What is a Nurse – Types | How To Become One

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    Hi, our esteemed reader; welcome to another exciting session where we’ll answer the all-important question: what is a Nurse?

    By the end of this comprehensive article, you’ll know the definition of a nurse, how you can become a nurse, and the many types of nursing specialties you can pursue.

    Here is an overview of what you’ll learn about:

    What is a nurse? The definition
    How can one become a nurse?
    Types of nurses

    Keep reading!

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      What Is a Nurse? The Definition

      According to the International Council of Nurses (ICN), a nurse is a person who has completed a program of basic generalized nursing education and is authorized by the appropriate regulatory authority to practice nursing in their country.

      Nurses are lifesavers who take care of all aspects of patients’ health.

      They are the core of the health care system. 

      The general scope of their work according to ICN includes the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and care of physically ill, mentally ill, and disabled of all ages.

      Apart from working in the hospital setup, nurses work in a wide range of settings, including schools, shelters, community health care, nursing homes, medical offices, and camps, just to mention a few.

      How Can One Become a Nurse?

      Let’s now shift gears and dig deeper into how one can get started in this healthcare profession.

      For starters, each state has different requirements.

      However, the general requirement is successfully completing an approved nursing program and getting a license.

      Educational Pathways and Training

      There are several nursing programs provided by different institutions across the country.

      The education programs have different prerequisites and offer different levels of entry into the nursing profession.

      Let’s take a deep dive into the programs available for aspiring nurses.

      Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)/ Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVT) Training Programs

      LPN training programs take 12 months.

      The programs don’t have any preliminary requirements.

      Licensed practical nurses work as assistants to registered nurses, doctors, and physicians.

      Their roles are basic healthcare duties, such as checking patient vital signs, collecting blood and urine samples, giving medication, monitoring blood pressure, changing bandages, and monitoring patients.

      Candidates must complete the LPN program and pass the national licensing exam to become licensed practical nurses.

      LPNs can further their career by taking the ADN program, which makes them eligible for the registered nurse licensing exam.

      LPN/LVTs work in home health care, physician offices, and hospitals.

      According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they earn a median salary of $48,820.

      The bureau further revealed that by 2030, the demand for licensed practical nurses will have increased by 9%.

      Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

      Educational Pathways and Training

      An Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) and Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) are programs designed for entry-level nurses.

      ADN programs are fit for individuals who want to get started in the nursing career but don’t have the time to take a four years bachelor’s degree program.

      The programs take between 2-3 years to complete.

      ADN and ASN are the minimum requirements for getting nursing licensure.

      These programs are the fastest way to get started in the nursing profession.

      ADN programs have educational training requirements that candidates must fulfill before enrolling. 

      Aspiring nurses must have a C in social and behavioral sciences, microbiology, human anatomy and physiology, biology, and psychology.

      ADN training programs are thorough, providing candidates with the practical experience they need for a nursing job.

      The programs cover nursing theory, nursing science, and patient care.

      Moreover, candidates must fulfill over 700 hours of practical experience in a healthcare facility.

      The clinical hours provide hands-on training in presentations, seminars and workshops, skills lab, community service, simulation labs, and clinical rotations.

      Nurses with ADN and ASN qualifications can take RN to BSN programs to earn a BSN qualification.

      The good news is that RN to BSN programs can be done online or in person, allowing one to study while working.

      Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

      When it comes to education, employers prefer nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN).

      BSN is a four-year course offered by several universities and colleges across the country.

      The BSN programs offer training in healthcare, clinical nursing, human development, chemistry, nursing theory, leadership, and interpersonal communication.

      The courses are not exclusively on nursing.

      BSN nursing programs go hand in hand with practical training in a healthcare facility where students work together with licensed nurses to gain hands-on experience in the field.

      Accelerated BSN Programs

      The third pathway is accelerated programs that allow candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a different field to get into nursing within 12-18 months.

      Given the short period of these nursing degrees, candidates should expect intense classes.

      It’s recommended that students take time off work for the duration of the class, as they are fast-paced and require one’s full attention to complete the program successfully.

      Accelerated programs combine lectures, clinical studies, and research.

      Once candidates complete their respective courses, the next step is licensing.

      Licensing

      Registered nurses are the backbone of the nursing profession, making up over 3 million nurses in the US.

      Registered nurses work directly with patients, coordinating their overall health.

      Once a candidate has earned a BSN or ADN, they are required to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

      The licensing exam is offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

      This is the regulatory body for nurses in the US.

       Nursing students often register for the nursing licensing exam a few weeks before graduation.

      The exam costs $200.

      The requirements to take the exam vary per state.

      NCLEX has two sets of exams for nurses.

      NCLEX-RN is for registered nurses, and NCLEX-PN is for practical nurses.

      The exams are done online, and there is no specified number of questions.

