Second-career professionals are incredibly brave. It takes a lot of gumption to shrug off the progress you have made in an existing career to get started with a new one, but the good news is that your second career does not need to start from scratch. Even in a highly specialized career like nursing, you can fast-track through the role and work as a high-ranking nurse in just a few short years. In fact, it can actually be far more straightforward to change your career into nursing than in other career options.
Never has nursing had as much a spotlight as it does today. If you have always wanted to work in healthcare, or if an amazing nurse recently inspired you in your own life, then it’s natural to consider a career shift, especially considering that APRNs typically earn six-figure salaries.
Family Nurse Practitioners are even ranked as one of the top jobs overall and one of the top roles in healthcare. This is because nursing, especially at a higher level, helps you make a difference in the world, is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding (personally and financially).
Getting started in nursing can feel like a daunting, impossible first step, but with this guide, you’ll be able to seamlessly prepare for that second career in nursing.
How to Make Sure Nursing is Right for You
Nursing is a huge change, and it requires a lot of hard work both to get started and once you are a nurse. Knowing for a fact that nursing is right for you and is your true calling will make all the hard work worthwhile, and you can understand if nursing is the right fit for you by using these tips:
Learn More About Medicine and Healthcare
There are so many places where you can learn online. You’ll want to explore both healthcare reports, nursing reports, and medical journals when it comes to healthcare. Not every journal is paid for, and you will be surprised at how many dissertations and thesis reports you can find for free online. You just need to know where to look.
If reading medical reports isn’t a good fit for you, there are many great free short courses where you can dip your toe in the water. These short courses are great for a layperson who wants to learn more, and if you find yourself enthralled, then making the next step towards a degree will be much easier.
Volunteer at a Hospital or with Patients
There are some who will already know if they will make a good nurse. If you currently work for a loved one as their carer and find meaning and fulfillment in what you do, then transitioning your time as a carer to become a nurse is going to be easy.
Parents are also better suited to become nurses. Caring for a kid, their health, and their needs will have prepared you and also taught you some essential skills that will help you thrive in your career as a nurse. Not every parent will make a good nurse, but if you love taking care of your kid and find that you feel true purpose when looking after them, then a job as a nurse could be the perfect way to transition your career.
If you don’t have these backgrounds but are interested in nursing, then volunteer. There are many places where you can volunteer. From care homes, shelters, clinics, and hospitals, there is work for you to do even without certification. Volunteering can give you that important first taste at nursing and help you learn more about what you want out of your nursing career.
Know Your Career Options as a Nurse
If you find yourself volunteering at a hospital and learning interesting healthcare facts and studies, then chances are being a nurse is right for you, but as transitioning to become a nurse does take time it is always a good idea to have a backup plan.
The good news is that there are so many things that you can do with your nursing degree that don’t involve nursing patients. You can work in research, you can work in policy, and you can work in education. There are so many roles that allow you to focus on the science and the practice of nursing without requiring you to care for patients directly.
By knowing your options, you always have a thriving career you can easily transition to if you find you are not a good fit to work with patients. This is an unlikely situation, yes, but having a safety net can help you more confidently make the huge transition to become a nurse.
How to Transition Your Career
You don’t need to start from the bottom. Instead, you can use your existing education to fast-track through your nursing education. Unlike with other career changes, where you could potentially transfer all of your skills, nursing requires licensure. To earn your license, you must graduate from an accredited nursing program and pass the CNLEX-RN exam (and another to become an APRN).
The good news is that there are many ways you can fast-track to becoming an RN and can even fast-track with a direct-entry MSN to get started in a specialized career path like that of the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL).
If You Have an Existing Bachelor Degree
The only way that you can fast-track through a degree is if you have already completed the necessary credits in another degree. For those looking to change careers, chances are that you already have at least a bachelor’s degree under your belt in this day and age.
However, if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, don’t worry. You don’t need to work your way up to become a nurse. Instead, you will want to look for BSN programs that specifically target those outside of healthcare. You can complete that BSN part-time while working in your current job or dedicate your time to the degree and graduate (and become a nurse) faster.
