Nursing Career Paths: A versatile career choice

Nursing is a versatile career choice. There are many possible career paths. Nurses who work directly with patients may perform clinical procedures such as administering medications, starting IV lines, and caring for wounds and/ or act as patient care coordinators, educators, and advocates. They may specialize in particular areas of medicine.

Nurses with higher levels of education and credentialing can assess patient status in increasingly complex ways. They may create and modify specialized treatment plans that others follow. Some nurses carry their education as far as the graduate level and act as primary care providers.

Bedside/ Hospital Nursing

A classic role is that of bedside nurse. Bedside nurses provide direct clinical services for people in hospitals and other facilities.

Hospital wards may specialize in care for different populations, for example, pediatric, neurology, or cardiology. A day on the job in a maternity unit will be very different than a day in neurology! Maternal nursing duties, for example, might include assessing newborn health status, educating new mothers about feeding, communicating with women who are in labor when changes to their birthing plans are in order, and taking care of newborn babies. Neonatal intensive care, meanwhile, represents a separate specialty with a separate set of competencies.

Some nurses assist in the operating room. They may become first attendants.

Nurses often pursue certification in a specialty area after they have been on a particular unit or working with a particular population for a period of time. Specialty nursing certifications are available from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Nursing Roles in Long-Term Care

Nurses who work in long-term care often have higher levels of responsibility which include some supervisory duties. Nurses perform more difficult technical duties such as providing wound care or managing catheters or tube feedings. Some nursing homes even serve residents who are ventilator dependent.

In long-term care, too, there are many possible roles. A restorative nurse helps people maintain physical functions and continue on the path to recovery after they have been discharged from more intensive therapy programs (e.g. physical therapy or occupational therapy). Restorative nurses may also work with residents who are receiving primarily custodial care. Much of the basic duties may be carried out by restorative nursing assistants.

Many nurses have, as a major duty, supervision of non-licensed personnel who carry out basic health duties in home or community stings.

Care Coordinators

Many nurses work as care coordinators. Care coordination may incorporate telephone triage but is more comprehensive. The service has become popular because of its ability to prevent under-utilization, over-utilization, and generally ineffective use of health resources. Many people ignore warning signs or fail to take steps to safeguard their health and thus allow conditions to reach crisis level. Others seek emergency or urgent care when it’s not necessary. It’s not uncommon for patients to do some combination of the two — healthcare is increasingly complex and many people don’t know what they need when or how to get it. Care coordinators work with different populations in an array of programs. Some manage transitions.

They function as part of the discharge management team; one duty may be to contact patients soon after they leave the hospital to make sure that they have what they need to manage their health out in the community. Other care coordinators are community-based. They may, for example, assist senior citizens with following healthy regimes. Some care coordinators assist families of children with complex health needs — a population that includes many who, in decades past, would not have survived.

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Other Specialized Nursing Roles

Nurses may work in varied community settings. School nursing is a common area of specialization. School nurses do far more than apply bandages. They monitor and manage care for children with various health conditions, some of which can be life threatening: allergies, asthma, epilepsy, diabetes.Duties include everything from educating substitute teachers about e-pens and care plans to injecting insulin.

Other nurses specialize in provision of emergency care. Some become flight nurses, accompanying medically fragile patients during transport.

Advanced Nursing Roles

Many nurses take their education to the graduate level. Some work as supervisors or case managers or care coordinators for patients with very complex needs. Some take on roles that don’t exist at the lower levels. There are multiple advanced practice roles. Nurse midwives assist women with normal uncomplicated deliveries. They see them through pre- and postnatal care and may assist women with other health needs. Nurse practitioners take on some duties traditionally reserved for physicians. A common role is family care provider.

Part of the beauty of nursing — besides the whole person/ wellness focus — is that the education doesn’t have to be completed all at once. Nurses are more likely to take their practice to the highest levels, though, if they enter the profession at a relatively higher level: with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Additional Information:

Outlook for the BSN Graduate

Online RN to MSN Programs

Working—and Networking—Your Way to a Job in Nursing

Nurse Associations

Career Advancement

BSN Career Mobility

What Makes for a Successful BSN Student

Interview with a Male CNA

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