Nursing is a noble career that requires a lot of sacrifices. It isn’t for everyone, but for those that want to help others heal and make a real difference in the lives of so many, it’s a great career. It is also much easier to get into than a doctor position, as you can start your career after completing a short course and passing an exam.

With the power of online education, you can then continue to learn while you work as well, allowing you to move up the career ladder and reach well-paying roles and even leadership positions like the Director of Nursing in a hospital.

Nurse Helping Elderly Woman

There are so many ways you can take your nursing career as well, but it is a lot of work, both while you are moving up the career ladder and while you are doing your job. You need to be 100% certain it is right for you.

Know for a Fact it is the Right Job For You

There are a few things you need to have before you ever consider working towards the first level of nursing.

You Love Helping People

Those who work as nurses love helping people at their core. It is this love of helping others that helps them get through the long days and difficult job requirements of being a nurse. A great way to tell if this profession is right for you is if you are already a carer for someone in your family. If you have become used to and understand the responsibility and commitment involved with caring for those who are sick.

This is especially important considering the duties given to the first level of nurses. These nurses are the ones who bathe patients and clean bedpans. Their work is difficult, and often underappreciated, but the care they provide is what offers patients dignity and comfort during their most trying days.

You Understand the Sacrifices You Will Need to Make

Nurses work long hours. Some nurses work nights. There is a lot you will be sacrificing by becoming a nurse. You won’t have a regular 9-to-5 job, for example, and your social life might take a hit. So long as you stick it out and work to create a comfortable and supportive routine, however, you will build a life that is fulfilling and rewarding.

Understand the Level of Education You Will Need

Every level of nursing requires further education. The highest level of nurses needs a Masters in Nursing Science, for example, and if you really want to be hirable and direct your career you will also want to further specialize in a specific field. This means a year’s upon years of education once it’s all said and done.

How to Get Started

If you are ready to get involved with nursing and want to commit yourself to that career you will want to follow these steps:

Volunteer at Your Local Hospital

Volunteering is not easy. Even the application process is hard, but it is a great way to give you a realistic idea of what it would be like to work for the hospital. Consider this a test to see if the nursing career is right for you. If you finish a few months as a volunteer and are still determined to be a nurse, then you are ready to start your career.

Find a CNA Program

The first step to nursing is to find and complete a CNA program. This program takes approximately 3 to 8 weeks to complete, depending on whether you commit to it full time or part-time. CNA, which stands for Certified Nurse Assistant, is offered by a variety of institutions including the Red Cross. Once you complete this program you will need to take your state certification and then apply for positions in hospitals near you. If you volunteered before at one, then you can try applying there first.

The Levels of Nursing

Your nursing career will follow these four main levels of nursing. They are the standard. You can and should specialize further to pursue your passions as necessary. Not only will specialization help you reach a higher income level, but it is also a great way to improve how hirable you are. Hospitals vary drastically in terms of working culture, and you want your pick of the hospital once you move up high enough in

It is important to learn the different levels of nursing so that you can get a good overview idea on what your career path will be.

Nursing Assistant (CNA)

To get into nursing you will need to obtain a CNA license. When you achieve it, you can expect an average income of $27,500 per year. This isn’t a great income as you can tell, but as you move up you will make more that is more suited to your level of work and expertise.

As a nursing assistant, you will be responsible for bathing patients, helping them to the bathroom, cleaning bedpans, measuring vital signs, and of course listening to concerns. In some states, you might be allowed to dispense medication, but this isn’t always the case so you will need to check on your state’s specific rules and regulations.

The main duty of the Nursing assistant is being there for your patients. Help comfort them and their families.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

In order to move up to a Licensed Practical Nurse, you will need to complete a practical nursing diploma program which can take up to 12 months or more to complete. As with every new nursing level, you will need to then pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).

Once you have this license, you can then move up and work as an LPN. Their duties include monitoring a patient’s health, administering basic care like taking blood pressure, inserting catheters, starting IV drips and more. They are also usually the ones that educate families on after-care procedures so that patients can continue the healing process at home.

