Pursuing Nursing as a Second Career: What You Need to Know

Choosing a career is already hard enough and so many people end up choosing careers that are convenient to them. Some discover later that they would like to pursue something different and would be happier doing so. Nursing is one of the most popular careers for those who are looking for a second one. Although becoming a nurse is quite challenging, a nursing career is great once you graduate. If this is a path you are considering pursuing, here is what you need to know.

Getting Started

Before you can become a registered nurse, you need to complete a nursing degree. In the past, completing an associate’s degree used to be enough, but many universities are phasing out this degree and lots of employers expect that nurses have at least a bachelor’s degree.

The bachelor’s degree you need is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which is completed in four years. However, because this is your second career and you may be working or might need to get started as soon as possible, you should consider accelerated BSN programs. By enrolling in an accelerated program, you can have your BSN in less than 15 months.

Many of these accelerated BSN programs only require that you have at least one bachelor’s degree. Baylor University’s online accelerated BSN programs for non nurses with a degree in non-nursing disciplines is a great example. It has the same curriculum as the normal non-accelerated program. Once you have the degree, you need to pass the NCLEX exam to become a registered nurse.

You Already Have Most of the Required Skills 

Apart from nursing and nurse practice skills, many of the people who pursue nursing as a second career already have many of the skills required to be successful nurses. The most important of these are interpersonal and proper communication skills. Nurses work in teams and directly with patients so knowing how to relate to and communicate with people is crucial.

Other skills you may already possess include patience, time management, and confidence, all of which are traits that will make you a better and well-rounded nurse.

Also, those who pursue nursing as their second careers will have already developed self-awareness, wisdom and compassion, something which first-time graduates may not have developed yet. This means you will be able to relate to patients better, understand them and be able to get to the bottom of what they need better than younger nurses.

You Know How to Handle Stress

Nursing school is hard. There are stories of people pulling all-nighters, taking tough tests, and memorizing stacks of flashcards. All these are understandable considering that nursing is a very high-stakes career option. Nursing school and your nursing career will also require solid critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations. No two students ever have the same experiences in nursing school and no two shifts during your nursing career are going to be the same.

Having completed the first degree and worked a successful career, handling what nursing school throws at you will be a lot easier. You have likely dealt with situations that are a lot more stressful than studying for an exam or dealing with an angry patient.

Your Unique Perspective is Appreciated

Because nurses deal with patients from different backgrounds and who have unique life experiences, the field requires nurses who are from varied backgrounds too. You likely have a lot of life experience and have seen a lot in your time. You have also grown up to know yourself better and know how best to relate to people.

Your unique background, perspectives, and experiences will all work together to make you a valuable member of whichever team you end up in. You can also use your unique perspective and characteristics to help patients.

For example, you might see something that you do not like about some aspects of how care is provided to patients. You can use your experiences and unique perspective to come up with solutions or to go as far as becoming a patient advocate to ensure these issues are eliminated.

You Will Be Helping Relieve the Nursing Shortage

One of the biggest concerns in healthcare right now is that there aren’t enough nurses. This is caused by an aging population which puts a lot of strain on the nurses we already have, lots of older nurses retiring, and a global pandemic that has shown that there will always be a disproportionate demand for nurses.

The best solution to this problem is getting new nurses to enter the field. By becoming a nurse, you will be doing your part in helping relieve the nursing shortage being experienced. This high demand for nurses also means those entering the field can also demand better compensation. Many healthcare facilities are already reporting that they have increased nurse salaries to help attract new nurses.

You Will Have Lots of Career Opportunities

Once you are a registered nurse, the career options available to you are endless. There are over 100 nurse specialties you can get into, many of them only requiring certification that takes a few months. Each of these specialties allows you to work in different departments or areas of practice so your career will never stagnate or get boring.

There are also options for advancement up the ladder into nursing positions that are being left open as older nurses retire.

There are also careers for nurses who want to work outside the hospital and healthcare system. There is always a demand for nurses in places like schools, workplaces, and clinics where the number of physicians is low.

In states where nurses have completed their nurse practitioner training and are allowed to, you can also open your own practice and do many of the tasks a physician would.

Switching to a career in nursing is a great option for plenty of reasons. The ability to complete a degree quickly, very high demand for nurses, and endless career opportunities make this a very attractive option for those looking for a second career.

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