Nursing involves treating, educating, and providing emotional support to patients. Nurses help doctors in providing health care for sick, injured, or disabled patients while also providing patients’ family members with assistance, awareness, and compassion. There are many types of nurses who work in different areas of the healthcare industry and have a wider range of responsibilities. To be a successful nurse, one must have knowledge of anatomy, medicines, and experience using medical equipment. Strong attention to detail, interpersonal communication skills, and empathy are also important to becoming a dedicated nurse. Because a great deal of responsibility is required in daily tasks, it is important for nurses to have a strong sense of ethics.

Different specialties within the field of nursing are:

  • Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs).

    Also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), these nurses work directly under physicians and registered nurses. They are responsible for the basic care needs of patients who are ill, disabled, injured, or convalescents. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), LPNs and LVNs also measure and record patients’ vital signs, prepare and give injections, and assist in bathing, dressing, or feeding infirm patients.

  • Registered Nurses (RNs).

    Registered nurse — or RN — is actually a catch-all term for any nurse who has earned a nursing diploma or degree and passed a national qualifying nursing exam. Nurses who are neither LPNs or LVNs are generally registered nurses.

  • Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs).

    With a wider array of responsibilities, including diagnosing patients and teaching them to manage injuries and illnesses, advanced practice nurses require more advanced credentials and clinical knowledge. There are four basic specializations under which advanced practice nurses fall: nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists. Most advanced practice nurses can diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medications, and in some instances perform routine exams in place of a physician. To become an advanced practice nurse, one must have at least a master’s degree.

  • Other nurse specializations.

    Nurses who work in specialized fields under physicians include cardiovascular nurses, dermatology nurses, gastroenterology nurses, gynecology nurses, nephrology nurses, neuroscience nurses, ophthalmic nurses, respiratory nurses, surgical nurses, and urology nurses.

What Can I Do With an Online Degree in Nursing?

For anyone who is thinking of switching careers, obtaining your nursing degree online may be the easiest option for balancing your education while maintaining a current full-time job. While it is more common to see experienced nurses earning advanced practice degrees over the Internet, there are a number of schools who offer associate and bachelor’s degrees in nursing online, as well as other training for LPNs and LVNs. To be hired for any nursing position, you will need certification and experience. An online degree in nursing can provide both knowledge and skills to aspiring nurses.

According to the BLS, the job outlook for nurses is excellent, with job growth expected to grow faster than the national average for all careers. This job growth is attributed to many spaces becoming available as more nurses retire, as well as the number of technological advances in health care that have led to patients living longer and healthier. Additionally, as more baby boomers retire, the growing number of retired citizens will need medical attention and care. Nurses can find employment in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and community centers, as well as in the government and the military. Some nurses may work as home health aides, which may require travel or commitment to one patient. Nurses can also find work in rehabilitation centers, clinics, emergency rooms, or in hospices and palliative care centers. Transport nurses treat patients that are being transported to hospitals via helicopter or airplane, while radiology nurses assist patients undergoing diagnostic or radiological treatment procedures. Wherever there are patients, there is a need for nurses.

In addition to positive job prospects, earning an advanced nursing degree online can lead to a higher salary. In 2008, the median annual wages for nurses were $62,450, according to the BLS. Salaries are dependent on the type of care provided and the type of facility where the nurse is employed. For example, nurses who work in general and emergency hospitals earned median annual wages of $63,880 in 2008, while nurses in home health care earned $58,740. Nursing home nurses earned on average $57,060 in 2008, and LPNs in nursing homes earned closer to $40,580 on average in 2008. Salaries for nurses are also dependent on their state or city of employment. The best state to work in as a registered nurse is California, with the highest-earning cities being the San Francisco metropolitan area ($98,900 annually in 2009), San Jose ($110,080), and Visalia ($111,030). The states with the highest annual salaries for LPNs in 2009 were California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.

What Is It Like To Get An Online Degree in Nursing?

Online degree programs in nursing may seem unusual because of the amount of hands-on clinical training required for earning nursing credentials. Most online nursing programs allow students to complete clinical hours through local and university hospitals. Nursing students who attend class online can also get training in treating patients and using medical equipment at local nursing homes and other health clinics. While some programs offer simulated labs where students can satisfy clinical requirements, others have virtual hospitals where patients can be accessed, diagnosed, and treated. Through these simulated and virtual labs, students can also get practice on measuring and reading a patient’s vital signs. Every online program works differently to ensure that nursing students are able to complete hands-on training on their own schedule.

In addition to clinical training, online nursing programs allow students to gain knowledge and expertise in pharmacology, physiology and anatomy, nutrition, and medical terminology. Most online programs will prepare nursing students for the NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN examinations.

Most online nursing schools offer accelerated programs, as well. These are usually offered to students with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in fields other than nursing, but they are also available to trained, experienced nurses hoping to earn a more advanced degree or nursing position. The most common accelerated nursing programs online are RN to BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) programs and BSN to DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) programs.