the Nursing Program

The Research Roadmap: Finding the Nursing Program That Aligns with Your Aspirations

Doctors offices, home healthcare, ERs, hospital floors, nursing homes. There are literally dozens of different ways to make a living as a nurse. If you want to make a difference in people’s lives but don’t think working twelve-hour night shifts on weekends and holidays is a good fit, there are still tons of options available.

But how do you find a program that will fit your needs? This article is designed to answer exactly that. Below, we explore the various types of nursing programs. We also examine how you can become certified to work in specialized nursing fields.

Are There Different Types of Nursing Programs?

To become a registered nurse the path is generally narrow and very specific. Because there are federal guidelines indicating what qualifications nurses must-have, a program in Illinois will look a lot like one in California.

State requirements may influence the process slightly— particularly when it comes time for certification, and for determining what criteria you need to meet in order to retain your license. However, the core aspects of RN training remain consistent regardless of where you attend school.

There are curriculums that may allow you to get your degree faster. Accelerated nursing programs can condense mandatory training into a timeframe of as little as 18 months. Some programs even allow you to lump a graduate degree into your four-year plan, allowing you to graduate with an advanced certification at the same time most people are getting their undergraduate degrees.

Accelerated courses of study are naturally fast-paced and challenging but do have the potential to save you money in the long run. For one thing, the less time you spend on a college campus, the less money you will spend. Colleges typically charge by the credit hour, which means you can save thousands of dollars by skipping gen-eds.

Colleges also charge exorbitant rates for room and board. Accelerated programs allow you to save still more money by reducing the time you spend in the dorm room.

And none of this accounts for your increased earning potential. Starting two or more years earlier means thousands more in your savings account. It could even mean earlier retirement.

Which is all great. But you probably searched for nursing program roadmaps (or whatever search term led you here) because you know there are lots of different types of nurses, and you want to know what it will take to become something other than a floor nurse.

How to Specialize as a Nurse

Specialization often happens after you’ve already gotten your undergraduate degree. Sometimes, it can be relatively— if not easy, at least, expedited. Many specialization certifications can be attained by attending special classes, or even shadowing a professional who already works in your intended field.

Some nursing jobs do require advanced degrees. Perhaps the most noticeable of these is the work of a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners enjoy a high level of autonomy. In about twenty states they are able to open their own practices and function ostensibly as a general practitioner.

To become a nurse practitioner you will need to attain an NP-focused graduate degree. While seeking said graduate degree, you may be able to specialize. For example, you may decide that you are interested in working with psychiatric patients, or on the neonatal floor. There are special endorsements for both of those career paths.

You can even incorporate an NP-related graduate degree into an accelerated nursing program, allowing you to get a high-level qualification in as little as four years, including your undergraduate studies.

What is an Informatics Nurse and How Do You Become One?

Informatics nurses work with data to help hospitals come up with granular and long-term healthcare strategies. Sometimes, these strategies are applied to individuals. Often, they are leveraged to entire communities. For example, if a community has high levels of respiratory illness, an informatics nurse might explore why that is, and look for ways the hospital can prepare for and cope with that issue.

During Covid-19, informatics nurses played a valuable role in helping hospitals make the most of limited resources. Today, they continue to help roll out strategies for disease prevention, public awareness, and care strategies that have a direct influence on patient outcomes.

Most informatics nurses take seven years or more to attain all of their credentials. While it may be possible to include an informatics certification within an accelerated course of study, it is generally unavoidable that most informatics listings will require the candidate to hold a graduate degree.

Can you get a nursing degree online?

While nursing programs will require some in-person work— usually in the form of clinical experience—many schools now offer you the chance to fulfill many of your curriculum requirements online. While not for everyone, online learning is a great way to incorporate a little bit of flexibility into your studies. Plus, you’ll save a ton of time on the commute!

How Do You Find a Nursing Program that Aligns with Your Interests?

First of all, it’s important to recognize and accept that you may change jobs many times during your career. Half of all floor nurses quit within five years of graduation. Unfortunately, many of them leave the profession entirely.

That dear reader, will not be you. Why? Because you understand that there are many ways to serve your community as a nurse.

As described earlier, the pressure to choose the right program is relatively low in the early stages. The biggest decision you will need to make is how quickly you want to acquire your degree. While we talked about the merits of getting an accelerated degree earlier, there are also drawbacks.

Accelerated programs are very literally a full-time job. Many fast-paced curriculums will see students working more than forty hours a week to make the tightened time frame work.

If you are working a job, or raising a family, that kind of schedule may not suit you. Remember, there’s no rush, nor is it ever too late to become a nurse. Many people decide to pivot into healthcare only after they’ve established their families and explored other career options. That’s ok too. There are many paths toward becoming a healthcare worker. Find the one that works for you and start on it confident and excited in the fact that you will make a major difference in the lives of your patients.