Careers: Nursing/Nursing Career
QUESTION: Hi Ken,
I am currently in school working to get my BSN. For the nursing career, I am very confused about how RNs and their speciality or focus works.
For example, I heard some RNs are certified in critical care, such as yourself, while others are specialized in pediatrics, or geriatrics, etc. When in your nursing career are you able to choose the specialty you want to focus on/work with, and what are my options as a Registered Nurse with a BSN?
Also, when is the best time to volunteer at hospitals to get more experience? Are there certain amount of time recommended ?
Nurses usually spend at least 1 year in Med Surg right out of nursing school. This is basically the foundation beginning for nurses. After a year or so in Med Surg you can decide where you would like to concentrate on for your specialty. As long as you have your RN you can specialize in any area of nursing you like. The difficult part is getting hired by the manager in that department. If you are in Med Surg out of school you want to network and get friends in the area you want to specialize in. I went into Critical Care after a year of Med Surg and learned all I could on the job along with the Critical Care Course that I had taken while I was in Med Surg. You can work in any area of nursing as long as you get hired by the manager of that unit. Many nurses are not certified in that area until they work there and gain experience. I did not get my Critical Care Certification until about 2 years after I started working in the ICU. Some nurses never get certified, yet they are Critical Care Nurses by the virtue of the fact that they work in ICU.
Whatever field you want to work in you can be certified. My wife is Certified in Cardiovascular nursing and she is a Cardiac Rehab Nurse. The main thing about certification is that it opens doors to being able to get jobs easier. If you apply to another hospitals ICU and you are a CCRN which is a Certified Critical Care Nurse, then the manager knows you have successfully learned and passed an exam that assures that you have learned a body of knowledge that is specific to critical care nursing. It does not mean you are the best nurse for the job, but it does assure that you know the area of critical care well enough to be certified.
Volunteering does not really give you experience in nursing. It will however give you the chance to hang around the hospital and network with health care professionals. They let the volunteers deliver labs and paperwork and basic hospital work. You really dont get hands on nursing experience as a volunteer.
Volunteering gives you an in to the hospital and an edge over an outsider when it comes time to get hired. Networking is important as a volunteer. It could make being hired as a nurse a little easier when you graduate.
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QUESTION: Thank you, Ken!
That was very helpful and useful information.
I do have another unrelated question about nursing, and I hope you have some insight on this.
I've recently finished my first year of college, and when I took a look at my classes, I only need four more classes to get into the Nursing program, which is 2 years long and will provide me with an A.S. degree as well as an RN license. However, the wait list to get into the program is a year long. I was considering getting my license, and then finding a school that does an RN to BSN program - which typically I will finish in three semesters. The negative thing about this is the one year wait list.
Or, I could stick with the goal of traditional BSN program, but I see that I need a lot more classes before I can transfer out. Even when I do transfer out, most schools have me start as a sophomore in nursing rather than a junior anyway.
What are your thoughts on this? Which path do you think personally is better?
Unfortunately times have changed. A couple of years ago I was recommending that getting a 2 year associates degree in Nursing would be fine. Then I would have the hospital pay for the other 2 years for your BSN with their tuition reimbursement plans. However, since nursing leaders could not get together and decide on a uniformed nursing entry level for professional nurses, the hospitals starting controlling it through hiring practices.
Many hospitals are only hiring 4 year BSN nurses now right out of school since the starting pay is the same and they can get the more educated nurse for the same money. The experienced 2 year RN is not having a problem getting a job. It is the new nurse with the 2 year degree who is having trouble getting hired. The cost of orientation for the new nurses is costly, however, the experienced 2 year RN does not need more than a week of orientation so its much cheaper and the hospitals dont mind hiring experienced 2 year nurses. Therefore, I recommend a 4 year BSN, whether the traditional or accelerated way.
So basically, get a 4 year BSN degree and you will not have trouble getting your career going.