Ensure You Have These Prerequisite Credits
The easiest transition into a second career in nursing is if you have a bachelor of science degree, as it would mean you are more likely to have already completed the prerequisite courses these accelerated degrees offer. If not, however, don’t worry. You can take a foundation degree or take on credits one by one (and continue to work).
You will need Anatomy and Physiology (I and II), Microbiology with Lab, General Chemistry with Lab, and Intro to Psychology or Sociology. It is always possible to earn these credits at any stage of your career, and if it’s important that you continue to support yourself or work to pay off these credits as fast as you can, know that you can spread them out and take one at a time.
Tips to Help You With Your Nursing Degree
Having the prerequisite courses and the minimum qualifications is a great start. However, be patient if you don’t immediately get in even if you have the requirements. There are a lot of people who want to become nurses, and not that many spaces are available, though the issue is improving. If you don’t get in immediately simply continue to volunteer and learn more about what area of medicine you’d want to work in and keep applying.
Once you do get accepted, you are going to want to make a few key changes to your routine. Working remotely can be difficult in terms of staying on task and on schedule, and the same applies to studying remotely.
The Perfect Study Routine
Don’t hurt yourself, and try to force long study periods all at once. Sitting down for hours on end and trying to be consistently productive is a trying task that can make it harder to learn and memorize what you need to know.
You are better off splitting up your education throughout the day. If you are taking on your degree part-time, this is even more important, as you don’t want to burn out at work and then have to come home and try to study further.
Of course, even if you are tackling your degree full time and are fully committed to it, splitting up your routine will be just the ticket to improve your education quality.
If you consider how on-campus degrees operate, you’ll understand. When you attend a full-time degree in person, your commitments are split up. You may have a lecture in the morning, and then several hours afterward have the seminar. Between these commitments, you will often have a week to do the reading or assignments.
Recreate this type of routine at home. Listen and take notes to a lecture in the morning, and then take a break. Read a medical journal or a piece of your required reading in between, and then in the evening attend a seminar or do another task.
Splitting up your routine means you can better absorb smaller bits of information, you don’t fatigue your brain, and it also means that you can be more productive in each study frame than you ever could trying to fit all your needs into one block of time.
Health Tips to Help You Study
A healthy brain is going to make a huge difference when it comes to studying and absorbing information. The health tips you use to learn and study better will also serve you well throughout your career as a nurse.
Start first with your diet. You don’t need to focus on diet foods, but rather on brain-foods. From snacks to meals, find ways to make it easier to put together healthy items and get the nutrients you need.
This could be done by prepping meals, or it could be done by having healthy, brain-happy snacks on hand. On top of what you eat, remember to stay hydrated. Being properly hydrated means that your brain is getting enough oxygen, and it is also key to getting those nutrients where they are needed most. If you ever find your attention faltering, drink a big glass of water and feel the difference.
Sleeping enough is also going to play a huge part, and a good way to sleep better is to start with where you sleep. From getting blackout curtains and a light therapy lamp to improving your sheets, there are many ways that you can make your bedroom a place where you can relax and sleep deeply.
Routine, however, is how you can consistently get a good night’s rest. You will know how much sleep your body needs, and don’t worry if your sleep routine is part of a rest at night and then a nap during the day. Even as a nurse, you may find naps help you stay alert and awake, and they can be a great tool to stay energized and focused throughout your career.
Getting That First Job in Nursing
You should start preparing for your first job before even graduating and taking the exam. Why? Because even though the unemployment rate is low, and most nurse graduates will be hired within six months of graduating, so that does not mean you should sit back and relax. Use the career services at your university, network at the clinic or hospital that you want to work in, and most of all just explore your options.
If you have a clear-cut idea of where you want to go or where you want to work, you should get started early. From volunteering at the clinic you want to get hired in to networking within the industry you want to work in as a nurse, there are many ways that you can set yourself up for success.
At the very least, you’ll have a clearer idea of what your true options are once you graduate. In the best-case scenario, however, you will be able to immediately transition into a role that helps you feel fulfilled, inspired, and impassioned by what you do.