If you’ve decided nursing as a career is for you, you are in good company. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics more than one million replacement nurses will be needed by 2012. With the declining economy, health care fields are expected to be one of the safest recession proof choices.
Once you decide nursing is for you, the next step is to decide what career path you would like to take. Nurses can enter the field through many educational opportunities. First you must choose the route best for your needs. I will outline some of the most popular choices here.
CNA is a certified nursing assistant. These entry level workers attend a class that is typically 2 weeks in length or 8 weekends, about 80 hours or one college semester. These short classes do include a small amount of clinical time. The main function of a CNA is direct patient care including but not limited to; positioning patients, transferring patients, toileting care, dressing, feeding and bathing patients. Jobs can be found for the CAN in nursing homes or hospitals and the pay rate varies widely from slightly above minimum wage to eleven dollars an hour.
LPN is a licensed practical nurse. This is the first entry level position to use the title nurse. You can become an LPN through a hospital based program, community college or a private school, which tends to be the most costly method. These programs are anywhere from one to two years long and prepare the student to take the state LPN licensing exam, the NCLEX. LPNs can work in physician offices, hospitals, nursing homes, and limitedly through schools, home health agencies, and free standing surgical centers. The LPN always works under the RN or doctor and every state has certain restrictions on their practice.
Most colleges and RN programs will accept LPNs into their programs on an accelerated basis. The salary expectations for LPNs are very good; a living wage of 13 – 22 per hour should be confidently expected. The practice of LPNs has been hotly debated by RN organizations for years, because of this, some communities or hospitals are restricting their hiring of LPNs. Nursing homes have always been the place most likely for an LPN to shine, with opportunities for advancement into management and supervisory roles.
RN is a registered nurse and the level of education most commonly thought of when one hears the word nurse. An Associate’s degree in nursing is available at most all community colleges and is the shortest program to make a student eligible for the RN state boards, NCLEX. While the actual nursing part of the program is only two years, a large number of pre requisites are required, making the total time usually three years. Associate degree RNs are prepared to work in any setting a nurse is required including critical care units in a hospital.
A bachelor’s degree in nursing is the next step in the hierarchy of nurses. These programs have selective admissions and can be found in most 4 year colleges and universities. In addition to the basic nursing skills and clinical time found in associate degree programs, these bachelor level programs also include more time devoted to the philosophy of nursing and preparation as nursing supervisors. A Bachelors prepared nurse takes the same NCLEX as an associate’s degreed nurse and has similar entry level opportunities. The difference is a bachelor prepared RN has the chance to move into hospital supervisory positions. The starting salary for an RN is typically above 20 dollars an hour and an RN with some experience, especially supervisory can expect to top 30 dollars an hour at some point in their career.
There are also master’s degree and PhD nursing programs available at many colleges and universities. These are mostly for students interested in teaching nursing themselves or for higher nursing management.
As you can see, there are many ways to enter the rewarding field of nursing. Check out your local community college as a starting point and good luck with your career.