Career Information for HPAG Students: Nursing

Nursing is the primary care of patients in either a hospital/inpatient facility, in a private physician’s office, or other health care settings. A nurse is typically the one to administer medicines prescribed by a physician and to directly monitor, measure, and record a patients’ status over the short and long term.

The Work: Nursing include everything from actual direct patient care like changing IVs, replacing bandages, giving medications, and seeing to the general comfort of patients, to administrative, management, or research roles. Many nurses continue to expand their career options by furthering their education beyond the basics required to become a Registered Nurse.

Specialties: There are dozens of specialized fields of nursing. Some of the most popular include: nurse anesthesiologist, school nurse, forensic nursing, pediatric nursing, critical care nursing, psychiatric nursing, and neonatal nursing. Most specialties require master’s level training.

The Work Setting: Careers in nursing can be very flexible. Nurses can work in a hospital, nursing home, rehabilitation center, or other extended-care facilities. Additionally, nurses may work with a private practice physician, in a community health agency, a federal nursing agency, in industry and business, at a school, or in the military.

A new trend in entrepreneurial nursing is developing, where licensed nurses combine other specialty skills to form new businesses. Possibilities include nursing informatics (combining nursing and computers), legal nurse consulting (combining nursing and law), or a range of home health care businesses.

Entry Into Field: Entry requires training in an accredited program commensurate with the degree level. Additionally, one must pass the NCLEX licensing exams before beginning practice.

Different degree programs are available to those interested in pursuing nursing as a career.

LPN/LVN: Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse

  • One-year training program post high school at a hospital, vocational school, or community college
  • Must pass licensing exam (NCLEX-PN)
  • Work is not independent, as an LPN/LVN must work under the direct supervision of an RN

RN: Registered Nurse - there are three levels of RN training

RN Diploma:

  • Prepares one to work in a hospital or inpatient facility
  • 3-year training programs in a hospital and often in association with a community college
  • About 22% of all nurses are diploma RNs

ASN: Associates Degree in Nursing

  • 2-year program at a community college
  • Focus is on technical skills
  • This is the entry level for technical nursing practice
  • About 34% of nurses hold ASN degrees

BSN: Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing

  • 4-5 year program at colleges and universities
  • Preparing for inpatient and community settings
  • About 33% of nurses hold BSN degrees
  • Through an agreement with Jefferson College of Health Sciences, Roanoke graduates may be
    eligible to apply for the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN in approximately 1.5 years). Contact an HPAG member to learn more about this opportunity.

MSN: Master's of Science in Nursing

  • Allows for specialization
  • Requires a BSN (usually)
  • College GPA and GRE scores are important
  • Clinical experience is required prior to entering an MS program
  • Examples include nurse practitioner, nurse anesthesiologist, school nurse, forensic nursing, pediatric nursing, critical care nursing, psychiatric nursing and neonatal nursing

PhD Programs: There are a variety of Doctoral Programs in Nursing; most seek to train individuals for clinical research or advanced clinical practice, and also to effect social change in the practice of nursing.

  • Doctor of Nursing
    • Requires 4-6 years of training
    • Programs focus on research methods, the history and philosophy of nursing, and leadership skills
    • Goal is to train individuals the be able to effect change through system redesign and evidence-decision making processes
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • 3-year training programs, post BS
    • Clinical practice-oriented leadership development
    • Goal is to train individuals to balance quality of care issues with access and fiscal responsibilities
  • Doctor of Nursing Science
    • Train individuals to gain investigative research skills
    • Focus is on projects pertaining to health outcome measurements, health care economics, statistical analysis, and informatics
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing
    • This is a research intensive degree as are most Ph.D. programs

Compensation: As expected, the level of compensation depends on the level of training and experience. A National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses for 2008, conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration, shows that the average annual salary of full-time Registered Nurses is nearly $67,000.

Job Outlook: There is a critical shortage of qualified RNs in the US. As healthcare costs continue to rise, and as physicians become more pressured by managed health care systems to spend less and less time with patients, the role of nurses and nurse practitioners is becoming more important and the demand for highly trained and specialized nurses is increasing. The prospects for obtaining a job, at any level of training, are very good and will continue to be high for the foreseeable future.

Helpful Websites:
All Nursing Schools
Nursing Degree Guide
Nursing World

Accelerated Nursing Programs in This Region:

Jefferson College of Health Sciences (Radford University Carilion)
Marymount University
Shenandoah University

District of Columbia:
Catholic University
Georgetown University

Johns Hopkins University

North Carolina:
Duke University

DeSales University
Drexel University
Duquesne University
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh

Villanova University

South Carolina:
Medical University of S.C.


Belmont University
East Tennessee State University