With a growing emphasis on preventative care and a graying population that has more people living with chronic health conditions, the demand for health care is skyrocketing, so it’s no wonder that opportunities for nurses are expect to grow at a speedy pace. In fact, nearly 44,000 new positions for registered nurses will be created between 2014 and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics projections. While nursing is a time-honored profession, the field still has a few surprises up its proverbial sleeve. Here are five things you probably never realized about nursing.
1. A College Degree Isn’t Necessary
Nurses take health histories, coordinate patient care, dispense medication, perform prescribed treatments, operate complex medical equipment, monitor and observe patients, assist with a variety of medical procedures, educate patients, and work collaboratively with other health professionals. It’s a complicated job, but a college degree isn’t necessary. There are actually three paths to becoming a nurse. Students can earn a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree or a diploma from a school of nursing. While any of these accreditations can open the door to an entry-level nursing position, candidates with a bachelor’s degree are often preferred by employers.
2. Nurses Specialize
Just like doctors, nurses can specialize in certain areas of medicine. Some nurses focus on a particular type of health issue. Critical care nurses apply their professional efforts on behalf of patients in intensive care units. Cardiovascular nurses work with cardiologists to treat patients with heart issues, and oncology nurses work with cancer patients. Other nurses care for a special segment of the population. Neonatal nurses work with infants, and pediatric nurses provide needed care for children and teens. Geriatric nurses have special training that prepares them to assist elderly patients. In order to specialize, nurses generally have to fulfill additional education requirements. In some cases, this involves completing a master’s degree program.
3. A Nurse Can Also Be a Doctor
Did you know that a professional can be both a nurse and a doctor? It doesn’t require completing both a medical degree and a nursing degree. Instead, the individual completes a doctoral degree program in nursing. While a nurse with a doctorate can legitimately claim the title of doctor, doing so is a bit controversial in the medical field; the practice sometimes ruffles the feathers of physicians. Why would they object? Those who argue that doctor should be a title reserved for professionals who have completed medical school generally cite concerns that patients and other medical professionals might be confused if a nurse who holds a doctorate is introduced as a doctor.
4. Nurses Aren’t Limited to Patient Care
Not all nurses work in patient care. After gaining experience by serving in a traditional nursing role, some nurses shift into other career tracks. The prospects are remarkably varied. Nurses may choose to go into administration or find positions teaching the next generation of nurses at educational institutions. Others work as consultants for insurance companies and legal firms, using their expert insight to identify medical mistakes, potential misconduct or warning signs of fraud. A few even manage to snag jobs as consultants for television shows or movies.
5. Nursing Is a Dirty Job
Nursing is obviously not a good fit for germophobes. It’s also a bad choice for neatniks and people with weak stomachs. Professionals in this field need to be prepared to get their hands dirty. Vomit, blood, urine, feces and other bodily fluids are just part of the job for nurses providing patient care, and they cannot be squeamish about dealing with them because any failure to use protective measures effectively can put the health of the nurse, their coworkers and their patients at risk.
If you’re intrigued by the possibilities a nursing career offers, don’t make the mistake of assuming that you know everything about this thriving field. While there are certain aspects of nursing that match the public’s image of the field, others are downright surprising. That’s why it’s vital that aspiring nurses talk with nursing professionals and get the facts about what their dream job actually entails.
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