The field of nursing is complex. Much like physicians specialize in particular areas of medicine, nurses often narrow their focus to certain disciplines within the profession.

Education is vital for anyone aspiring to become a nurse. The American Nurses Association notes that there are various requirements for licensure within the field of nursing. Such requirements typically begin in the classroom. When considering a career in nursing, aspiring nurses should recognize that there are various degrees they can pursue, and that each of these degrees can pave the way to a rewarding career.

Associate’s degree

The online nursing resource notes that nurses who have earned their associate’s degree in nursing, or ADN, are the professionals most people first consider when thinking of nurses. ADNs speak directly with patients about their symptoms and conditions and monitor and record vital signs. An ADN also is qualified to administer medication and can offer advice on self-care after surgery and how to confront illness or injury.

ADNs work in a wide range of health care settings, helping to provide services for everyone from infants to the elderly. The American Nurses Association notes that the ADN is a two-year degree offered by community colleges and hospital-based schools of nursing.

Bachelor’s degree

The ANA notes that a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BS/BSN) is a four-year degree offered at colleges and universities that prepares graduates to engage in the full scope of professional nursing practice across all health care settings. En route to earning a BSN, students will concentrate on an assortment of disciplines that will benefit them throughout their careers. Psychology, human growth and development, biology, microbiology, organic chemistry, nutrition, and anatomy and physiology are typically the focus of the first two years of study. As students advance toward earning their BSN, they also will learn about adult acute and chronic disease, maternal/child health, pediatrics, psychiatric/mental health nursing, and community health nursing.

Nursing students pursuing a BSN will also study nursing theory, physical and behavioral sciences, and humanities. Health care economics and policy also may be studied as schools hope to educate aspiring nurses about the cultural, political, economic, and social issues that affect patients and influence how health care is delivered.

Advanced degrees

Aspiring nurses also may want to pursue advanced degrees. Master’s degree programs prepare students to become advanced practice nurses, nurse administrators and nurse educators.

Aspiring nurses interested in research may want to pursue a doctor of philosophy, or Ph.D., while those interested in clinical practice or leadership roles may pursue a doctorate of nursing practice, or DNP.

Education is vital for modern nurses. The educational path aspiring nurses take can determine where their careers ultimately take them.


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