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Learning Center Experience
You’re confident that you are a great nurse. You love your profession
and are passionate about giving your patients the best care possible. You have
performed hundreds of physical exams and health histories, administered
medications, interpreted patient information, and helped research in support of
improved practice and patient outcomes. But you want more out of your nursing
Barb Gunderson, a 40-year nursing veteran and a professor at Kaplan
University for over a decade, provides her advice on how to move ahead in the
Barb has worked in nearly every facet of nursing throughout her
distinguished career. She has served in the hospital, medical, surgical, and
coronary ICU settings, worked in home health and hospice, and also served as a
pediatric nurse practitioner at a community clinic.
“Nursing is so broad,” Barb says. “The beauty is that there are so many
different specialties. You can try new things all of the time! There’s OB, ER,
cardiac care, pediatrics, oncology, orthopedics, hospitals, long-term care,
home health, schools, industry, public health, and education. There is always a
new challenge awaiting you, if you want it!”
To enter and build a career in nursing, you must earn your associate’s
and/or bachelor’s degree in order to take the national licensing exam to become
a registered nurse (RN). After you obtain some experience in the field, you may
want to earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), or a Doctorate of Nursing
“Nurses are life-long learners,” Barb continued. “You have to build on
your basic education if you go into a specialization. When you continue with
your education, more doors open for you. It shows that you’re motivated,
interested in bettering yourself, and that you take the time and energy to
Barb’s advice to those looking to grow in the nursing field is to network
and make connections in the industry. She suggests volunteering in your
community, and serving on committees at your workplace. She also recommends
attending health fairs where you can meet colleagues and prospective employers.
Barb also notes that you can join professional organizations to gain
continuing education (CE) credit. The American Nurses Association (ANA),
National League for Nursing (NLN), and the Kaplan University Nursing Honor
Society (Sigma Theta Tau) are also great places to learn and network with
“With baby boomers aging and retiring, there are great opportunities for
nurses. That said, as you think about moving into different areas, you need to
ask yourself, are you willing to move away from the patients?”
Barb discusses how you may want to move into administration and managing
people, which could be a great choice if you are a positive, motivated person
with vision. You also should be organized, decisive, able to meet deadlines,
and viewed as a role model for others. You’ll also need confidence—and the
ability to make some tough decisions.
Another area of nursing Barb recommends is research. You can obtain your
doctorate degree to become a nurse researcher and work in a university setting
or in a lab.
In addition, Barb notes that becoming a nurse practitioner is a popular
choice. “Nurses are more steadily earning their master’s degrees to become an
NP as they look for more authority in their practice. It was originally a
position developed to reach the underserved, but a nurse practitioner has more
responsibility and control over the patient, and more responsibility assisting
physicians. They can prescribe medication, order tests, and manage patient care,”
Whatever career path you choose in nursing, Barb recommends that you
choose a specialization that fits your attributes and lifestyle. “For instance,
if you have young children, you may want a more flexible schedule that includes
working weekends so you can be home with your children during the week. If you
like a schedule that fits with your school-age kids, you could become a school
nurse and have similar hours. Perhaps you want to have your days free—you could
work evening shifts at a local hospital. There are so many choices in the
nursing profession, the sky is the limit!”
For comprehensive consumer information,
Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement.
Colleen Dutile Faculty Story
Barbara Erickson Student Story
Master of Science in Nursing Program
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