There’s no doubt nurses are the backbone of the healthcare industry. They interact with the patients the most, assist other healthcare providers, and communicate information to all stakeholders in patient care. The way they impact patients by offering compassion and empathy is commendable.
Such is the significance of nurses that there are approximately 29 million nurses worldwide, with 3.9 million of those in the United States, according to the World Health Statistics Report. But currently, the number of patients exceeds the number of nurses available for assistance, which is why researchers have estimated a 10-20 percent shortage of nurses in the United States. This finding calls for more nurses in all branches of the healthcare industry.
Since the healthcare industry includes several divisions, nurses have varying responsibilities accordingly. Nurses can choose a specialty from more than 100 professional career paths depending on their personal interests and professional goals. From registered nurses to family nurse practitioners – nurses can extend their service in several ways.
If you are a nurse looking for nursing specialties to consider, you have landed at the right platform. We will be discussing a few nursing career paths you can consider.
- Registered Nurses (RN)
An RN is a licensed medical professional who extends hands-on care in various medical settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes. Often people confuse RN with Licensed Practical nurses (LPN). However, the two differ in the job tasks, educational requirements, and salary ranges. If you are confused about which one to choose, you should make a pros and cons list of RN vs LPN to understand which one interests you more and suits you better.
RNs provide medication, treatments, and advice to patients. They are the heartbeat of the healthcare industry because of the range of duties required of them. On the other hand, LPNs provide more basic nursing care. They work under RNs and doctors and are responsible for explaining the procedures to the family members, apart from the basic nursing responsibilities.
You must note that these nursing roles are very fulfilling and crucial in the healthcare industry. RN or LPN, your services will be equally valued by doctors and patients, regardless of the path.
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
LPNs are the nurses a patient’s families and friends interact with initially. They are responsible for communicating the procedures and care programs concerning the patient, which is why they need to have excellent communication skills and patience to deal with all sorts of people.
One of the major differentiating factors between LPNs and other nurses is the level of education required. LPNs must complete a state-approved training program which can be a certificate, diploma, or even an associate’s degree. On the other hand, RNs have more extensive requirements to fulfill.
- Cardiac Nurse
Researchers report that stroke, heart failure, ischemic heart diseases, and heart attacks have been the major contributors to deaths and disability in the United States for the last thirty years. With such a rising rate of cardiovascular diseases, the demand for cardiac nurses has risen significantly too.
Cardiac nurses are RNs whose expertise lies in heart care and treatment. They work under cardiologists, which is why they are sometimes referred to as cardiology nurses, and treat patients with cardiac and chronic heart diseases.
CNs monitor cardiac and vascular conditions and assess other heart conditions. They also administer medications and communicate the patient’s health condition to the concerned. Hence, they need solid communication and critical thinking skills. They assist in advanced cardiac life support and catheterization. They also aid surgeons during surgeries and help patients recover post-surgery.
Once you have completed your Bachelor of Science, you will have to appear for a National Council Licensure Exam for RN and earn a license in RN in your state. From then onwards, you can gain certification as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner to become a Cardiac Nurse. You can learn about the requirements and expectations regarding being a cardiac nurse here.
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) are registered nurses trained in several subjects, such as physiology, pharmacology, and physical assessment, apart from their specific specialties. According to a survey, over 72000 CNS in the United States work in various branches of the healthcare industry. You can find CNSs in nursing homes, prisons, hospitals, private clinics, and corporations.
These nurses have advanced knowledge in their areas of interest, and you need a Master’s or Doctorate in nursing to become a CNS. Once you complete the required level of education, you will be able to diagnose, treat, prescribe and bill patients like an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. Of course, you will still be responsible for all conventional nurse responsibilities alongside your consulting services.
All those nurses interested in research-related fields can work in the research department once they become CNS. You can translate research findings into patient care, work on research proposals, and implement the findings to gain practical results, or even develop new standards and protocols based on evidence and studies. According to a survey, around 91% of CNSs are satisfied with their pay, so going down this path might as well be a good idea.
- Critical Care Nurse (CCN)
Critical Care Nurses, as the name suggests, work with critically ill patients in critical care units in hospitals. They are responsible for continuously monitoring the patient’s condition and recognizing subtle changes. For this, they use several technologies, so they must be well-versed in advanced types of machinery used in the healthcare system.
They are also the first point of contact for the patient’s family and friends, which is why they must possess good communication skills. You must be a good team player if you want to be CCN because such nurses must collaborate well with the healthcare team – physicians, therapists, other nurses, and case managers. As a CCN, you will be responsible for every little thing of your patient – from ventilator duty to providing medication – it will all fall under your responsibilities.
Do you think you can perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other lifesaving activities at any time? If yes, you are fit to be a CCN. After becoming an RN, you will need an Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification if you want to go down this road.
The healthcare industry would certainly crumble without hardworking nurses. Being a nurse isn’t a piece of cake since it comes with various challenges. Wanting to specialize further in such a demanding profession is praise-worthy. Hopefully, the different paths mentioned above will help you decide which nursing specialty to consider so you have more opportunities to work with unique patients in the future. You save lives, and if that doesn’t make you a superhero, we don’t know what will.