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How to Become a Nurse: The Education, Training, and Skills Needed for a Career in Nursing

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In the following article, Carina Zaragoza presents an interview she conducted with her cousin, Anastasia Suarez, an aspiring nurse. As someone who is currently going through the process of becoming an nurse, Miss Suarez's answers provide readers with both a clear idea of what that process entails and a firsthand view of the rewards one can expect from this exciting field.

My cousin, Anastasia Suarez, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, is currently studying to become a nurse. Her mother is a nurse, and Anastasia has decided to follow in her footsteps. This wasn’t an easy decision, and she tried other professions first. In the end, though, she decided to become a nurse.

I am in a completely different field myself, and don’t know too many people who are in medicine or nursing, so I don’t have the slightest idea what it takes to become a nurse. So, I decided to ask Anastasia what steps she is taking to become a nurse. My questions and her answers to them are below, and they should be helpful to anyone considering a career in nursing. I found out a lot myself and learned the number one reason people go into nursing: making a difference in people’s lives.

Why did you want to become a nurse?

I was working as a nurse’s unit secretary on a telemetry floor. I helped nurses with doctor’s orders for labs and procedures. The more you learn as a nurse’s unit secretary, the more you understand how big of a role you are in a team for the patient’s care. I always admired the courage the nurses had to come to work every day and take care of strangers that were ill. I love helping people. I love making people smile and laugh. Becoming a nurse is a step closer to making “more” of a difference in people’s lives and well-being. That’s something I want to be a part of.

What steps are involved in becoming a nurse?

Number one is understanding what kind of commitment you are getting yourself into and making sure it’s the right decision for you as an individual.

Of course there are pre-requisites to nursing courses before you start a nursing program. These usually include basic anatomy/physiology, medical terminology, ethics, and sociology courses, to name a few. [Your] GPA and [standardized test] scores must be [sufficient]. You need to have letters of recommendation [and complete] an application [for] a program as well.

Once you’re in the program, you must complete [a certain number of] required nursing courses [and] clinical hours per semester. You’ll need a physical from a doctor stating [that] you can perform such duties to become a nurse. You [also] need to have the proper vaccinations and insurance to become a nurse.

What education/training/certification is needed to become a nurse?

If you want to become a nurse, you have to have a passing GPA for all courses. In order to work as a nurse, you have to complete the school nursing program and school “exit exams.” You also have to pass the NCLEX and state boards for nursing.

What's the hardest part about becoming a nurse, or what challenges do you face?

The hardest part about becoming a nurse is finishing and passing the required coursework. But mainly it’s realizing that you cannot save everyone. Also, you won’t know everything right away. But you’ll never be alone working as a nurse. Although it seems like so much to learn and know, you can always find someone to help you out.

What do you enjoy most about the nursing profession?

The [thing I enjoy] most…about the nursing profession is making a difference in people’s lives. Being that shinning light patients see at the end of a dark tunnel is so rewarding. I also enjoy treating a patient so they can get back to their lives well. I learn something new every day working as a nurse. And I enjoy being a part of a team.

What advice can you give others who are trying to become a nurse?

Be patient. Study hard. Don’t give up. If you truly want to become a nurse, go for it! The sky is the limit, and there are so many avenues of nursing…you’re bound to find your niche.

How do you get a job as a nurse? Do nurses use job boards to find nursing jobs? Do nurses use recruiters to find nurse jobs? Do nurses use staffing agencies to find a nursing jobs?

Nurses are in high demand right now and will be for quite a while. Look [for work] in the local papers, [on the] Internet, and [at] local hospitals. If you have a nurse’s degree, they want you. Many hospitals have their own testing boards, but they aren’t anything you haven’t learned or [don’t] know already. Staffing agencies are great for people who want to travel and make a little extra money bouncing around from place to place as needed. From hospitals to home health to working in schools for children to teaching, nursing has a variety of options to choose from.
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