Although many career options are now on the horizon, picking one with better job security, opportunities for professional growth, and a good pay scale is always wise. Therefore, you might want to consider pursuing a career in an industry likely to stay in high demand for the foreseeable future. One such example is that of the healthcare sector — where registered nurses enjoy increasing popularity in employment opportunities as the years go by.
In the past few decades, the role of a nurse has gone far beyond that of direct patient care. Although they still advocate for their patients, nursing professionals can now work at more corporate-level positions where they can make large-scale differences. From managing and establishing healthcare practices to directing complex systems, the job opportunities for nurses are endless. However, each role requires specific qualifications and a suitable skill set that allows nursing professionals to carry out their duties efficiently.
Since the nursing program you choose influences the career options you’ll have, picking the right one can be an intimidating process. But just because it seems overwhelming doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
So to keep you from picking a nursing program you might later regret, here are seven tips to guide you in making the right decision.
Dues to the different prerequisites and exams which are required by nursing schools, it is important to study the admission guidelines before preparing your documents to enroll. Some programs may have specific prerequisites, such as specific exams or certifications, that applicants must fulfill. This will enable them to determine the necessary exams, certificates, and other requirements for admission. Online resources play a crucial role in supporting students during this stage. For instance, taking advantage of online resources like a comprehensive free TEAS study guide can significantly aid in preparing for the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) exam, which many nursing schools commonly require. By leveraging these online resources, aspiring nursing students can ensure they are well-prepared and meet the necessary criteria to gain admission to their dream schools successfully.
Consider your school options
When it comes to nursing schools, there are plenty of options to choose from. However, the delivery method for their programs typically falls into either of two categories: on-campus or online. While each approach has its pros and cons, you must decide which works best for you. For instance, if you want to work part-time while continuing your education, an online program may be better suited for you.
You must also ensure that the nursing school you pick offers ACEN accredited programs and complies with the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing’s regulations. If your degree is accredited, you will likely be more eligible for better job openings once you graduate.
Plan out your timeline
Some graduate programs facilitate students to enroll for an accelerated degree that can expedite their process and get them a degree quickly. However, these are often more complex and stressful, requiring high credit hours and experience. Therefore, you must figure out how much time you’re willing to spend earning a degree and sketch an approximate timeline for when you want to start working. Scheduling your career goals is an excellent way to decide which aspects you can afford to comprise and which you can’t.
Once you have a timeline, look for programs that align with your desired schedule. This way, you can pursue the right degree, which allows you to move quickly into the profession of your choice.
Decide the kind of work you want to do
To pick a nursing program, you must have a clear idea of the kind of work you want to do in the future. When it comes to nursing roles, there are several positions available in various areas like clinical nursing, community health, academia, research, and more. These all require different skills, knowledge, and qualifications. Therefore, exploring diverse nursing specialties is essential to identify which suits your interests and career goals.
Ask yourself what kind of patients you want to work with, whether they’re children, adults, the elderly, mildly sick, or those in critical care. Next, determine your strengths and weaknesses to see if these can help you shortlist career options. You can also speak to nurses from different specialties or attend nursing conferences to better gauge what each field curtails.
With a clear understanding of your profession, choosing the appropriate nursing program becomes a piece of cake.
Think about tuition and other costs
Like most medical degrees, nursing programs can be expensive. Besides the tuition fee, there’s the cost of textbooks, commuting, supplies, and living expenses. So, you must be smart about the program you pick and ensure it has a good return on investment after you graduate. Conduct thorough research on different nursing programs and pick out the ones within your budget limits. Often schools offer their students financial aid options or scholarships, which can significantly help with tuition and other expenses. If you find a program that aligns with your interests and is affordable — make it your top priority.
On-campus nursing schools that are far from home can have additional costs for transportation and living arrangements. Therefore, it’s best to look for options close to where you live or have online classes to avoid these expenses altogether.
Consider the job opportunities you’ll have
Before deciding on a nursing program, you must consider the job opportunities that will be available to you upon its completion. Since this healthcare field is ever-growing, there’s always a high demand for skilled professionals. However, these can vary depending on several factors like location, specialization, experience, and level of education. So, for instance, if you want to work in your hometown, look for the current job outlook of nursing professionals in your area.
Look for programs that encourage clinical work so you can gain hands-on experience while studying. You can also use this opportunity to network and make connections to help you set foot in the professional world.
Leave room for professional growth
The more qualified and experienced you are, the better your chances of securing the most suitable employment. It’s often wise to look for nursing programs that offer room for advanced degrees so you can expand job opportunities as you grow. For example, after becoming a registered nurse, you might want to consider earning a professional graduate degree that accelerates your career.
Many organizations prefer having highly qualified individuals in corporate or executive positions where you can enjoy lucrative salaries, better working hours, and many benefits.
In contrast, if you choose a program that doesn’t leave space for professional growth, you’ll be limiting how far you can advance. After you reach the threshold, your work may become redundant and monotonous. And since modern medicine makes new headways daily, you must keep evolving with time to stay relevant and in high demand for new career opportunities.
Decide your ideal workplace setting
As a nursing professional, you can work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, schools, nursing homes, etc. However, since each workplace has unique challenges and rewards, you must know which suits your goals and preferences. Consider your interests, strengths, and personality traits, and try to picture where you can see yourself working. It might help to talk to professionals in the relevant workplace and gain their perspective for a clearer image.
Once you know the kind of work and environment you can expect, you can decide where to work. This will, in turn, help you choose the suitable nursing program for this career goal.
Choosing the right nursing program is extremely important, albeit challenging. Since it impacts your future job prospects, possible career growth, and networking opportunities—this isn’t a decision you should take lightly. Use these tips above to guide you in the process and pick a program that best fits you by preparing you for a prosperous and rewarding career in healthcare.