If you went by what you saw on television shows like ER, Grey’s Anatomy and Dr. House, you might think nurses sit around the nurses’ station waiting for doctors to tell them what to do. Far from true!
Ask any real life medical professional what nurses do, and you’re likely to get an answer more like “What don’t nurses do?” In short, nurses do touch everything, and if you’re interested in becoming a contributing, critical member of a health care team, read on to find out how online education can help get you there.
Nurses are the glue that holds together hospitals and other medical facilities by treating and educating patients and providing emotional support and advice to both patients and family members. Specific duties can include anything from taking blood pressure readings to administering medications to helping patients with daily activities.
If you are interested in becoming a nurse, there are a few paths open to you, and all can be achieved at least in part by online degrees.
Along with registered nurses (RNs), the other two main professional divisions for nursing are licensed practical nurses (LPNs)/licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) and advanced practice nurses (APNs); schooling, training and responsibilities separate the three types.
LPNs are responsible for basic patient care such as delivering medications, taking vital signs and helping patients eat, bathe and use bedpans; LPNs usually report to RNs.
To become a licensed practical nurse, a candidate must graduate from an approved one-year practical nursing program, pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), and meet any state specific requirements.
RNs administer medications and treatment under the supervision of physicians, start IVs, take medical histories and reports of symptoms, perform diagnostic tests and provide education and support to patients and their families. After gaining experience, they may also work as supervisors of other RNs and do more paperwork and charting than hands-on care.
The three degree options for becoming a registered nurse are: (1) two-year Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN); (2) four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN); or (3) three-year RN diploma program.
Upon obtaining one of these degrees, a candidate also must pass the NCLEX and meet any state-specific requirements to become a registered nurse.
The four specialties for APNs are clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife and nurse practitioner, and each has different requirements.
Generally, to become an advanced practice nurse, a candidate must possess a registered nursing degree as well as another advanced (master’s or doctorate) degree. Additional testing and licensing is also required for specialties.
Many nurses on TV work in hospital settings, and in fact, 60% of real-life nurses work in hospitals as well. Once you earn a nursing degree, however, you can further specialize in your area of interest and work in a variety of locations.
Some specializations include: (1) public health nursing, working in community centers educating, screening and immunizing patients; (2) forensic nursing, helping law enforcement agencies investigate and solve crimes; (3) geriatric nursing, taking care of senior citizens, sometimes in elder care facilities or in private homes; (4) home health care nursing, in which “visiting nurses” travel to patients’ homes to provide basic care; and (5) midwifery, assisting women during childbirth either in hospitals or in homes.
With over 2.5 million jobs, registered nurses make up the largest occupation in the health care industry, and projections say it will remain so. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the profession will continue to grow “much faster than the average of all occupations through 2016,” particularly since the profession has experienced a shortage for many years.
Some sectors expected to offer increases in employment possibilities are physicians’ offices, nursing care facilities and home health care services. Hospital positions will expand to a lesser extent, but will still offer plenty of opportunities because of high turnover rates. APNs will also be in high demand, especially in inner cities and rural areas.
Overall, nurses with bachelor’s degrees will have more job opportunities than those without, so get started on your online nursing degree today, and you’ll be working like nurses on TV, sort of, in no time.