Nursing has always been the backbone of healthcare. They do so much more than just support doctors. They are the primary figures in care and rehabilitation. Yes, most will not have the ability to diagnose and run tests. They won’t be performing surgery. What they will be doing, however, is providing the care and treatments. They are the ones that help you through your aches and pains. Who are there to comfort you through your darkest moments. Who help loved ones through their own pain.
Nurses are the most important figure in healthcare. No one can be replaced, but it is nurses that provide most of the services that get people back up and enjoying their lives.
They are so incredibly important, and yet there are not enough of them. There are on average 4x more RNs than physicians, and yet today there is an estimated 800,000 shortage, with over 1 million more positions expecting to open up when the oldest generation of RNs retire. More positions still might be available now that telehealth is finally getting the attention it deserves and is set to become a more critical component to healthcare in the future.
And that’s just RNs. APRNs are even more scarce, despite how much they help offset the shortage of qualified physicians and provide exceptional care all on their own. The highest level of APRNs can even hold doctorates, making their expertise invaluable for patients and healthcare as a whole. Family Nurse Practitioners, for example, help offset the lack of general physicians, and can even open up their own clinics.
The world needs more nurses, and you could be one of them. This guide will go through all your options, and will help you decide whether nursing is right for you:
Qualities that Make for a Good Nurse
Nurses are natural caregivers, but they need to be more than that. They need to be resilient, dedicated, and passionate. It is what will help them complete online nursing programs, and succeed in their career.
If you have the following qualities, you could make a good nurse:
You Care for Others
You Have Great Communication and Interpersonal Skills
You are Highly Empathetic
You Have a Great Attention to Detail
You Are a Good Problem Solver
You Have a Good Sense of Humor
You Are Committed and Dedicated to your Goals
You Are Willing to Learn Every Day
You Are Good with Time Management
You Are a Natural Leader
However, a commitment to helping others and the ability to care for your own health and mental wellbeing are all you need to get started. Being a nurse is a lot of work, but if you are committed to becoming a great nurse, you can learn a lot of these skills along the way.
Nurse Salary and Career Expectations
Wanting to get paid to help others is not an unreasonable expectation. It takes a lot of physical and emotional labor to be a nurse, and unless you work towards the highest level of nursing, you often won’t be compensated as well as you should be.
RNs are what many of us think of when nursing comes up in conversation, and the wage they earn will differ depending on where they live, what online nursing programs they have completed, and their experience.
The biggest discrepancy is between degrees. Registered Nurses that hold an Associate’s Degree in Nursing, which is a shorter to complete than other online nursing programs, but limits your future career option, only make $62,000 per year on average.
In comparison, BSN holding RNs earn an average of $77,000 per year.
It isn’t just pay that you should care about, however. By not achieving a BSN as part of the online nursing programs you pursue, you cut off your future. Not only that, but many states are pushing for 80% of their RNs to hold BSN degrees, making it difficult for ADN RNs to find work.
Always, always go through the extra effort of earning a BSN. It will mean you can apply for more online nursing programs, like an MSN or DNP. It will also make it easier to find work and make you eligible for higher pay.
You will also save more likes. Just a 10% increase in BSN RNs will result in a 4% reduction in death amongst patients. Your skill and knowledge when you have a BSN cannot be underestimated.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses
The amount that an APRN can earn differs wildly depending on their specialization.
At the highest end of the spectrum is the nurse anesthetist, who works alongside doctors and dentists to provide anesthesia in a variety of settings. They typically earn $181,000 on average, but it isn’t unheard of for CRNAs to earn over $200,000 per year.
Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists all earn around $100,000 per year, though again they can and often do earn far higher in larger cities and with greater experience in their field. Nurse Practitioners can even consider opening their own practice, as their role, more than any other, work to offset the shortage of doctors in general healthcare.
Nurse-midwives can also work for themselves, and also earn around $100,000 per year for their work. Midwives are becoming an increasingly popular and preferred option for expecting parents, who want a more personalized approach through their pregnancy.
There are so many different types of APRNs, and most will earn around $100,000, and all will have the potential for you individually to earn above this. APRNs are at the pinnacle of their career, and those that go on to become doctorate nurses (those who hold a DNP) have access to the higher end of the pay scale.
Nurses don’t just work in healthcare. You can work as a nurse educator to train up the next generation of nurses as well. Though Nurse Educators don’t tend to make as much as APRNs working in healthcare, they do still bring home an average of $80,000 and enjoy a very healthy work/life balance.
