Are you driven to help others? Inspired by the possibility of saving and improving lives? For many people entering the nursing field, there’s a feeling that they didn’t choose nursing—it chose them. But even if you are sure that you want to become a nurse, you’ll need to plan ahead for your education, training, and on-the-job experience.
Fortunately, there are several ways to get started as a nurse. By choosing a path that fits your current lifestyle, you can begin working toward your new career, and even start working while you complete your education. Here are three options worth considering.
1. Start working right away as an orderly, attendant or nursing aide
Ready to start helping people and providing care to those in need? Many nursing students and prospective students choose to start working in their chosen field sooner than later. Working directly with patients, you gain experience and skill—and you can continue your education at the same time in order to improve your earning potential and ability to provide excellent care.
Generally, you will need a high school diploma to become an orderly. This is an excellent option if you want to work while going to school. Nursing aides and attendants generally need a postsecondary certificate, which you can earn through online courses or an on-campus program. As an aide or attendant, you will work directly with patients, helping them with basic tasks and hygiene, measuring vital signs, and serving meals. Orderlies do not usually provide care, but transport patients and help to keep facilities and equipment clean and safe.
2. Become a licensed practical or vocational nurse
The nursing field is booming, and the demand for licensed nurses is predicted to be strong through 2022 at least. By earning your nursing license, you will enter a field with high job security and the possibility to help people improve their daily lives.
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) work mostly in nursing homes and hospitals, providing basic medical care. You will monitor patients’ health, make sure they are comfortable and receiving the best care, keep records and talk with patients. To become an LPN or LVN, you must complete an accredited program, either online or on campus, which generally can be done in one or two years. You may also choose to pick up additional certifications in a specialized field like gerontology or IV therapy.
Because registered nurses also need to be licensed, it’s common for nursing students to obtain a license first, then work as an LPN or LVN to gain experience and earn an income while continuing their studies.
3. Earn your degree and become a registered nurse
Registered nurses (RNs) need a high level of education and experience, and provide an equally high level of medical care for patients in hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices and other healthcare facilities. RNs work directly with patients, doctors and other nurses to provide treatment and medication, help patients manage their conditions, record and observe medical history and symptoms, and ensure the best care.
Requirements vary by state, but generally, to become an RN, you’ll either need a diploma from an approved nursing program, an associate degree in nursing, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Many nursing students start fulfilling science course requirements by taking affordable classes online before enrolling in a nursing program from an online college; however, you will also need supervised clinical experience in a hospital or clinic, and you’ll have to pass the NCLEX exam order to earn your license.