Becoming a nurse is an extremely rewarding job that will put you in direct contact with patients as you help them to get through difficult times in their lives. You will be responsible for carrying out many medical procedures, while keeping them calm and at ease, and assisting doctors in their treatments. This is a job that will always be in demand, and that is growing increasingly in-demand. With that in mind, read on and learn everything you need to know about nursing degrees and whether they are right for you.
Nursing Degrees 101
The first thing to know about nursing degrees, is that they come in a variety of different flavors1. These include:
- Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
ASNs will last for two years, and are ideally aimed at those looking to enter the workforce as soon as they can. With that said, many hospitals will look for BSNs which are more comprehensive – so keep this in mind.
A BSN is a degree qualification. This requires a higher level of commitment, but this pays off with better job opportunities. The BSN typically takes four years.
The RN to BSN is aimed at those looking to bump up their ASN to a BSN.
When choosing a nursing degree, you should always look for accreditation. This should come from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing2 or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education3.
Nursing degrees are expensive, just as all undergraduate degrees are. However, it is possible to gain a scholarship if you are willing to do the research.
In order to get onto a nursing degree, you will need to have studied either a social science or biology subject at school. Common options include psychology, sociology, chemistry, and biology.
What to Expect
Studying to become a nurse involves a combination of written theory and practical hands-on experience. You will be required to gain real-world experience working in simulation laboratories to practice various procedures, and even in hospitals where they may shadow other experienced nurses or even be given the chance to take care of sick patients. In fact, a typical nursing degree is divided roughly 50/50 between practical work and theoretical study.
The first year of study will normally focus on basic clinical concepts and procedures across all four “disciplines” of nursing.
From the second year of nursing, you will be required to choose to specialize in one of the following four areas4
- Adult nursing degree – This allows you to work in most settings, and covers public health, complex care, leadership, and management
- Children’s nursing degree – This is aimed at nurses who wish to focus their care on children. This can also be useful for those looking to work in a school or hospice.
- Learning disabilities nursing degree – This is aimed at nurses looking to work with adults and children with learning disabilities.
- Mental health nursing degree – This focuses specifically on supporting the physical and mental health of those with mental health illnesses.
Nursing degrees are extremely challenging and in-depth programs. You will learn about human biology in great detail, ranging from the cardiovascular system, to the skeletal system, to the action potentials of neurons. While your job will not be to treat patients or diagnose them without the supervision of a physician, you will still be expected to be able to recognize basic conditions, and to demonstrate an understanding of how they affect the body.
On top of this scientific training, you will also learn how to interact with patients, as well as how to operate advanced machinery. Being required to practice this in person can place students in high-pressure scenarios, not to mention requiring a strong stomach when it comes to the sight of blood or other bodily fluids!
Note that working in a hospital is not your only option upon graduation. Nursing degrees can likewise lead to working in schools, hospices, assisted living communities, charities, and more.
If you are willing to put in the time and effort, if you are not easily scared or upset, and if you like the sounds of being able to help people while also learning about the human body, then nursing may be for you. A nursing degree will be a challenge, but one that can lead to high employability, a healthy salary, and a true sense of job satisfaction.