9 Ways a Nursing Degree Makes Life Better
Nursing is the largest healthcare profession in the U.S., and registered nurses (RNs) make a median annual income of $75,330. During the pandemic, nurses have been spotlighted as frontline workers doing what they always do — care for the sick despite the potential risk to themselves.
Although there are many shortcomings to the American healthcare system, a nursing degree offers many benefits and options. On this page, we explore nine pros of a nursing degree that can make your life better.
9 Reasons Nursing Degrees Make Life Better
Although future nursing laws may require a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, people can currently become an RN with an associate degree in nursing (ADN). An ADN allows nurses to enter the field quickly and offers the chance to get a higher education while working.
Since the pandemic, more programs are offering online nursing options for a higher education nursing degree. This increases job opportunities and salary potential. While higher education opens more job options, nurses have job security at nearly every level of education.
The healthcare industry must grow to meet the demands of the baby boomer generation, all of whom will be 65 and over by 2030. Until then, it's estimated that roughly 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age every day.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, six out of 10 adults in the U.S. have at least one chronic illness, and four out of 10 have two or more. As the healthcare industry grows to care for the needs of a rising number of seniors and people with chronic illnesses, the need for nurses also expands.
Nurses have the potential to work in many different positions within the industry. To become an RN, a person must be hold an ADN or a BSN to be licensed. Most employers are looking for BSN-prepared nurses, which opens more job options in many settings, including:
- Doctors' offices
- Community health nursing
- Home health nursing
- Long-term care
- Birthing centers
- Correctional facilities
After becoming an RN, the career options for nurses expand with higher education. For example, depending on the focus of an MSN or a DNP, nurses can work as:
- Nurse practitioners
- Informatics specialists
- Forensic nurse consultants
- Nurse ethicists
- Clinical nurse researchers
- Nurse educators
- Legal nurse consultants
The ability to work within several fields with a nursing degree is one benefit found in very few other career options. Nurses may start their career in patient care but choose to move into research, nurse administration, informatics, or education as their career develops, without switching careers.
Nurses Are in Demand
The nursing shortage is expected to grow in the coming years as baby boomers retire and the need for healthcare intensifies. Burnout and loss of nursing retention during the pandemic also contributed to nurses leaving bedside nursing to opt for other career paths. There is also a faculty shortage in nursing programs across the U.S. This significantly impacts the number of students that programs can admit and graduate.
Online programs are helping to ease some of that burden, but nurses continue to need clinical preceptors who can guide their patient care application. One reason to pursue a BSN is because BSN-prepared nurses are in high demand in patient care areas and other areas of healthcare where the nursing skill set is highly sought after.
A BSN-prepared nurse has a broader education in nursing that opens opportunities in:
- Patient care
The degree is also becoming a requirement for patient care. New York passed a law in 2017 that requires all nurses to have a BSN within 10 years of their initial licensure.
While most positions are in high demand, several have seen more growth than others. These include:
- Critical care
- Operating room nurses
- Nurse practitioners
Your Job Is Never Boring
There are several reasons why nurses are rarely bored in their job. Nurses work in a changing environment, must think on their feet, and one day is never the same as the last.
Since nurses' skills are transferable, they can move from one nursing specialty or career position to the next with little extra education or on-the-job training. A nurse's patient population also changes nearly every day, and there's never a shortage of something to do, so it's highly unlikely you'll ever be bored.
Nurses Are Respected
In 1999, Gallup began an annual survey to determine public perception of the most ethical and honest profession. In December 2020, for an impressive 19 years, Americans ranked nurses in the number one position.
At the end of 2020, one year into the pandemic, nurses earned 89% "very high" or "high" score, which was a record 4% higher than the previous record high recorded in 2019. With this high amount of respect has come the glorification of nurses' sacrifices each day to care for patients.
For some, the praise from the media calling them "healthcare heroes" has had potentially negative consequences. One of those consequences is imposter syndrome.
It's more commonly found among high achievers who have difficulty accepting their success and attribute success to luck rather than ability. This leads to fear that they will eventually be unmasked as a fraud. It's crucial for nurses who may be struggling with these feelings to talk to nurse mentors and recognize that no one is perfect.
Another strategy that can help is to work with younger students. This can help nurses realize how much they know and take an honest and accurate assessment of their abilities. Nurses also find it helpful to get support from their peers. They can also speak with a therapist who can give them the tools to break the cycle.
You Can Choose From a Variety of Specialties
There are over 100 different specialties, and you can choose from some of the best nursing specialties. Nurses can focus on general healthcare such as medical-surgical nursing, gerontological nurse practitioner, or adult nurse practitioner.
You can also specialize in patient care areas such as:
- Correctional health nursing
If you want to move away from patient care, you could consider:
- Legal nurse consultant
- Case management
- Health policy nursing
One of the pros of a nursing degree is that it is a generalist education, which means you learn your patient care specialty after graduating. A nursing education can give you the foundation to move from one specialty to another without requiring another degree program.
Nursing Is a Satisfying Career
Satisfaction in the workplace can be measured using two different criteria. Job satisfaction measures how well you are satisfied with the facility or job applying your skills. Career satisfaction measures how satisfied you are with your career choice.
American Mobile Nurses Healthcare published a survey in 2021 in which they found 81% of nurses asked were "extremely satisfied" or "satisfied" with their career choice, and 75% were satisfied with the quality of care they provide.
Most nurses understand their career choice to be a nurse is not an easy one, but it is highly satisfying and a personally rewarding career. Nurses who have high job satisfaction strive to connect with their patients and families so they are better positioned to make a real difference in their lives. They also intentionally work to find their niche in healthcare and seek out professional growth and development opportunities.
Some nurses, however, are reconsidering the nursing profession due to the pandemic, nursing shortages, and a feeling that administration undersupports nurses. Consider asking yourself these four questions if you're reconsidering nursing.
Benefits are a valuable part of your employment package as a nurse. They help boost the financial value of your salary and provide you with options to care for your mental health. The most common types offered to employees are medical, disability, and life insurance, paid time off, and retirement benefits. Many employees from small companies don't receive medical insurance as it can cost an employer several hundred dollars each month.
It's important to consider your benefits package as part of your total compensation. Hospitals, clinics, and doctor's offices typically offer excellent benefits to their nurses. Travel nurses get additional benefits to compensate them for living away from home.
In addition, nurses may also receive:
- Bonuses for working extra shifts
- Tuition reimbursement
- Wellness programs
- Subsidized travel
- Student loan repayment
- Paid family leave
Nurses can learn many highly transferable skills sought after by employers outside the healthcare industry. This means that if you decide to leave healthcare one day, you will have skills that attract other employers.
Nurses must be highly skilled communicators, adept at conflict resolution, able to adapt to changing priorities, and understand and incorporate the factors of risk management. These are highly valued soft skills nurses learn in school and on the job.
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