6 Reasons to Pursue a Career in Nursing
Reviewed by Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC
- The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of nursing.
- A highly in-demand field, nursing offers a stable income and long-term job security.
- Nursing students have an array of online and hybrid program options to choose from.
Over the past year, nurses and other medical professionals have spearheaded the fight against COVID-19, becoming heroes of the pandemic. Images of nurses' weary faces, bruised and misshapen from having to wear protective gear for hours on end, have dominated social media, while recognition of nurses' contributions during the ongoing crisis continue to make headlines.
Even outside a pandemic, nurses are consistently in high demand. The graph below shows the projected growth for various types of nursing jobs from 2019-29:
The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted the critical role nurses play in society. Currently, 59% of healthcare professionals work as nurses, making nursing the largest sector of health and medicine jobs.
Overall, nursing is a highly sought-after field that will likely continue to grow in demand both during and after the pandemic. If you're interested in working in healthcare, now is a great time to consider becoming a nurse.
What Types of Nurses Are There?
Nurses are essential healthcare providers whose responsibilities typically include creating and coordinating care plans, educating patients and the community, administering medications, and performing patient assessments.
These professionals can work in an array of environments, such as hospitals, community health centers, doctor offices, nursing homes, and schools. They can also choose a specialization to focus on, like dermatology or infection control.
The American Nurses Association separates nurses into three main categories:
- Registered Nurses
The most common type of nurses, RNs are responsible for evaluating, observing, and educating patients; administering medications; and coordinating care with other medical professionals. To become an RN, you'll need licensure and a college degree — typically a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).
- Advanced Practice Registered Nurses
APRNs are primary healthcare providers with advanced clinical knowledge. They provide direct and indirect care to patients and may prescribe medications. To become an APRN, you'll need licensure and at least a master's degree, though many APRNs hold a doctorate. Different types of APRNs include nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists.
- Licensed Practical Nurses
LPNs, also known as vocational nurses, work under RNs, APRNs, and other healthcare professionals to provide patient care and perform essential tasks, such as checking vital signs, changing patients' bandages, and administering some medications. Becoming an LPN usually requires completing a yearlong nursing program and obtaining licensure.
6 Reasons to Become a Nurse
1. Nurses Are in High Demand
The U.S. has experienced a widespread nursing shortage for several years, due primarily to the aging baby-boom population. Over the last year, COVID-19 has exacerbated this shortage, with many nurses deciding to quit due to pandemic-related pressures and stress.
Globally, the nursing shortage is even more severe. A 2020 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that we need to raise the number of nurses worldwide by at least 5.9 million to meet demand.
Both the national and worldwide shortages have created significant demand for nurses. In 2020, amid the pandemic, demand for nurses surged a whopping 30%. More recently, LinkedIn named RNs one of the top 10 in-demand jobs of 2021.
2. Your Job Will Be Secure
Many consider health careers, including nursing, recession-proof. In other words, these positions will continue to be in demand and offer long-term job and income security, even during economic downturns.
According to ZipRecruiter, nursing was one of the fastest-growing fields during the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions. In the latter period, RNs experienced an increase of 186,680 jobs — by far the most of any field at that time.
Just this March, Student Loan Planner named nurses one of the 10 most financially secure jobs during the pandemic. Around three-fourths of nurses reported no change in income in the past year, highlighting the profession's swift recovery since last summer, when many nurses in elective fields were let go.
3. You Can Make a Positive Impact
One of the main reasons people become nurses is to help others and leave a positive impact. Nurses make a difference every day by instructing, examining, and caring for patients.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought to light just how much we truly rely on nurses and what they do for us. Often deemed unsung heroes, nurses continually go out of their way to protect communities, care for those who are sick or injured, and risk their lives to save others. Even without a pandemic, nurses are essential to society.
You can amplify your impact even more by volunteering in areas that need nurses the most. According to WHO, 89% of the global nursing shortage is concentrated in lower-income countries.
4. You Can Help Lead the Telemedicine Movement
COVID-19 has caused an abrupt and unprecedented leap toward telemedicine, or caring for patients virtually. Thanks to quarantines and stay-at-home orders, what was once viewed as an impersonal, futuristic option has now become part of everyday life.
Many believe the future of healthcare lies in technology, signaling a potentially huge shift in nurses' responsibilities and skill sets. As a nurse working in telehealth, you can treat patients who are otherwise unable to attend in-person appointments and help patients save money on healthcare.
5. Hybrid and Online Nursing Programs Increase Accessibility
With the shift to remote learning and work this past year, more and more schools are starting to recognize the value in offering online and hybrid (i.e., with some coursework online and some on campus) degree programs, including in hands-on healthcare fields like nursing.
Examples of Hybrid and Online Nursing Programs
- University of Texas at Arlington — Online BSN
- North Dakota State University — Hybrid LPN-to-BSN track
- Johns Hopkins University — Online MSN healthcare organizational leadership track
- Georgetown University — Hybrid MSN with four concentrations
- Clemson University — Online DNP
- George Washington University — Online DNP in adult-gerontology acute care
6. Your Work Schedule Will Be Flexible
For example, nurses at hospitals often work just three days a week or so, while nurses at schools typically get summers and holidays off. Other options include working on a temporary basis to fill empty positions at hospitals or medical centers and offering nursing services on an as-needed or on-call basis.
Nursing, healthcare, and medicine consistently make lists of the most flexible industries. In 2019, FlexJobs named medical and health professions one of the 10 most flexible career fields. Similarly, nurses and nurse practitioners appear on Business News Daily's list of the 20 best jobs for flexibility.
Take Advantage of Free Online Health Classes
With the pandemic curbing in-person learning options, online classes have boomed. Many colleges now offer free and low-cost online classes and resources to students, including several courses focusing on health and medicine.
If you're still on the fence about pursuing a nursing degree, taking a short online class or two could help you figure out whether it's the right path for you. Here are some examples of classes you could enroll in:
- Northwestern University — Career 911: Your Future Job in Medicine and Healthcare
- Yale University — Anatomy of the Chest, Abdomen, and Pelvis
- University of Pennsylvania — Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us
- University of Maryland, Baltimore — Essential Competencies for Nurse Preceptors
- Pennsylvania State University — Epidemics: The Dynamics of Infectious Diseases
- Columbia University — Pediatric HIV Nursing
Additional Resources for Aspiring Nurses
Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC
Brandy Gleason is an entrepreneur and assistant professor of nursing with nearly 20 years of experience. She currently teaches in a prelicensure nursing program and coaches master's students. Gleason brings additional expertise as a bedside nurse and nurse leader, having held past roles at the supervisory, managerial, and senior leadership levels. In addition to coaching nurses and nursing students to build resilience and avoid burnout, Gleason supports creating environments and systems that contribute to the well-being of students and healthcare professionals.
Feature Image: Morsa Images / DigitalVision / Getty Images