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Want To Be A Nurse? 5 Insightful Tips From Nursing Instructors

If you're interested in a nursing career, the best place to get advice may be straight from other nurses. Schools.com spoke with nursing instructors from around the country to find out what they had to say about the profession.

Keep reading to learn advice from nurses and what they think those considering this field should know, including background on how to become a nurse practitioner and what you can expect once your career gets started.

1. A higher-level degree could mean more career opportunities.

Insight from: Lynn Lotas, Associate professor, Case Western Reserve University

Lyn Lotas says nursing students shouldn't be content to earn an associate degree and stop there. Instead, the associate professor at Case Western Reserve University says students should aim high and get the most education possible for more career opportunities.

Her nurse advice includes encouraging people to think outside the box when it comes to the profession. "Ninety percent of our nursing education is acute care, and students think that's the only option," Lotas says. "One area students don't think about very often is all the community-based programs."

As for who should become a nurse, Lotas notes the profession involves a lot of close, physical interaction with other people. Those who are uncomfortable with the thought of this type of contact may not want to pursue a career in nursing. However, for those who have what it takes to be a nurse, Lotas says they won't regret it.

"It's a great field," she says. "It's an amazingly great field."

2. You're not limited to a 4-year-degree path.

Insight from: Juanita Flint, Executive Dean of Health and Human Services, Brookhaven College

As the Dean of Health and Human Services at Brookhaven College, a part of the Dallas County Community College District in Texas, Juanita Flint says she doesn't see much demand for LPNs in her area. However, she also says there's no reason to think you have to have a baccalaureate degree to become an RN.

"All their skills are same," Flint says of students who earn an associate degree compared to those with a bachelor's degree. "There's nothing magical about getting a four-year degree."

What is important is getting a solid foundation of general nursing skills prior to moving into specialty practice. Flint recommends all nurses have a year of medical-surgical nursing to start. Those who skip this step and move directly into a complicated field of practice may find they burn out quickly.

Flint has been an RN for 43 years and notes those who do well in nursing are flexible and respectful. Black-and-white thinkers may be frustrated in the profession since there are rarely textbook diagnoses in the real world.

3. Direct patient care is only part of the job description.

Insight from: Catherine N. Kotecki, Department Chair, Online Nursing, Herzing University

Although she is a department chair at Herzing University now, Catherine Kotecki has filled a variety of roles throughout her career including that of a cardiac care nurse, a clinical specialist nurse and a manager. She advises students not to forget there are many components to the nursing profession. While patient care is the most common area of practice, nurses may be involved in research, management, education or other fields.

When it comes to their education, Kotecki recommends students consider earning a baccalaureate degree. Most programs combine general education requirements such as math and English with nursing courses and clinical work. The degree programs can be rigorous, but they can also reap rewards in terms of career opportunities.

"Nursing programs are notoriously hard," Kotecki says. "I always say to students [to] put some areas of your life on hold when you are in school. You only have the chance to be in school for a nursing degree once."

4. Be prepared for the emotional aspect and choose your work setting wisely.

Insight from: Joan Palladino, Chair, Department of Nursing, Western Connecticut State University

Joan Palladino, now the chair of the Department of Nursing at Western Connecticut State University, has been a nurse for 35 years and explains some aspects of the job were unexpected at the start. "I wish I knew how much I would have to help people cope with grief and suffering," she says. "At 22 years old, I was unprepared for this type of communication with patients and families."

That doesn't mean Palladino regrets her decision to become a nurse. On the contrary, she calls is "the best profession" and says she wouldn't trade it for any other line of work. However, she does emphasize compassion and excellent interpersonal skills are essential traits for anyone hoping to become a nurse.

Palladino encourages nursing students to look beyond acute care and explore other career options. Community health nursing can be a rewarding field, and there is also a need for nurses in the arenas of short-term and long-term rehabilitation.

Regardless of the specialty you pursue, Palladino says nursing is rewarding. "You make a difference to people, and they remember you long after you have parted ways with them."

5. Stay on top of your career and educational options — they are plentiful.

Insight from: Tamara Bland & Nancy Reese, Assistant Professors, Resurrection University

As assistant professors at Resurrection University, located in Chicago, Tamara Bland and Nancy Reese have different backgrounds but a shared passion for the nursing profession. Bland has a work history that includes time spent as an interventional gastroenterology nurse at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital as well as other positions at Rush University Medical Center. Reese specializes in adult health and community health and has spent considerable time exploring the spiritual side of nursing practice.

Both say nursing is about more than a paycheck. "Nursing is a 'call' or 'vocation' that is 24/7," Reese says. She says a nurse's job involves a full range of emotions from joy to deep sorrow. "Nurses are known for their hardiness and develop thick skins over time," she adds.

Bland suggests nursing students look beyond the roles they see depicted on television and realize a whole range of career options exist in the field. These include forensic nursing, legal nursing, home health care nursing and nursing informatics, to name a few.

As for education, Bland notes the political landscape is changing in some states. "For example, Illinois has been trying to make it mandatory for nurses to be BSN prepared as an entrance into practice," she says. "Many hospitals are no longer hiring LPN students."

Reese adds nursing programs can be all-consuming. "You will not be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the next year nor will all your laundry be folded." Still, the rewards are great for those who decide to pursue an education in this worthy field.

Get started with the education you need to become a nurse

Read more about a career as a registered nurse and find out school-specific information about an online nursing education today.