Nursing can be a fulfilling, rewarding career – but only if you go beyond the front door of nursing opportunities. You can work inside healthcare, outside of healthcare, with patients, in research, with nurses, and so much more. Nursing is a very flexible career, but many opportunities are only available to those who are licensed APRNs. It may be daunting to earn the next nursing credential, especially if you need to work while you complete your next degree, but chosen well, this could be the best move you make for your career.
Top-end nurses have greater control over their work/life balance, on average six-figure salaries, and their role is experiencing massive growth. The growth for the FNP, for example, far outpaces all other nursing roles and the job market on average.
More opportunity, high pay, and greater control over your day-to-day work/life balance. These are just a few of the reasons to further your nursing credentials, but how do you do it successfully? Burning out can set you back, and doing too little could end up hurting you as well.
You need to be consistent, and you need to be smart about the route you take. These top tips will help you plan and prepare so that you can successfully propel your career to the next level.
Online and Campus Degree Options
One of the first decisions that you need to make is in regards to the format of your education.
Online degrees have revolutionized the nursing sector. With recent advancements and investments, online education has become the go-to for those within the healthcare industry. After all, you will be able to learn on the go, learn around a degree, and not have to relocate in order to get your next credential.
Most programs today won’t take place on campuses. While there will naturally be a few left, the majority of nursing education has shifted online in order to give nurses the best chance at completing a degree around their full-time position.
Even online degrees have in-person training. There may be an intensive, week-long program, for example, that you will need to be for in person. In other cases, only the clinicals will be in-person.
Pathways Into Nursing
In order to progress past being a licensed RN, you will need to earn a BSN. That being said, there is more than one way to earn your BSN and, similarly, more than one way to earn your MSN or postgraduate certificate. With the introduction of integrated degrees, you can earn multiple credentials at once, which can change the game for those that find it hard to get motivated and stay motivated for years at a time.
Though not extensive, here are just a few of the different pathways into and through nursing:
1. Pathways Towards RN
There are two main options for becoming a Registered Nurse. The first is to earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing. The second is to earn a bachelor of science in nursing. Considering that many states are trying to push for most of their RN population to hold a BSN degree, you will ultimately want to earn this BSN at one point or another.
What you do not need to do, however, is earn it straight away. If you need to earn more and want to work as an RN sooner, then you can earn your associate’s degree and become a licensed RN. You will then want to look for specialty BSN programs that take ADN-holding RNs. You will essentially be taking the extra courses that are not included in the ADN and, once you finish, have a full BSN degree you can then use to qualify for an MSN program.
Depending on your goals, there are even integrated degrees. You could earn your BSN, and a master’s in nurse leadership, for example, if your goal is to go into administration.
2. Pathways Towards APRN (MSN or a Postgraduate Certificate)
There are many APRN specializations that can make choosing the right MSN daunting. So long as you choose based on what type of work and workday suits you best, then you really cannot go wrong. If you do want to change career paths later on, you don’t lose out on your previous experience. You just expand it. You can even earn a postgraduate certificate to skip the MSN courses you have already completed and focus solely on the new courses and credits that apply for that new specialization.
3. Pathways Towards DNP, Ph.D., or EdD
There are actually a few ways that you can earn a doctorate as a nurse. If you want to get into research or education, then you will want to earn a Ph.D. or EdD. Alternatively, if you want to work in nurse leadership or simply future-proof your career with the highest level of nursing education, you could earn a DNP.
There are several pathways to earn this. You could earn the doctorate individually, or you may even be able to find integrated programs that allow you to earn your MSN and DNP without taking a break in-between.
Your Nursing Education
One of the best parts about furthering your nursing career is the sheer number of pathways available that will help you reach your goals.
4. Your Online Education
Most nurses today will benefit from earning an online degree over an on-campus degree. You save on maintenance costs by remaining in your existing home, you can usually continue to work while you complete your degree, and of course, you can take the program at your pace. The infrastructure for online education has massively improved in the last few years, and now programs usually educate using a variety of digital mediums, from podcasts to live video discussions to even interactive online programs.
5. Your On-Campus Education
There may be a short intensive on-campus experience as part of your online education. This on-campus portion, if your program features it, is usually only a week long. On top of learning in a hands-on environment for a week, you will also be able to meet your peers and educators in person, which can be an essential first step toward building your network.
6. Your Clinicals
Every nursing degree, whether online or on-campus, will require nursing clinicals. Knowing what to expect during your nursing clinicals can help you better prepare in advance and get the most out of the experience. The good news is that most if not all online programs work to help get your clinical placement handled on your behalf. This way, you can get trained ideally where you live and not have to relocate in order to attend the in-person portion of your education.
How to Manage the Work and Study Juggle
One of the biggest barriers to furthering your nursing credentials is the juggle. The first thing you need to decide is how you learn and what you need in order to succeed. Some simply cannot manage the juggle between work and study and need to dedicate their time to one thing at a time. Others can easily manage an online degree, while others need the structure of a campus degree. You need to be honest with yourself about your needs so that you can meet them and then excel.
1. Decide on Your Priorities in Advance
You won’t be able to do everything. There will be some dates you miss, some events you won’t be able to make, and things that will need to be rescheduled. That is why you need to get your priorities sorted in advance. By sorting all events, appointments, and more by priority, you won’t have to worry about missing the important things.
2. Break Up Your Routine and Take Breaks
When it comes to managing your time, try to keep tasks short and to the point. Stick with one activity, one topic, one chapter, and so on. Take a break after you finish that task so that it doesn’t seem daunting and, most importantly, so that you can absorb the information you have just learned. This tip is great for your memory and for your motivation.
3. Rely on Help
You do not need to do it all on your own, and you shouldn’t have to do it all on your own. There are many ways that you can get help as well, from asking for help from friends and family to even looking for subscription or professional services.
You can have your friends and family help you with meal prep, for example, or alternatively, you can invest in a meal prep subscription plan. You can ask friends who work from home if they want to go to a café or somewhere so that when you study it can be more social and motivating.
You can even look into professional services. Hire a cleaner once a week or once every two weeks. Find a laundry service to tackle your laundry pile when it becomes too daunting. Knowing where to go when you get overwhelmed can change your life, so find these resources in advance.
4. Slow and Steady Progress is Best
Every little step you take is going to take you one step further. There may be a long road ahead, but so long as you make steady progress, it doesn’t matter how slow you go. You will get that degree, you will earn your next nursing credential, and you will see your goals fulfilled.
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