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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for registered nurses will grow significantly over the next few years, making it one of the most secure jobs. Apart from job security, working as a registered nurse also comes with unmatched flexibility, solid earnings, as well as an increased level of responsibility. Once you’ve practiced nursing for a while, you might want to pursue various career paths in this field. But with so many options to consider, knowing the exact career path to choose can prove to be overwhelming. So, which career trajectory should you pursue as a registered nurse? Well, here are some considerations to guide you in your decision-making process.
Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Your personality, strengths, and weaknesses, can help you to choose the right path for your nursing career. When assessing the different options, you need to ask yourself whether you prefer working with a group of people or you thrive when working alone. You also need to consider whether you would prefer working with adults, children, senior citizens or special care patients. Also, you need to ask yourself whether you are comfortable taking orders from others or you would prefer being your own boss. The answers to these questions will help you to determine the best nursing field for you. For instance, if you love working with children, then you should consider pursuing pediatric nursing. And if you don’t like taking orders from others, then you can opt to work as a consultant or entrepreneur, instead of working in a healthcare facility.
In most situations, our personalities and our careers are inseparable, regardless of the courses we pursue. If you love your career, then you will wake up feeling motivated every day, ready to attend to your patients. On the other hand, if you don’t love your career or specialization, you will feel as if you are being forced to go to work every day. Also, you will never be able to serve your patients or clients well if you are not happy with your career. Therefore, make sure you pay attention to your strengths, weaknesses, and personality when figuring out your career trajectory.
Consider Work-Life Balance
One of the biggest challenges that most nurses face is trying to create a balance between their personal lives and their careers. As a nurse, there is a high chance that you will be working long shifts, which might lead to burnout, among other issues. You might also be required to work during the night when you are supposed to be tucking in your children to bed for the night. Therefore, if you want to enjoy a happy and satisfactory career, you need to choose a field that offers you an ideal work-life balance.
For instance, if you are working for a research lab, a local clinic, a school or a small healthcare facility, you will have ample time to attend to other things in your life. On the other hand, if you are working for a large and busy health facility, you may be forced to work for long hours. You might even be required to take on additional time, which might fall on your off days.
Nurses who have few commitments might not have a problem doing the extended shifts or even working overtime while those who have other commitments like raising a young family will have to choose a career that allows them ample time to take care of their loved ones. Your friends, family, hobbies, as well as other personal commitments, will all play a vital role in your area of specialization and the career path that you will choose as a registered nurse.
Your career interests can also help to inform your career trajectory. As a nurse, you will lose interest quite fast if you are working in an area that you are not interested in. And if you lose interest, your career will stagnate, meaning you will never enjoy a single day of your work. On the other hand, if you choose an area that interests you, it will keep you physically and mentally healthy and happy. Therefore, it’s not advisable to choose a career based on shift hours, or salary alone, even if the perks are amazing. As much as you might not find an area of specialization that completely aligns with your career interests, you should at least opt for one that doesn’t leave you feeling negative or drained.
Assess Your Options
As a nurse, you have numerous options to explore, whether you graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) or associate degree in nursing (AND). As long as you are a registered nurse, your career path can follow different directions. Some of the most popular options to consider include:
This is probably the most common choice among most of the registered nurses. As a hospital nurse, you will be working a standard 8-hour shift, 3 or 4 days a week. After that, you are free to pursue your own personal pursuits. You can also choose to work during the weekends only, and then spend your weekdays pursuing higher education or attending to other things.
You will be assigned a hospital ward, a floor or a department in a health facility. For instance, you might find yourself working in the pediatric department, emergency room or in the geriatric unit. Your tasks will include administering medications to patients, observing and recording patients’ behavior, providing triage care during emergencies, serving as a link between the patient, their families and the doctor as well as maintaining inventory level of supplies in your allocated department. You can also be allocated other tasks depending.
Outpatient Care Nurse
As a registered nurse, you can also opt to work in outpatient care facilities. For instance, some injuries, illnesses or conditions may require the patient to be taken care of at home or in outpatient settings. Therefore, you can be hired to attend to such patients. Basically, your duties will include assisting the patients with their medication needs, evaluating their progress, providing health education to the patient and their families, as well as identifying and reporting the patient’s needs. If you would like to pursue this career path, it’s highly advisable to specialize in one condition, illness or disease. Ophthalmology and podiatry are some of the options that you can check out.
Private Duty Nurse
Also known as personal care nurses, home care nurses or home health nurses, private duty nurses attend to patients who are at home. For instance, if a certain patient requires nursing support round the clock, they might be attended to by 3 different nurses, working shifts of 8 hours each. On the other hand, if a patient only needs daytime care, then one home care nurse may be enough. The duties of a private duty nurse are slightly different from hospital nurses. Most of their duties will focus on assisting the patient to live a comfortable life. However, comprehensive nursing care might also be needed at times, depending on the illness of the patient.
Assignments for home health nurses may be short-term or long-term. For instance, if you are attending to an individual who is recovering from a hip replacement or knee surgery, the assignment will be short term. On the other hand, if you are attending to someone who only recovered partially from a stroke, the assignment will be longer. It can even be permanent sometimes, meaning you will be attending to a single patient every day. Duties of a home care nurse will depend on the type of care they are providing. In most cases, private care nurses will administer and adjust medication as required, observe the patient’s condition and report both to the attending physician and the family as well as keeping the patient company.
This is one of the newest fields to emerge in the world of registered nursing. Its emergence has been fuelled by digital advancements, combined with an increasing number of people who are looking for health-based information online. A telenurse is a registered nurse who interacts with clients and patients in a virtual environment. The interaction can be conducted via Skype, over the phone or through other channels of communication. This field of nursing is highly prevalent in rural areas, where getting access to a medical facility is not easy. It’s also applicable in a situation where the condition might not be life-threatening.
Talking to a nurse, either via a video call or a phone call will eliminate the need for the individual to physically visit a health facility, thus reducing insurance costs and other fees that come with a face-to-face consultation. As much as telenurses are also registered nurses, they are not allowed to diagnose conditions, since that is the work of physicians. Theirs is just to listen, gather information, and then recommend an appropriate course of action.
Community Health Nurses
Just as the name suggests, community health nurses work with various communities by educating them about disease prevention, nutrition, and wellness as well as safe health practices. Their core mandate is to improve the health and well-being of the communities they are serving. One of the key roles of community health nurses is identifying health and medical problems of the communities they are serving while providing health care services to patients who may not be able to afford or don’t have access to health services. Also, you will be developing intervention plans that can address the health issues that they have identified in the community and educating the community about healthy choices, which can health with illness and disease prevention. If you are passionate about working with communities, then this might be a perfect career option to pursue.
From working as a hospital nurse to outpatient care nursing, private duty nursing to taking care of patients in nursing care facilities, your options are vast as a registered nurse. But regardless of the career path that you opt for, always make sure that you choose something that you are passionate about. Choosing a nursing career path that aligns with your interests, will leave you feeling accomplished and satisfied while helping you to maximize your strengths and talents in the best way possible. And what else could you have asked for?