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The Nursing Career Ladder

Nurse Monica Woodlee on FEMA's Disaster Medical Assistance Team (2005)

Nurse Monica Woodlee on FEMA’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team (2005)

For those special kinds of people inspired to combine compassion for patients with the desire to continuously learn and effectively practice healthcare, the field of nursing can lead to several fulfilling opportunities up the ladder.

Nurse Practitioner Barbara Hayes

Take Barbara Hayes, a family nurse practitioner at the Southern Humboldt Clinic in Gaberville, California. She became a nurse in 1969, after graduating from a program at the St. Francis Medical Center (Trenton, New Jersey). Throughout her over 40-year career, Hayes has worked as a head nurse in an intensive care unit, as a midwife, among other roles. In 1999 she graduated from the University of California at Davis to become a nurse practitioner. “Now as a family nurse practitioner, Barbara meets the needs of patients of all ages, including those with complicated medical conditions,” reported the Redwood Times. “…She maintains certifications in both advanced life support and pediatric advanced life support, so she is better able and prepared for all patients’ needs.”

“Now as a family nurse practitioner, Barbara meets the needs of patients of all ages, including those with complicated medical conditions,” reported the Redwood Times.

Trauma Nurse Coordinator Vicky Oge

Vicky Oge, recently profiled by The Des Moines Register, is now a trauma nurse coordinator and an emergency department director at the Henry County Health Center in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. She became an LPN in 1974 and got more education to become an RN in 1988. She has been working at Henry County Health Center for 33 of her 39-year nursing career. “There are always challenges, but challenges make me a better nurse, director and person. I welcome challenges,” said Oge for The Des Moines Register profile. “…I feel blessed that I’ve found a job that doesn’t feel like work, which is the true definition of success.”

 “There are always challenges, but challenges make me a better nurse, director and person. I welcome challenges,” said Vicky Oge…

Is the Career Path Changing?

While an example of a traditional career path in nursing may be from LPN to RN to Nurse Practitioner (with formal education every step of the way), this could be changing, at least in hospital settings. Ben Casselman wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal blog (“Is Nursing Still An Attractive Career”) that LPN positions in hospitals are getting replaced by individuals who have more and less training–RNs and nursing aides (and that many LPNS are now employed in long term care facilities, doctors’ offices, etc. instead). Casselman also added that hospitals seem to prefer RNs to have a Bachelor’s versus an Associate’s degree, and that it is easier to advance up the nursing ladder if employed in hospital settings.

However, the demand for nurses of all forms is still high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth between 2010 and 2020 for nursing aides is 20%, LPNs is 22% and RNs is 26%–all “faster than average” job outlooks.  Plus advancement is not limited to hospital settings. For example, nurse practitioners can work in healthcare centers, community clinics, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, and more.

Casselman’s blog ends on a very positive note:

“For nurses who do manage to get on the ladder, however, there’s plenty of room to climb. Demand is booming for nurses with advanced degrees or specializations. Postings for critical care nurses are up 27% since 2010, Burning Glass found, and openings for intensive care nurses are up 17%. Such jobs can pay extremely well — nurse anesthetists make more than $150,000 per year on average, according to a recent Census report.”

Don’t Limit Yourself!

If you’re planning on entering the nursing profession, or have already begun, do not limit yourself, or get discouraged, if you have the desire to move up the ladder. Through on-the-job experience, additional education (i.e. from a Bachelor’s to Master’s), and passion for your profession and determination, you can become a nurse-midwife, a nurse practitioner, a nursing administrator or even become specialized to become a psychiatric mental health nurse, an oncological nurse practitioner and more! You can even trained to perform ultrasounds as a nurse. Start researching your possibilities right now!

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