All nurses have the option to move into telehealth and provide care to those isolating or located in remote areas. Telehealth is set to become one of the main pillars of healthcare and has the potential to completely revolutionize care just by making it more accessible and easy for patients to be monitored from home. Nurse Practitioners who move into telehealth earn more than their in-hospital averages as well and earn between $110,000 and up to $240,000 per year for their expertise.
Nurse administrators and managers are also well paid for their roles. They may not deal directly with patient care, but their efforts impact the overall quality of care and, more crucially, the health and wellbeing of the nurses themselves.
Nurse administrators earn $100,000 on average. The Chief Nursing Officer or CNO, however, earn an average of $148,000, and up to $211,000 for hospital CNOs. At the higher end of the pay scale, for CNOs with ample experience in large cities/hospitals, the average salary is around $300,000 per year.
Online Nursing Programs You Will Need to Complete
Being happy with the pay of APRNs or the CNO is one thing, being prepared to take on the work and education necessary to qualify you for these roles is another matter entirely.
Thankfully in nursing, it is easy to direct your career to the role you want. There are online nursing programs perfectly suited to whatever goal you have. There are MSN options for those who want to become educators, those who want to become administrators, and those who want to become working APRNs.
If you aren’t in nursing yet, however, you are going to have to work your way from the ground up.
Start Working as a Nurse ASAP
You can start working as a nurse with just a few weeks of training. This route is ideal if you need to start earning and working as soon as you possibly can. You simply take a Certified Nursing Assistant course and then pass the state exam. CNAs clean out bedpans, support RNs, and perform other non-medical assistive duties.
You will want to work your way up to a Licensed Nurse Practitioner as soon as you can, however. This will require a few months of education and another state exam, but once you do, your responsibilities will be more advanced.
As an LNP, your next step will be to become an RN. Though the Associate’s Degree in Nursing can seem appealing, as it will allow you to become an RN faster, it is always better value to work towards the BSN.
The BSN Nursing Route
You can actually become a nurse with a BSN right off the bat. If you already have a degree that includes a few key science credits, then you can even fast-track yourself into a nursing career just like that. It will be faster, more affordable, and allow you to earn a better wage as a nurse from the start.
This option isn’t for everyone, but it is a good choice if you want to change careers into nursing and already working in another career.
Either way, a BSN should be seen as the gateway to your nursing career, as it is what will allow you to become a Registered Nurse, finally earn a healthy salary, and of course, put you on the platform that will allow you to start customizing your career.
Use your time as an RN to explore other areas of medicine, as well as other working environments if you can. You want to be sure about the direction of your future. Nursing is very straight forward. Choose from the online nursing programs, and qualify for the position that you want to aim for. The fact that there are such strict requirements for nurses is a great thing, but it leaves little room for error.
By being sure that the area of medicine you will be going into interests you the most, you can safeguard your future. Nurse educators, nurse administrators – these are all APRNs who take their specialty and career and go one step further with them. They earn a DNP degree or an Ed.D or even an MBA. They can be worked towards later on, but when choosing what type of APRN you want to be, always go with the area of medicine you are most passionate about.
A Masters of Science in Nursing is specialized from the start. You will need to choose what type of nurse you want to become. Typically the options will be between:
A Nurse Practitioner
A Clinical Nurse Specialist
A Nurse Anesthetist
A Nurse Midwife
There are dozens upon dozens of other options, but knowing which of the four main pathways you want to get involved in will help massively.
The DNP, Ed.D, or MBA
Nurse educators, CNOs, and even higher level APRNs all pursue more online nursing programs for the sake of their career. Those who want to go into policy-making or leadership positions benefit massively from a business degree in nursing. Those that want to become an educator need a specific degree in education.
Nurses who want to apply for higher pay or even senior roles in nursing will benefit from a Nursing Doctorate, as it will allow them to become “doctors” in their own right, though you will need to clarify you are a Doctor of Nursing or a Nursing Doctor, to clear up patient confusion.
Nursing Sound Right for You?
If you have the right characteristics of a nurse, if you want to help others, if you are ready to put in the ongoing effort of taking on your career while working on completing online nursing programs, then you are a good fit to become a nurse. Just remember there are so many places you can work – on movie sets, on sports fields, in schools, privately, in clinics, hospitals, while travelling, and so on. If you don’t like where you work, you can still continue being a nurse. Just stay true to what makes you feel fulfilled, and explore all your options while progressing your qualifications.