7 Steps to Transition to a Nursing Career

7 Steps to Transition to a Nursing Career

Has the pandemic made you think about switching your career path to a profession in healthcare? According to this report by the US News and World Report, 2020 saw a significant increase in nursing school applications. In addition to this, public health programs and medical schools across the United States saw as much as a 25% increase in applications in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic is making more people think about switching careers into paths in healthcare. Perhaps you’re one of these people.

Nursing is a great career path that offers varied opportunities to grow. If you’re looking for a profession that puts the needs of others above your own, nursing is it. And it does not hurt that nurses are paid well. Within certain specialties, nurses can earn over $100,000 per year. In this post, we’ll cover seven steps you can take as you transition into a healthcare profession.

Do Your Research

This is likely what you are doing right now and this is the right thing. There are several paths you can take to become a nurse.

You could become a licensed practical nurse (PLN/LVN), typically a one year program; you could get a three-year associates’ nursing degree that allows you to take the NCLEX-RN and become a registered nurse. Or, you could go into a four-year program at a university and obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing after which you can take the NCLEX-RN.

It is important to consider your goals as well as your personal circumstances as you decide on which path to take. If getting an LPN will serve the needs of your family well while allowing you to practice nursing, go for that. If you plan on getting a master’s degree in nursing later on in life, you might want to consider a 4-year bachelor of science in nursing degree, for instance.

Talk to Advisors at Your College

If you’re already in college, speak with the advisors at your college about your desire to transition to a degree in nursing. Advisors are equipped with the tools to provide you with direction on which courses and prerequisites you must take to put you on the right path to nursing.

If your school has a nursing department, attend any informational sessions they have so you know what requirements you’ll need.

Don’t have a nursing program at your school? Search our database of nursing programs to find the nearest nursing school to you.

Research Second-Career Pathways

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another area and would like to transition to nursing, there are accelerated nursing programs that allow you to do this.

Accelerated nursing programs allow you to take nursing classes in 12-24 months so you don’t have to go another four years to get a BSN.

This will save you a lot of time and money!

Have Informational Interviews With Nurses in Your Local Area

An informational interview is a meeting you set up with a professional in a field to learn about the real-life experience that a professional has. If you already know friends or family who are nurses, you can set up informational interviews with them. If you don’t know anybody in your close circle who is a nurse, this is where the power of networking comes in. I highly recommend LinkedIn for finding nurses with whom you could have an informational interview.

Here’s how to go about it if you want to go this route.

  • Create an account on LinkedIn and make sure to completely fill out your profile.
  • Once you are done with this, use the search bar in LinkedIn to find nurses you can connect with. You can type in phrases like “registered nurse”, “RN” or just “nurse”.
  • Once the results come up for these individuals, send a brief message that states that you are interested in becoming a nurse and that you are connecting with them so that you can learn from them. Some people will respond and connect with you while others won’t. Don’t worry about those who will not.
  • Engage with your new nurse connections. Most people are willing to share their knowledge and life experiences if you ask nicely.
  • If you can set up Zoom calls with one or two of your connections on LinkedIn with the purpose to learn about their path.
Here are a handful of questions you can ask when you set up an informational interview with a nurse.
  • What does a typical day look like for you?
  • What do you like most about being a nurse?
  • What is hard about being a nurse?
  • How did you get the role you’re in right now?
  • What made you get into nursing in the first place?
  • Can you recommend any books or journals I should read to help me improve as I enter nursing?

You will definitely come up with more questions as you converse with the nurse and they share more with you. When you’re done, always thank the nurse for taking their time to answer your questions.

Take the Prerequisite Classes/Prep for Entrance Exams

Most nursing programs will require you to take anatomy, physiology, a chemistry class, microbiology, and nutrition. Some programs may require that you also take statistics and algebra.

As you do your research you will find each of the requirements for the school you plan to attend. My recommendation is that if at this point you are set on going to nursing school, find out how you can take those prerequisite classes as soon as possible.

You want to start quickly because most of the time, it may take a year or two to complete all your prerequisites. Completing these as soon as possible keeps you from wasting time.

Many nursing schools also have entrance exams. You may not be able to take the entrance exam if you haven’t completed the right prerequisites.

Shadow Nurses if You Can (And if It Is Safe)

With the pandemic raging, you may not be able to do this if the nurse you want to shadow works in a hospital environment.

However, where and when you can, it will be a valuable experience to shadow a nurse for a few days to learn what they do.

Realize That Transitioning to Nursing Will Require a Lot of You

Nursing school is hard. But it is not impossible. You have a lot of material to learn. You will have long hours of classes and will be participating in 8-12 hour clinical sessions. And at the end of it, you will be taking the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN depending on your program.

It’s an undertaking that will require a lot of your time. Understanding this and having the right discussions with family members, friends, and loved ones will make you more likely to succeed in nursing school.

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