6 Reasons to Pursue a Career in Nursing
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- The nursing profession is projected to see continued job growth from 2020-2030.
- Jobs include registered, advanced practice registered, and licensed practical nurses.
- Nurses benefit from demand, security, impact, importance, accessibility, and flexibility.
- Prospective nurses can access free online classes to learn about the field.
The nursing profession is one of the most in-demand fields among aspiring professionals. And healthcare, in general, is a growing field.
According to the National Center of Education Statistics, the number of bachelor's degrees awarded in health professions and related programs grew more than 94% between 2009 and 2019.
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The demand is there, too, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting 16% growth for healthcare occupations between 2020 and 2030.
Here, we explore the main reasons why students choose nursing programs and pursue a career in nursing.
According to the BLS, there were over 3 million registered nurses (RNs), over 270,000 advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and over 1.4 million nursing assistants and orderlies in 2020.
Much of the growth in healthcare careers and nursing careers, in particular, can be attributed to an aging population that demands more readily available and diversified healthcare services.
Another factor is the increasing responsibilities of nurses and nurse practitioners. As laws continue to expand nursing practice capabilities, hospitals and clinics will look to these professionals to satisfy the increasing demands for healthcare services.
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:
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.
Additional Resources for Aspiring Nurses
Why Become a Nurse?
1. Nurses Are in High Demand
The U.S. has experienced a widespread nursing shortage for several years, due primarily to an aging baby-boom population. Over the last few years, 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 found that we need to increase 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 as one of the top 10 in-demand jobs of 2021.
2. They Enjoy Job Security
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 2007-2009 recessions. In the latter period, RNs experienced an increase of 186,680 jobs — by far the most of any field at that time.
In 2021, Student Loan Planner named nursing as one of the 10 most financially secure jobs during the pandemic. Around three-fourths of nurses reported no change in income from March 2020 to March 2021, highlighting the profession's swift recovery since the early days of the pandemic, when many nurses in elective fields were let go.
3. Nurses Make a Positive Impact
Nursing is one of the best jobs for helping others. In addition to treating patients and improving their health outcomes, nurses can make a significant impact on their patients' quality of life.
The education and treatment advice they provide can help patients live longer and better lives. Simply by showing compassion and empathy, nurses can make a lasting positive impression on patients and their families.
Nurses also possess valuable skills that make them powerful assets when contributing to community projects and volunteer efforts. Those who use their voices for advocacy can make a difference in healthcare policies and regulations and community health initiatives.
4. They Help Lead the Telemedicine Movement
The COVID-19 pandemic forced healthcare systems to advance the teletherapy and telemedicine movement quickly.
By April 2020, telehealth visits were 78 times higher than in February 2020. This quick shift allowed healthcare providers to offer their services remotely. And nurses played a significant role in making this a reality.
By 2021, telehealth visits were still 38 times higher than pre-pandemic levels. Nurses were and still are responsible for most of the communications. They handle non-urgent cases, which allows physicians to handle more serious and urgent matters.
As a result, the success and expansion of the telemedicine system depends a great deal on nurses.
5. Hybrid and Online Nursing Programs Increase Accessibility
With the shift to remote learning and work during the pandemic, more and more schools recognized the value in offering online and hybrid degree programs (i.e., with some coursework online and some on campus). These include hands-on healthcare fields like nursing.
With these options, nursing students can enjoy a high degree of flexibility as they pursue a BSN, a master of science in nursing (MSN), or even a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).
Examples of Hybrid and Online Nursing Programs
6. Nursing Jobs Offer Schedule Flexibility
Studies show that work-life balance raises job satisfaction and reduces stress. Unlike traditional 9-5 jobs, nursing careers allow for greater flexibility.
For example, nurses at hospitals often work three days or so a week, 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 among 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.
Free Online Health Classes Are Available
Prospective nurses and those looking to advance their careers can do so in many ways. This includes taking part in the training available through online schools.
Online learning often allows students to study without disrupting their regular schedules. Asynchronous and self-paced courses typically can be done during nontraditional hours, which frees up work, family, and personal time.
Aspiring nurses can even take a few courses to see if the field feels right for them. The free online courses available make this a cost-effective pursuit.
- 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
Frequently Asked Questions About Pursuing a Nursing Career
How do I know if nursing is right for me?
To find out if the nursing field is right for you, you need to weigh the pros and cons of becoming a nurse.
Think about the main reasons to become a nurse, including the factors listed in this guide -- high demand, job security, flexibility, study options, system contributions, and positive impacts.
You can also try out nursing courses to see if the training interests you. Volunteering in a healthcare setting might give you an up-close look at the work and the environment. Finally, perhaps the most effective method is to try out the career and see if it works for you.
Is it worth being a nurse?
Yes. The nursing profession offers many benefits to those who take on the responsibility. The BLS projects the addition of more than 275,000 registered nurse positions and over 120,000 advanced practice registered nurse positions between 2020 and 2030.
These occupations both offer higher salaries than the median annual wage of $45,760, as of May 2021, for all U.S. occupations. Registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses earn median annual salaries of $77,600 and $123,780, respectively, as of May 2021.
Nurses also can contribute to major changes in their communities and the lives of the people within them.
What type of nurse gets paid the most?
Advanced practice registered nurses typically earned the highest salaries among nurses. APRNs earned median annual wages of $123,780, as of May 2021, according to the BLS.
The individual median annual wages for the APRN occupational group were as follows, as of May 2021: nurse anesthetists made $195,610; nurse practitioners made $120,680; and nurse midwives made $112,830.
The industry that these nurses work in also affects their salary potential. According to the BLS, hospitals paid APRNs median annual wages of $128,190; outpatient care centers paid $128,190, and physicians' offices paid $121,280.
What should I study before nursing school?
To qualify for the nursing exam and licensure, candidates need an accredited bachelor's degree, an associate degree, or a diploma in nursing.
The prerequisites for most nursing programs include a high school diploma or its equivalent. This usually includes standard high school English and science classes.
For a bachelor's in nursing, however, the prerequisites may be more specific. Some programs may require humanities, English, and advanced science classes, such as biology or chemistry.
For a master's program, prospective students usually need undergraduate anatomy, chemistry, and mathematics courses.