Pat Wooten, RN, BSN
You're interested in becoming a nurse. How do you get
into the field? First of all, you need to assess your basic interest.
- Why do you want to get into nursing?
- Are you getting ready to graduate
from high school and always wanted to be a nurse?
- Do you want to go into
nursing, because a relative is in the profession or your family has a tradition
of graduating nurses, and it seems like the right thing to do?
seems like a nice secure profession-the pay attracts you?
- You've always
liked helping others and you care a lot?
- Have you worked in another career
field and want a change for various reasons?
- Does the "nursing shortage"
make you feel like you need to be a part of the "gold rush," because
you have read and heard about all of the wonderful sign on bonuses?
research still needs to be done, before the decision is made to embark upon a
There are many resources which provide information on getting
into nursing school, studying for and passing boards, getting into new graduate
employment programs, summer exploratory programs, etc. But for traditional nursing
work (bedside nursing) in a hospital or long term care facility (traditionally
known as a nursing home), it really would do some good if you had a reality TV
type experience. Reading books and
articles exclusively, won't prepare you
for what the profession is like.
During my first nursing clinical rotation,
I knew instantly that I didn't like hospital nursing. However, I loved research,
collecting data, writing papers, and so forth. Since I had a science background
and had worked in various laboratory settings (e.g., a dairy plant testing milk
to biotechnology company testing, human sera, a county environmental
lab testing water sample on a mass spectrophotometer, a food plant testing spaghetti
sauce), going into nursing research seemed like a natural progression.
rude awakening: No one ever told me about the 5-6 years of med-surg hospital experience
needed, before an employer would even look at me. It was not anyone else's responsibility
to tell me this. Clearly, the lesson is to do all of your homework.
graduating from nursing school, I combed the Internet, help wanted ads, journals,
and even enlisted a network of friends to be on the lookout for any nurse research
employment opportunities. Positions in nursing research were scarce. My diverse
along with my Bachelor of Science degree from the University
of Rochester, weren't a powerful enough combination to hurry me into the interviewing
seat. Hence, I never landed an interviewing spot for any nursing research positions.
are simple, invaluable, economically efficient ways to thoroughly research nursing
as a profession. Of course, nothing can substitute for the actual on the job experience.
But you are not there yet, and you want to investigate to see if you want to get
Here a few suggestions to include on your career research things
to do list:
- utilize the Internet to the fullest
- use the services
of your ISP (Internet Service Provider)
such as AOL, MSN, etc.,
contact with potential employers in your area,
- try volunteering and
student mentors at your local college and university.
Start with an
open mind before you use any of these resources.
Many prospective students
have their specialty title etched in stone. "I want to go into pediatric
nursing, because I love children." "I want to work in trauma."
Moreover, they don't want to discuss or research anything else. There is absolutely
nothing wrong with having a vision of which practice area you'd like to specialize
in, but it is a good idea to keep the door open for other possibilities. The turn
over can be high and many nurses change specialty areas for various reasons, from
burnout, boredom, needing a change of pace, advancement reasons, to unforeseen
circumstances. The good thing about changing specialty areas is your skills are
Utilizing the Internet yields a wealth of information. There
are many contacts to be made on the Internet. Let's hypothesize, for reference
purposes, CRNA (Certified Nurse Anesthetist) will be used as an example specialty
area, and hypothetically, you are interested in becoming a CRNA. Keep in mind
you have already researched nursing schools, salary ranges, employment outlook,
and in addition to becoming a registered nurse you're aware of the advanced degree
requirement. This part of your research has already been done.
many organizations where you can make email contact, or get other contact information
from nurse professionals who are retired CRNAs, or those who currently work in
the field. Go to google.com to do a search.
Try Google's advanced search feature and type in keywords "email" and
"CRNA" without quotes, on the first line.
Your first 100 search
results will include some email addresses for people who are actually CRNAs. You
will find some with university addresses, who may be professors or alumni, company
addresses of CRNAs who are employees, and personal email addresses. Select a CRNA's
email address from these four different areas:
- university employed,
- military employed,
- and other areas, such as a physician
To narrow your search you may type in "email"
& "CRNA" or "military" or "physician practice group"
Click on the web page links to view email addresses
listed. Send each nurse professional a simple introductory email, about your interest
in the profession and ask them three open ended questions:
are some of the things I should consider before deciding to go to nursing school
to become a CRNA?"
- "What is your outlook on the future of CRNAs?"
