Now is a great time to consider a career in nursing. The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 the Year of the Nurse. You might wonder what you can do with a nursing degree.
As the baby boomer generation ages and chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes become more common, nurses are increasingly in demand.
It is estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that employment for nurses will grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much greater than the average for all occupations.
There is no shortage of career options for those with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. And nurses who earn this degree are poised to take on leadership roles with higher levels of responsibility.
These days, employers prefer to hire nurses with a BSN over those with an associate degree. In fact, many states require it.
Why BSN vs. ADN?
An associate degree in nursing (ADN) program takes roughly two years to complete and emphasizes clinical skills application. Because these programs are less time-consuming and less expensive than traditional BSN programs, in the past ADN programs were the preferred path to enter the nursing workforce.
Today, however, employers see the value in having more BSN-educated nurses on staff. A BSN education offers a well-rounded curriculum covering nursing research, disease prevention, informatics, patient advocacy and more. Nurses with a BSN have a better understanding of how economic, social and other issues affect both patients and the health care system.
It is also worth noting that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) now recognizes a BSN as the minimum education requirement for professional practice.
Start Where You Are
If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you don’t have to start from scratch to earn a BSN. The University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio offers an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track, where students with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree can earn a BSN in as few as 16 months.
Let’s talk about what you can do once you have earned a nursing degree.
Work in a Hospital
Hospitals are the number one location in which nurses work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, 60 percent of all nurses work in a hospital. Here is just a sample of the types of nursing practiced in a hospital setting:
Med-surg stands for medical-surgical nursing. Med-surg nurses care for patients after surgery or those with health problems such as diabetes or heart failure.
According to the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses (AMSN), med-surg nursing is the largest nursing specialty in the country. It is a good avenue for newer nurses, as it provides a wide array of experiences. To be a successful med-surg nurse, you should be eager to learn, adept at multitasking and able to stay flexible.
Duties of a med-surg nurse include:
- Assessing patient health conditions
- Monitoring patient status
- Starting IVs and inserting other devices
- Changing dressings and bandages
- Administering medications
- Charting and documenting patient information
- Teaching patients how to manage their condition
- Admitting and discharging patients
Nurses in the hospital’s emergency department help assess, stabilize and triage patients. This role requires you to think quickly while remaining calm under pressure. Successful emergency department nurses appreciate the fast pace and challenge of handling a broad spectrum of patients. And they don’t let the emotions of trauma patients affect their mindset.
Emergency department nurses evaluate the extent of patients’ injuries and create a plan of action to stabilize them — all while balancing the needs of other patients.
Typical tasks of an emergency department nurse include:
- Medication administration
- Fluid resuscitation
- Blood transfusions
- Wound care
- Device placement
A focus on pediatric nursing is perfect for those who love kids and can communicate well with families. Pediatric nurses must listen and observe non-verbal cues, understand the needs of children and exhibit care for parents and other adults in their patients’ lives.
Tasks of a pediatric nurse include:
- Assessing conditions
- Recording symptoms, histories and observations
- Administering medications and treatments
- Helping with diagnostic tests and analyzing results
- Teaching patients and families how to manage illnesses/injuries
Other Types of Nursing
Additional nursing specialties within the hospital include:
- Critical care
- Labor and delivery
Work Outside a Hospital
If working in a hospital does not appeal to you, what can you do with a nursing degree? You might consider the following specialties:
Nurses who care for patients in their homes can provide real relief for overwhelmed family members. Whether caring for injuries or psychiatric conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, these nurses are in high demand.
Lactation consultants work closely with new mothers and babies to ensure breastfeeding success.
These nurses can start their own consulting businesses or work in birthing centers, for example. Certification with the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) is typically required to practice.
Nurses with years of experience in a specialty are in-demand at pharmaceutical companies as consultants, researchers and educators. They may also serve as pharmaceutical sales representatives.
Informatics nursing means using your nursing background to find ways in which technology can help patients. These nurses provide advice for hospitals, practitioners and healthcare technology companies.
Nurses who specialize in public health focus on communities. They educate citizens, promote disease prevention and help ensure equal access to healthcare in the case of a public health threat (such as a pandemic).
Public health nurses can choose to work for the federal, state or county governments; schools; health agencies; or correctional facilities, for example.
Additional specialties that provide care and services outside a hospital setting include:
- Nursing for schools and universities
- Case management
- Cardiac rehabilitation
- Diabetes care and education
Earn an Advanced Degree
If you wish to pursue a graduate-level education after earning a BSN, what can you do with a nursing degree?
Nurse practitioners are advanced-practice nurses with prescription-writing privileges (depending on the state). They can serve as primary care providers or focus on specific diseases or departments within a hospital or other care provider location.
To become a nurse practitioner, you must earn a BSN, then complete a masters or doctoral program in your chosen specialty. You must then apply for state licensure and pass the corresponding board exam for your area of practice.
Nurse midwives help patients through pregnancy and delivery. They often serve as a patient’s primary care provider during this time.
To become a nurse midwife, you need to earn a BSN and have at least one year of bedside nursing experience. You must also earn a masters or doctoral degree in nurse-midwifery and achieve state licensing. These nurses are in high demand.
If you wish to become a teacher of nursing, you need an advanced degree and years of clinical experience. To succeed in this field, you should be a good communicator with a desire to share your expertise.
As a nurse educator, you can work as a professor at the university/college level or serve as a staff development educator in a clinical setting, for example. These positions generally require a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.
This specialty requires a BSN along with a doctoral degree. Nurse anesthetists dispense topical, regional and general anesthesia.
Depending on the state in which they practice, these specialists can hold prescription privileges. It is worth noting that this is among the highest-paying specialties in nursing.
As you can see, there are countless career options for those who attain a BSN. And through the UIW ABSN track, you can earn a BSN in as few as 16 months.
With three start dates per year — in January, May and August — you don’t have to wait to apply.
The UIW ABSN track incorporates online coursework, skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations to thoroughly prepare you for a successful career in nursing.
However, becoming a caring and compassionate nurse requires more than just technical skill and knowledge. Through our values-based nursing approach, you will learn to treat patients holistically — in mind, body and spirit.
Want to know more? We are here to help.
Check out the ABSN track at UIW today. One of our admissions counselors will be happy to answer any questions you might have.