What to Know About a Career Change to Nursing

What to know about a career change to nursing

Nursing is a great second career option for many. With an estimated 275,000 more nurses needed by the year 2030, there are plenty of opportunities for nurses to live and practice almost anywhere. I chose to go back to nursing school because I wasn’t satisfied with my career at the time. After researching what it would take to get my nursing degree, I was left thinking about how returning to school and working as a nurse would impact other aspects of my life. Let me tell you, there’s a lot to think about!

If you’re considering the switch, it’s a great idea to some time researching and thinking about how your life could change. You’ll need to consider your degree options—but you also need to keep in mind that nursing isn’t like a typical 9-5 job. That’s not a bad thing, but it is different from the kind of work most others do. Here’s just some of the things I kept in mind when thinking about a career change to nursing.

Consider Your Degree

Ok, let’s get it out of the way. Yes, you’ll need to consider which degree you’d like to pursue. Registered nurses typically earn one of two degrees to enter practice: an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

As a second career nurse, you may already hold a degree from an accredited university or community college. That’s great, and that was part of my own experience. It’s possible that some of your previous coursework will transfer to your new nursing degree; fortunately, many of my credits from my first degree did transfer. However, I did have to retake a few core classes, like chemistry, because the credits had expired. Check with your advisor, who can let you know exactly which classes may transfer to your nursing degree.

One more thing to remember: approximately 82.4% of employers want to hire BSN graduates. Around 41% of hospitals now require a BSN to remain employed. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get your BSN degree, but it’s worth thinking about. I personally chose to pursue my BSN since I already had one degree and I thought it would help me with employment opportunities later.

If you decide to pursue other educational options, you could become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or certified nursing assistant (CNA). Both require completion of an accredited program—either a certified practical nursing certificate for LPNs, or a certified nursing assistant program for CNAs. Certificate programs are generally shorter than degree programs, and they’ll help you get a foothold in the healthcare industry. Plus, both give you the opportunity to further your education later, if you choose to.

Decide What Kind of Nurse You Want to Be

One of the best parts of working as a nurse is the incredible flexibility you’ll have in your work. There are almost unlimited options for the type of work you can do. If you want to work with kids, a career in pediatrics can make that a reality. If you’re interested in surgery, like I was, you may choose to pursue a job in the operating room at a hospital. Or, if you’d like to help people with chronic medical problems live better at home, a career as a home health nurse might be right for you.

Be Prepared to Deal with All Kinds of People and Situations

One of the biggest, and perhaps most important, aspects of nursing is the ability to work and communicate with many different types of people. Obviously, you’ll need to work well with your colleagues—doctors, other nurses, providers like physical therapists, and even people like patient care advocates all make up the medical team. You’ll need to form good relationships with them all to ensure your patients get the best care possible.

But that’s definitely not all. You’ll need also need to form good relationships with your patients and their family members or caregivers. Developing good rapport with patients and families can make or break your ability to successfully care for them. You’ll be exposed to people from all walks of life with different socioeconomic statuses, education levels, and personal beliefs. Navigating these relationships can be difficult at times, and you may be required to care for someone you don’t necessarily like or agree with. That’s all part of the job.

And, it may sound obvious…but you’ll need a strong stomach to work as a nurse. Most clinical nursing jobs expose you to blood, body fluids, or tissues. You’ll need to be very familiar with infection control procedures and be willing to follow them closely. This will help prevent the spread of any infectious diseases to you or your colleagues.

A Career Change to Nursing Means Changing When You Work

Nurses usually work in 8-, 10-, or 12-hour shifts, depending on where they’re employed. But keep in mind that your patient’s needs come first—that means the job may not end right when you’re supposed to go home for the day.

Thankfully, nursing is a career field that offers many different ways to work. Yes, you can certainly work full- or part-time. Personally, I worked three 12-hour shifts each week in the operating room; most days I was able to leave on time when my shift ended, but circumstances occasionally meant I had to stay late. That was part of the trade off for only working three days a week, and it worked well in my own experience.

After you get a little experience, you’ll be able to switch to other kinds of shifts, like per diem. Working per diem allows you to work on your own schedule—you’ll be able to pick and choose the shifts that best fit your life. Many nurses who make a career change to nursing prefer per diem work because they have more control over how much of their time is spent at work. IntelyCare can help you pick your shifts to provide the most flexibility possible.


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