Nurses are hands-on health professionals who provide focused and highly personalized care. They are also in demand—employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 16% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nurses promote health, prevent disease and help patients cope with illness. They have a unique scope of practice and can practice independently, although they also collaborate with all members of the health care team to provide the care needed by each patient as an individual. Nurses advocate for their patients and patients’ families. They develop and manage nursing care plans and instruct patients and their families in proper care. As educators, they help whole communities by teaching individuals and groups how to take steps to improve or maintain their health.
The field has a wide range of career opportunities, ranging from entry-level practitioner to doctoral-level researcher. Although an entry-level nurse can find a job with a three-year RN degree, there is a growing national movement to require all nurses to hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. An increasing number of nursing schools are offering accelerated bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. You can also find more options for RN-to-Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and MSN-to-doctoral programs, designed to meet the increasing demand for more highly skilled nurses in the workforce.
Once you are a professional nurse, you might choose to focus on a particular specialty. There are numerous specialty options—each of which has education/certification requirements and a related professional network or organization.