Are you considering a career in nursing? Before you enter nursing school, there are a few things you should know. Most of them have to do with getting to know yourself and a few have to do with understanding the nursing profession. If you are thinking of entering nursing school, here are some of the things you should be considering.
1. What nursing field do you want to specialize in?
There are many different fields within the nursing profession, and most of them have very specific requirements for education and licensing. If you’re dreaming of being a public health nurse, for instance, there are licensing requirements and special courses that you’ll need to take. Knowing those things will make your decision of where to go to nursing school far easier–you can eliminate any nursing school that doesn’t offer the required courses.
If you do not know what kind of nursing you want to do, or even whether you really want to be a nurse, there are many different ways to get some practical experience in nursing before you start nursing school. Volunteer in a hospital or nursing home to see what nurses do firsthand. Talk with neighbors and relatives who are nurses and learn more about their jobs. Ask specific questions. Find out what they like about their positions and what they would like to see improved. Becoming knowledgeable about these aspects, yourself and about the career as a whole will make it easier for you to start planning your education and your career.
2. What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
One of the advantages of choosing a career in nursing is that you can often work your way up the career ladder while you gain more advanced degrees. Setting up a plan to do that will make it far easier to take advantage of opportunities like tuition reimbursement. It’s fairly easy these days to get an associate’s degree in nursing, which is your first step on the career ladder. That ADN will be your main requirement for a job in nursing, which will often include tuition reimbursement and other assistance from your employer in pursuing a more advanced degree. That kind of advance planning can help you decide which schools to attend, which ones your company will reimburse and which courses to take. You may also find that your job experience gives you a leg up on your practicum that’s required to advance in some nursing courses.
3. Do you intend to get an advanced nursing degree?
If you already know that you intend to get an advanced nursing degree, find out what is exactly required to reach that level before you start your nursing school education. It is far easier to map your education from the end backwards, so to speak, because you will be able to plan your courses and classes to fulfill as many requirements along the way as you can. You can also use that knowledge to try to arrange work in the field where you want to end up. If you know that you’ll need to do a turn on a med-surgery floor as part of your requirements for a degree next year, you can try to arrange that in advance through your work. If you know that a class you want to take in two years has a prerequisite, you can try to take it before you even enroll in nursing school.
The three major nursing degrees are:
- LPN – licensed practical nurse – An LPN program is a diploma program that takes about a year. As an LPN you’ll be able to do some patient care under the direction of doctors and registered nurses.
- ADN – associate’s degree in nursing – An ADN typically takes about two years to complete and is generally given at a community college. As an ADN, you will often be able to apply for licensing and registration in your state and will be able to do direct patient care in most settings.
- BSN – bachelor of science in nursing – A BSN is a four-year program that prepares you to work in most care settings. If you intend to eventually get a master’s in nursing, or would like to get into nursing management, a BSN is your best choice.
4. What kind of nursing degree do you need to do the work you want to do?
Find out the requirements for the kind of nursing that you want to do. Will you need a BS in nursing? Can you learn what you need in a hospital certificate program? Is an LPN course right for you? Once you have figured out which degree you want to get, you can start looking at nursing schools that offer that degree. Some things you might consider when choosing are:
– Am I academically equipped for this program?
– Can I get financial aid for nursing school?
– Can I get tuition reimbursement from my employer for nursing school?
– Is the school you’re considering accredited?
– Do you want to attend nursing school online?
Arianna Jordan is a freelance writer who writes about the nursing profession.