Nursing is a rewarding and in-demand career choice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects seven percent job growth for registered nurses (RNs) from 2019-2029, which is faster than the average job. You will probably find it easy to get a position and stay employed, but there is much more you need to know about being a nurse.
It helps to discover as much as you can about nursing school before you ever touch a stethoscope. This guide explains what it is like to be a student, as well as how to work in your field of interest. With this information in mind, you will be more prepared to apply to the nursing school of your choice.
Talk to Experienced Nurses
One of the best ways to learn about nursing school is to talk to an experienced nurse. Consider talking to your high school nurse, someone who works at your pediatrician’s office or a member of your family. Some of the most important questions include where they went to school, how they prepared for the program and the challenges they experienced while they were studying.
You can also ask them which schools they find most reputable, which programs they recommend you avoid and if they have advice on how you should prepare to apply to a university or technical college. It may also be helpful to find out what they wish they learned in school before they became a nurse. With their wisdom and guidance, you can help to avoid common mistakes that are made while applying to school, studying to become a nurse or working in the nursing field.
Explore Nursing Programs
Professional nurses are an excellent resource for recommending nursing schools in your area, but there are even more ways to search for a reputable education program. There are several types of nurses, so it is essential to learn more about what type of degree or certification you desire. An Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) can help you to become an RN. You can even earn a master’s degree or a doctorate degree in the nursing field.
Students who are interested in working in a specialty, such as cardiac care or psychiatric care, should be sure that their classes and degree programs reflect their interests. For those who want a career they can start quickly, enter a program to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). There are many different programs available to you, including classes with various lengths and testing requirements. Be sure to research each school and certification program thoroughly before you apply.
Take Prerequisite Classes
After you research several degrees and certification programs, you will be able to narrow them down to the ones that will work best for you. Once you find a few ideal schools, it is time to review the class requirements for prerequisites. Prerequisite classes are those that you must take before you can enroll in higher-level classes within the degree program. If you know which courses you need to take ahead of time, you may be able to take them at your high school before you even enter a college setting.
Talk with your high school counselor about Advanced Placement (AP) or dual-enrollment classes. By taking college-level math and science ahead of time, you will cut down on the time you spend on lower-level classes. This strategy will help you get to your advanced nursing courses and practicums much faster. It can even help you to save money, as it is free or low-cost to take AP and dual-enrollment classes as a high school student.
Volunteer Your Free Time
Another way to gain experience in the nursing field and prepare for school is to volunteer your time. Consider working as an assistant in a hospital, a long-term care facility or a nursing home. While you will gain valuable hands-on knowledge, you will also help others.
Many volunteer opportunities also count toward college scholarships, so talk to your guidance counselor if you have questions about where you should spend your time. Some scholarship programs have “approved” volunteer organizations or facilities, while others will allow you to work wherever you would like. Before you volunteer, it may also be necessary to learn CPR and take a first aid class. This can be done online and after you attend a course you will have CPR and First Aid certification. These skills are not only critical to being a nurse, but they help you prepare for your coursework in nursing school. Purchase a few pairs of men’s or women’s scrubs, just in case you need them to enter a facility. Find out in advance if you will need time to complete background checks, receive vaccinations or get a physical.
Join School Clubs and Associations
Advanced placement courses and volunteering can make you a more attractive candidate when it is time to apply to nursing school. It is also helpful to join school clubs and associations that are related to the medical field. Check to see if there is a nursing or medicine-related club on campus. You can also join a professional association for high school students. The Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) is an organization for future nurses and health leaders, designed to offer professional resources while students are in high school.
The earlier you join a professional organization, the better connected you will be to the most experienced nurses and best-rated colleges in your community. Your club or association may also give you access to scholarships that will help you pay for nursing school. Take on leadership roles, participate in competitions and attend association-related events to gain as much experience and knowledge as you can.
Learn About the NCLEX
The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is the nationwide examination body for the licensing of nurses. It is necessary to pass your designated exam to become an RN or LPN. As you are researching schools, check out their students’ NCLEX pass rates for the last few years. The better the pass rate, the more likely the school is helping up-and-coming nurses prepare for the everyday challenges of the profession.
Learning more about the NCLEX will also help you feel more comfortable with the testing process before you even get to school. The more you know about testing topics and requirements for passing, the better you will study this information while you are in your nursing program. Seek out free NCLEX study guides and feel free to ask experienced nurses about taking the test.
Become a Nursing Student
It is a wise career choice to become a nursing student. Prepare ahead to ensure you take the right prerequisites and select the right program. Relying on a combination of first-hand experience and second-hand knowledge will help you to avoid the wrong courses or colleges. You will also learn how to spend less time in school and become the right type of nurse for your personal and professional interests.