By Lisa May, RN, Grace Cottage Clinical Nurse Educator
as originally appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer’s Graceful Health series, February 10, 2017
Nurses are an integral part of the healthcare team, and this is a career with many opportunities, both in terms of jobs available, and of the many specialties within the field.
As the population ages, our need for nurses is growing, but surprisingly, enrollment in nursing schools is down. I want to encourage those considering this field by providing helpful information and by sharing some of my own story.
Career opportunities for nurses exist in hospitals, clinics, schools, long-term care facilities, and in community health. Emergency, trauma, cardiac, pediatrics, mental health, and oncology—these are just a few of the healthcare areas that need nurses. Additionally, there are over 60 special certifications for nurses, including wound care, forensics, infection control, informatics (data collection and reporting), management, and education.
Many people begin their healthcare careers as Licensed Nursing Assistants (LNAs). An LNA’s responsibilities include taking vital signs, obtaining specimens, and assisting patients with activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing. LNA training varies by state, generally lasting several weeks to several months.
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) complete a non-degreed 10-12-month program which combines both classroom and clinical training. LPN’s provide direct medical care like starting IVs and giving medications, working under the direction of Registered Nurses and/or Physicians.
Registered Nurses (RNs) plan, coordinate, oversee, and administer patient care. They offer advice, education and emotional support to patients and their families, and they instruct students and less experienced nurses, both in the classroom and at the bedside. The minimum education required for an RN is a two-year Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). Some RNs complete a Bachelor’s of Nursing, preparing them for more supervisory roles.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, those with a Master’s degree, include Certified Nurse Anesthetists, Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners. In Vermont, some Advanced Practice Nurses can diagnose and treat patients independently from an M.D. or D.O., depending on their level of education and experience.
As an RN, I’ve had experiences no other career could have provided. Most of my career has been in Emergency Nursing.
In the 1990’s I became a travel nurse. Travel nurses take short-time assignments in hospitals with temporary staffing needs. Most assignments are for three months. Traveling allowed me to experience Emergency Nursing in small rural hospitals as well as large inner-city trauma centers. I was able to see the country while still earning an income. In Charlotte, NC, I was part of a Special Events team that provided medical care to NASCAR teams and the Carolina Panthers.
Later, I took a break from ER nursing, choosing to work with an Organ Recovery and Transplant team in Charlotte. Calls in the middle of the night were welcomed because it usually meant there was a match for a patient on our transplant list. Flying out with the surgical team to assist with the preservation and recovery of organs was always exciting, knowing a life could be saved because of our efforts.
Eventually, where I chose to practice became a quality of life decision. I returned to the area where I was born and raised to be closer to family.
Grace Cottage Hospital is unlike any other hospital I’ve worked in. The care provided here is personal. My co-workers are like family. It is very rare for a CEO of any hospital to know every employee’s name. Roger Allbee, Grace Cottage’s CEO, addresses everyone by first name. Most mornings he stops at the nurses’ station to say hello and ask, “How are things going?” The community is supportive and loyal. It’s a very warm and caring environment.
As the Clinical Nurse Educator at Grace Cottage, I get to share my 28 years of nursing experience with less tenured nurses, guiding and improving their practice. This way, I get to encourage the next generation of nurses, while reinforcing and advancing the skills of those who’ve been in the field for a while.
Nursing is one of the fastest growing careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are currently 2,751,000 nursing positions in the United States. By the year 2024, it is estimated that number will rise to 3,190,300. Approximately 700,000 nurses are expected to retire over the next seven years.
Currently, supply is not meeting the demand. Therefore, healthcare facilities are getting creative in efforts to fill open positions. Large sign-on bonuses are offered, relocation fees are paid, and some hospitals have resorted to hiring nurses from other countries.
Grace Cottage Family Health and Hospital has recently added a student loan reimbursement program to its recruitment incentives. We are offering up to $5,000 a year for a maximum of 10 years for full-time nurses who are paying off loans directly related to their education. We are committed to assisting nurses with their loans in an effort to make sure that we have a strong staff in appropriate numbers. In this way, we can continue to promise the high quality, personalized care that Grace Cottage is known for.
Bio: Lisa May received an Associate’s Degree in Nursing from Castleton University in 1989, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from the University of North Carolina in 2009. She has been working in the Emergency Department at Grace Cottage since 2015 and recently transferred into the Clinical Nurse Educator role.