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Is Nursing School For Me?

What do nurses do?

Nurses are one of the largest and fastest growing health professions in the United States. They are the first line providers of primary patient care, including preventative and restorative health care. 62.2% of Registered Nurses (RNs) work in hospitals but many are employed in a wide range of other settings. Nurses work in collaboration with a team of health care providers but they can also practice independently within their defined scope of practice. Some nurses may also advise and work as consultants in the healthcare, insurance, or legal industries. Nursing science is multifaceted, including biological, psychosocial, and cultural components.

One of the most common paths to professional nursing is through obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), although students can also train to become RNs while earning an Associate of Science at a community college, typically in a three-year program. In order to practice, all RNs must be licensed which requires meeting a minimum number of hours of clinical experience and passing state board examinations (NCLEX-RN) before earning the title of RN.

Nurses with a BSN can go on to obtain an advanced degree (master's or doctorate) in nursing and become advanced practice nurses. Advanced practice nurses (APNs) include nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse anesthetists. Nurses with more education usually command higher salaries and can practice independently including opening their own offices. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), "Mounting studies show that the quality of APN care is equal to, and at times better than, comparable services by physicians, and often at lower cost."

As UC Berkeley does not have a nursing major, many students who are interested in a nursing career have two options to explore:

  1. Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) programs for non-nursing college graduates
  2. Accelerated master’s programs (sometimes referred to as Master Entry Program in Nursing, or MEPN) for non-nursing college graduates

A list of individual programs by state for both options can be found on the AACN website. Both options result in students being prepared to sit for the NCLEX exam and become licensed RNs. For some, accelerated BSN programs are more attractive because they can be completed in as few as 12 months. For others, accelerated master’s programs are more attractive because they allow students obtain their BSN in the process of getting their MEPN, and can generally be completed in as little as three years.

Here are some ways you can find out what nurses do:

  1. Research online resources through the Career Center’s Career Exploration Nursing pages and the AACN’s website.
  2. Talk to nurses, nursing students, nursing faculty, and nursing school representatives. (Subscribe to Pre-Health CareerMail to find out about info sessions hosted by Pre-Health Advising, and also consider connecting with the Pre-Nursing Society at Cal.) 
  3. Attend nursing school information days and campus tours.

Top 10 Tips for a Career in Nursing

  1. Major in the field which interests you the most, while showing strong academic ability in science.
  2. Explore the field of nursing; be sure you know the positive and negative aspects of being a nurse and the future of the nursing profession. Field experience is a requirement for many accelerated nursing programs.
  3. Pursue extra-curricular activities which interest you. Begin to develop a unique self that will make you attractive to the nursing admissions committee. Leadership and communication skills are most important, particularly the ability to work with others of diverse interests and backgrounds. The ability to speak a foreign language is required or highly desired by most nursing programs.
  4. Keep your grades as high as possible. An upward trend in grade performance will be noted, especially when you are trying to overcome a less than spectacular year.
  5. Be sure to start looking for people who can write your letters of recommendation. Be sure to choose those individuals who know you and your work well and who you have close relationships with, e.g. shared interest in academic and /or professional matters.
  6. Develop your socio-cultural skills and ability to read, write and think professionally. Only part of nursing is science.
  7. Pursue an academic interest in depth, e.g., research. Keep in mind that research need not be in a laboratory.
  8. Make the most of your experience at Berkeley. Make friends, get involved, and keep alert of opportunities.
  9. There are many paths to becoming a nurse. People of different backgrounds, experiences, and ages, etc. all get there.
  10. Lastly, be sure to talk to as many people as possible about the nursing profession (nurses, nursing students, and nursing school representatives) and keep current on nursing issues from researching the nursing profession.


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