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A Day in the Life of a Nurse

By Ann LeSuer-Collins
R.N. and Midwife

Choosing a career as a nurse can be exciting and rewarding. There is no better feeling than knowing you are helping others. Not only are nurses always in demand, they are also paid well, with the pay level being commensurate with their education level. Being a nurse offers work options other than working in a hospital setting. The nursing field includes a vast selection of work settings, such as school nursing, community health nursing, doctor's offices, long-term care facilities, and public health settings, to name a few. Before you choose a career as a nurse, you should be aware of the skills and education needed.

What Does a Nurse Do

A nurse's job is to promote, maintain, and assist patients to obtain or recover their optimum level of comfort and well-being. In a hospital, a nurse may help a doctor with procedures, administer medications, do patient assessments, or assist patients with bathing, eating, and other activities of daily living. A nurse will often work with the patient and the family to educate them about the nature of an illness or disease, about how to best promote a quick recovery, and about how to prevent a recurrence. Also, a nurse often teaches skills, such as caring for wounds or giving injections, which a patient or a caretaker needs to learn prior to hospital discharge.

The pace of a nurse's day, as well as the skills needed, will vary depending on the setting in which a nurse works. A nurse working in a doctor's office will use a different skill set and work at a different pace than a surgical nurse or an emergency room nurse. A nurse who works the day shift on a general care floor in a hospital will be far more focused on tasks than a nurse on the same floor working evening or night shifts, which allow for more personal patient contact. Once a new nurse begins to work after completing the necessary education and passing a licensing exam, he or she will soon come to know what pace and setting is the best fit. A nursing career provides this sort of flexibility.

How Do You Become a Nurse

There are three tracks available to become a nurse. The first is a hospital-based certificate program, which takes two to three years. This method of nursing education is becoming less prevalent. The next track is an associate's degree in nursing. This type of degree is obtained at a community or junior college. One can also pursue this track with online education programs. The associate's track typically takes two to three years to complete. Many RNs with an associate's degree will go back to school later in life to obtain a bachelor of science degree in nursing.

The highest entry level of nursing is a four-year, bachelor of science in nursing. A BSN is obtained at a college or university. A BSN has many more opportunities available to them than an associate's degree nurse. They may choose to pursue administrative work such as a becoming unit manager or to focus on specialized area of nursing such as educating newly diagnosed diabetics. A BSN is also in the best position to go on to obtain a higher degree, perhaps a master's degree in a specialized area such as midwifery or pediatrics. There are some hospitals, usually teaching facilities, which only employ BSN-level nurses. If you have a desire to work in a specialized area of nursing, a BSN degree is a must.

What Is It Like to Be a Nursing Student

All nurses will need to learn both theoretical and clinical aspects of nursing. Theoretical classes will include anatomy and physiology, as well as basic math and chemistry. As your progress in your training, you'll focus more on nursing theory, including pharmacology, medical terminology, physical assessment as well as focused areas like pediatric nursing, maternal-child nursing and psychiatric nursing.

You'll also pick up skills needed for working in a health care setting with patients. Strong people skills and communication abailities are an important part of being a good nurse as is a genuine desire to help people through all phases of their lives, from birth through death. If that describes is you, then nursing is a career path that can lead you anywhere.

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