A nurse is someone who provides care to patients in a healthcare environment. This can encompass everything from a nurse giving booster shots at a pediatrician's office, to a surgical assistant who prepares instruments and assists during complex surgeries in a hospital operating room.
Many different specialities exist for a nurse, from working in the NICU with the tiniest of newborn patients, to geriatrics and palliative nursing for those at the end of their lives. For the ambitious nursing student that is looking to earn a high salary, there are specialized careers such as a registered anesthetist, who might expect to out-earn a good number of doctors. Many nurses really enjoy the difference they can make in a patient's life, and the rewards for saving a patient's life or greatly improving their day-to-day life by sharing some of their skills and knowledge are reasons why many nurses choose this profession.
The day-to-day routine of a nurse would tend to be a somewhat structured environment in many cases. Working in a hospital, one would follow a certain protocol when caring for patients and coordinating with doctors and other staff members. Administering medication, helping prepare patients for surgeries and treatments, and assisting doctors and surgeons during procedures are only a few of the daily tasks one might expect to work on.
Educating patients is another important aspect of nursing, as is learning. Sharing knowledge about health & nutrition can have a very positive effect on a patient's life. Many nurses agree that learning doesn't end with graduating, and indeed, they continue to learn until the end of their careers. Nursing can be a rather dynamic career choice, and is well-suited to someone who is considered a problem-solver. Some nurses work with a great deal of autonomy, others work with very close supervision, and that is another thing to keep in mind while considering different nursing careers.
While there might be a few opportunities for people looking to break into the nursing field without a degree, such as working for a retirement home or a hospital, a high school diploma will probably be a necessity. In order to move up the ladder into the higher paying nursing jobs, you'll need a degree. Several different options for this exist, but the highest paying nursing jobs will require a 4-year bachelor's degree (Bachelor of Science, Nursing) which is available at many four-year universities and community colleges. There is also a 2-year associate's degree, offered at many community colleges and technical schools.
Another less likely possibility is the hospital diploma. Years ago, it was more common to receive a hospital diploma by working as a sort of apprentice alongside experienced healthcare workers, as well as completing courses at a local university. This has fallen out of favour in recent years due to funding and liability issues, though a few programs still exist. Many of the college courses for students pursuing a nursing degree are challenging. Many classes are focused on science and math, medical terminology and biology, and lots of hours studying and memorizing can be expected. A clean background check and drug screening are also almost a given for people in the healthcare industry, since the level of trust between employer and employee is very high.
Nurses work long hours, often on their feet, and evenings and weekends are almost a given. Frequently, 12-hour or split shifts are necessary as well, and since hospitals and nursing homes require 24-hour coverage, frequently the less desirable "overnight" hours are assigned to nurses with less seniority. Nurses that work in a general practice, or in a doctor's office, might find the hours and workload to be more palatable, however, the salary might reflect this convenience. This is a career for people who are motivated, enjoy a structured workplace, and have a high energy level. Patience and kindness are also important career skills for the prospective nursing student.
Most people would immediately think of a hospital when thinking of a nurse's workplace, and that is indeed a common employer for many people in the healthcare industry. Private practices, clinics, retirement centres, nursing homes, and in-home healthcare are some other possibilities for nursing careers. Schools and universities, cruise ships, airports, and sports teams are some of the more unusual places for a registered nurse to find employment, but these and countless more opportunities exist.