Nursing for Beginners: 5 Things You Didn’t Know

Nursing for Beginners: 5 Things You Didn’t Know

Mar 19, 2015 | 8:00 am

When you first consider becoming a nurse, the lure of flexible work schedules, ample benefits and positive career growth seem appealing. After doing research and starting a school program, many new nurses get a dose of reality. This “nursing for beginners” guide sums up five things you probably didn’t know about nursing—for better or worse.

Nurses Need to Stay Flexible When Getting Started

The dream scenario: You attend nursing school, discover a medical specialty you love and find a job in that field immediately. Nursing for beginners’ tip #1: This isn’t always reality.

While the need for nurses continues across the nation, the shortage affects some regions more than others, notes the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Depending on where you live and the medical specialty of choice, you may have to remain flexible while searching for your first nursing job. Many nurses start out providing care in places or positions that wouldn’t have been their first (or even third) choice, but in a year or two, experience accumulates. With a little experience and continued learning, nurses can transition and advance their careers quickly.

Nurses Need to Keep Learning

The dream: You finish your nursing program, find a job easily and never pick up a textbook again. The reality: Nurses are encouraged and even expected to advance their education throughout their career.

Studies show that nurses with higher education are linked with better patient outcomes, and more than ever, employers seek nurses with bachelor’s degrees. It’s important for nurses to stay up on the latest medical advances for the safety of their patients and the advancement of their career. Know that continued education will always be part of the job.

Nurses Can Work 12-Hour Shifts

You’ve already heard that nurses work crazy hours—nights, weekends and even holidays, depending on the nurse, the healthcare facility and the need. In emergency settings, full time hours can be anywhere from 36 to 40 per week, broken into five shifts of eight hours, four shifts of 10 hours or three shifts of 12 hours. In most states overtime is optional, but some states still have mandatory overtime, which can lengthen the workday.

On the other hand, nurses in non-emergency settings, such as a school nurse or a physician’s office RN can work normal, standard business hours. Depending on the field of nursing you choose, know that you may have to commit to nontraditional working hours as a normal part of the job.

Nurses Must Understand HIPAA

There’s much to learn about nursing. For beginners, this can seem overwhelming, and yet knowledge of HIPAA for nurses is at the top of the list. HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and it involves rules for patients’ health record privacy and data security in health care settings. It’s not only important to patients, but it’s important to nurses: noncompliance fines go as high as $1.5 million per offense!

Nurses Can Work (Almost) Anywhere

Nurses work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, schools, clinics and patient homes. Did you know they can also work in the air (flight nurses), in prisons, in the military, in mission fields around the world and at sporting events—the NFL and NBA have team nurses. If you’d love to work as a nurse, but can’t imagine spending so much time in a hospital, it’s important to realize how many career options nurses have.

There are many stereotypes and myths about nursing. For beginners, the journey starts by realizing what nurses really do and earning the appropriate skills and training to get there. Good luck!