      Every candidate will have a different number of questions depending on their performance. 

      The system keeps generating questions until it’s satisfied with the candidate’s performance.

      Registered nurses’ license expires after two years, in which case registered nurses are required to meet the continuing education requirement to renew their license.

      RNs earn a median salary of $75,330.

      BLS estimates that by the year 2030, this profession will have grown by 9%.

      Find Employment

      With a license, the next logical step is to search for employment.

      The key is to leverage the networks from college and actively search for opportunities on job boards.

      The priority at this stage is to have work experience.

      Thus, even when one feels overqualified for the opportunities that present themselves, it’s advisable to get started as they search for better options.

      What’s more? They’ll have a platform to network.

      Once a nursing student graduates, the first option would be to consult the college’s career department to find out if they are in partnership with any local hospital or community health center.

      Students can search for internships opportunities or job-shadowing programs from the institutions that partner with their college.

      Additionally, there are on-call opportunities.

      Since these opportunities open up when hospitals need to fill the staff shortage, there are high chances that they won’t have several years of experience as a requirement.

      Another option when searching for employment opportunities is recruitment agencies.

      And lastly, it’s important to open the horizon and review the wide array of employers.

      Nurses work in prisons, medical research centers, doctor’s offices, nursing care facilities, residential care, public health sector, among other fields.

      Certification and Further Education

      Registered nurses can opt to further their education by pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

      A master’s degree opens up a world of opportunities for registered nurses as the program consolidates several nursing disciplines into a single program.

      With an MSN, a registered nurse can find opportunities as an advanced practice registered nurse, which includes designations such as nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, and clinical nurse specialist.

      Apart from a master’s degree, there are several certifications that nurses can acquire to showcase their expertise in a specific field.

      Certifications are not mandatory.

      Certification and Further Education

      However, they give one an edge when searching for greener pastures.

      Moreover, some employers insist on certification.

      American Nursing Credential Center (ANCC) offers several specialization certification programs, including but not limited to diabetes management, pediatrics, and psychiatric care.

      The National League for Nursing is known for its nurse educator certification.

      With certification comes the potential for higher pay.

      From the onset, one must first determine the career path they want to take so that they seek opportunities in that line and hopefully chart a path for an area of specialization early on.

      Types of Nurses

      There are many nursing specialties.

      Depending on the specialization, the scope of practice differs.

      Let’s now cover the different types of nurses, their qualifications, and what they do.

      Nurse Anesthetist

      Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) specializing in administering anesthesia.

      They administer anesthesia during procedures under the supervision of a dentist, anesthesiologist, podiatrist, or a surgeon.

      Nurse anesthetists majorly work in hospitals.

      They can also work in clinical settings in the military and disadvantaged rural areas that are understaffed.

      CRNA may also work in other settings as a researcher, a teacher, or an administrator.

      Some nurse anesthetists specialize in neurosurgical, cardiovascular, dental, pediatric, and obstetric anesthesia services.

      To be a nurse anesthetist, one must be a registered nurse with a minimum of a year of experience in acute care.

      They must also have a master of science in nursing degree in nurse anesthetist.

      Doctor of Nursing Practice is becoming a common qualification among nurse anesthetists.

      According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse anesthetists earn a median salary of $179,790 per year.

      The career outlook for these health professionals is promising, as the bureau projects a 13% growth by 2030.

      Nurse Educator

      Nurse educators work in both academic and clinical settings.

      In a hospital setup, they train the nurses and the healthcare team.

      They also identify areas to improve patients’ healthcare and provide educational resources for the healthcare professionals.

      Nurse educators play a major role in supporting the nursing workforce in a clinical setup.

      In academics, they bring on board their years of experience and expertise in advanced nursing practices.

      Nurse educators design, implement and evaluate educational programs, oversee students’ practice, develop lesson plans and teach nursing students.

      They facilitate the training of student nurses and also take part in developing continuing education programs to ensure nurses’ training is up-to-date.

      Nurse educators must have a master of science in nursing.

      Increasingly, more nurse educators are earning a Doctor of Nursing in Practice (DNP).

      Nurse educators often specialize in pediatric nursing, geriatric nursing, or nursing informatics.

      BLS estimates that the median salary of nurse educators is $101,741.

      The profession is expected to grow by 2.1% in the next decade.

      Oncology Nurse

      Oncology nurses are involved in nursing cancer patients.

      When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, oncology nurses take care of them, from the diagnosis to symptoms management to treatment.

      Oncology Nurse

      They monitor them closely and administer medication.

      Their work environment is in the hospital.

      Although they may be employed in ambulatory centers, home care organizations, and specialty medical centers.

      The minimum requirement to be an oncology nurse is an associate of science degree in nursing.

      However, many employers prefer a BSN.

