Nursing Career Paths
If you are looking for a profession that is rewarding and offers variety, flexibility, and many career advancement opportunities, then a career in nursing may be perfect for you. The nursing profession offers a wide variety of opportunities from serving as an assistant to nurses to providing primary care and health care/academic leadership. There is also a range of education programs available from certificates to Doctorate degrees.
If you are interested in entering the profession or furthering your education, there are many resources and opportunities available. Learn more about some of these opportunities below.
Undergraduate Degrees & Certifications
A certified nursing assistant, or CNA, is the health care worker who provides basic care to patients assisting them with their activities of daily living. Certified Nursing Assistants perform all the routine tasks needed to patients stay comfortable, safe, and well during their hospital stay, doctor’s visit, or time in any other medical facility. Under the supervision of doctors, nurses, and other professional staff, certified nursing assistants are responsible for making sure patients are fed, dressed, bathed, and exercised. CNAs – also known as nurses’ aides, orderlies, and patient care technicians – also play a large role in keeping hospital or clinic facilities clean, well-stocked, and in functioning order. Additionally, a certified nursing assistant may answer calls for help, monitor patients’ conditions and progress, and may even assist with medical procedures.
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) care for ill, injured, convalescent, or disabled people in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, group homes, and in patients’ homes. LPNs provide basic bedside care. They take vital signs (temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration rate); treat bedsores; apply dressings; apply icepacks and hot water bottles; give injections and enemas; collect samples for medical testing; monitor catheters; record fluid and food intake and output; help patients with bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene; and feed patients. They provide for their patients’ general comfort and emotional well-being as well as monitor them for adverse reactions to injections and medications. LPNs work under the supervision of physicians and registered nurses.
Registered Nurses perform physical exams and health histories, provide health promotion, counseling and education, administer medications, wound care, and numerous other personalized interventions, interpret patient information and make critical decisions about needed actions, coordinate care, in collaboration with a wide array of healthcare professionals, direct and supervise care delivered by other healthcare personnel like LPNs and nurse aides and conduct research in support of improved practice and patient outcomes. Registered nurses practice in all healthcare settings: hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, ambulatory care centers, community health centers, parish nurse/faith communities, schools, and retail clinics. They also provide health care in diverse locations such as camps, homeless shelters, prisons, sporting events and tourist destinations. RNs can either obtain an Associate’s Degree (ADRN) or a Bachelor’s Degree (BSRN).
There are many nursing certificates for nurses wishing to specialize in a particular area. More information on certificate programs can be found on the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Website by clicking here.
Executive Nursing Practice certification is geared to nurse leaders who are engaged in executive nursing practice. This certification requires a master’s degree and two year of executive nursing experience or a bachelor’s degree and four years of executive nursing experience.
Nurse manager and leader certification is designed for nurse leaders in a nurse manager role. This certification requires a BSRN and two years of nurse management experience or an ADN and five years of nurse management experience.
Clinical Nurse Leaders receive further education on outcomes-based practice and quality improvement strategies in order to improve the quality of patient care and to thrive in the current and future health care system.
Master’s Degree/Advanced Practice Programs
Advanced Public Health Nurses are prepared for advanced practice leadership in population-focused care which is available as master’s degree or as a post-master’s certificate.
The certified nurse-midwife provides a full range of primary health care services to women throughout the lifespan, including gynecologic care, family planning services, preconception care, prenatal and postpartum care, childbirth, and care of the newborn. The practice includes treating the male partner of their female clients for sexually transmitted disease and reproductive health. This care is provided in diverse settings, which may include home, hospital, birth center, and a variety of ambulatory care settings including private offices and community and public health clinics.
For the certified nurse practitioner (CNP), care along the wellness-illness continuum is a dynamic process in which direct primary and acute care is provided across settings. CNPs are members of the health delivery system, practicing autonomously in areas as diverse as family practice, pediatrics, internal medicine, geriatrics, and women’s health care. CNPs are prepared to diagnose and treat patients with undifferentiated symptoms as well as those with established diagnoses.
Both primary and acute care CNPs provide initial, ongoing, and comprehensive care, includes taking comprehensive histories, providing physical examinations and other health assessment and screening activities, and diagnosing, treating, and managing patients with acute and chronic illnesses and diseases. This includes ordering, performing, supervising, and interpreting laboratory and imaging studies; prescribing medication and durable medical equipment; and making appropriate referrals for patients and families.
Clinical CNP care includes health promotion, disease prevention, health education, and counseling as well as the diagnosis and management of acute and chronic diseases. Certified nurse practitioners are prepared to practice as primary care CNPs and acute care CNPs, which have separate national consensus-based competencies and separate certification processes.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are advance practice registered nurses with a masters degree who administer anesthesia as well as monitor the patient during and after anesthesia. They must complete extensive training and pass a certification exam.
The CNS has a unique advanced practice role to integrate care across the continuum and through three spheres of influence: patient, nurse, system. The three spheres are overlapping and interrelated but each sphere possesses a distinctive focus. In each of the spheres of influence, the primary goal of the CNS is continuous improvement of patient outcomes and nursing care. Key elements of CNS practice are to create environments through mentoring and system changes that empower nurses to develop caring, evidence-based practices to alleviate patient distress, facilitate ethical decision-making, and respond to diversity. The CNS is responsible and accountable for diagnosis and treatment of health/illness states, disease management, health promotion, and prevention of illness and risk behaviors among individuals, families, groups, and communities.
Nurse administrator programs prepare nurses for advanced practice in administrative roles such as Nurse Executive, Nurse Manager, Quality Improvement Manager, Ambulatory Care Manager or other system level nursing positions in community agencies, health care facilities, health departments and schools of nursing.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice is a relatively new degree program that was created in response to the changing demands of the complex health care environment and the need for nurses serving in specialty positions to have the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise.
A Doctor of Philosophy prepares nurses for research and faculty roles and prepares advanced nurse clinicians to discover, understand and critically evaluate the literature on nursing and related fields and to apply procedures and principals to the recognition, evaluation, interpretation and understanding of issues and programs in order to forward nursing knowledge.