Guys, think about becoming a nurse

Father David Epps's picture

Attention, high school seniors! I know that this column is going to sound like an advertisement, but I think if one comes across a good deal that might help a great many people, one should share. Don’t you? So, here’s the pitch:

Coming to the end of your senior year in high school and don’t know what to do next? Well, if you are smart, willing to work hard, looking for job stability, and enjoy helping people, maybe you should consider being a registered nurse.

Currently, there is a tremendous shortage of nurses in the United States. In Georgia, nearly 10 percent of all nursing positions remain unfilled. Moreover, as the baby boomers (people my age and older) come to the end of their working career and retire, the shortage is likely only to get worse.

If a student can get accepted into a nursing program — and that’s not easy to do, with some nursing schools turning away half the applicants — and can pass the boards upon graduation, the new nurse virtually has a job for life wherever she or he goes.

And, if a student is really intelligent and motivated, the nursing instructor positions are increasingly hard to fill as well. A nurse with a Ph.D. in nursing will likely find colleges and universities competing for his or her attention. There just aren’t that many of them out there.

While many nurses and nursing educators disagree with me, (one of those being my dear wife) I still think that one good option is to look at an associate’s degree in nursing program in junior colleges, especially for those who may not find it feasible for whatever reason to jump into a four year BSN program. A student can go full-time for two years, take an associate’s degree and, upon passing the boards, go immediately to work.

Now, most ASN nurses will be limited as to how far up the professional ladder they can go, which brings me to those “RN to BSN” programs in four year colleges. Once someone has earned the “registered nurse” designation, that person can enroll in one of the many programs that allow nurses to finish their bachelor’s degrees while they continue to work as nurses. The advantage? There’s not as much pressure (because they have already passed the boards) and they can earn a living while going to school full or part time.

Most nurses who went the four-year route will contend that a better, more well-rounded, nurse is produced in the four year programs. There is also an argument to be made that BSN graduates may be better prepared to take the boards than ASN graduates. And, in most cases, A BSN is more likely to be advanced to a higher position in a hospital than will a nurse who holds an ASN.

Whatever the degree, the pay a nurse can earn is pretty good. In Atlanta, the current median expected pay for a staff nurse is $58,455. The professional journal, “Nursing2004,” reported that about 25 percent of nurses made in excess of $65,000. Those RNs who are willing to travel can make $75,000 a year working for an agency. Nurse practitioners, who must have a specialized master’s degree, can, in Atlanta, often expect to make in excess of $81,000.

Interestingly, those who have a heart for academia will not see much in the way of extra money for their efforts in obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree and a Ph.D. The median salary for associate professors of nursing in colleges and universities nationwide was only $59,911, less than a $1,500 annual increase over what ASN and BSN nurses earn while working in Atlanta hospitals.

Still, there are those who are willing to make less financially in order to teach what they love and to train and influence new generations of nursing students.

Teachers, by way of comparison, have an average salary of just over $46,000 while chaplains of home care (a position that requires seven years of higher education) earn just $40,000. Social Workers, with a BSW, have a median salary of $40,800, while police officer recruits in New York City start out at a mere $25,100.

Nursing, of course, has its downside like all jobs and careers do. There is a fair amount of stress, hospital politics, shift work, and occasional long hours. But for those who are so inclined, these seem to be good days to become a nurse. And, one should note, an ever-increasing number of males are entering the profession.

But be warned: a college nursing program is rigorous and time-demanding. Many are the students with high GPAs who thought they could “coast” through a nursing program, only to flunk out because they didn’t give their best effort. Those who are looking for an easy course of study best look elsewhere.

But for the bright men and women who are accepted, work hard, and make the grade, the rewards, both personal and financial, are gratifying. I should know: I married a nurse.

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