Nursing is a career path for those who are compassionate, caring, and who truly desire to improve the lives of the patient in their care. Currently, there are nearly three million registered nurses working in the United States, making nurses the largest group of health care professionals. Although nursing has traditionally been a female-dominated field, in today’s world, more and more men are choosing to become nurses. Nurses usually work in doctor’s offices, hospitals, private home care, and general care facilities. They may specialize in a number of areas, namely mental health, pediatrics, geriatric nursing, long-term care, cardiology, oncology, and many more.
The requirements to become a nurse differ from country to country. However, most countries require anyone who wishes to study nursing to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. To study nursing in the United States, one must first obtain one of three different entry-level degrees. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), offered in colleges and universities, will prepare a general education for nurses to train them to practice in any setting.
The BSN is typically a four-year program in the United States. An Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN) is a two to three year program offered at junior or community colleges. The ADN prepares anyone who wishes to study nursing to acquire a direct technical knowledge that they can put to use in many settings. Diploma programs exist as well in hospital settings. These allow the student to acquire a combination of classroom and hands-on education over the course of three years in a clinical environment.
After completing the required education and training, the aspiring nurse must obtain a license by passing a national licensing examination known as the NCLEX-RN. To protect the public, nursing is a profession that is regulated by the government to allow only those who study nursing in a state-recognized program to practice nursing. Depending on the training obtained, one can become licensed as an Advanced Practice Nurse, a Registered Nurse (RN), or as a Licensed Practitioner/Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN). The license must be renewed periodically, depending on state requirements, and may require additional training throughout a nurse’s career.
Advanced degrees in nursing exist for those who wish to study nursing more extensively, usually with the goal of moving into a more independent role, the role of educator, or a managerial position in their work environment. Advanced degrees include a Master’s degree in Nursing (MSN), which prepares an RN or a nurse with a BSN to become a more engaged and decision-making role in their relationship with their patients. Many MSNs serve as expert clinicians, faculty, and as specialists in many areas. A Doctoral degree will prepare the RN for a leadership position within the field and will allow him or her to teach in a college or university.