Is Nursing for Me? What to Consider
Understanding the Numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.
If you've long marveled at the role nurses play in the medical field, chances are you've given thought to whether you have what it takes to become a nurse, too.
Opportunities abound: Nursing is a fast-growing field with a wide variety of positions in hospitals, physician's offices, schools, nursing homes and other healthcare and government facilities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that by 2032, the nursing field would add more than 177,400 new nursing jobs.* Working as a nurse can be a very rewarding career, and it can draw on your work ethic, emotional strength and ability to pivot to meet ever-growing patient needs.
Wondering if nursing is the right choice for you? Here are some insights and experiences from nursing students to help get you started.
Nursing Careers Offer Flexibility
Nursing is not only one of the most common jobs in healthcare, but it's also the most employed profession in the field, BLS reported. Nurses work in diverse areas, like cardiovascular care, emergency services and children's health, offering a variety of career paths to explore.
This diversity means there's likely a nursing job that aligns with your personal interests. For instance, if you're drawn to helping people overcome challenges, you could find a fulfilling career as an addiction nurse. The impact you could have on individual lives in this role is significant and rewarding. Given the 24/7 needs in various healthcare settings, the profession offers flexible scheduling options to accommodate different lifestyles. While some nurses have a typical Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule in settings like schools or doctor's offices, many others work differing hours, including nights and weekends. This flexibility makes nursing an appealing choice if you're seeking a career that can meet your circumstances.
Nursing education can also be flexible. An online degree program can offer you the versatility to balance work, family and school, just as it did for Susana Ashooh '23. With two children, Ashooh needed a program that fit her family and schedule needs. That's when she discovered Southern New Hampshire University's (SNHU) Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.
After working towards her degree for seven years, she recently saw her dreams become a reality at SNHU's Commencement. "It feels surreal," Ashooh said about earning her degree.
With her BSN in hand, Ashooh continued to look ahead. "Now that I have my degree, I'm going to enroll in a master's program for nurse practitioners. That's my goal," she said.
Find Your Program
Nursing Education and Skills
Nurses take on many different roles and require a broad skill set. According to BLS, critical thinking and communication skills are a must for nurses, as are sense of compassion and emotional stability. Nurses often have to work with numerous patients simultaneously so organizational skills are vital, BLS reported – as well as being detail-oriented to ensure patients get the correct treatments on time.
Interested in developing your nursing skills? You might consider these programs at SNHU:
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN): This program teaches you about safe nursing, using the best methods based on research, ways to keep people healthy, working with healthcare teams and keeping up with healthcare changes. You'll also learn how to keep learning throughout your career.
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): This advanced program follows the latest guidelines from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). SNHU offers five tracks, so you can focus your MSN program to align with your career. These include:
- Family nurse practitioner (FNP)
- Healthcare quality and safety
- Nursing education
- Nurse executive leadership
- Population healthcare
And it's never too late to start your nursing journey. Take Danielle Jernigan '23, for example. She was a teacher for 13 years before she decided to become a nurse.
A New Yorker, Jernigan knew the prerequisites for nurses in her area. "As a nurse, most employers prefer to hire BSNs, especially the city hospitals," she said. So, she began her BSN at SNHU with the hopes of opening up new career opportunities.
Once she earned her BSN, Jernigan sets her sights on nursing supervisor roles, feeling good about what she now brings to the table. "I am more confident in my abilities because the knowledge is there to back it up," she said.
She's not done yet. With her husband's and kids' encouragement, Jernigan's continuing her education. "I am eager to learn more and am currently in the process of applying for an MSN nurse practitioner program," she said.
Earning an MSN degree can help qualify you for positions such as Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) and nurse administrator. You can also work as a nurse educator or a patient safety and quality nurse. Clinical nurse specialists must have a master's degree, according to BLS, and usually have to have worked for at least a year as an RN.
If you've ever spent time in a hospital, you know nurses do a lot of different things. BLS listed some common tasks that nurses do, such as:
- Conducting tests to find out what's wrong with a patient and looking at the results.
- Giving patients their medicine.
- Keeping track of patients' symptoms and what they've been through health-wise.
- Teaching patients and their families how to take care of themselves after they leave the hospital.
- Using and checking medical equipment.
Specific duties for nurses can depend on the type of nurse they are and the environment they work in. Some possibilities offered by BLS include:
- Addiction nurses help people recovering from drug or alcohol problems.
- Cardiovascular nurses take care of people with heart disease or after heart surgery.
- Critical care nurses work in the intensive-care units (ICUs) in hospitals.
- Neonatal nurses take care of newborn babies.
- Rehabilitation nurses help people with long-term or short-term disabilities.
The variety of nursing specialities is paralleled by a range of earnings in the field. But, in 2022, the median salary for the RN field was $81,220, according to BLS.* However the scope of nursing can extend beyond patient care to areas like research and administration.
Michelle Nachand '20 '23G earned her BSN and MSN but nursing hadn't been a lifelong ambition. It was during her experience as a cancer patient that she met a nurse who inspired a new path for her in healthcare.
That path included a bachelor's in nursing online and then her master's in nursing also at SNHU, despite additional health challenges.
"My hopes for this degree that I've finally been able to achieve is that I'm able to help patients not have to go through things that I've had to go through, if it's possible health wise," Nachand said. "I just want my patients to be as healthy and happy as they can be and to be able to achieve the best possible outcome."
*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill.
Danielle Gagnon is a freelance writer focused on higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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About Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.
Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.