Nursing is an essential component of modern health care. A study done by the US Bureau of Health Professions indicates that by 2020, the need for nurses in the US will grow to more than 1.7 million registered nurses, while less than 635,000 nurses will be available. In fact, the US Department of Labor has identified Registered Nursing as the top occupation in terms of job growth through the year 2014.

A nurse can choose to work in a hospital, nursing home, rehabilitation center or other extended-care facility. They might 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. There are dozens of specialized fields of nursing. Some of the most popular include: nurse anesthesiologist, school nurse, forensic nursing, pediatric pursing, critical care nursing, and neonatal nursing. For profiles of various nursing career options, go to Nurse Source. An excellent guide to nursing degree preparation is available online.

Options for The College of Wooster Students

For students who have chosen to acquire an excellent liberal arts education degree from a school such as the College of Wooster, there are a number of paths to becoming a practicing nurse. Most students interested in nursing remain at Wooster for four years and enroll in a graduate-entry nursing program that serves as a gateway for students with a non-nursing, bachelor's degree to enter the nursing field. A few students have  taken advantage of the option for Wooster students to pursue a dual degree DNP program called the Senior-Year in Professional Studies Program (SYPS) with Case Western Reserve University.

For all options, it is important for students to meet with the Pre-Health advisor and become familiar with nursing admissions requirements in order to ensure they have completed the required coursework for admission by the time they graduate from the College of Wooster. There isn’t one universal set of requirements, so it is essential that students look at the requirements for the specific program they are considering.

To practice nursing, a RN is required, which is obtained by passing a state examination. Students may choose to obtain their RN by completing an accelerated BSN program (typically 16 – 18 months) after completing their Bachelor’s degree from Wooster. A more recommended path is to pursue a graduate program designed for students without a nursing degree that can lead to a MSN and practicing as an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN). Although the scope of practice for an APN varies from state to state, the scope of practice is greater than that of a RN and allows for more autonomy and independence.

Currently, advanced practice nursing requires completing a graduate program (further described below), which in most states is a Masters in Nursing (MSN), and passing the certification exam for that APN specialty. However, students need to be aware that the goal and policy that is gradually being adopted is to require a doctorate (DNP) in order to practice nursing at the APN level by 2015. This is ultimately enforced by each state’s Nurse Practice Act, which also defines just what APNs can do in their state.

Advanced Practice Nursing Specialties

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is uniquely prepared to assume the role of case manager - one who organizes and coordinates services and resources, and who works to control costs. The CNS is often involved in education including patient education, nursing staff education, non-nursing members of the team, community education, and teaching of undergraduate and graduate level nursing students. The CNS may practice independently, or they may work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and for various health care agencies. A CNS provides care in a broad range of specialty care areas such as cardiac, oncology, neonatal, and obstetric/gynecological nursing as well as pediatrics, neurological nursing, and psychiatric/mental health.

Nurse Practitioner (NP) conducts physical exams, diagnose and treat common acute illnesses and injuries; and perform many of the same care a physician might provide. NPs can prescribe medications in all states, with 25 states giving NPs authority to practice independently. NPs differ from physicians in that they focus on prevention, wellness, and education. NPs specialize in providing all encompassing individualized care. Specialties include Acute Care, Neonatal, Family, Psychiatric Mental Health, Adult, Pediatric, Gerontological, and Women’s Health. The subspecialty of Acute Care requires clinical experience in order to be accepted into the program.

Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM) provides prenatal and gynecological care to normal healthy women; deliver babies in hospitals, private homes, and birthing centers and continue with follow-up postpartum care.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) administer more than 65% of all anesthetics given to patients each year, and are the sole anesthesia providers in approximately two-thirds of all rural hospitals in the U.S. This program typically takes the longest to complete and is the most competitive. It requires clinical experience in order to be accepted into the program.

Types of Graduate Programs

Master Degree Programs:
There are an increasing number of Master Degree programs specifically designed for someone with a non-nursing undergraduate degree. Many are referred to as “direct-entry” or “graduate-entry” programs. Students in these programs typically complete a pre-licensure phase in typically two-years, which allows them to sit for the RN exam and, depending on the program, will lead to either a Master’s of Nursing (MN) accompanied by a certificate as a Certified Nurse Leader (CNL) or a generalist MSN degree. After completing this initial phase, students can pursue additional study within a chosen advanced practice specialty, which depending on the specialty, may require obtaining clinical experience first. Students who received a MN would receive a MSN after continued studies in an advanced practice level.  Students with a generalist MSN degree after the pre-licensure phase would need to complete a certificate program for the advanced practice specialty. It is possible to be able to practice at an advanced specialty level in a total of three years, however, times may be considerably longer, depending on the curriculum at a particular school and the advanced specialty program/major. Upon successful completion of the MSN, students must pass the certification exam for their chosen specialty. Many schools offer this degree.

Doctorate Programs:
The Doctorate of Nurse Practice (DNP) is an emerging doctoral program, thus the focus areas will vary by school. The goal is to prepare graduates for leadership positions in research, clinical care delivery, patient outcomes and system management. Graduates will be experts managing the complex balance between quality of care, access and fiscal responsibilities. The current goal (ideally to be met by 2015) is to require a doctorate degree in order to practice at the Advanced Practice Nursing level. Direct-entry or graduate-entry DNP programs that are designed for someone without a nursing degree mirror direct entry master’s programs through the completion of the MSN with the exception that students may be able to take some doctorate courses while in the MSN program. Therefore, they include a Pre-Licensure component to prepare a student to sit for the state RN exam, completion of a Master’s program (MSN), and passing a APN specialty certification exam, but adds a doctoral program of study. The DPN level is designed for working professionals and is often completed by a mixture of distance learning and on-site (weekend) classes. Each of the educational levels are typically done consecutively and not concurrently (although you can sometimes overlap a few courses) with students sometimes required or opting to obtain clinical experience between each component. The College of Wooster has entered into agreement with the Francis Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University to allow for a Senior Year in Professional Studies (SYPS) option for their DNP program.

Another doctorate degree is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) for nurse scholars and researchers who will contribute to the growth of nursing science through scholarly research that advances the theoretical foundation of nursing practice and health care delivery. Graduates will be qualified to engage in all dimensions of professional and scholarly life, including the conduct of scholarly inquiry, leadership in health care delivery systems and public policy formation.

For a good description of the type of nursing schools/program and listings of Ohio nursing schools, go to the Ohio League for Nursing, or for a more national scope, go to All Nursing Schools.