Nurses play a crucial role inside medical care groups, taking on a high level of duty regarding the therapy of patients; nurses are often the main point of contact, providing continuity of care and liaising with a scope of other medical practitioners. f you’re interested in a rewarding career within the medical sector and you’re driven by helping others, a nursing degree could be for you.
Bachelor of nursing courses is vocational, which means you will directly train to become a qualified nurse at the end of your degree. Teaching will begin with giving you a foundation in the basic knowledge and skills required of all nurses, including how to have a good ‘bedside manner’, observing how patients are responding to treatment, and how to administer medication. The nursing degree will then allow you to apply what you’ve learned in a practical setting such as a hospital ward, and also enable you to specialize in a particular branch of nursing that interests you.
Bachelor of nursing course structures vary at different nursing schools around the world, but will generally last three to four years. Your path to becoming a qualified nurse also varies. For example, in the US, you do not have to study a bachelor of nursing to become a registered nurse (RN). You could instead study a two or three-year diploma or associate’s degree in nursing, both of which will prepare you to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become a licensed nurse. However, some nursing students in the US may prefer to study the bachelor of nursing course to increase their chances of advancing in specialized areas of the profession, such as in pharmacology or nursing management.
To become a registered nurse, make sure the nursing course you choose is recognized by the relevant authority in the country you wish to work in. For example, in the UK, you need to study a course which is recognized by the Nursing and Midwifery Council at an accredited nursing school. This offers opportunities to specialize within your nursing qualification if you have a particular subject of interest. You can find out more about nursing specialities in the next tab.
To gain a place on a bachelor in a nursing course you’ll generally need good high/secondary school grades, including a qualification in at least one science subject (biology may be the most desirable). Nursing schools may also specify that they’d like you to have previous experience in providing care, for example through part-time or voluntary work. You may also need to complete a health screening to ensure you’re able to complete the course, and possibly provide evidence of not having a criminal record (the university may conduct their own background check).
All student nurses go through the same training in the basics of the profession, but if you have a particular interest in one of the many possible nursing specialities, many nursing schools offer opportunities to specialize. When choosing between specializations, consider what you’re most passionate about and interested in, and what setting you’d like to work in when you graduate.
Here are some of the most common nursing specialities chosen by nursing students, which can be studied either during your main bachelor in nursing course or as a postgraduate qualification following a degree in general adult health nursing.
This is a wide-ranging area of nursing which involves using holistic care to help patients with mental health issues stay physically safe and emotionally secure. A degree in mental health nursing will often involve a mix of theory and practice, as you’ll apply your knowledge to a real-world setting, such as an in-patient community. You could cover a wide range of mental health issues, including acute psychiatry, child and adolescent mental health, forensic psychiatry, eating disorders, addictions and rehabilitation. You’ll develop interpersonal skills, emotional maturity and personal insight, which are essential for providing compassionate, sensitive care to patients, and support to help them live more independently.
Studying community or district nursing will enable you to gain skills and knowledge in areas relating to the health needs evaluation, care and program management, and clinical practice leadership. If you want to train to become a district or community nurse, you will often do so after qualifying as a registered nurse. You may find that this specialization allows you to keep your prospects for nursing jobs quite open, as this nursing course is relevant to many specialist roles in health visiting or advanced practice.
Also known as pediatric nursing, the next of our list of nursing specialities could be ideal if you enjoy working and communicating with children. However, child nursing also involves effectively communicating with and providing support for parents and other family members, so you will acquire the skills to connect with both patients and relatives. Like adult nursing, child nursing can cover a wide range of other nursing specialities, such as mental health, diabetes, asthma, cancer and nutrition. You will also learn how to provide the appropriate advice for patients and relatives to encourage good health practices that may help to prevent further illnesses and hospital visits. As in other nursing courses, you’ll complete work placements to apply what you’ve learned.
This branch of nursing somewhat differs from others, as it does not focus on making people better, but rather on helping them to reach their full potential. You will gain the appropriate nursing knowledge, skills and attitudes to maintain or improve the mental and physical health of people with learning difficulties, and take on a rewarding role in which you help them achieve a life which is as fulfilling as possible. If you study this specialization, you’ll gain insights on the complexities of the role and the importance of helping people to overcome inequalities and discrimination and maximize their social inclusion and autonomy.
Other nursing specialities you could study include emergency and critical care nursing, dental nursing, pharmacology, ambulatory (outpatient) care nursing, midwifery, school nursing, forensic nursing and nursing management.
As mentioned earlier, nursing is a vocational subject, so you will most likely go on to work as a nurse, possibly within a particular specialization. However, if you change your mind, or simply want to keep your options open after completing your bachelor in nursing degree, there are a variety of other nursing jobs you could follow, within both the medical and social sectors. Jobs you might consider include:
Midwives are responsible for the health of both mother and child, providing advice and care during pregnancy, labour and the early postnatal period. They provide information to help women make their own decisions about what care services they’d like to access. Midwives work in multidisciplinary teams of doctors, health visitors and social workers though will only seek help from a doctor in the case of medical complications. Assisting in births is both exciting and challenging, so you’ll need stamina, a high-stress threshold, and the ability to think on your feet. To become a midwife you’ll need a recognized qualification in the subject, which you may be able to gain through a short course following your nursing degree. You might also consider a career as a neonatal nurse, caring for newborn babies who are born premature or unwell.
Another alternative nursing job to consider, health visitor roles are ideal if you’d prefer to work outside a hospital setting, instead of visiting patients’ homes or working in community centres. This career is often chosen by qualified nurses or midwives who have gained post-registration experience, training and qualifications in child health, health promotion, public health and education. Health visitors support and educate families with pre-school children, including after childbirth, aiming to promote good health and prevent illness. This career would therefore suit you if you enjoy working with families and children, and have an interest in the ways in which health and social issues can be overcome.
Paramedics are usually the first healthcare professionals at the scene of an emergency and are responsible for assessing patients’ conditions and providing the treatment they need prior to hospital admission. Entry routes to this career vary, but you can generally either train on the job or complete an approved university course in paramedic science. You may also need a clean driving license. If you want to work in emergency treatment, you might also consider the role of an emergency nurse, providing treatment in the accident and emergency department of the hospital. Both careers can be stressful, as every second count when providing emergency care, but they can also be very rewarding, as you will have the opportunity to save lives on a daily basis.
School nurses work closely with students, teachers, parents and carers to offer support and advice on a range of issues from obesity to sexual health. They also promote health and safety by coordinating health programs such as immunizations. You typically need to have gained at least two years’ experience in nursing before you can work as a school nurse.
Nursing courses can open doors to a range of other careers in various health and social care settings. Other nursing jobs you may consider include: prison nurse, hospice nurse, geriatric nurse, respiratory nurse, occupational health nurse, perioperative (pre-surgery) nurse and more. Your personal skills related to empathy, sensitivity and listening would also be useful for roles within counselling, teaching, social work and the police.