According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health care and social assistance job market will become the largest employment sector in the United States between 2014 and 2024. More specifically, the health care and social assistance job sector is expected to increase its share of America’s total employment pool from 12 percent in 2014 to 13.6 percent 10 years later.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that health care support and health care practitioner occupations, along with technical jobs, will be the two fastest-growing job groups from 2014 through 2024. These two occupational groups are expected to employ an additional 2.3 million individuals by 2024, which represents approximately one out of every four new jobs that will be created between 2014 and 2024.
If you’re considering a career in nursing, the news about employment in this field in particular is even more promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the job pool for registered nurses will grow 16 percent between 2014 and 2024, adding more than 439,000 new positions. Demand for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is also expected to increase by 16 percent in the same time period, with more than 117,000 jobs being created.
Even a lack of experienced candidates isn’t expected to hinder the growth of the licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse job pool. According to Burning Glass, a job market database, more than 80 percent of the job postings for licensed practical and licensed vocational nursing positions available between Nov. 28, 2012, and Feb. 25, 2013, solicited applications from candidates with less than four years of experience.
Characteristics of Successful Nurses
While the current and future employment prospects may make it tempting to pursue a career in nursing, successful nurses generally have certain characteristics that help them enjoy rewarding careers. Due to the physical nature of the work involved with providing care to patients, nurses typically need the physical stamina to stand for long periods of time and the strength to move patients and equipment from one location to another. Nurses are usually kind and compassionate as well, traits that help them relate to their patients, their patients’ families and members of the public in general.
Here are some additional characteristics and skills that successful nurses normally have:
- Communication Skills: Successful nurses genuinely enjoy interacting and communicating with patients and their family members. They are skilled verbal communicators and excellent listeners. They are able to communicate their patients’ needs to others and inform patients about their care, medications and treatment plans. Given their intimate communication with patients, successful nurses are able to anticipate what their patients need and relay this information to other caregivers, including doctors. Nurses are able to follow directions and provide care in accordance with those instructions.
- Empathy: Nurses experience highs and lows, often on a daily basis. They see patients recover and watch as others take their last breaths. Successful nurses are empathetic to whatever a patient and family members are experiencing, and they lend support accordingly. Having an understanding of other people’s emotions, especially during a crisis, helps nurses to communicate better with their patients and prepares them to advocate for their patients when necessary. Being empathetic without letting the emotions of others affect their own outlook enables nurses to maintain the emotional stability they need to render the appropriate care to each of their patients.
- Optimism: Various studies, including one discussed in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, indicate that people who have a positive outlook recover from certain things better than individuals who aren’t as optimistic. As one of the main points of contact with patients, a nurse’s optimism can positively influence a patient’s own outlook and potentially increase the likelihood that the person will recover from his or her ailment.
- Flexibility: Nurses work in all types of environments. Some work in offices or facilities that have set hours every day. Others work in hospitals and emergency rooms in which the hours they work are sometimes dictated by the patients that come through the doors. Depending on the environment, nurses must have the flexibility to work overtime as needed, including nights and weekends, to be successful at their jobs.
- Tenacity: Successful nurses are tenacious when it comes to details. They recognize that a simple mistake, such as misspelling something or miscalculating a dose of medicine, could be the difference between life and death for their patients. They scrutinize their patients’ charts, make sure the information on them remains up-to-date and memorize the specific details they need to render the appropriate care. When they are given direction, they follow instructions exactly and don’t skip critical or minor steps that could jeopardize a patient’s well-being.
- Interpersonal Skills: Nurses deal with a variety of patients from different backgrounds. They also interact with other nurses and staff members, including doctors, regularly. A successful nurse has the interpersonal skills to work with others to develop treatment plans and communicate them to patients. They’re able to remain calm when crises occur and collaborate with others to resolve problems quickly. Nurses balance the needs of both patients and doctors and manage the differences between the two so the appropriate level of care is provided at all times. Their interpersonal skills enable nurses to handle a patient’s family, manage others, and support patients and doctors effectively.
- Respect: Great nurses respect their patients, patients’ family members and the people they work with. They are knowledgeable about confidentiality requirements and don’t share information when it’s not appropriate to do so. They also appreciate and respect different cultures and understand that certain cultural traditions may influence how care is provided. Successful nurses always put the needs of their patients first and they respect their patients’ wishes above all else at all times.
Practical Nursing vs. Professional Nursing
If you have many of the traits often associated with great nurses and want to pursue a career as a nurse, you have two paths to choose from: practical nursing and professional nursing. Deciding which path is right for you depends on various factors, including the length of time you want to spend studying to prepare for your new career and the amount of money you hope to earn each year. Both practical and professional nurses are needed in many areas of the medical field and in various environments.
Here are a few of the differences between practical nursing and professional nursing:
1. Practical Nursing
Regardless of whether you choose to pursue a career in practical or professional nursing, you’ll need to earn the appropriate credentials to become a nurse. To be a practical nurse, you’ll need to complete a state-approved licensed practical nursing program, which can often be done in as little as 12 months. Alternatively, you can earn an associate’s degree in nursing, which generally takes between 18 and 24 months.
