One of the great things about nursing is that no matter what step you’re on in your learning path, there’s a job out there for you. You may have had an interest in nursing for much of your life, or you might have only recently decided to pursue more information about switching to a nursing career. It could be a big life change or just the next step in an ongoing journey.
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Nursing is an excellent career for midlife professionals looking to make a difference. Even if you don’t have any professional training yet, the life experience a person can bring to a nursing career is extremely valuable: the average age of the RN workforce in the United States is 45 years old. More experience in life means more compassion, patience, and empathy toward others. That tends to include a deeper understanding of the connections we all have with one another. As a nurse, understanding how people care for one another is a key part of your every day job. But you will also need to pay attention to the details, have physical and emotional stamina, and be a good listener.
Because health care is an inevitable need in every human being’s life, employment in nursing is expected to grow as much as 31 percent in the next nine years, which is much faster than average for most occupations. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that more than five times the number of available nurses will be needed by 2020 just to meet requirements. Nursing skills are in demand. Are you ready to answer the call?
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Take the first step.
Where does a nursing career actually start? Long hours spent in complicated classes may seem like the status quo but it’s actually easier to get started on a nursing career than you might think.
A nurse will usually start his or her career as a Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurse (LPN) and can start a formal education with a state-approved educational program from a community college or a vocational school. This can take about a year to complete, and programs will include a mixture of lecture, laboratory, and supervised clinical experience. The topics include nursing, biology, and pharmacology.
After completion of a diploma program, a nurse will have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination at the practical nursing level (NCLEX-PN) and sometimes other requirements for licensure can be required, depending on state regulations. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing has more information on state-by-state licensure.
What does the job look like?
In nursing, duties will largely vary because of individual state regulation: some states will give nurses more responsibility. Some of these regulations will address the level of supervision an LPN requires or can have over others, as well as whether they can perform tasks such as IV insertion or medication administration. The American Nurses Association can give you some insight if you’re looking to work in a particular state. But no matter where you work, continuing your education will always improve your knowledge and provide you with more opportunities.
Some of the tasks an LPN can expect to perform are:
- Monitor health like blood pressure, pulse, height and weight
- Administer basic care, such as changing bandages or helping patients move
- Helping patients who have difficulties dressing, bathing, or eating
- Keep records and report status and concerns to registered nurses or doctors
- Take samples and perform routine laboratory tests
The US Bureau of Labor estimates that employment for LPNs and vocational nurses will grow 25 percent from 2012 to 2022: that’s roughly 183,000 jobs! As an LPN, you can expect to make a median wage of $41,540 a year, but with good performance and experience, you can aspire to earn more than $57,000.
Take it even further.
As an LPN, you can choose a specification and take courses to get certified in it. A specialty means that you have superior knowledge on one subject, such as a particular body part, a specific health condition, an age group, or training in a different environment. Other than specialty certifications, experience can also lead to supervisory positions, but these opportunities will vary depending on your state’s legislation.