Nursing is a popular career path to move into, and with very good reason. It’s a job that enables you to dedicate yourself to helping others and your local community while also benefiting from high employability and job security levels. It’s also a field in which there are many different specialist roles open to you as you progress. If you’ve been considering retraining as a nurse, this post will help you by talking you through the job in a little more detail, as well as going over the steps you need to take to get qualified. We’ll also discuss some of the career progression options open to you and what to do next. Let’s get started!

What does the role of a nurse involve?

A nurse’s job can be a truly diverse and fascinating one. This is because the precise tasks and responsibilities you have will differ depending on where you are employed and the sort of patients that you work with. Nurses can be found everywhere from hospitals, care homes, and private practices to specialist treatment centers, schools, and prisons.

It’s common for nurses to work as part of a wider healthcare team, alongside doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals. You will help to deliver primary healthcare services to patients of all ages and backgrounds with all sorts of different medical conditions. Some of the duties you can expect to fulfill include:

  • Taking patients’ medical histories
  • Updating patients’ medical records
  • Running diagnostic tests and screenings
  • Monitoring and recording a patient’s vital signs and progress
  • Drawing blood
  • Collecting lab work
  • Assisting with certain medical procedures
  • Dressing wounds
  • Administering certain medications and healthcare treatments
  • Preparing patients for surgery and other medical procedures
  • Creating care plans for patients
  • Educating patients and the general public on issues such as healthy living and disease prevention
  • Providing emotional support to patients and their loved ones
  • Completing general administrative tasks

How do I train to become a nurse?

In order to become a nurse, the best option is to take an accredited degree in the subject. There are actually a number of different degree options available, with the right one for you depending on factors such as your previous qualifications, specific career goals, and personal preferences. The four main types of nursing programs are:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  • Doctoral degrees in nursing (DNP, PhD)

Whichever path you take you will need to complete a mixture of academic modules and clinical placements in real healthcare settings to get practical experience. Don’t worry if you’re choosing to retrain as a nurse later in life. There are plenty of options available for mature students, including online BSN programs for non nurses which follow an accelerated curriculum to get you qualified more quickly.

After completing your degree, to become licensed, you will also need to take the NCLEX-RN exam. Different states may require additional criteria to be met, so be sure to check the details for where you live. As a qualified and licensed nurse, you will also need to undertake regular continuing professional development in order to keep your skills sharp and your knowledge accurate and up to date. For example, you may take courses about new techniques, equipment, procedures, or policies.

What career progression options are there for nurses?

As you gain more experience and increase your nursing skills, you’ll find that more and more career progression pathways become available to you. This gives you the enviable opportunity to carve out a career that genuinely aligns with your personal strengths and interests. Some roles will require you to study for a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, whereas for others, you will need to take shorter specialist certificates.

In terms of direct patient care, you could choose to focus on a particular patient population, a particular medical condition, or a particular healthcare setting. Options available include pediatric nursing, geriatric nursing, oncology, emergency care, psychiatric nursing, midwifery, family practice, or becoming a nurse anesthetist.

When it comes to indirect patient care roles, the options are even more varied. For instance, you could be a nurse educator and train up the next generation of nurses, or a nurse researcher and conduct your own research studies. Alternatively, you could work in informatics and help to integrate new technologies into the healthcare system.

Other options include moving into the policy sphere and lobbying legislators for change or the legal sphere and consulting with attorneys. You could even become a chief nursing officer and handle a wide range of management and administration duties such as budgeting, hiring of staff, and development of patient care procedures.

Next steps

If you’ve decided that nursing is definitely a career you’re interested in pursuing, the first step is finding a degree program that suits you. In addition to choosing the specific type of course (e.g., a BSN or MSN), you should think about whether you want to study full-time or part-time, and online or in person. Other factors to consider include:

  • The specific modules you want to take
  • Whether the program is accredited
  • The cost of tuition and availability of scholarships
  • Whether you meet the entry requirements
  • The college facilities
  • The number of clinical hours you will complete
  • How many graduates go on to pass the NCLEX-RN exam

After narrowing it down to one or two programs you particularly like the look of, it will be time to get your applications together. This normally requires completing a form and submitting it along with your resume, academic or professional references, proof of your previous qualifications, and a personal essay about why you want to take the course and qualify as a nurse.

The personal essay is important, so take your time over it and let your enthusiasm shine through. Having some relevant volunteering experience can be a big help too. Remember to proofread it carefully before submitting it – if possible, ask a friend to check it over for you as well. You might be asked to attend an interview, so it doesn’t hurt to get practicing for that too.