Upon completion of your studies, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become a licensed practical nurse, or LPN. If you work in Texas or California, you’ll earn the title of licensed vocational nurse instead of LPN after you pass your exam. The difference between an LPN and an LVN is simply how a practical nurse is referred to in a given state. If you’re a practical nurse in Texas or California, you’re an LVN. If you work in another state, you’ll be an LPN.
You’re probably asking yourself these questions, “Is a practical nurse the same as an LPN? If so, is a practical nurse the same as an LVN?” The answer to both inquiries is yes. Whether your state dictates that you be referred to as an LPN or an LVN, you’re still a practical nurse no matter what your official job title is.
Physicians and registered nurses typically oversee the work of LPNs. Licensed practical nurses handle administrative duties, take vital signs, move patients and equipment, feed and dress patients, and draw blood. They also monitor patients and update their medical histories as necessary. While approximately 29 percent of LPNs work in nursing homes, they’re also commonly employed by hospitals, doctors’ offices, surgical centers, addiction treatment centers, schools, long-term care facilities and home health care providers.
2. Professional Nursing
To become a professional nurse, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a certificate from a state-approved nursing program. Earning a BSN generally takes four years while earning an ADN normally takes only two or three years. Once you complete your course of study, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) to be recognized as a registered nurse.
Registered nurses assess patients’ symptoms and medical history, develop plans to render care to individual patients, administer treatments and medicines, and implement recovery plans. They interact and consult with doctors and other health care professionals to develop plans for rendering care, and sometimes oversee the work of medical assistants and LPNs. Registered nurses are also responsible for educating patients and their family members about a patient’s condition and how the person will be cared for. They also provide grief counseling to family members and friends who are grappling with the deterioration or loss of a loved one.
While 61 percent of registered nurses reportedly work in hospitals, they can also find employment in critical care units, physicians’ offices, home health care, schools, research laboratories, correctional facilities, long-term care facilities, nursing homes and the military and government.
Types of Nurses
While nurses can be separated into practical and professional groups based on their education, job duties and other factors, they can also be categorized into types. Determining what type of a nurse a person is depends on the individual’s work environment and the ailments the nurse treats, among other things. An intensive care unit nurse typically provides advanced care to people suffering from serious illnesses or injuries in a single hospital, while a traveling registered nurse performs nursing functions at various locations temporarily, sometimes for weeks, months or even years at a time.
Here is a list of some additional types of nurses:
- Nurse Case Manager: The goal of a nurse case manager is to keep patients healthy enough to stay out of the hospital. With this in mind, nurse case managers develop and coordinate plans to provide long-term care to people in need. Nurse case managers can choose to work with specific groups of people, such as those suffering from cancer or geriatric patients.
- Nurse Anesthetists: This type of nurse frequents a variety of workplaces, including the surgical wings of hospitals and dental offices. Nurse anesthetists administer the drugs necessary to prevent patients from experiencing pain during a given procedure. They also administer the anesthesia necessary to relieve pain in certain circumstances.
- Home Care Nurse: A home care nurse visits patients in their own homes to provide the care they need. Home care nurses often work with senior citizens and people with developmental and/or mobility challenges.
- Operating Room Nurse: Also called perioperative nurses, operating room nurses provide care for patients before, during and after their operations. Perioperative nurses serve as a communications bridge between a patient’s surgical team and family. They provide a patient’s family members and friends with instructions for the patient’s postoperative care as well.
- Staff Nurse: Staff nurses develop plans for patient care and administer medications and IV therapy. They often direct and supervise other medical staff, including other nurses. Staff nurses can be found in many different work environments, such as critical care units, rehabilitation centers and psychiatric facilities.
- Forensic Nurse: A forensic nurse works with people who have suffered injuries as the result of violent criminal acts, including sexual assault and domestic abuse. They collect evidence from the victims of crimes and give it to the investigators who are trying to identify and locate offenders. Forensic nurses also collect medical evidence in cases involving an accidental death. When relevant, a forensic nurse may be asked to provide expert medical testimony in court.
- Labor and Delivery Nurse: Labor and delivery nurses care for new mothers and their babies before, during and after birth. These nurses assist with inducing labor when necessary, administer pain medicine such as epidurals and monitor contractions. They also teach new mothers how to breastfeed if a patient needs instruction.
- Ambulatory Care Nurse: An ambulatory care nurse provides care for people who require care for less than 24 hours. Ambulatory care nurses use critical thinking and judgment in order to provide the care their patients need in a short period of time. This type of nurse can be found in hospitals, clinics, private medical practices, home health care, and military and veterans’ facilities.
- Psychiatric Nurse: Psychiatric nurses provide care for people who suffer from a mental illness such as depression and schizophrenia. This type of nurse typically works in either a hospital or a mental institution.
- Research Nurse: A research nurse works in a laboratory setting. Research nurses develop medications and treatments designed to either cure an illness or improve the quality of life for people suffering from a particular ailment or a combination of illnesses. Research nurses typically focus on a specialized area of interest.
Regardless of the type of nurse you choose to be, nursing can provide some valuable benefits. Given the current and projected future demand for both practical nurses and vocational nurses, you can enjoy job security by becoming a nurse. Probably the greatest benefit of becoming a nurse, however, is knowing that you make a difference in the lives of others every day that you show up to work. Whether you are striving to develop a new drug, providing care to a homebound senior citizen or helping to deliver a baby, your daily job duties can literally save or improve someone’s life. What greater reward is there?