The Ultimate Guide to a Career as an RN

If you are currently a paramedic, one way you can advance your career is to go back to school to become a registered nurse (RN). While you are not required to have a degree as a paramedic, you were able to have received on-the-job training and possibly a certificate in many areas of emergency care. A nursing degree will increase your earning potential and scope of practice. The advantage to enrolling in a paramedic to RN bridge program is that you can test out of certain subjects due to your prior knowledge. Also, if you have already completed coursework for a particular subject, you will not have to repeat it to earn your degree. A bridge program allows you to finish quicker and begin your new career.

Becoming a RN opens up both the opportunity to jump-start your ability to help others, as well as increase your salary. Let’s go through the different types of degrees available to you, a brief salary review, your daily tasks as a nurse, and more.

Types of RNs

The degree you get determines the type of RN you are eligible to become, including the annual salary you can expect to make and your future career options. Deciding which degree is right for you depends on how much time you are willing and able to dedicate to your education.

Associate’s Degree

The quickest way to become an RN is to get your associate’s degree. Typically, this takes about two years, though it may take less time in a paramedic-to-RN program. You should research available programs to find out about their specific requirements for paramedics who want to become RNs. The prerequisites are similar to those who are in an LVN/LPN to RN program.

Bachelor’s Degree

You can alternatively choose to get your bachelor’s degree, which takes an additional two years (four years without an associate degree). You will learn more about each category of nursing, which will round out your overall understanding of nursing practices. This degree qualifies you for leadership positions and a higher starting salary as an RN.

Master’s Degree

From a bachelor’s degree, you can continue your education to become a special type of RN called an advanced practice registered nurse, or APRN. You must earn a master’s degree in a specific area of nursing to become APRN. Advanced practice nurses specialize in different areas of practice, which allows them to increase their professional responsibilities and earning potential.

Doctorate Degree

Some nurses go above and beyond by pursuing a doctorate in the field. This level of education trains students for any top nursing position such as a practitioner (typically involving a management role), educator, and/or researcher.

RN Salary and Job Growth

There were over 2.7 million nurses in the United States, making an average of $69,790 annually in 2014. With an advanced degree, you can expect to earn even more than the reported average salary. Your training as a paramedic puts you at an advantage to work in emergency care, which is one of the higher-paying nursing specialties.

Your knowledge from both your time as a paramedic and your RN education can prepare you for any nursing specialty of your choosing. The further you advance your education and training, the wider range of jobs you will qualify for. Career location, education, and specialization will all contribute to your earning potential and room for advancement.

If you have been a paramedic for a while, then change can be understandably scary. The good news is that as an RN, you should have very little (if any) trouble finding a job. According to the chart below provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of RNs is expected to grow by 19 percent from 2012-2022. To put that number in perspective, the national average of all occupational expected job growth is only 11 percent.

US registered nurses
Source: U.S. BLS Employment Program

RNs are needed everywhere and will continue to be in demand due to technological advancements that allow people to live longer than ever previously possible. This means that the elderly population is growing, and therefore long-term care facilities will continue to need RNs to assist with patient care. Keep in mind that the progression of medical science and technology affects all populations, and you will still be needed as an RN even if you do not wish to concentrate strictly on the geriatric population.

Daily Tasks as a Nurse

As an RN, your work will be similar to that of a paramedic in the sense that the primary focus is still patient care. Unlike a paramedic, you may not be put in a first-responder situation often (or at all). The type of patient care is different between the two occupations as well. A first responder and transporter must focus on making sure that a patient remains alive and no more damage is done to the body, whereas an RN will likely work in a hospital or clinic to assist doctors with implementing a long-term care solution to improve or maintain their health.

There is still a sense of urgency in the daily life of a RN, however, their initial concern is more for the patient’s future rather than their present. Your specific daily tasks as an RN will depend widely on the type of nurse you become. Here are some areas of specialization, and their descriptions, should you choose to pursue an advanced degree in nursing:

  • Cardiac Nursing involves evaluating heart health and stress-test assessments, monitoring patients’ hearts and surrounding blood vessels, and providing post-operation care to patients who have received a bypass, pacemaker, or angioplasty.
  • Geriatric Nursing assists elderly patients by conducting regular check-ups and screenings, preventing bedsores, maintaining their hygiene, and helping the patients manage their ailments and medications.
  • Neonatal Nursing takes care of newborn babies by monitoring and recording their condition, administering necessary medications, maintaining their hygiene, and comforting them when upset.
  • Critical Care Nursing consists of operating life support systems, advocating on behalf of the patient, quickly assessing their condition, and providing intensive medical intervention.
  • Surgical Nursing is also referred to as perioperative nursing, and they interview patients before surgery, monitor them during surgery, and give patients advice on their recovery after surgery. They are also responsible for keeping the operating room sterile during surgery.
  • Anesthetic Nursing includes those who are responsible for administering regional anesthetics (epidural and spinal) and general anesthesia for surgery. These nurses are involved in outpatient procedures and pain management and are found in operating and emergency rooms.
  • Administrative Nursing may be responsible for all of the nurses of a single department or an entire hospital. This includes managing the nursing staffing, budgeting, inventory, and equipment, as well as managing patient care delivery and providing clinical advice to their nurses.
  • Obstetrical Nursing, also known as OB/GYN nursing, this specialty administers mammograms, pap smears, and HPV vaccinations. They also educate patients about birth control and assist with labor and deliveries.
  • Psychiatric or Mental Health Nursing often involves teaching patients’ close friends and families how to support the patient emotionally in various scenarios. These nurses also assist with patient assessments and administering medication.
  • Orthopedic Nursing interacts with patients who have musculoskeletal injuries, diseases, or disorders. They assist the doctor during surgery and help the patient regain full usage of the operated-on area as they are healing from the procedure.

Every day is different as a paramedic but at the price of limited career growth. An RN still experiences variety on a daily basis and has the option to expand professionally in a million different directions. Take a look around our website to learn more about nursing and discover a bridge program that is right for you.

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