Nursing Provides Many Options

by Rita Clifford, RN, PHD, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, University of Kansas School of Nursing
Nursing Provides Many Options

Dr. Clifford is Associate Dean, Student Affairs, at the University of Kansas School of Nursing. For more than 30 years, one of her major responsibilities has been recruitment of students for undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.

Nursing Options

With an undersupply of nurses projected throughout the next two decades, nursing opportunities are both diverse and plentiful. But what does it really mean to be a nurse and why would you want to choose that as your career?

You choose nursing because you have a desire to make a difference in another person's life through the caring art of healing. Nursing gives you the chance to help others, offers you a vital profession and includes a variety of career options with mobility.

Your nursing education really should begin while you are in high school as you need to have a solid base of math and science courses to prepare you for the nursing curriculum.

After completing your high school education, you have a few options for choosing a nursing career. Your choices include enrolling at an accredited associate degree program, typically a community college or vocational training school, or an accredited college or university. A community college nursing program generally prepares nurses for bedside care in a hospital or long term care setting and results in the Associate Degree in Nursing. College and university programs prepare nurses not only for bedside care, but to care to patients in many settings outside of the hospital. These courses are usually part of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

Faculty and administrators are ready to welcome new students into the profession and educate them for one of the most challenging and rewarding careers. The career offers such a wide variety of practice settings that there is something for almost every individual's specific set of interests and personal skills. The practice setting opportunities include such areas as critical care nursing, pediatric nursing, maternity nursing, adult nursing, school nursing, home health care, public heath nursing, psychiatric nursing, and occupational nursing, to name just a few. This wide variety lets nurses choose their practice setting and type of patients being served to fit with their interests, personalities and family requirements.

The shortage of nurses which is predicted to continue for the foreseeable future provides many opportunities. Graduates from our School of Nursing have multiple job offers from which to choose after graduation. Most of our graduates have accepted positions well before graduation. This shortage also offers exceptional mobility for nurses. Nurses, who move from area to area in the United States or even the world, can be almost assured of finding employment as a nurse wherever they go. Nursing salaries are also good (of course, we all think that we deserve higher salaries). Nursing Management (July 2003), a nursing periodical, just released their annual "Salary Survey". This survey reveals that the average salary for a nurse with 1-2 years experience is $44,920, $55,410 for those with 3-5 years experience up to $70,270 for those with more that 20 years experience. Of course, these salaries can go much higher depending on the specialization or administrative level.

Educational advancement is also a wonderful feature of the nursing profession. Education here at the KU School of Nursing begins with students entering the bachelor's degree program. But for nurses with an associate's degree, advancing one's education has never been more attractive, considering the demand for advanced degrees and knowledge needed of health care workers.

For example, the KU School of Nursing provides RN students flexibility by allowing them to complete their BSN coursework over the Internet. Nurses are choosing to get their on-line degree to become more educated and to compete for the many jobs requiring a bachelor's degree. Master's degree nurses also are in greater demand as nurses are providing more preventive and primary care to patients or are seeking preparation for positions in administration or other leadership areas. There is also a need for nurses who are prepared for being teachers of nursing. This is an area of nursing in which there is also a looming shortage.

While the need and demand for nurses continues, the same need is encountered for nurse researchers and for doctorally prepared nursing faculty. Nurse researchers are critical to advancing the science of nursing, and to the future of nursing programs. Therefore, doctoral education is available for those with a research/teaching interest.

In summary, if you are looking for a career which includes working with people, in many cases, at their most vulnerable times; if you want to do work which makes a difference; if you have an interest in science; if you want to be assured of a job in the area of your choice; if you want to earn a good wage and have job security; and if you want the opportunity for educational and career advancement then nursing is an obvious choice. It is a career which can last a lifetime.

Dr. Clifford is Associate Dean, Student Affairs, at the University of Kansas School of Nursing. For more than 30 years, one of her major responsibilities has been recruitment of students for undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.

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