Nursing is becoming an increasingly popular profession as more and more people look for a career that gives them a high level of personal satisfaction and a high level of job security. There will always be a need for well-trained nurses, and the salaries for nurses have increased year on year.
Whether you are a high school student looking ahead to the future or a career changer looking for something new, nursing may be the right choice for your future. If you are considering pursuing a career in nursing, there are a number of key skills that you can focus on developing to help boost your success in the classroom and your career prospects.
Studying to become a nurse
The path toward becoming a nurse is the same for high school students about to leave home for the first time and individuals looking for something more from their professional life. Every nurse must receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, clock a certain amount of clinical hours, and pass their licensing exams in order to practice.
While the path to becoming a nurse is essentially the same for everyone, there are important variations that can change your experience of nursing education.
What to look for in a university program
When choosing a university program, you should first of all look at whether or not the program you are interested in is at a fully accredited university or college. You should also look at the graduation rates, exam pass rates, and employment rates of the program’s alumni. Ideally, these rates will all be fairly high and the program will have a close working relationship with a healthcare provider or hospital.
Finally, you should also explore the course offerings and look for programs that offer the subjects you are most interested in or specializations that you could focus on. There are many programs offering creative learning arrangements that may interest you – so broaden your search and get creative.
Flexible learning options
If you are a career changer or mature student who is already working, then you may want a more flexible option. One of the most accessible styles of education currently available is remote, flexible learning.
Studying remotely allows students to learn in their own time when it is convenient for them, rather than having to mold their lives around a strict course schedule. For example, the ABSN programs offered at Rockhurst University Online include 100% online coursework options for students along with campus residency offers. Such courses allow students to earn their nursing degree while also working or caring for family members.
Exams and licensing
Once you have completed your Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, the next step is to pass the NCLEX exam, regardless of whether you studied online or in person. If you are successful in passing the NCLEX exam, you will then need to obtain a state license, and this process will vary slightly from state to state.
After this, you can practice as a registered nurse. If you want additional training or would like to become more specialized, then this will require additional education and more experience in the field.
The key skills needed to complete a BSN
If you are considering starting a BSN and you are concerned about having the right skills to succeed in your course, you should take the time to consider your own personal strengths and weaknesses. We have listed below some of the most important skills for succeeding both academically and professionally as a nurse so that you can determine how your skills match up.
While you read this list, remember that these skills can be taught and that no one is necessarily born with these skills. If you feel like you are not yet proficient in any of these skillset areas, do not despair. Instead, work on targeting these skills as areas for growth, and consider how you can develop your strengths in these areas.
Communication and people skills
One of the most important skills that a nurse can have is communication. Nurses are often the primary point of contact for patients seeking care in healthcare settings, whether that is in a hospital, private care center, or clinic, and it is important that they are able to explain to a patient what is happening and why.
For individuals who are not either related to a healthcare professional or a healthcare professional themselves, the entire healthcare sector can be very mysterious and intimidating. This can put people off going to a doctor when they should and exacerbate their medical problems.
It is vitally important that nurses are able to communicate with their patients and clear up any confusion they may have about the treatment they are receiving or the steps that the doctor is taking. Good communication means that the medical treatment process goes more smoothly than it otherwise would and also helps to make the entire sector less intimidating for patients.
People skills are also essential in nursing because nurses work with patients from all backgrounds and with all personality types. As a nurse, you will often have patients who are extremely difficult to work with. If you can learn how to communicate with these patients professionally and minimize conflict, then your career as a nurse will be much more enjoyable and easier.
Of course, learning to work with difficult patients takes time. Do not feel discouraged if this is something that you struggle with – over time and with practice, you will be able to hone your skills.
This may be a surprise, but when you graduate and become a nurse, your learning does not stop there. Nurses are actually lifelong learners who are continually developing what they know and building on the education they received at university.
As a nurse, you will be responsible for filling a certain number of education hours every year. You can typically fill these requirements through online courses, in-person seminars, and lecture series that are geared toward nurses. Nurses have educational requirements because it is important for them to be up to date with the latest information and best practices in the profession.
The healthcare sector is always changing and there are continually new advancements being made and medical devices and pharmaceuticals being launched. It is vitally important that nurses are curious about the sector and profession and are eager to learn as much as possible. No one wants a nurse who is stuck in the past and refuses to learn about new techniques and technologies!
Teamwork and adaptability
Whether you are working with a few fellow students on a group project or managing care for a patient on a hospital floor, teamwork and adaptability are essential skills. Every nursing degree will involve a certain amount of teamwork, which gives you the opportunity to learn about what makes a successful team and to develop your teamwork skills.
When you are working in a clinic or hospital, you will be working with a team of other nurses, doctors, and healthcare professionals. You make up an essential part of a care team and you have an important role to play. Learning how to manage a team, delegate work, and ask for help when you need it are all skills that are part of teamwork.
Adaptability is also a very important skill for a nurse to have because things do not always go according to plan in a hospital. Sometimes a patient might have a serious reaction to their medication, and what should have been a routine procedure has become a life-threatening situation.
