Getting on Track to a Nursing Career
Tania Heath’s Career Path is Winding
In undergrad, I had no idea what I wanted to be,” she said. She majored in business and worked in mortgage-finance. “Once I started working, I found it wasn’t fulfilling enough. I started grad school actually, and one day I was sitting in class and I thought, ‘This is not what I’m meant to do.’
The Battle Creek, Mich., resident explored her options, and at 30, she completed the first portion of a seconddegree nursing program at George Washington University.
“It is the best profession for people who want to be involved with people, who want caring relations,” Dr. Jean Johnson, dean of the George Washington University School of Nursing said.
Nursing is the largest health care profession, boasting 2.6 million jobs.
“We also hear that there are specific jobs that they are seeking,” Dean Pam Fuller of the University of Phoenix College of Nursing said, adding that positions in informatics and as clinical nurse leaders are drawing students to nursing and encouraging nurses to return to school. “[Much] of it has to do with the roles of nursing.”
She said there are several ways to pursue a career in nursing.
In fact, today’s students have the option of pursuing associate degree registered nurse (RN) programs, second-degree programs and traditional four-year baccalaureate programs. Licensed practical nurse (LPN) programs are also available, though LPNs have a limited scope of practice. In fact, most hospitals are moving away from employing LPNs, according to Johnson.
RNs with an associate’s degree can return for bachelor completion programs or a master’s degree through a bridge program. RNs with a Bachelor of Science degree can return for a master’s degree and study toward becoming nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists or nurse practitioners.
“One of the goals of nursing is continued learning,” Fuller said. “With the robustness of health care and technology, it is important for a nurse to continue studies.”
Nursing is the largest health care profession, boasting 2.6 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nursing is also considered one of the largest growing fields.
"We have [talked] about the nursing shortage, and in some communities, it is still quite prevalent," Fuller said. "In other communities, it is lessening."
Johnson said nursing has not been immune to the downturn in the economy.
“There’s no question that the market is softer now than it was in the early– to mid–2000s,” she said, citing the anticipated mass retirement of nurses that did not take place over the last few years.
She said new nurses may not have their pick of jobs, but that jobs are out there.
“In the last two years, some of our new grads from our pre-licensure program were not finding jobs,” Fuller said. “We all feel that’s very short-lived.”
Both Fuller and Johnson said that the market will open up with more retirements in sight and new health care regulations.
“I think there is a bright future for nursing,” Fuller said.