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Is a Career in Nursing Right for You?

Those hoping to pursue a career in nursing can choose between three different levels of the profession. Each level requires specialized coursework and that graduates, of the various specializations, sit for and pass the appropriate licensing exam in their state.

Those hoping to pursue a career in nursing can choose between three different levels of the profession. Each level requires specialized coursework and that graduates, of the various specializations, sit for and pass the appropriate licensing exam in their state.

Licensed Practical Nurse

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) care for patients under the direct supervision of a physician or registered nurse (RN) as LPN duties do not include an independent component.  Aside from holding a high school diploma, those wishing to pursue a career as a practical nurse must also complete a two semester, accredited practical nursing program.  LPN duties include taking and recording patient vital signs, bathing patients, administering medications, catheter insertion.  They may acquire additional training to perform such tasks as administering IV therapy and blood products.

Registered Nurse

A registered nurse (RN) creates patient health care plans or adds to existing ones.  They treat and inform patients about medical conditions, as well as, advise the families of patients.  They may supervise LPNs and other staff and direct general health care clinics or screenings.  Other duties include administering medications, checking dosages and preventing drug interactions, administering or stopping IV therapy, and observing patient condition.  RNs must hold a 2-year associate degree in nursing (AND) or a 4-year bachelor degree in nursing (BSN).  According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for RNs was $62,450 as of 2008 and job opportunities are expected to grow by 22 percent through 2018 – faster than all other occupations.

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are independent primary health care providers.  They have unlimited prescriptive authority, treat and diagnose diseases, and educate patients in disease prevention.  The scope of practice encompasses the entire patient lifespan.  NPs hold a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing.  The course of study typically takes 3 to 4 years and involves both didactic and clinical learning environments.

Subspecialties in Nursing

Those pursuing a career in nursing have the option of specializing in a variety of  fields  in addition to those mentioned. Many new fields have emerged, such as forensic nursing and fitness nursing. Nurses with a strong committment to rigorous study and years of school can pursue the very lucrative specialization of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Many CRNAs start out with a higher salary than some medical doctors. Those considering entering some form of advanced nursing practice should carefully evaluate their personal and professional goals as well as the many nursing career paths available before settling on a specialization.

Nurses have the opportunity to impact health care practices and patient quality of life throughout their careers.  The decision to pursue a career in nursing is an important and personal one.  Careful research into the options and educational requirements for each type of nurse will help interested parties make the right choice for themselves.

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