“The term nurse originates from the Latin word nutire, which means to suckle. This is because it referred primarily to a wet-nurse in the early days and only evolved into a person who cares for the sick in the late 16th century,” writes Yolanda Smith for NewsMedical.com. Today the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the goal to increase the number of nurses to nine million more by 2030 and has designated 2020 as the “International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.” This target goal demonstrates the need to have trained and skilled nurses. 

One student training to become a nurse, Marie Rhinow at the Brookdale Community College says, “It’s not just about taking temperatures; it’s about being able to put patients at ease during a stressful time.” But, what exactly does a nurse do? And, how does one become one? Find out the daily tasks of a nurse and learn more about how you can begin your educational path to becoming a nurse.

1. What does a nurse do?

“Nurses are qualified medical experts, who work as part of a multi-disciplinary team alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals, to deliver clinical treatment and care for patients in a variety of medical settings,” reports UCAS.com. Nurses work on all floors of the hospital and can work day shifts and night shifts, or a combination of both. General practitioners provide standard services such as monitoring, administering prescribed medication, bathing, monitoring vitals, and more. Additionally, you’ll conduct head-to-toe body assessments of your patients. Helping them with “ADL’s (activities of daily living)” is a crucial part of a regular shift nurse’s duties, says RegisteredNurseRN.com.

You’ll maintain the charts and records of your patients -- good record keeping is essential for best care practices. While training to become a nurse your teachers will make sure you run mock scenarios and they will test your ability to adequately manage multiple patients’ charts. Many students choose to specialize: If you want to work on a surgical team, or be a nurse caring for prematurely born babies, for example, then you will need to undergo specialized training and complete specialized certification procedures. 

2. A few of the many reasons to become a nurse

There are many excellent reasons to become a nurse. First and foremost, it is an extremely useful degree offering you a wide range of professional and technical skills, including the ability to work as part of a multidisciplinary team and to support and advise patients and their families. You will also develop the ability to assess, analyse, monitor and evaluate the care you deliver. This vocational degree will immediately set you up for success in transitioning from student to practicing nurse upon graduation. You won’t have a problem finding a job and joining the workforce immediately as the need for trained and skilled nurses is high. According to Josephine Moulds for WeForum.org, “There are 27.9 million nurses around the world, an increase of 4.7 million between 2013 and 2018. Over 80% of those nurses are found in countries that account for half of the world’s population.”

Nursing is an evolving field due to technological advances in the healthcare system. As a nurse, you most certainly will not be bored. “For nurses, every new challenge can translate into a learning experience. Nurses learn about people, diseases, cultures, and treatments in their day-to-day work. They can also enroll in continuing education courses, which help them gain deeper knowledge of their profession and become better nurses,” writes NurseJournal.org

As an evolving and in-demand field of study, certificate programs like the Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Innovation offered by Virginia Commonwealth University provide current healthcare professionals with the opportunity to stay relevant and on top of the rapid changes that happen in the industry. Of the program, Ingrid Pretzer-Aboff, Ph.D., the program’s co-director and a senior nurse researcher and associate professor in the School of Nursing says, “It has become clearer than ever how vital it is for leaders in these fields to find innovative solutions to the challenges in health care that impact everyone, from rising health care costs to improving quality and access to care.” No matter what field of nursing you choose to specialize in rest assured you’ll find your niche. But, where do you begin?

3. What education is needed?

As a prospective nursing student you will need to narrow down what type of nurse you want to become since there are three main tracks: Licensed Practical Nurse (LPNS), Registered Nurse (RNs), and Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs). These three tracks offer different opportunities and train you to work at different levels within the healthcare system. Before you begin your studies, you’ll want to understand the differences to best make your choice between pursuing an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in nursing. 

LPNs, also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), are supervised by registered nurses. They measure and monitor patients, assist in patient care and treatments, and collect laboratory test samples. Most LPNs work in general healthcare and don't specialize. To become an LPN you will need a post secondary certificate and pass the licensing exams.

RNs require an associate’s or bachelor's degree and have expanded responsibilities, duties, and higher salaries than LPNs. According to Study.com, “the median annual salary for registered nurses was $71,730 as of 2018. The expected job growth for RNs from 2016 to 2026 is also faster than average. Job opportunities in registered nursing are expected to grow 15% due to the increasing need for health care services.” To become an RN a bachelor’s degree is required.

APNs make the highest salaries of these three nursing tracks, but they also have the highest level of responsibility and require the most amount of specialized advanced training and rigorous licenser procedures. The four main types of APNs are nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists. A graduate degree in nursing is required to become a APN.

4. Tips for the interview and applying

Once you have determined the nursing track you want to pursue next you’ll want to research schools and begin the process of applying to programs. You’ll also want to brush up on your interview skills. When you’re considering school options you’ll want to factor in location, price tag, proximity to the hospital, internships and hands-on training opportunities, and more. You also might want to reach out to previous alumni from the programs that interest you and learn from them directly on what their experience was like at each different institution. Attending an accredited or nationally recognized nursing degree program will matter for your future job placements. 

In preparing for the interview, you’ll want to be able to answer the question: Why did you choose nursing as a career? Alison Doyle, for TheBalanceCareers.com, suggest, “When an interviewer for a nursing position asks you questions about why you became a nurse, he or she is trying to learn the personal reasons you may have for becoming a nurse. This question is also posed in order to gauge your enthusiasm for the profession.” Make it personal. Find the storyline behind why you wanted to become a nurse in the first place and tell your story in your interview. This is one of the best ways to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you are passionate about your career path. 

5. Alternative career paths for nurses

Due to the changing needs of a rapidly evolving healthcare system you may find many alternative career paths for nurses. As technology changes and makes advances, some of the more rudimentary nursing tasks may become automated by the skill of nursing robots. This has the potential to free future nurses up for developing higher level skill sets and working in a more advanced capacity. 

According to reports from Engineering and Technology by Dea Birkett, “Researchers at Rutgers University have developed a robot that finds blood vessels, even if they’re very small, and successfully inserts a needle or catheter. It uses ultrasound and near-infrared imaging to image the tissue, and artificial intelligence (AI) to interpret the images, detect blood vessels and calculate their depth and size.” This new technology is just one of the ways that the field of nursing is evolving.

As a prospective nursing student you’ll find that you’re about to embark upon an educational and professional career track that will challenge you. Answering the call to serve others in the healthcare profession is not an easy task, but the rewards are high. You’ll go home every night knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life.