The nursing profession makes up the backbone of the medical system. We need nurses to provide patient care and monitoring, supply medical advice, and tend to minor health problems. Nurses play an instrumental role in helping people recover from illness and injury, as well as providing preventative care that helps people maintain their physical and mental health.
Nurses are always in high demand, but the current shortage of medical professionals and the increase in the demand for health services mean that now is a great time to choose a career in nursing. The field has expanded quite a bit over the last few years, meaning that there are more options than ever for those who are looking to get into nursing.
So, what types of nursing careers are available, and which are in the highest demand? Here’s what you need to know.
Traditional Nursing Roles
Nurses are known best for providing direct patient care. These traditional nursing roles are critical in settings like hospitals or clinics, where people are receiving treatment and sometimes need inpatient care. However, these nursing professionals might also work in other settings, such as schools.
Registered Nurse (RN)
A registered nurse (RN) fills the “classic” nursing role. These professionals provide direct patient care. They collaborate with doctors and other members of a patient’s healthcare team to ensure that protocols remain consistent. They interface with family members, provide medications, take vital signs, and help with tasks like transfers, using the bathroom, and personal grooming.
RNs are always in high demand, making it a stable career choice that provides a respectable salary. A two-year or four-year degree, plus passing a licensing exam, is required to become an RN.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
A licensed practical nurse (LPN) has less training than an RN and is more limited in terms of the care that they can provide. They work under the supervision of an RN and can assist in a range of tasks, including wound care, patient monitoring, assisting with procedures, feeding, bathing, dressing, and more.
Certification through a state-approved program (which typically takes 12-18 months) and passing a licensing exam qualifies someone to become an LPN.
Advanced Practice Nursing Careers
Advanced practice nursing careers are a growing segment of the healthcare field. These highly-trained nurses have more autonomy than a traditional nurse and can provide more comprehensive care services. They are helping to fill in care gaps caused by the staffing shortages.
Nurse Practitioner (NP)
A nurse practitioner is a nurse with additional training who is qualified to diagnose and treat common health problems. In some states, NPs have full practice authority and can open their own practices. In others, their scope of care is more limited.
NPs often focus on preventative care, and other general health needs, though there are many specialisation options. An NP can fill the role of a primary care provider or family doctor in areas where they have full practice authority, as they can diagnose, treat, and prescribe. They are becoming a core part of our healthcare delivery system.
To become an NP, a person first needs to become an RN. Then, they must earn a master’s degree or another advanced degree in the field (such as a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree) and pass board and licensure exams. NPs can earn higher salaries than RNs and enjoy more autonomy overall.
Certified Registered Nurse Anaesthetist (CRNA)
A certified registered nurse anaesthetist is qualified to administer anaesthesia and monitor patients who are under the effects of anaesthesia. This is a critical role with high stakes, involving close collaborations with surgeons and anaesthesiologists.
As with other advanced nursing roles, candidates must complete graduate-level coursework and pass all relevant licensing exams before they can work as a CRNA. Generally, some experience working as a nurse prior to licensing is also required. The demand for CRNAs is high, making this an excellent career choice for those who are willing to go through the steps of becoming licensed.
Specialised and Emerging Nursing Careers
Registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses can specialise in specific departments or patient populations, either officially or unofficially. Demand for nurses with specialised skills is growing, especially in the following areas:
- Neonatal care
- Oncology (cancer care)
- Psychiatric care
- Forensic nursing
- Community care
- Nurse leadership
- Nursing informatics (healthcare technology)
In addition to these areas of specialisation, roles like travel nursing are growing as hospitals try to address their staffing issues. As the population continues to age, requiring more complex health services, nurses will only become more and more crucial.
Choosing the Right Nursing Career
With the demand for nurses of all types growing, now is a great time to explore your options. The nursing careers listed above are just the beginning— there are many other options for working in the field, with the range of opportunities growing all the time.
When considering which nursing career is right for you, be honest with yourself. Think about your interests and strengths. Consider how much time and money you’re willing to invest in your education. Think about job market trends and average salaries.
Deciding which career path to pursue is never easy. However, if you choose a job in the field of nursing, you can look forward to a stable, fulfilling career that makes a tangible difference in the lives of others.