Nursing Degrees

When people decide to work toward nursing degrees, they are following in the footsteps of a long line of professionals who have impacted society in positive ways. Nursing is an exciting career that has changed significantly since its origin. Nurses have typically been people whose goals are to care for others in all types of circumstances. Some nurses have established their names through noble actions or campaigns, while many other nurses work in this profession daily with less recognition but as much importance. While the roles of nurses have changed considerably through history, nursing remains the essential backbone of the healthcare industry.

Nursing care has always resulted when people live together; as long as there has been a need for care and comfort, there have been nurses. The earliest nurses were untrained men and women who worked to care for those who were sick or dying and without financial or social resources. They were often affiliated with churches; for example, the Knights of Malta began a form of hospice program that was sanctioned by Pope Paschal II in 1113.

The need for patient care continued through the Middle Ages and into the 18th and 19th centuries. Nurses learned medical practices from other, seasoned caregivers to provide treatment for patients during turbulent times in history, such as the Revolutionary War or periods when slavery was legal in the United States. One notable nurse and former slave, James Derham, bought his freedom in 1783 and moved to Philadelphia where he became the first black physician. Though Derham did not have a nursing degree, the skills he had learned, as well as the supportive people he encountered, allowed him to eventually practice medicine.

Nursing Certification & Tests

Another well-known nurse, Florence Nightingale, began her nursing career during the Crimean War in 1853. Nightingale cared for injured soldiers during the war and later penned a book as a guideline for other nurses in their care of patients. In 1860, she established the Florence Nightingale School for Nurses in London.

Around this time professional nursing organizations began to develop as a method for sharing ideas about healthcare policies and promoting change within the nursing profession. In 1896, a group known as the Nurses Associated Alumnae began to hold meetings for practicing nurses in the United States and Canada. Although the early meetings were small, the group eventually became the American Nurses Association, an organization that remains devoted to nursing research, current practice, and educational development through nursing degree programs. The scope of nursing practice expanded during the 20th century, with nursing specialties developing as methods of caring for patients within specific populations. These disciplines included public health, hospice, orthopedics, research, and critical care. Some nurses during this time rose to distinction for their work in promoting change within specific specialties. Examples include Dame Agnes Hunt, the first orthopedic nurse to specialize in bone treatments; and Martha Rogers, who established the Visiting Nurse Association in Arizona. Nursing schools also began to change during the 20th century, with many nursing students training through hospital-based programs to obtain nursing diplomas. Nursing degree programs began to permit further advancement within the nursing profession, offering bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and even doctoral degrees in the field.

As the profession expanded and more people became licensed to practice as nurses, more professional organizations developed to meet the needs of these professionals who hailed from many different backgrounds and areas of practice. Associations such as The National Black Nurses Association and The National Association of Hispanic Nurses were established to support nurses with these ethnic backgrounds. Organizations such as the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners focused on assistance for nurses working in specialty environments.

The evolution of the nursing profession continues, with the role of nurses growing from housekeepers and service workers to professionals who campaign for advances, promote education, and work to uphold high standards of care. The effort has broadened into an international coalition, with such organizations as the International Council of Nurses, a global organization of nursing associations that work to promote education through nursing degree programs, endorse high-quality care, and advance knowledge. Nursing is a special career that has a bright future. Throughout history, many women and men have worked to not only provide care and service to patients, but to also promote nursing and advance the profession overall. The future of nursing will rely on more people willing to follow in these footsteps.

Advantages of Being a Nurse

A career in nursing offers many advantages, both personally and professionally. Many people choose to become nurses because they enjoy working and caring for people. Others choose this profession because they will gain technical knowledge or a comfortable income. Many find it offers the best of both worlds.

Nursing provides the opportunity to work with many different types of people. While acquiring your nursing degree and working in your professional career, you will encounter people of many different backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic status. You will be able to provide care and comfort to people during difficult times of illness and injury. People look to nurses as caregivers who are nurturing and helpful, and many nurses derive a great amount of satisfaction from this.

Employment opportunities for nurses exist almost everywhere. As a nurse, you have the potential to work in multiple specialties or maintain a career in one particular area. Many healthcare institutions and professional organizations are always looking for nurses. Because of the current nursing shortage, there are ample opportunities if you maintain your license and uphold your professional status. Nurses are paid well for their efforts. Depending on where you work, you can make a comfortable salary as a nurse. Additionally, some places of employment offer extra shifts or overtime hours to meet current demands, and you can make more money or receive added benefits by filling in. Nurses often enjoy job security both in the number of hours they work and their wages.

Becoming a nurse will offer the benefit of moving forward in your educational goals. You may decide to work as a nurse for several years before returning to school for a master's degree. Whether or not you pursue an advanced degree in nursing, this profession provides a solid foundation of experience in skills, medical knowledge, and hard work. If you decide to pursue an advanced degree in nursing, you also have the option of choosing one of many different specialties, such as research, management, education, or advancement to a nurse practitioner.

The many advantages of being a nurse make now a great time to consider this profession. The hard work and effort you put toward your nursing career will pay off in both obvious and unseen benefits.