      Additionally, one must be a registered nurse and take the oncology certified nurse exam

      With the constantly rising number of cancer cases across all ages, there’s no doubt that this is a promising career.

      According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, oncology nurses’ median salary is $78,060.

      Nurse Midwife

      Nurse-midwives are advanced practice registered nurses with a certification in midwifery and women’s health.

      To be a certified nurse-midwife (CNM), one must have a master’s degree and earn practice licensure from their state in addition to nurse-midwife certification, which is offered by the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

      Nurse-midwives provide care to pregnant women during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

      They also provide family planning services and gynecological care.

      Nurse-midwives earn a median salary of $105,030 per year.

      According to BLS, the nurse-midwife profession will grow by 11% through 2030.

      Nurse Practitioner

      Nurse practitioners provide advanced healthcare services.

      Their roles involve disease management, health promotion and prevention, and wellness.

      They diagnose, interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medication, and perform in-office procedures.

      Nurse practitioners can further specialize in adult, pediatric care, anesthetic, and primary health care.

      Given the advanced services they offer, nurse practitioners are often front-line health care providers in underserved rural healthcare facilities.

      To be a nurse practitioner, one must have experience as a registered nurse before enrolling in an MNS program.

      The median salary of nurse practitioners is $109,820.

      The demand for this designation is projected to grow by 52% by 2030.

      Clearly, the nurse practitioner profession is a hot cake.

      Emergency Room Nurse

      Emergency room nurses are first-line care providers to patients who need urgent medical assistance.

      The nurses work hand-in-hand with first responders and emergency medical staff.

      Since they collaborate with other professions, they must have strong communication and critical thinking skills to think on their feet in medical emergencies and communicate effectively with other team members.

      ER nurses take up many roles in emergencies.

      They conduct examinations, determine the order of treatment, record patients’ history, and monitor patients’ progress.

      These health care professionals work in different work environments including, level 1 trauma centers, clinics, and rural hospitals.

      ER nurses are registered nurses with additional certifications like the Trauma Nursing Core Course.

      More than that, ER nurses can specialize in newborn life support, pediatric or advanced cardiac.

      ER nurses earn an average of $78,000 per year. 

      Travel Nurse

      Travel nurses, just like the name suggests, are registered nurses who provide their health care services around the world as they travel.

      They can be called upon in another country in the face of a calamity.

      Travel Nurse

      Sometimes, they may fill in for nurses on sick or maternity leave. 

      Their jobs are usually on a short-term basis since they move around.

      To be a travel nurse, one must have an associate degree in nursing and be a registered nurse.

      On average, travel nurses earn $76,380.

      Informatics Nurse Specialist

      We are in a digital era, so is the nursing profession.

      Hence, informatics nurse specialists incorporate information technology with nursing science.

      They are registered nurses with IT training in the healthcare system.

      Informatics nurse specialists work in large medical facilities to improve processes and systems.

      These professionals analyze data in a hospital facility to improve workflow processes, reduce the risk of medical errors, and enhance patient care.

      Moreover, they train other medical staff, maintain medical hardware and software, and review the facility’s IT standards.

      They double up as nurses and technology liaisons in a hospital.

      Informatics nurse specialists have a bachelor of science in nursing.

      Some have a master’s in quality management, health informatics, and healthcare management.

      Some informatics nurse specialists pursue further education in computer science and information technology.

      The average salary of these professionals is $91,590.

      Critical Care Nurse

      Critical care nurses work in specialty hospitals and intensive care units, providing specialized care for patients in critical conditions.

      They are registered nurses with additional certification.

      The most common certification for this specialty is the Adult Critical Care Nurses (CCRN) administered by the American Association of Critical Care Nurse.

      Critical care nurses earn an average salary of $78,000 annually.

      Certified Nursing Assistant

      Certified nursing assistants are also referred to as nursing aides, patient care assistants, and nursing assistants.

      These healthcare professionals work in long-term care facilities, nursing facilities, and hospitals.

      They work under the close supervision of an LPN or an RN.

      Nursing aids help bath patients and assist them to dress and walk.

      They also monitor patients’ vital signs and report to an RN.

      To be a certified nursing assistant, one must successfully complete a state-approved CNA program and gain on-job training.

      They earn an average of $30,830 annually.

      BLS projects an 8% growth rate in the next decade.

      Conclusion

      There you have it.

      Everything you need to know about what a nurse is and what you need to do to become one.

      As we’ve discussed, there are many entry points to the nursing profession.

      Additionally, there are many nursing specialists you can pursue.

      The next step is to look into the options available and get started right away.

      FAQs

      Reference

      International Council of Nurses

      International student

      NurseJournal

      Nurse.org

      CareerExplorer

      Gwynedd Mercy University

      Herzing University

      Southern New Hampshire University

      Healthline

      BestAccreditedColleges

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