how to change careers to nursing?

WLK students are learning on-site - how to change careers to nursing?
WLK students are learning on-site - how to change careers to nursing?

There aren’t many professions that can offer career stability, options for advancement and personal fulfillment, too. Nursing is one of the rare fields where professionals help people in meaningful ways while also earning a competitive salary.

It’s no wonder that professionals looking for a change often make the switch to nursing. It’s a switch that can be personally rewarding but that requires careful planning and preparation.

The good news is that accelerated degree programs and online learning options have made it easier than ever to fulfill state requirements and make the career change to nursing.

Why make the switch to nursing?

Before you start the process of any career change, it’s important to take some time for self-reflection. Determining your “why” can be powerfully motivating as you navigate new territory in your career change.

Everyone’s personal reasoning will be different, but some common reasons professionals make the career change to nursing include:

The desire to help others

By and large, nurses enter the field because they are compassionate, empathetic, and want to help people who need it. People who switch to nursing often do so because they understand that a job where they help others provides a unique perspective as well as a higher sense of purpose than some other careers.

High levels of job satisfaction

As of 2018, the majority of registered nurses said they were either “moderately satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with their primary nursing position, according to the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses. That survey found that 88.7% of nurses involved in direct care said they were either extremely or moderately pleased with their current primary nursing job.

Scheduling options

Some nurses work a traditional 9-5 schedule. They may find these traditional hours at a dialysis center, for example, or at a pediatrician’s office.

However, there are many nurses who do shift work in the hospital. They may work rotating schedules, allowing for several days packed with shifts that are then followed by several days off. Nurses can also choose to work a per diem schedule, allowing for even more control over their working hours.

There are many perks to having off on some weekdays, including being available for school or family events, being available to care for young children or senior parents who need assistance, taking advantage of weekday rates at hotels, and running errands at off-peak times.

Improved salary and job stability

The average nurse in the United States makes a median base salary of $81,220 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s significantly higher than the average American salary of $61,900 in 2023. Nurses with a BSN or higher have opportunities for career advancement and can be promoted to management, teaching, and other leadership positions.

There’s also an ongoing nursing shortage, which means those who switch careers to nursing often find themselves in high demand. Retirements currently outpace the rate of new nurses entering the field. This creates more strain on a healthcare system with more aging and chronically ill people than ever before. It’s estimated that the field will grow by 9% – nearly 200,000 jobs – within the next ten years.


How to change careers to nursing

Most entry-level nursing jobs now require a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree or BSN. This degree includes coursework in pathophysiology, clinical assessment, ethical considerations in nursing practice, legal regulations for nursing, and healthcare policy in the United States.

Traditional BSN degrees take four years to complete. However, if you already have a Bachelor’s degree in another field, it often makes the most sense to get an accelerated bachelor’s degree (ABSN).

What is an ABSN?

Students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree don’t necessarily need to complete another four years of education to earn their BSN. Many programs can leverage the education you already have through what’s known as an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, or ABSN.

ABSN programs are built for full-time, rigorous study. Elective courses and what’s known as the “common core” – foreign language coursework, composition, and basic math courses – are omitted from the curriculum since you’ve already completed those requirements for your first bachelor’s degree.

Some ABSN programs can be pursued completely online, with the exception of a short on-campus residency and the standard clinical experiences which are completed in a healthcare setting. Clinicals give students a chance to practice the concepts of nursing with experienced nurse mentors coaching them to success.

Before you make a career change to nursing, you should be aware of the nursing requirements specific to your state. These can include continuing education requirements as well as fees for the licensing application. The state of Pennsylvania, for example, requires three hours of continuing education on child abuse reporting guidelines before the state will grant you a license.

Nurses who work as RNs are required to pass the NCLEX-RN exam, a national test that measures competency on the foundations of patient care and best nursing practices.

What is the job description for a nurse?

A nurse’s job description will depend on several factors, including their level of education, level of experience, and if they have a care specialty. Common roles and responsibilities in the nurse’s job description include:

Delivering direct patient care. Nurses assess patients and provide first-line care for people who need medical assistance. This includes:

  • Collecting personal health histories
  • Performing physical exams
  • Identifying patient needs and communicating them to healthcare providers and family members
  • Assessing treatment response and monitoring patient progress
  • Providing assistance with daily healthcare tasks

Providing patient advocacy and education

Patients and their families don’t always have a direct line of communication with their doctors, especially when they are spending time in the hospital. Nurses sometimes serve as the go-between, giving doctors critical information about how a patient is doing while championing the patient’s rights and preferences in regard to their medical treatment.

Nurses will also speak directly to patients and family members about what is going on, educating patients about their health conditions and explaining their treatment plans.

Managing patient medication

Nurses will prepare, administer and document a patient’s medication. They may also monitor and record potential side effects or adverse reactions to prescribed medication or any other medical interventions. A big component of managing medication is teaching patients and other caring adults involved about the prescriptions and treatment plan the patient needs to adhere to.

Implementing infection control

Nurses are trained on how to minimize infection in healthcare settings. They adhere consistently to strict infection control protocols to keep themselves and others as healthy as possible, and provide oversight of other professionals and visitors who may be entering the patient care environment. Nurses are also called upon to explain hygiene and sanitation strategies to patients and their loved ones to minimize the risk of infection in the home.

Utilizing nursing informatics

Nurses need to understand how to analyze data, read patient charts, manage electronic health records, and maintain patient privacy. They need to see the whole picture that a patient’s health record is giving them, as well as the smaller details that need ongoing monitoring. Competent nurses can use this information to enhance patient care and outcomes.

How do you get started in nursing?

For most people, switching to a nursing career will require an accelerated nursing school program (such as an ABSN), continuing your education to meet state requirements, taking the NCLEX-RN exam, and applying for licensure.

It’s a journey that can be summed up in one sentence, but the amount of personal investment, effort, and dedication required to make the switch is hard to put into words. It’s a career change that demands something of you but one that offers numerous opportunities and personal fulfillment in return.

If you’re ready to change careers to nursing, learning more about Wilke’s University’s online ABSN is a great next step. Learn more here or request a free guide.