By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
A career in nursing is a suitable option for an individual who has good organization and communication skills and enjoys caring for people. To practice as a nurse, there are various education and certification requirements that must be met. These are covered in more detail below, in addition to expectations of workplace roles and environment.
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Training and Education
There are various types of nurses that require different levels of education to practice and have a different role in the healthcare team. Types of nurses include:
- Nursing Assistant (CNA): High school diploma and state certification exam are required to practice.
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): State certification program and state certification exam are required to practice.
- Registered Nurse (RN): Associate Degree in Nursing, NCLEX exam, and RN license is required to practice.
- Nurse Practitioner (NP): Master of Science in Nursing, RN license, and NP credentialing exam is required to practice.
- Nurse Midwife (CNM): Master of Science in Nursing, RN license, and CNM credentialing exam is required to practice.
- Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): Master of Science in Nursing, RN license and CRNA credentialing exam is required to practice.
- Nursing Instructor: Master of Science or Doctorate of Nursing Practice and CNE credential is required to teach.
Additionally, a registered nurse may go on to do further study to allow them to practice in a specialized field. Possible specializations include:
- Addiction nurse: Cares for patients who are overcoming addiction to alcohol, drugs, or other substances.
- Cardiovascular nurse: Cares for patients with heart disease or recent heart surgery.
- Critical care nurse: Cares for patients with serious or acute illnesses in intensive-care units in hospital.
- Genetic nurse: Cares for patients with genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis.
- Mental health nurse: Cares for patients with psychological disorders.
- Neonatal nurse: Cares for newborn babies.
- Nephrology nurse: Cares for patients with illnesses related to the kidneys.
- Oncology nurse: Cares for patients with cancer.
- Rehabilitation Nurse: Cares for patients with disabilities.
Throughout their nursing career, nurses are required to maintain up to date knowledge and skills, through continued professional learning. This encompasses range of education and experience guidelines that must be met in order to maintain registration as a nurse.
Nurses are responsible for the provision and coordination of patient care, as well as educating, advising, and supporting patients, family and community members who they interact with. The role of the nurse may include tasks such as:
- Recording patient medical history and symptoms
- Monitoring patient signs and symptoms
- Administration of medications and treatments
- Collaborating with other health professionals
- Educating patients and families about illness and treatments
The majority of nurses work in a hospital, although there are several other workplaces where a nurse may practice, including residential care facilities, medical clinics, in-home care services, governmental services, schools, military and research facilities.
The role of the nurse is physically demanding and nurses typically spending much of their time at work walking, bending, and standing. They also need to lift objects and move patients, which can contribute to back injuries in the long term.
Given the close proximity to sick individuals who may have serious illnesses, nurses are more likely than other individuals to be affected by infections and exposure to hazardous drugs. There are strict guidelines in place for safe hygiene and injury protection practice that help to reduce the risk that nurses will experience related effects.
Due to the requirement of continuous patient care at hospitals (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), nurses typically work in shifts and may be required to work at night, on weekends, and holidays.
Professional Growth and Career Outlook
In the United States, there are currently more than 3 million nurses, which is more than double the number of nurses in 1980. This, coupled with a rise in employment rate of more than 10% highlights the demand for nurses in the nation.
Additionally, the profession of nursing is projected to grow in the future at a faster rate in respect to other professions. This is due in large part to the increased population size and the aging population in the United States, as well as changes in the healthcare system that render healthcare more affordable for individuals.
Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, MSc
Last Updated: Sep 7, 2016