in the homes of patients, and more. Nurses tend to be the doctor’s right hand, though they also have more one-on-one contact with patients as they handle many different types of medical procedures and can be responsible for patient education as well.
Who would enjoy a career in Nursing?
Care and compassion are the number-one qualities for anyone interested in nursing. However, the field also requires rigorous study, licensing, and ongoing education in order to maintain one’s status, so those who wish to start a career in nursing do best if they’re committed to lifelong learning.
It’s also ideal for those who like to connect with others and have excellent communication skills, as nurses work with patients, doctors, and other medical professionals all day long. Lastly, no two patients are ever the same, nor are any two days of work. For this reason, people who are detail-oriented and appreciate problem-solving, as well as ever-changing conditions, tend to do best.
Who mightn't like the career?
Nursing can be an exhausting career, both physically and emotionally. It’s common for nurses to spend 12+ hours on their feet during a shift, moving from one patient to the next. Moreover, nurses have to work with people who resist treatment, those who are terminal, and people who are suffering. These types of conditions are not ideal for someone who is not physically and emotionally prepared. It can even be difficult for people who have support systems in place.
A bachelor’s degree is necessary to begin a career in nursing, though some universities will provide a faster path to degree for those who already have a degree in a related field, such as human biology or psychology. Some regions, such as the UK, also offer other paths, like the Nursing Apprenticeship program. In addition, licensing and/ or certification is necessary, which may come at a state or federal level. Competition for spaces within nursing programs at universities is fierce. Anyone hoping to get into the field should dedicate him/ herself wholly to study in order to gain placement.
A degree in nursing is usually a typical qualification entry point into nursing.
- Career Pathways in Nursing: Entry Points and Academic Progression (US)
- Careers in Nursing Guidebook (UK)
- Nursing as a Career (Australia)
- Nurses' Testimonials: My Nursing Career Path (Canada)
- Can't Get into Nursing School! (advice from nurses on how to get in)
Depending on the organization one is applying to work for, the hiring process can take weeks to months. During this time, resumes, education, past work history, and more are scrutinized. Nurses may also undergo background checks as well as a series of interviews with various levels within a company. The interviews will focus on general knowledge, demeanor/ attitude, and company culture fit.
- How To Answer The Most Common Nursing Interview Questions
- Twelve Job Interview Tips for Nervous Nurses
Moving into Nursing from another career
Transitioning into a nursing career can be difficult due to the educational requirements and limited seats in university programs, although sometimes universities offer fast-track options for qualified and degreed individuals in fields related to medicine or social services. Those entering the field as a first career often find success by starting in a lower position, such as nurse’s aide, to gain exposure to the field. However, as a second career, people tend to do best if they begin coursework straightaway.
Role: Those just entering the field may have different titles, but the jobs usually entail much the same. Entry-level nurses are responsible for patient care and education. Their job is to arrive on a shift, assess which patients need what, and carry out related duties. They’re often responsible for managing medical assistants and nursing aides, though entry-level nurses are typically required to report any changes in patient status to Registered Nurses. Both work under the direction of doctors.
Role: Depending on a person’s degree, licensing, and experience, he or she may be qualified to work as a Registered Nurse or equivalent title. Although the job duties are largely the same, RNs tend to work directly under the doctor and have other nurses report to them. They may also have more involvement in care planning and be assigned additional duties.
Role: Experienced nurses may choose to further their education and certifications to transition into the role of Nurse Practitioner. A master’s degree is typically required. In this position, nurses work quite like physicians and can diagnose, treat, and refer patients as necessary.
Most nurses do not travel for work and credentials do not readily transfer. However, those who have an interest in travel have many opportunities, such as participating in a program like Doctors without Borders, the Peace Corps, or the military.
According to PayScale, Registered Nurses earn an average of USD$28.47 per hour or $61,000 per year in the United States. In the United Kingdom, the average is £25,000, whereas salaries are CAD$68,000 and AU$65,000 in Canada and Australia, respectively. Pay is impacted most by experience and area of specialty, if any.
Entry-Level (0-5 years): USD$54,900, £23,000, CAD$64,600, AU$60,450
Mid-Career (5-10 years): USD$62,830 £27,250, CAD$72,080, AU$70,850
Experienced (10-20 years): USD$67,710, £28,500, CAD$78,200, AU$74,750
Late-Career (20+ years): USD$71,370, £30,000, CAD$82,280, AU$75,400
Nurse Practitioner: USD$94,000, £33,000, CAD$91,600, AU$87,000
Profit sharing, bonuses, and overtime pay may be added on top of a nurse’s base salary, increasing it by as much as 5-10%.
Why Nurses move on
Many nurses stay in their careers for life, though others leave for various reasons. Some feel overworked and under-supported. See “Why are district nurses quitting in droves? Because they care too much” by Mary Wakefield for insight into issues with the NHS. It’s worth noting, however, that the demands of the career are a global problem due to the increases in population, extended lifespans, and shortages of all types of medical professionals.