Guest Author - Julie Reeser, RN
While there is a big push within the nursing community for Registered Nurses to obtain their Bachelor Degree, it isnít necessary for a rewarding career in Nursing. If you have completed high school or a high school equivalency within the last 5 years, it is entirely possible that you could fast-track through your local community collegeís two year RN program for an Associate Degree. This opens up the potential of earning up to $25/hour as a starting salary.
The other requirements that are necessary to enter into the community college programs are an SAT or ACT score. Different colleges have different requirements, so check with your institution. Nursing degrees require an Algebra credit. This scares many potentially successful applicants away. There are several ways around this paralyzing fear of math. The first is to know that as a practicing hospital nurse, you will be doing very little actual Algebra. There is also a calculator handy whenever you many need it, as well as other nurses and the pharmacists to rely on in those times of doubt. As for getting through the actual class, all accredited colleges have tutoring programs, many at no cost to the student. The other option is to take a lower level math course in preparation for the Algebra I class. This will cost you more money in the short term, but will lead to a well-paying career at the end.
Another hindrance to students is childcare. If you are currently working, you need childcare already. This is a matter of priorities. If your current job pays less than $50.000/year, and you are interested in becoming a Registered Nurse, then it is in your best interest to see if the college has grant money, scholarship money, or on-site daycare available. Most states now offer scholarship programs to students with children. These will pay for your tuition, books, and living expenses up to a certain amount. The catch to this is that you have to work full-time as an RN in the state to pay back the money when you have completed your degree. Since this was probably the plan all along, this works out well for the state and the student.
If you currently have a job that doesnít allow for a school schedule, consider working for a hospital as a nursing assistant. This job is not easy, but the rewards are huge. You will have the opportunity to watch and assist nurses in their care of the patients and their families. The amount of knowledge gained by such an entry level position is enormous. You will become familiar with the hospitalís policies and procedures, be able to find your way around the institution, and get to know your co-workers. These nurses, doctors, secretaries, respiratory therapists, dieticians, radiology techs, and environmental staff will be your mentors and teammates in helping the patients to get the highest quality care with a personal touch.
Being in nursing school is not to be taken lightly. This career pays well for a reason. The work can be emotionally draining, physically demanding, and carries the responsibility of someoneís life being in your hands for up to 12 hours at a time. Two years doesnít seem like much time to learn all the ins and outs of being a nurse, but surprisingly enough, with hard work and dedication, as well as great instructors, you will find the time well spent.