- "What are the positive and negative aspects of working as a CRNA?"
Nurses are a kind body of professionals and most won't mind that
you took the time to contact them. It is always a good idea to get feedback from
someone who is currently in the field (new graduate and
as well as retirees. Your email should be composed of a very brief note. Don't
forget to thank them for their responses.
Another place to locate a CRNA
is the AOL people directory, provided you are an AOL subscriber. On your navigational
tool bar, just click on "People, then "Member Directory."
Next, on the first text field line, type in CRNA and you will find
hundreds of CRNAs who are already in your own backyard. If you are not an AOL
subscriber, check to see if your ISP has a searchable membership directory and
find other members in a similar fashion. Send a member or two the same introductory
note mentioned earlier. This may be time consuming,
but going through nursing
school and getting an advanced degree, only to find it is not for you, is both
equally cost and time consuming. So save yourself some time, money, and peace
of mind. Becoming a CRNA is an investment.
Nursing associations, in which
your specialty area is affiliated with, usually function on a national and
local level. Here are two examples: on the national level, American
Association of Nurse Anesthetists, and on the local level, Alabama
Association of Nurse Anesthetists.
It's important to note, these are
not the only CRNA focused nursing associations, they are merely cited here as
examples. Study their respective websites and contact them to see if you can attend
their next meeting. Tell them a little about yourself and interests in the profession,
and that you'd be interested in sitting in on a meeting or attending an upcoming
event, as a guest. The national associations
have local affiliates, so find
out where the nearest affiliate is and give them a call or send email. The worst
they can say is "No."
If you don't receive a favorable response,
try another organization, even if you aren't interested in the specialty area.
Remember the idea is to gain some experience, and more knowledge about the profession
If you get to attend one of the organization's meetings or
functions, you will surely meet nurses who have changed specialty areas at some
point in their career. Therefore, interacting and mingling will benefit you greatly.
If you were interested in another specialty area, here is an ANA (American Nurses
Association) link to Nursing Organizations.
Online nurse focused discussion forums are another place worth investing
some time in. You can ask the same open ended questions mentioned earlier. Or
you can read message threads of those who have already asked similar questions
about getting into nursing. Remember, you don't have to be a nurse to read or
participate in most forums. Also, you may run across some discussions from disgruntled
message posters, but don't let this discourage you, this is another person's experience.
You are not in their situation. You don't have all of the
facts. For all
you know, the person may not even be a nurse. Be objective when you read the posts
in the nursing forums. A good place to start is All Nurses website, since it has
one of the largest number of participants in nursing forums.
local hospitals and other employers that hire nurses, and ask to speak with the
human resources or personnel manager. The manager will be able to provide you
with information on nursing and may be able to connect you with one of their employees
who would speak with you about the profession.
The last task you need to
complete is to try to volunteer at a hospital
or nursing home. You don't
have to commit to a lifetime of volunteering; many organizations need volunteers
to sit with patients or residents as companions. Volunteering in the mail department
of any facility won't help, so concentrate your efforts on volunteering in a patient
care setting, and then you can have a direct visual of the nurse-patient interaction.
This experience will be invaluable for you.
Now, if you have a busy schedule
and you're saying, "I don't have time to volunteer," there's another
alternative for you. Contact your local community college and college or university's
school of nursing. You can ask them to put you in contact with a first & second
year student at the community college and a freshman and senior student and the
college or university. Spend a day with them in school. Due to liability issues,
you probably won't be able to go on the clinical rotations with the senior student,
but that student can inform you of what can be expected and you can attend a class
or few for the day. Find out how many courses the student is enrolled in and how
much time is spent on studies. Remember, this will vary with each student and
All of this data and experience should be collected
and completed at least six months to a year before you decide to apply to nursing
school. The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) title was used merely
as an example and any aspect of this career research can be applied to any person
seeking information on how to career research for becoming a nurse and wishing
to practice in any specialty area. Before you actually start applying to schools
and taking entrance exams, as you can see there are many ways to do your research
on nursing as a profession. In addition to researching schools, reading career
books, taking aptitude tests, talking to family and friends in the
these combined reality experiences will help you to become better informed and
prepared for the decision you will make. Best wishes with your nursing career.
The author is a registered nurse entrepreneur and publishes a nursing career website,
GraduateNurse.com, found at www.graduatenurse.com
and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted: April 2004 © Pat Wooten, RN, BSN