If you are able to be adaptable and meet whatever situation you encounter, then you are likely to feel more confident and prepared when something does go wrong. Think about it from the patient’s perspective – if something goes wrong, you want your nurse to be able to quickly change gears and address the new situation currently unfolding, right?
Organization and priority management
Two other essential skills are organization and the ability to manage priorities. Nursing programs are academically rigorous and require students to perform both in the classroom and in healthcare settings. In order to succeed in such a challenging and multi-faceted degree program, students need to be highly organized and able to address the most pressing priorities they have.
These are skills that will also come in handy for nurses in a professional context. The act of charting alone requires good organizational skills and attention to detail – and charting is arguably the least important part of a nurse’s day.
Ensuring that a patient’s medication is correct and dosed appropriately, managing the flow of patients, and following care plans are all aspects of a nurse’s daily work that require a high level of organization. Priority management is also relevant because, depending on the environment you work in, there may be a number of different patients with demands and needs whom all require attention. Being able to prioritize patient care is an essential aspect of running a floor and caring for patients.
Academic strengths and hard work
The BSN program is certainly not a walk in the park. Studying nursing requires discipline and a willingness to jump into rigorous coursework. A typical BSN curriculum will include some of the following courses: anatomy and physiology, nutrition, microbiology, statistics, psychology, anthropology, pharmacology, nursing ethics, nursing research, nursing theory, public health and global health, health assessment, emergency care, and family and community care.
These courses are heavily based on the sciences, and many of them include aspects of mathematics. This does not mean that you need to be an absolute whizz at all of the sciences and high-level math, but it does mean that you may require a tutor if you struggle in these areas.
You will also need to be able to write essays on a number of different topics and perform academic research. Again, this is at the undergraduate level, and no one will be expecting you to write an academic masterpiece – but if you struggle with writing, you may need to seek out extra help from time to time.
One of the great things about nursing programs is that there is typically a lot of support available from the school, professors and teaching assistants, tutors, and fellow students. If you begin your degree and realize that the courses are much more difficult than you anticipated, you should seek out and take advantage of the resources available to you.
Confidence and leadership
Of course, when you start studying nursing and are beginning your career, everything will be new to you and it will be difficult to feel confident about anything. The good news is that everyone knows that you are a beginner and no one will expect you to know everything.
Confidence is very important, however. When you are just starting out as a nurse, it can be easy to fall into a trap of constantly second-guessing yourself and every decision you make. This can cause anxiety and disrupt your relationship with your colleagues and is also unnecessary.
When you are starting out as a nurse, you need to ask questions and follow more senior nurses’ directions, but you can also feel confident in the education you received at nursing school. You have been trained for this profession and passed all of your exams – you are ready and the school that passed you and the hospital that hired you both agree that you can do it.
Nursing is not necessarily an easy or relaxing job, and second-guessing yourself will only add to your stress. Instead, try to focus on being optimistic, independent, and assertive while on the floor. If you have enthusiasm for what you are doing and the emotional maturity to engage with your patients with confidence, then you will be able to develop a career you enjoy for many years to come.
Why become a nurse?
Everyone has their own story and their own motivations when it comes to pursuing a career such as nursing. For some lucky individuals, nursing is a calling for them and a career path that they feel emotionally and mentally propelled towards.
For other people, it is a good job with healthcare, job security, and the possibility of a promotion track. We will always need more nurses, and nurses who choose to specialize in one particular area are likely to be even more in demand.
A healthy job market
The demand of the nursing job market cannot be overstated. The global economy is shifting towards a recession all while the cost of living increases in both urban and rural areas. We are all feeling the pinch as energy costs also creep upwards, and the energy crisis is only likely to worsen as the Russia-Ukraine war continues. There has never been a better time to start focusing on careers with high salaries and high levels of job security.
In its report on registered nurses in America, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median pay of nurses is close to $80,000 and that the number of nurses needed is projected to grow by close to 10% over the next 10 years. The BLS also reported that in 2020, there were more than 3 million registered nursing jobs, with close to 200,000 job openings every year.
It should be remembered that these are the salary and job prospect outlooks for registered nurses only. The job prospects for nurses with master’s degrees and doctorates are even better, and their median salaries are also higher.
The public importance of nursing
The COVID-19 pandemic showed the world just how important nurses are when it comes to providing essential healthcare. Nurses are known for not just providing medical care but also for giving the healthcare system a caring, human face and a connection for patients and their families.
The varied and at times vitriolic response to public health efforts during the pandemic also illustrated just how alienated so many people are from science, healthcare, and healthcare providers. Nurses who are ready to provide high-quality care while also humanizing the sector and educating individuals about their health are incredibly important.
Those who recognize the importance of nurses and doctors providing compassionate, well-communicated care to patients may be drawn to the nursing profession and towards working in public health. Nurses have an opportunity every day to change someone’s perception of the healthcare sector and have an impact unlike any other professionals working in healthcare.