The Life Cycle of a Nursing Career

Lori Johnston | March 1, 2012

One of the most popular fitness instructors at my gym is a mom in her 40s who is graduating from nursing school this year. She’s a former teacher who is excited about the opportunities to work in health care, focused on being an oncology nurse.

Another friend of mine is a recent college graduate in her 20s who is pursuing her next step in her education — getting into nursing school — with hopes to be a pediatric nurse.

Both are joining females and males across the country who are seeking to fill the huge need for nurses nationwide. Being a nurse is the largest health care job, with 2.6 million registered nurses nationwide.

The government projected a 22 percent growth in registered nurse jobs from 2008-2018 (or 581,500 new jobs), and depending on where you live, the opportunities are great, in physicians’ offices, hospitals, nursing care facilities, and home health care services.

You will find three typical paths to becoming a registered nurse:

• Diploma: Typically three-year programs in hospital settings. There are only a few of these programs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

• Associate degree in nursing (ADN): Typically two- to three-year programs offered by junior and community colleges.

• Bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN): Typically four-year programs offered by colleges and universities.

Before pursuing your nursing degree, you’ll want to think about your career path. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that advancement opportunities may be greater for registered nurses who earn a BSN, than a diploma or associate degree.

But nurses who hold an associate’s degree or diploma can go into bachelor’s degree programs later, too (and your employer could reimburse your tuition).

Another option is to earn your accelerated master’s degree in nursing (MSN), which you can earn a bachelor’s and master’s at the same time, typically in three to four years. If you’re coming from another career field, you may be able to earn your accelerated BSN, which last 12 to 18 months.

Through the classes and tests, externships, and other program requirements, I see in my friends their passion to care for patients and assist people, in times of trauma to prevent illness. The job opportunities in nursing often make headlines, and it takes that passion, and a commitment to earning your degree to have a vigorous career as a nurse.

The Never-Ending Nursing Education Debate

Robyn Tellefsen | April 5, 2011

Here’s the funny thing about the nursing profession: with three very different education paths to take, you’ll end up with the same job no matter which one you choose. Whether you earn a diploma in nursing, an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), once you pass the National Certification Licensing Examination (NCLEX), you can become an RN. Are all nursing education paths equal?

“The BSN is better.”
The American Nurses Association, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Organization of Nurse Executives, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching say no. In line with its latest nursing education study, the Carnegie Foundation recommends that the BSN become the entry-level qualification for nurses – no nursing diploma or ADN program options in sight. And, similar to teachers, RNs should be required to earn a master’s degree within 10 years of licensure.

With more than 60 percent of new nurses being educated at community colleges, pro-BSN professionals say this translates into the lion’s share of nurses being less qualified for advanced education opportunities. All of the advanced practice nursing specialties – clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners – require a master of science in nursing (MSN) for entry. And perhaps more to the point, without an MSN, a nurse cannot move into a faculty position – a key issue, given that nursing school applicants are being turned away because of the nursing faculty shortage, which in turn perpetuates the nursing shortage.

In addition, these nursing organizations cite research that shows that lower patient mortality rates, fewer medication errors, and positive care outcomes are linked to nurses trained at the BSN and MSN levels.

“The ADN is essential.”
The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing take a decidedly different stance. In a recent policy brief, the AACC contends that both ADN and BSN programs teach students the competencies necessary to become an RN, as demonstrated by comparable pass rates on the NCLEX as well as hiring statistics. Plus, ADN programs educate the majority of RNs in rural settings, and they also provide the greatest number of minority RNs. Minorities in nursing are instrumental when it comes to understanding and addressing the care needs of our diverse population.

These nursing organizations also point out the lack of a valid correlation between nursing education level and patient outcomes. In other words, a bigger degree does not necessarily make a better nurse.

What’s a nurse to do?
Is advanced nursing education valuable for its own sake? Will you be a better nurse if you get a bachelor’s degree instead of an associate degree?

Obviously, there are no easy answers, but whichever nursing education program you’re leaning toward, there are a few key considerations to factor into your decision. Make sure the program is accredited, and that the NCLEX pass rate is high. If you choose an ADN program, look for a community college that has an articulation agreement with a four-year nursing school so that you can seamlessly transition into a BSN program if you choose. Look into RN-to-BSN programs… or bypass the BSN altogether by enrolling in an RN-to-MSN program. You might even be able to get tuition assistance if you continue your nursing education after you become an RN.

For now, you can still choose your own nursing education adventure – so choose wisely!

-Robyn Tellefsen

Medical Careers Are a Healthy Option for Job Seekers

Lori Johnston | September 10, 2010

With all the headlines about health care reform, one group of people really stand to benefit: those considering entering the health care profession.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about one of every four new jobs created through 2018 in the U.S. will be in the health care and social assistance field. In addition to health care reform, you have aging baby boomers to thank.

Hot career lists often include not just one, but numerous medical jobs. As Eileen Habelow with Randstad, a global staffing and human resources consulting firm, told CNN Money earlier this year: “The move toward universal health care – adding 30 to 40 million people to the ranks of the insured – will give rise to even more jobs than we thought, in government and elsewhere.”

A variety of career options in health care don’t require spending years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend medical school. Instead, some entry-level jobs, such as medical billing and coding and patient care technician, could require only a few months of training and education to get land you a position in a hospital, doctor’s office, dental office or medical firm. Institutions such as Ultimate Medical Academy, which has locations in Tampa and Clearwater in Florida, offer the specialized training to help people get quickly into one of these fast-growing careers.

Which jobs have some of the highest growth potential?

Dental assistants are expected to be the one of the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S., from 2008-2018, with a projected 36 percent spike in jobs, according to government data. As in other areas of medicine, the focus on preventative care is attributing to the surge in jobs.

If the idea of being a medical assistant is appealing, you’re on a good path to another area where job growth is expected to be faster than average – 39 percent from 2008-2018.

When you’ve gotten a prescription filled recently, did you notice the demand for people working behind the pharmacy counter? The government projects a 25 percent increase in pharmacy technician jobs from 2008 to 2018.

These excellent job prospects can keep you focused when gaining the education and training to make a difference in the field of health care.

-Lori Johnston

It’s National Nurses Week, and like many others this week, we’re thankful for this in-demand profession. I’ve recognized the importance of nurses many times in my life, such as when I had appendicitis and had to be rushed to the hospital to take out my appendix before finals my junior year of college.

Since then, the number of nurses has grown, with the projections that more than 2.9 million registered nurses will be employed in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Our recent story notes that “making a difference” is probably one of the most popular reasons why people get into the nursing profession.

Probably the most recognized nurse was Florence Nightingale, whose birthday is May 12, now known as Nurses Day, which is celebrated across the world.

Why? She was the founder of trained nursing as a profession. In the 1850s, she learned about nursing at the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses at Kaiserswerth, Germany, then a decade later, she established the Nightingale School for Nurses at St. Thomas’s Hospital.

Although the need exists for people to follow in the footsteps of Florence Nightingale, we wanted to give you an idea of what it takes to give birth to a career in nursing.

You can plan to get a three-year RN degree, but you may need to be prepared to earn a bachelor of science degree, which groups such as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing recognizes as the minimum educational requirement for professional nurses.

You may need to use patience – a skill you’ll need to have when helping patients as well – when pursuing getting admitted to schools. The AACN found that nearly two-thirds of nursing schools that responded to a 2009 survey cited faculty shortage as the reason for not accepting more applicants.

If the idea of being a nurse gets your blood pumping, it’s worth researching the nursing profession, and this annual week devoted to nurses is a perfect time to do it.

-Lori Johnston