Delving Into Nursing Majors
When pursuing a career as a registered nurse there are three basic educational paths to becoming an RN, a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree and a diploma from an approved nursing program, according to the California Board of Registered Nursing. The most common pathway is through an associate or bachelor’s.
Once a degree is obtained, graduates must complete a national licensing examination in order to get a nursing license. Once a nursing license is obtained, nurses can then obtain a master’s degree to pursue a career as an advance practice nurse such as nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives or a nurse practitioner.
Basic nursing curriculum will focus on establishing a solid foundation of biological, physical and social sciences to educate students on the scientific aspect of nursing. From there, coursework will shift to educate students on caregiving, critical thinking and knowledge of patient health and health care systems.
Like doctors, nurses must have a solid understanding of medical practices gained through coursework in biology, anatomy and epidemiology. However, nursing differ significantly from other types of medicine in that nurses must care for the patient until they are back to health, once the doctor or physician has finished his or her work. As a result, courses in chronic disease management and health assessment courses are in place to get the student familiar with the recovery of a patient.
Expect most nursing programs to use textbooks as primary reference materials. However, most programs either recommend or specify an internship or some sort of on the job training.
Associate degree students can expect an initial course load of standard basics such as composition and mathematics, but will progress into courses designed to establish a solid understanding of medical science. Here students will build a solid understanding of the human anatomy and physiology as well as epidemiology.
Students will also take courses in microbiology, nutrition and health development. It is also very important for any kind of health care employee to have a firm knowledge of working medical terminology, so expect to see courses in medical terminology to prepare the student for the workforce. Expect references to be almost entirely made up of text books.
Bachelor’s level nursing students will see a curriculum with a heavy emphasis on science and medical procedure courses. As with any bachelor’s program expect there to be a generalized group of basics to be completed as well as several major oriented basics such as microbiology, physiology and anatomy.
However, most nursing bachelor’s program’s will offer significant coursework that teaches the actual care-giving practices that nurses must apply in the work place daily. Bachelor’s programs will pull from a more diversified blend of reference materials that will include text books, medical journals and depending on the program chosen, on the job training.
Once a nursing student has reached a master’s or any post-bachelor’s program, the programs offered become much more specific. Curriculum is designed for nurses looking to assume more responsibility and move beyond bedside nursing. Curriculum will teach health care organization and structure, financial, legal and ethics applied to advancing modern nursing practices.
Many RN’s make a shift into healthcare management through master’s programs. Programs will distance themselves from the typical text book based learning, and will shift towards a focus on more specific aspects and career paths such as nursing specialties, public health, health administration or health education.
Supplementing Nursing Majors
Due to the fact that once a nurse is firmly established in his or her career they can begin to take on many of the same duties that are performed by physicians and doctors, those pursuing a career in the field should keep curriculum very close to that of a doctor or physician. Another thing to consider when looking to supplement you major is that once you have made it through your bachelor’s, or have been in the field for some time, nurses can move into a specialized fields.
Many RNs go on to be employed in hospital specialty or critical care units. Those hoping to enter a specified field of training should do research on what areas of study would help them advance in their chosen specialized field. Due to the fact that nurses are often responsible for handling several different patients with different health concerns simultaneously, training in areas such as communication, leadership, and critical thinking are becoming more important.
Handling more patients also means that nurses will need to manage medication for each patient. Bringing pharmaceutical knowledge into the job will help any student stand out. Nurses are also called upon take detailed notes and write reports based on their time with the patient. That makes it important for anyone entering the field to be able to have strong writing and English skills in order to communicate treatment and health issues of a patient to both doctors and physicians, and other nurses also assisting the patient.
Learn More About the Nursing Major
- MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Nursing
- Princeton Review: Nursing
Nursing Majors in the Job Market
Nursing currently makes up the largest healthcare occupation, accounting for 2.6 million jobs as of 2008. While hospitals employ more than 60% of nursing jobs in the United States, the remainder of the positions dispersed among physician’s offices, home healthcare, nursing care facilities, employment services and government positions. In addition, job opportunities for registered nurses are projected to increase by 22% through 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. This figure is much faster than the average for all other occupations.
The demand for nurses will be created by technological advances in treatment methods which allow for more illnesses to be treatable and as a result, increase emphasis on preventative care. As with any medical profession, jobs will also be created by the aging of the baby boomer generation and the illnesses that come along with age. A third contributor will result from the need to replenish nurses that leave the career field due to the already sizable population of nurses in the United States.
Median annual wages for registered nurses were $62,450 in 2008 according to the Bureau, with the middle 50% earning between $51,640 and $76,570. The lowest 10% of registered nurses earned less than $43,410 while the highest 10% earned more than $92,240.
In the field, nurses work with doctors and physicians to help patients manage illness and injuries and are also to educate patients on their post-treatment needs. Nurses typically work long shifts and are on their feet for most of their shift, moving from patient to patient. When caring for patients, nurses help effectively carry out a health plan usually set in place by the overseeing doctor or physician that includes administering medication and carrying out therapies and treatments. They also observe patient response and record those for physicians.
In the workplace, most RNs will work as staff nurses as part of team. Advanced practice nurses work independently or specifically in collaboration with physicians and will focus on direct patient care. They regularly have to physically assist patients and require regular physical exertion to help patients move. They are also in close contact to individuals who have infectious diseases and potentially hazardous compounds and medications. Nurses working in hospitals or 24-hr care facilities may have to work nights, weekends and holidays and will occasionally be on call.