As far as vocations go, nursing is right up there in polls of those jobs that are most rewarding. It’s a job that presents you with endless variety and a way to make a difference to the world and the people around you. It is also, certainly, a job that requires of you rigorous training and an understanding of the pressures that come with serving the sick and those in need. This guide is all about how you can work to become a nurse – whether you’re at the start of your career or you’re interested in changing jobs to become a respected healthcare worker.
Before you set your sights firmly on becoming a nurse, it’s well worth doing a little research to decide if this is an occupation that you think will suit your skillsets and what you can from a career. Like any other job, nursing comes with its highs and lows – and these may well be elements that you absolutely love about the role of factors that eventually see you disillusioned by the job.
As such, it’s wise to do a little research about what nursing is all about before you begin putting in the groundwork to actually become a nurse. You should read online medical forums, where nurses post regularly about their experiences. There are a host of fantastic books out there that also detail the lives of nurses. And to be completely sure this is the job for you, try to get in touch with a nurse who will be able to show you around their workplace and describe to you their daily tasks.
If you’re still at school and you’re reading this article with an interest in nursing, your work to become a nurse can start straight away. As you might expect, nurses should strive to get the best grades possible, as it’s your grades that will dictate which universities you’re able to apply for and which roles as a nurse you may one day assume. Working hard at this early age can really pay off for nurses who are ambitious and looking to one day reach the top of their profession.
You should especially concentrate on chemistry and biology, seeing as these subjects address the very areas in which nurses are always operating. The human body is something that’ll be the main focus of your nurse training, while the chemistry of how medications interact with the human body will be something that you are compelled to know like the back of your hand.
If you’re not in school, but you never received grades before you left school, it’s also wise to do some revision of the syllabus and to, if necessary, take the requisite exams in science, math, and English in order to be eligible for university and college courses.
As a budding nurse, the one thing that you will absolutely need is a qualification. That’s because you cannot work in this field without having shown in an educational setting that you have the skills and the knowledge required to treat patients well and without errors. This is a profession of fine margins, and accuracy is vital, so a qualification is your only way onto the ward.
You’ll get this qualification from a litany of courses offered at colleges and at universities. Some are offered online, while others are offered in person. Some courses are accelerated, like those offered by Wilkes Passan School of Nursing, and others require you to be studying for three or more years.
The flexibility in the different courses available is, in part, developed so that you can choose your way into the vocation. If you want to become a nurse as soon as possible, an accelerated course may be for you. Meanwhile, if you want to save money, an online course will mean you can save on relocation and transport costs associated with attending university.
Applying to University
When you apply to study nursing in one of the capacities outlined above, you’ll discover that there are some hoops to jump through before you can submit your application. The first is to find a selection of universities or colleges that suit you. That might be because they’re local, because they’re cheap, or because they’re highly esteemed and could see you placed in a high-value nursing role sooner in your career.
Once you’ve selected the handful of universities that you’re interested in attending, you should check the entry requirements. Some will require higher grades than others. Some may require you to fill in an online test, and others still might ask you to come in for an interview or to write a cover letter explaining why you’re interested in studying at their specific institution.
Make sure you’re applying for these universities a long time before you’re actually hoping to attend them in order to give yourself the best chance of getting through this paperwork and submitting your applications.
Once you’ve been accepted onto a program, the work and the fun begin in earnest. You’ll quickly be given reading materials to study in the weeks before your course actually begins. It always pays to get ahead with these readings so that you can hit the ground running once you’re attending lectures and seminars. It’s also worth purchasing your key readings and some paper and pens so that you can organize your notes well come your first weeks of study.
Different courses will demand different things from you. Some will constantly set work that you’re expected to perform in your own time, while others will take a longer-term and more casual approach. Regardless of the approach of your institution and your tutors, always be as studious as possible when you’re learning to become a nurse. This is an occupation that pays out most to those who have got the technicalities under their belt – as that’s when you’re able to offer the care on top that makes people’s stay in the hospital so rewarding.
As soon as you graduate, you’ll be eligible to work in all US hospitals and a number of different medical institutions around the world. You’ll have a qualification that can take you to the furthest reaches of the planet, working in completely different places to where you grew up – or you could work in your local hospital, just a stone’s throw from where you grew up. The options are limitless, and the qualification you’ve just received is truly a ticket to a fulfilling and lifelong career.
