What is a Nurse?

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 nurse 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, like an acute care nurse, or greatly improving their day-to-day life by sharing some of their skills and knowledge, are reasons why many people choose this profession.

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What does a Nurse do?

Types of nurses and educational requirements for each:

Licensed Practical Nurses

A licensed practical nurse has to take a program consisting of four semesters over two years in a college program leading to a diploma in practical nursing. A licensed practical nurse is most appropriately suited to patients with less complex needs, and patients with stable and predictable conditions.

Registered Nurses

A registered nurse has to either take a collaborative college-university nursing program or a four-year university nursing program — both leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BScN) or Bachelor of Nursing degree (BN). A registered nurse can care for patients in unpredictable situations, and with more complex needs.

Nurse Practitioners

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with advanced university education who provides health care to patients. There are four nurse practitioner specialty areas: primary health care, adult, pediatric care and anaesthesia.

Nurses can specialize in the following areas:

  • Cardiovascular Nursing
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Critical Care Nursing
  • Critical Care Pediatric Nursing
  • Emergency Nursing
  • Enterostomal Therapy Nursing
  • Gastroenterology Nursing
  • Gerontological Nursing
  • Hospice Palliative Care Nursing
  • Medical-Surgical Nursing
  • Nephrology Nursing
  • Neuroscience Nursing
  • Occupational Health Nursing
  • Oncology Nursing
  • Orthopaedic Nursing
  • PeriAnesthesia Nursing
  • Perinatal Nursing
  • Perioperative Nursing
  • Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
  • Rehabilitation Nursing

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 and lifestyle changes 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.

What is the workplace of a Nurse like?

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.

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.

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