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Long ago Florence Nightingale popularized nursing as an essential health care provider focused on caring and infection control with her experiences during the Crimean War. Flash forward to the 21st century, and nursing remains a highly respectable career choice that continues to have a focus on caring and humanity. What has changed over the years is the degree of education, knowledge, and technology that is now also required of nurses to function in a diverse range of work-place environments.  

Continue reading to see how nursing can be full of lifetime learning opportunities for a career that is both diverse and satisfying.


Entry to practice – Undergraduate Studies

Nursing requires a professional commitment to ongoing learning throughout the span of a career. The initial educational requirement to become a licensed Registered Nurse (RN) is typically a four-year degree program to obtain a Bachelor of Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in nursing, depending on the college or university that is attended.  

With an RN/BSN designation, nurses can work in both acute care settings in hospitals or in community settings. Acute care nurse positions range from emergency department or intensive care nursing to in-patient psychiatric care nursing or becoming a labor and delivery. For many specialty areas of nursing, such as labor and delivery, an additional specialty certificate may be expected. However, many hospitals will allow nurses to start working and gain on-the-job experience while completing a specialty certificate part-time. Specialty programs are typically no longer than one year in duration, if not less.


Graduate Studies – Master in Nursing

After undergrad studies are completed, nurses may choose to further their education and complete a two-year, full-time Master in Nursing (MN) or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. Many nurses will choose to get real-life experience before moving forward with a master’s program. By first getting on-the-job experience, nurses can synthesize their practical experiences with the theoretical concepts reviewed in a graduate-level program, allowing meaningful and integrated learning of theory with praxis. Completing a master’s program can prepare nurses to work in research, leadership, and higher educational settings. 


Post-graduate studies – Doctor of Nursing Practice

Nurses with a master’s level education have the option to complete a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. At this level, nurses have the opportunity to fine-tune their research skills and choose an area of nursing to focus on for a thesis study. Nurses with a doctorate degree typically find work in research or as professors at universities.


Nurse Practitioner

Another option available for nurses is to become a nurse practitioner (NP). An NP program is either taken through a master’s program or as a post-graduate program once a master’s program is completed. NP studies and resulting careers in advanced clinical positions that are focused in either primary and family care, acute care, pediatric care, women’s health, neonatal care, psychiatric care, or anesthesia. Acute care NPs can further specialize in a range of areas, such as cardiac care, emergency, or neurology to name a few. 

Choosing to become a nurse is more than a job, it’s a career that’s never-ending in learning and experiences. Research is constantly being completed, requiring nurses to stay up to date on the latest best practice guidelines to provide optimal care to patients. No one ever said nursing was easy. It’s not, but it can be rewarding.

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