Job description
Nurses provide a variety of services to their patients. In general, they help to prevent injury and disease, promote healthy living, and care for the sick. They provide direct care for their patients through administering medications, and assisting with convalescence and rehabilitation. Nurses help people improve and maintain health by creating and managing care plans for their patients. Nurses can either choose to specialize in an area or many are general nurses that perform a variety of duties as needed for the physician. Areas of specialty include surgical, neonatal, anesthetist, gynecological, and many others. Nurses often advance to become department heads and supervisors, managing over other nurses, setting standards of patient care, and even composing the department’s budget.

A day in the life?

Nurses work in many different settings, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, schools, corporations and even patient homes. Home health and public health nurses travel more than other nurses, to patients’ homes, schools, and other sites.

Nurses generally work eight hour shifts, but some hospitals have nurses work ten and twelve hour shifts for three or four days a week. Nurses in hospitals, and nursing and residential homes tend to work weekends, nights, and even holidays, and are often on-call.

Nurses are on their feet a lot at work and therefore must be in relatively good physical shape. They must also have good communication skills in order to deal effectively with patients by practicing good listening and giving clear directions to both patients and aides. A positive disposition and mental strength is essential to this position as it can be stressful and emotionally challenging to deal with human suffering and emergency situations on a day-to-day basis. A nurse should have a caring and sensitive nature in order to best care for patients.

Education and training
There are four main educational programs available for nursing. To become a licensed practical nurse you must complete a state-approved practical nursing program, which are usually offered through community and technical colleges, and last between one and two years. There are three programs available for registered nurses, including the A.D.N, the B.S.N. and the diploma program. The associate degree in nursing (A.D.N.) program is a two to three year program offered at junior and community colleges and combined with hospital training. The Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (B.S.N.) program is offered at colleges and universities, and normally takes four to five years to complete. And lastly, diploma programs are offered at hospitals, and typically last from two to three years.

Students are required to graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination to practice nursing. Periodic licensing renewal is required, and usually involves continuing education and additional training. It is important that nurses pursue higher education in order to be eligible for promotions to supervisory and higher paying roles. Also, a bachelor’s degree is required to pursue a career as an advanced practice nurse such as a nurse practitioner or certified nurse anesthetist.

Job outlook
Nursing is the largest healthcare occupation, with more than 2.2 million jobs. It is projected to grow faster than the average occupation through the year 2010. There are several reasons for this growth, but the main causes are the aging population of registered nurses and recent declines in nursing school enrollment. This demand will prompt changes in the industry to try and attract more nurses in the form of pay increases, improved working conditions and subsidized training and education.

Employment in hospitals, the largest in nursing with about 60 percent of total jobs in the profession, is expected to grow slower than other areas. However, rapid growth is expected in outpatient facilities, such as same-day surgery, rehabilitation, and chemotherapy. Employment in home healthcare, clinics, doctor’s offices, and nursing homes is expected to grow faster than average as well. In addition, opportunities are expected to be even greater for those nurses with advanced education and training.

Nursing careers
There are many different types of nurses, with hospital nurses representing the largest number. There are also office nurses, nursing home nurses, home health nurses, public health nurses, occupational health or industrial nurses, and head nurses or supervisor nurses.

Those in the nursing profession with advanced degrees can become nurse practitioners. They diagnose and treat common sicknesses and injuries like colds and fractures and give out prescriptions to their patients. Other advanced practice nurses include clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse-midwives. Advanced practice nurses such as these must meet higher educational and clinical practice requirements than registered nurses.

Nurses can also advance to higher managerial roles, taking on more responsibility as head nurses, director, and even vice presidents. These types of management roles generally require a graduate degree in nursing or health services administration.

In addition, nurses will sometimes go on to become instructors at hospitals and schools. They also move into business positions in the healthcare industry, using their expertise to help manage healthcare services, and assist with development, marketing and quality assurance for corporations. A recent comeback for nursing related professions has been midwifery.