Disadvantages of Being a Nurse

While nursing offers many benefits as a profession, there are also some disadvantages associated with this career. Before starting school, or even while obtaining your nursing degree, you may be unaware of some of the negative aspects of nursing. Although there are disadvantages, once discovered, they do not have to mean nursing is a poor career choice.

Nurses work hard, and though some people enjoy the chance to contribute via hard work, over time, it can lead to burnout. Many nurses work long shifts, spending a considerable amount of time on their feet. The work can be physically draining, such as when handling cases that require lifting and moving patients for hours on end. Working as a nurse can also be emotionally draining, as meeting the needs of patients during times of illness or injury can become exhausting.

A large percentage of nurses work in 24-hour hospitals, with even more employed within other healthcare facilities open around the clock, seven days a week. Nurses often must work varying shifts, both during the week and on the weekends, as well as holidays. Taking the time to spend with family during important occasions may be difficult, and if you work these hours as a nurse, you might always need to find someone to cover your shift if you need the day off. Some places of employment expect their nurses to work rotating shifts as well, which means that some shifts are during the day and some are at night. You may find the need for flexibility with your schedule and your sleep habits to be a demanding part of this job.

Working as a nurse can also be stressful, and although many nurses find caring for patient needs during critical times to be valuable, it can also take an emotional toll after a while. As a nurse, you will most likely see patients die and you must work around your feelings of grief to complete your tasks. You may encounter many situations where you do not agree with family or patient choices, or you might treat patients that make you angry. You must put aside your feelings while you work, so that it does not affect patient care, and this can sometimes be very difficult to do. Being a nurse means remaining professional enough to do your work, even when it is tough.

Qualities of a Good Nurse

Nursing, with its variety of specialties, is a profession that suits some people better than others. If you are thinking about obtaining a nursing degree, consider your strongest skills and personality traits to determine if you have the aptitude to be a nurse. While many people are able to successfully work in this profession, there are certain qualities that make a good nurse.

Nurses attend school, completing rigorous training programs. They must work hard and spend a lot of time learning how to care for patients and to make critical decisions. The more complex a nurse's duties are, the more training she needs to perform many vital tasks.

Good communication skills are essential to work with patients, their families, and other healthcare providers. Nurses must understand how to take direction from others, yet also convey information in return. Proper communication ensures that the patient receives the best care while reducing the chance of errors and misunderstandings, which improves the workplace.

Nurses must be observant to changes in patient condition that could significantly affect health. Nurses must not only remain aware of what is happening with the health of their patients, they need to understand what measures to take to manage the situation. Nurses with a good presence of mind can comprehend potentially critical situations and recognize when they need to call physicians, contact family members, or otherwise seek assistance.

Because nurses may encounter situations that can cause anger, frustration, joy, or sadness among patients and their families, they must remain emotionally stable in the face of different circumstances. Families often look to nurses to be solid providers, particularly during crisis events when everything else seems to be falling apart.

Patients and families often appreciate nurses who are kind and empathetic; a nurse with these qualities helps patients in a supportive manner. She may also accomplish more work or get patients to comply with directions simply by being kind, as people tend to respond to compassionate gestures more quickly than harsh words.

A good nurse must remain flexible. For most nurses, no two work shifts are alike. They may care for different patients with various health conditions who change on a daily basis. Nurses who recognize the need for flexibility with patients perform better than those who follow rigid routines. Additionally, many nurses must work a variety of different work shifts, they may rotate schedules, or they may plan to work at a certain time only to find out at the last minute they are not needed. Flexibility is key to coping within nursing, not only on the job, but also as part of the lifestyle.

Some nurses work in situations that require significant physical contact with patients, and physical endurance is necessary to avoid injury. These nurses often perform tasks, such as lifting patients or helping them to walk and must learn proper body mechanics to work safely. Furthermore, many nurses work long hours and spend a considerable amount of time on their feet, requiring stamina to keep up with the demands of the schedule.

Nurses often work with people of various ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds, which require a nonjudgmental attitude to remain impartial. Keeping an open mind and recognizing that lifestyles vary and standards of living are not always under others' control is essential to having a respectful attitude toward people. Healthcare organizations and other places of employment for nurses have policies in place that they expect the staff to recognize and follow. Nurses who are employed must have respect for these rules, whether they like them or not, to keep their jobs.

A nurse that conveys a cheerful attitude makes the circumstances around her much more tolerable. In healthcare organizations such as hospitals or long-term care facilities, patients and their families may be facing difficult circumstances. These people often respond well to nurses who are active and cheerful, as this type of attitude makes some of these situations more bearable.

A nurse must have good organization skills in order to prioritize her tasks for the day. She must understand what she needs to do herself and what she can delegate to someone else in order to get everything completed in a timely manner. Because the daily work of caring for patients can become very busy, nurses must understand the need to organize and set priorities to be available for their patients. Because nurses care for so many different types of people, they often must treat those who disagree with their methods or who may try to make situations more difficult. A good nurse is patient with people, understands that not everyone will always agree, and strives to continue her work, completing as much as possible in the face of these differences.

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Last Updated: 08/20/2013

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