Becoming a nurse means making a difference in the lives of ill, injured, or mentally challenged individuals. With a nursing shortage predicted to take place in the near future, many nursing schools and technical colleges are endeavoring to spread the word and encourage students with an interest in the field of health care to consider nursing as a profession. Many nursing school instructors, however, state that nursing is not a career, but a calling, and for the right individual, can be an extremely rewarding experience.
Nursing Job Responsibilities
All nurses, whether registered, licensed or vocational have similar job descriptions. They administer medicine and treatments, provide education, and offer personal care and emotional support for patients who are physically or mentally ill. Depending on the level of education, some nurses may also record patients’ medical progress, assist doctors with diagnostic procedures or surgery, and help rehabilitate patients. Offering moral support and education for patients’ families is also a critical part of a nurse’s job description. Home Health Aides may be licensed or unlicensed depending on individual state requirements, and these nurses provide similar care for patients, but this is done in the patient’s home rather than a health-care institution. Some home bound individuals require around the clock care, which is sometimes provided by a live-in home health aide, who resides in the home with the patient at all times. In order for the home health nurse to obtain days off or vacation time, the family generally acquires the services of a per diem home health aide to fill in on these occasions.
Nursing Training and Education Requirements
Training and education requirements for nurses vary from state to state, as well as the examination process to obtain the appropriate license. Education requirements for licensed practical nurses–LPNs– or licensed vocational nurses–LVNs–generally consist of one to two years of comprehensive training which may be acquired at a college, university or vocational technical college. The student must then pass the NCLEX-LN exam in their state to receive their license and proceed to look for employment. Some institutions will have in-house training programs for nurses they hire directly from school. The objective of this is to give newly employed nurses additional training, specific to the health care facility they will be working in.
Registered nurses–RNs– have three typical educational paths to choose from. They may acquire a bachelor’s degree in nursing science, an associate degree in nursing, or choose to participate in a diploma program offered by a hospital. Depending on the type of degree, if an RN chooses to receive her nursing education at a college or university, it will take approximately 2-4 years. The diploma programs offered at individual hospitals are usually completed in three years. Whatever route is chosen, the NCLEX-RN test must be passed in the appropriate state before he or she becomes registered. The same criteria applies to home health nurses, and a doctor will determine if the patient requires the care of an RN or LPN. Individual courses within the chosen educational format will vary depending on whether the prospective nurse is planning a career in general, or psychiatric nursing.
Nursing Salary and Wages
Wages for RNs working in a general, psychiatric or surgical hospital are approximately $63,880 annually. The yearly salaries are slightly lower for those choosing employment as a home health aide, which pays an average salary of $58,740 per year. Registered nurses who accept employment in a skilled nursing home, can anticipate earnings of approximately $57,060 annually. LPNs or LVNs working in a general, psychiatric or surgical hospital earn approximately $38,080 per year. For skilled nursing care facilities, a salary of about $40,840 can be expected, and this figure drops to $35,300 if employed in a medical doctor’s office. Home Health Care vocational or practical nurses earn an annual salary of approximately $39,000.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Some nurses wish to become board certified in a particular area of practice. Certification can be acquired in many areas such as pediatrics, acute care, case management, ambulatory care, geriatrics, or pain management. Numerous options are available for nurses desiring certification and a nurse may become certified in more than one specialty.
Nursing Professional Associations
There are many professional nursing associations which include the American Nurses Association, the Alliance of Psychosocial Nursing, and the American Association of Critical Care Nursing. These and many other nursing associations and organizations are available to provide emotional support, opinions on nursing practices, social interaction and continuing education. These types of organizations are available for psychiatric nurses as well, such as the American Psychiatric Nurses Association and the Community Psychiatric Nurses Association.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 22 percent increase in job openings for nurses by 2018, and state that a much faster than average growth for these positions are expected. This is due, in part, to the number of nurses who are reaching retirement age, compared to the number entering nursing schools. The need for nurses is almost identical for RNs, LPNs, and Home Health Nurses, whether in the general nursing profession or the psychiatric discipline. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a critical nursing shortage by 2015. A man or woman choosing the profession of nursing is taking a rewarding career path for themselves, as well as helping a profession that is in desperate need of new nurses to fill ever-increasing vacancies.