What is the Career Path of a Nurse?
Mar 20, 2015 | 9:00 am
Regardless of the type of nurse you become or the medical specialty you choose, the first step to a successful nursing career path is getting the right education. While future LVNs or LPNs may attend a one-year program, and future RNs may choose among diploma programs, associate degrees or bachelor’s degrees, all nurses start by passing the state licensure exam after graduation. From this point, a true nursing career path emerges.
It will probably look a little different for each nurse, but it seems most nurses’ career paths start out by getting a foot in the door at a nearby medical facility and gaining experience. Preferably it would involve your medical specialty of interest, but at first that’s not always an option. From there, nurses can earn more education, gain experience in a field of interest and advance. Let’s start by looking at the first level of nursing with the fastest education track, and work up to the highest level of education and advancement available to nurses.
Licensed Vocational Nurse and Licensed Practical Nurse Career Paths
LVNs and LPNs have the shortest study time before earning their credentials to become a nurse, and their jobs often involve providing basic nursing care, including:
•Prepping patients for exams
•Taking vital signs and recording reasons for visit
•Completing lab slips and updating charts
•Following the directions of a doctor or registered nurse
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, LVNs and LPNs can advance their nursing career paths by gaining certification in a specific field or moving into supervisory roles. They also have the option of continuing their education to become a registered nurse by completing a LPN to RN program.
Registered Nurse Career Paths
The study time for RNs varies depending on the path they take toward graduation. A two-year diploma program or associate degree can be enough to sit for the licensure exam, but RNs can also complete four-year bachelor’s degree programs before gaining licensure. With more emphasis being placed on higher-degreed nurses and the benefits they bring to the workplace, level of education is having more impact on the nursing career paths of RNs. Their job can involve all that a LVN or LPN does, as well as the following:
•Establishing treatment plans for patients
•Performing diagnostic tests
•Treating medical emergencies
•Specializing in a certain area of medicine
•Supervising LVNs or LPNs
The nursing career path for RNs often starts out by gaining experience in a specialized field of medicine and then earning certification in that field. The BLS says that RNs can advance by moving into higher positions such as management roles or senior-level administration jobs. They can also continue their education by earning a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) and move into advanced nursing roles.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Career Path
APRNs go to school the longest, completing master’s degrees or doctorate degrees in nursing studies. Working as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists or nurse midwives, their job duties vary, but in general, they can render the following care:
•Perform medical exams
•Diagnose health problems
•Administer medicine and treatment
This is the highest level of education and advancement for a nursing career path, so from there, APRNs may choose to move into research positions or continue to gain experience in their medical specialties.