Is a Nursing Degree for You?
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Nursing degrees prepare students to administer patient care, use critical thinking to make important decisions for patients, and educate patients and the public on health and wellness. When choosing a nursing program, it is best to determine the area of health care about which you are most passionate. Specialized areas of nursing study include adult practice, cardiology, critical care, emergency/trauma, general medicine, family practice, oncology, occupational medicine, pediatrics and radiology. To succeed as a nursing student, you must be very people oriented because much of your job will involve communicating with others. Nursing students must also have strong scientific and mathematical competencies.
Advice for Earning Your Nursing Degree Online
An online nursing degree program is a viable alternative to traditional nursing programs. Courses, assignments, exams and papers are the same regardless of the medium used for the class. The most challenging aspect of online learning is staying motivated to work independently, as online classes do not have the structure of attending school face to face. An important step in choosing an online program is researching the institution's accreditation. Employers typically prefer to hire people who have graduated from accredited institutions because those schools must adhere to strict standards of education to maintain accreditation.
Although the specific institution and degree specification largely determines the classes a nursing student will take, all will be expected to complete math and science courses. Students entering a bachelor's degree program in nursing can expect to take anatomy, biology, chemistry, physiology, nutrition, statistics and calculus. Many schools require students to acquire hands-on experience through internships, and this component is no different for online programs. Those that require internships will encourage students to find positions in their areas, with the goal of helping them put the theories they have learned into practice.
Common Career Paths
Completing a bachelor's degree in nursing and passing a certification exam qualifies you for a career in many different fields of medicine. Although the public generally associates nurses with hospitals and doctor's offices, students with bachelor's degrees in nursing may also work in nursing care facilities, clinics, patients' homes, schools and various other community centers. Common positions for nursing graduates include (but are not limited to):
- Registered Nurse: Registered nurses, commonly referred to as RNs, treat patients and provide emotional support and advice to patients' family members. They also educate patients and the public on the importance of health and wellness. Job duties and responsibilities of RNs will vary by medical field, but they generally include monitoring patients, recording their medical histories and symptoms, performing tests and analyzing results, administering medications and treatment plans, and helping with rehabilitation efforts. When caring for patients, RNs check medication dosages and monitor symptoms.
RNs may be employed in hospitals, medical centers, outpatient facilities, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 26 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their median annual salary was $64,690 in 2010.
- Physician Assistant: A physician assistant is trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive health care services to patients, as delegated by a physician. PAs work under the supervision of a physician, take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order tests and prescribe medication. The specific duties of a PA may vary by state and employer. Many PAs work in specialized fields of health care such as pediatrics or internal or family medicine.
Employment of PAs is projected to expand 30 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their median annual salary was $86,410 in 2010.
- Health Educator: Health educators teach the public about health issues and disease prevention, with the aim of promoting human health and wellness. This can be through community service, educational seminars and presentations that are given to students, the elderly and other groups interested in learning about how to live a healthy lifestyle. Health-related topics include adequate rest and sleep, proper nutrition, the importance of physical exercise and how to avoid illnesses. Presentations involve the use of videos, booklets, pamphlets and other visual resources.
Employment of health educators is forecast to increase 37 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their median annual salary was $45,830 in 2010.