Most newly qualified nurses (NQNs) tend to stay in the wards where they were assessed, as this is a comfortable place for them to operate more independently for at least the first few months of their careers. Still, you should begin putting feelers out as soon as you have your qualification, as it might be that more attractive opportunities present themselves in the coming weeks and months after your graduation.
Your first months on the job are moments when you will make some mistakes. No NQN emerges from their training as the final article, and you should be ready to accept critical feedback and to enter a new learning curve of your career that mainly involves the day-to-day life on the wards and the way in which you’ll be caring for a long list of patients with different needs. It’s exciting and fulfilling, and you’re likely to love having this new responsibilities.
Still, there are things that you should concentrate on in these first few months. Make sure you’re quickly identifying errors in your practice that could, in any way, bring a patient to harm. Concentrate too on your bedside manner, which is something that’ll develop over time as you become more comfortable working alongside patients and their families. And start thinking, too, about whether you’d be interested in specializing into a specific area of nursing in the coming years.
Developing a Specialization
As you’ll be aware once you’ve entered this stage of your career, developing a specialization is something that can reward a nurse with more interesting, in-depth work, as well as a higher salary and the opportunity to move into elite units that care for certain specific types of people. It’s often the path that the most ambitious nurses tend to take, although it’s also [possible to climb up vertically through the nursing hierarchy without ever specializing in a particular field.
Once you’ve become interested in a specific type of nursing, it’s always wise to return to the start of this guide: do your research, and see if there are more qualifications that you’ll need to undertake in order to get there. Check with nurses in that field to whether they have any advice on entering it and any insights into what exactly it’s like to work in their specific area. That way, you’ll be able to make a more informed and positive step into the specialization that’ll define the next years of your career.
Climbing the Hierarchy
Another way to develop your career as a nurse is to climb up the hierarchy to become more and more senior. This works especially well in larger institutions where there are naturally going to be dozens, if not hundreds, of nurses working hard each and every day to deliver the highest possible level of care to patients. In these healthcare centers, there are several layers to the nurses’ hierarchy, with the chief nurse managing the activities of many nurses beneath them.
So there are plenty of runs to be climbed by those who like to feel a sense of momentum and development in their careers. There are also ways to achieve that seniority other than simply doing a stellar job on the ward. Getting some managerial experience will be crucial if you’re hoping to one day be the nurse that oversees a particular ward. There are even university qualifications that help fast-track you into these roles, some of which you can study online and work towards alongside your hard work as a jobbing nurse.
Working as a nurse is certainly demanding. It’s a role that will sometimes see you forced to take overtime hours and will sometimes see you voluntarily taking on overtime in order to care for particular patients who you believe to be in particular need of your assistance. It’s a role in which you’ll see people you’ve become close to sadly pass away, though you’ll see others who were in bad conditions recover and go off to lead happy lives. What we’re saying here is that this job can be a rollercoaster, and that can take its toll on your mental health.
There are waste methods that nurses regularly turn to in order to avoid burnout and fatigue from the emotional demands of the job. One of these is simple: to always be open with your colleagues, friends, and family about any tough times you’re experiencing or struggles you’re having on the ward. You’ll always find a sympathetic ear in this profession. Meanwhile, an occupational therapist or counselor will often be offered to nurses who have experienced a particularly traumatic moment on the ward, and this is certainly a resource that you should consider.
All the tips above give you some indication of how to become a nurse and how also to develop as one. They’ll all provide you with a picture of what a nurse’s lifestyle is like and how you might be able to fit the rest of your life in around the responsibilities that you’ll shoulder on the ward. But the most important tip of all is to find the joy in nursing wherever you can while maintaining a rich life outside of the profession, too.
That takes some work on your part. There will be days when you’re so exhausted that you push in through your front door, throw your keys to the side and settle on your couch to watch Netflix. That’s absolutely fine. But it’s important to also invest in your social life, including with people outside of nursing, in order to get the best from your social world and from your rewarding job, too.
Make a note of the advice contained in this article in order to give yourself the best chance of becoming a nurse and loving the career that you’ve chosen.