The average wage of an LPN is $45,000, though you can make more and be more hirable by committing to further certifications once you have the LPB license. You can specialize in IV therapy, or with working with developmental disabilities. You could even be an LPN that aids in childbirth and aftercare if that is something you are interested in.

Registered Nurse (RN)

Registered nurses or RNs are what the public think most of when they hear the word “nurse.” These nurses make an average of $70,000 per year, but the level of education and certification they need to complete this is much more substantial than what you have done previously.

In order to become an RN, you will need to either obtain a degree in nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor in Nursing Science (BSN). If you want your career to continue and advance, however, it is almost always better to go for the BSN. This is because many programs for further qualification and the MSN program will require you to have the Bachelors. Earning a degree takes 18 months on average, whereas a BSN takes 33 months.

Once you have completed the BSN, you will then need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination NCLEX. Your state might have further qualifications you need to meet, however, so check in advance.

RNs are the ones that oversee the LPNs and CNAs. They are also responsible for recording patient medical history and can diagnose, treat, use medical equipment, administer medicine, create a plan of care, and are the nurses that work with doctors.

To further your career from here, you will first one to invest in a specialization. There are many great programs you can take on a part-time basis. Baylor offers certified nurse midwife programs online for RNs, allowing you to take your career to a new direction.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)

The next level of a nurse is Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). These nurses typically earn about $110,000 per year. They can work in their own establishment or in hospitals aside doctors. They perform all the duties outlined in the RN section, with a few key differences. APRNs can order diagnostic tests and can refer patients to specialists based on the findings. They can diagnose and treat patients.

To become an APRN, you will need a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Once you have this degree and the license, you will want to specialize. Some key job roles held by APRNs include nurse midwives or nurse anesthetists. If you set your sights high enough, you could even apply for Director of Nursing, in which case the average wage would be much higher.

This is the highest level of nursing, and the level of education you need to meet the requirements is substantial, but you are paid well and can help patients in a variety of ways in exchange.

How to Progress Your Career in Nursing

Knowing how to get to each level of nursing is great, but you will find that once you are in the job role that it can be difficult with keeping up with the pace and demands of the job and then commit to learning and earning degrees on top of it all. To help you manage the workload and continue to learn so that you can progress throughout your career and not get stuck, follow these tips:

Work and Learn

To work and learn, you will need to create very healthy and productive routines and stick with them. That is why it can actually be dangerous to stop learning and specializing because it can be very hard to get back into once you stop.

For example, working one hour before or after a shift can be hard to start but easy once you get used to it and expect it. This way, you can make regular progress on your next degree or certification either by studying or actively learning.

Always opt for part-time once you have the CNA certification. This way, you don’t have to take time off and can work on building up your skills and reputation within the hospital. If you like it there, you will want to prove you are a go-getter who cares and has a firm grasp on nursing if you want to be hired for a higher-up position.

The Power of Specializing

Follow your passion and specialize. If you want to work with babies, then work on specializing in midwifery. In time you could become a midwife and help deliver babies and their mothers during their pregnancy. If you want to be involved with more intensive tasks, work to aid doctors by becoming a nursing aestheticist.

Specializing is how you become more hirable as well as improve your wage. If you wanted to change hospitals, it will almost guarantee you a position. It is also a great way to focus more on what tasks you personally want to do, rather than stay generalized.

Create Detailed Goals

It can help to create detailed steps, instead of big, over-encompassing goals. You don’t want to spread things out too thin or too clustered. After earning a degree or diploma, take a month off before you start your specialization. Try to specialize before working towards the next level of nursing.

Know Who You Want to Work For

Last but not least, remember that you can and should change hospitals if you don’t like the working culture. You can love who you work with, but if your employers and directors are pushing the bottom line and not patient care or are otherwise involved in practices you don’t like, then change.

You might find it better to move to a small-town hospital if you need a quieter workload and want a more personal approach to your career. Regardless, you will want to know for a fact which hospital you want to work for because some have different requirements for new hires. Some might accept an RN that completed the diploma; others might require you to have the BSN.