Nursing is a demanding career, as nurses are often responsible for complete patient care and primary care services. Not only do registered nurses (RNs) have to provide patient care, but they also have to educate patients and their families about preventive healthcare and wellness.
At the same time, the field of nursing is constantly evolving and embracing new practices and technologies to ensure better patient outcomes. So, just being a registered nurse may not be sufficient — it is crucial that nurses seriously think about pursuing higher education in nursing if they want to taste professional success and make a meaningful contribution to the health and wellness of their local community.
Studies show that there is a link between higher nursing education and patient outcomes. These studies have found that when nurses have a higher degree, it significantly reduces the risk of patient death. So, those who are passionate about patient care and want to ensure the best treatment outcomes should not think twice about enrolling in a higher-degree nursing program.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that the demand for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) will grow 40% from 2021 to 2031. This rate of growth is much faster than that of other occupations. It estimates that just over 30,000 APRNs will be needed each year until 2031 to meet the increasing demand for care.
Another reason to pursue higher education in nursing is the shortage of faculty in nursing schools. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported in October 2022 that over 2,000 full-time faculty positions were vacant in over 900 nursing schools across the US. One can even become a nurse educator if they want to train and educate future nurses. Nurse educators have a direct impact on the world of nursing as they will be responsible for honing the skills and knowledge of future nurses.
Nurse educators can teach in different settings, including nursing schools and colleges, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations. They influence the next generation of nurses and do their bit to improve the field of nursing. Walsh University offers an online Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Educator program. The program is designed to help students understand procedures, skills, and clinical reasoning. That, in turn, works to improve nursing practice.
It also teaches how to create a curriculum, adopt different teaching strategies and encourage professional growth and development among student nurses. This master’s program requires a BSN degree from an accredited nursing school, a valid RN license, and official transcripts. Potential students will be happy to learn that there is no GRE required for enrolling in this program.
However, pursuing higher education in nursing can also present various challenges, and they can often pose an obstacle. But, weighing the pros and cons of higher education will give a balanced view. That, in turn, will enable people to make an informed decision.
Benefits of Higher Education in Nursing
For those who are sitting on the fence and still contemplating whether higher education is worthwhile, here are some of the pros to be aware of:
More Career Opportunities
When one decides to pursue higher education in nursing, it opens up a wide range of career opportunities. Advanced degrees such as a master’s, post-masters, or doctorate can lead to specialized nursing roles, such as nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse educator, or nurse researcher.
Higher Earning Potential
Higher education in nursing is often linked with higher salary potential. BLS reports that RNs earn around $77,000 annually. In contrast, nurses with a master’s degree earn about $123,000 annually. That is a $46,000 difference, which is quite significant.
Development of Advanced Clinical Skills
Enrolling in a master’s degree program will enable nursing students to develop advanced clinical skills and expertise that are crucial in providing quality patient care. Advanced degrees provide training in complex areas such as pharmacology, patient assessment, and critical thinking skills, which can enhance a nurse’s ability to diagnose and treat patients effectively.
Opportunities for Leadership and Management Roles
Completing a master’s program in nursing can open up numerous job opportunities, especially for those who are keen to take up leadership roles. Many of the advanced degrees in nursing are designed to help nurses become leaders so that they can not only manage teams but also implement the best nursing practices to improve patient outcomes.
Continuing Professional Development
Nurses with advanced degrees are often required to engage in ongoing education to maintain their certification, stay up to date with the latest medical practices, and continue to enhance their skills throughout their careers. As a result, they can ensure that they constantly grow and develop as an APRN.
Challenges Nurses Face when Pursuing Higher Education
As mentioned earlier, it is not easy for RNs to pursue higher education. They face several challenges that prevent them from enrolling in a degree program, such as:
Higher education in any field, especially nursing, requires a significant time commitment. This is especially true for nurses, who invariably work full-time or may have certain personal obligations. Higher education programs usually require extensive coursework, research projects, and clinical rotations. It can be challenging for nurses to balance their studies with work and family responsibilities.
Those who decide to pursue a master’s degree will realize that it can be expensive. They may have to rely on personal savings, student loans, or scholarships to finance their education. The cost of textbooks, tuition, and clinical supplies can add up quickly, causing a tremendous strain on personal finances. This could prevent some people from seeking admission to a master’s program.
Balancing work, Home, and School Responsibilities
Many nursing students continue working while they attend school. This can result in added stress and exhaustion. Balancing work and school can be quite challenging, especially if you have family obligations, such as caring for elderly relatives or children. With study, work, and family responsibilities, one may feel overwhelmed, tired, and stressed. As a result, they might make poor healthy lifestyle choices and be constantly on edge. Thinking about all these issues may prevent you from enrolling in an advanced degree course.
Burnout Can be Problematic
Research shows that burnout among nursing students is a common problem. These students experience high levels of stress due to workload, competition, inflexible curriculum, and preparation for the licensure examination. The emotional and mental exhaustion and stress due to studies can lead to apathy, insomnia, frustration, and anxiety.
That, in turn, leads to poor learning outcomes. That is one of the reasons effective nurse educators often emphasize self-care. Nursing students are told to make self-care a priority and practice stress-relief techniques to prevent burnout and maintain their mental and physical health.
Navigating the Complexities of the Higher Education System
Nursing students may find it complicated and overwhelming to understand and fulfill the admission requirements, write applications for financial aid and comprehend the course registration process. This can lead to giving up midway or postponing their enrollment in a higher education program.
Things you need to consider before enrolling for higher Education in Nursing
Those who are keen to pursue higher education in nursing but still have a few doubts should consider the following:
Nursing students should determine what they want to achieve through their education, such as specializing in a specific field, pursuing leadership roles, or advancing their clinical skills. This can help them to choose the right educational program and institution that aligns with their career goals.
Research different educational programs and admission requirements
Students should look for educational programs to find the best fit for their career goals and personal needs. They should consider factors such as program length, curriculum, clinical requirements, and admission requirements. When they make an effort to do this, they will be able to choose the best option for them.
Select the Right Educational Institution
When deciding to pursue a master’s program in nursing, it is crucial to choose the right educational institution. Consider factors such as location, program reputation, accreditation, faculty, and student support services. Also, see whether the institutions offer online and part-time nursing programs.
For instance, Walsh University’s MSN-NE program is an online master’s program that has highly experienced and knowledgeable faculty and offers clinical placement support to students. This program can be the right fit for those who want to make a difference as nurse educators but do not want to leave their current place of residence and work.
Research Financial Aid Options
As mentioned before, higher education, especially in nursing, can be expensive. So, research different financial aid options, including federal and state grants, student loans, and scholarships. Speak to the admissions counselor at your chosen educational institution to find out if the institution offers financial aid or has a scholarship program to apply for. Applicants should apply for as many options as possible to minimize the financial burden.
Build a Support System
When finally enrolling in a master’s program in nursing, one should not try to go on alone, which would be stressful and exhausting. Instead, they should look to surround themselves with supportive friends and family members.
Also, nursing students might get a mentor, who can offer encouragement and guidance throughout their academic journey. They can also look for peer support groups, tutoring services, and other resources that the educational institution offers to help them succeed.
Strategies to Adopt to Succeed as a Higher Education Nursing Student
Studying at any level is hard work but it is more tedious when pursuing higher education in nursing. Hence, students should have strategies that will allow them to complete their academic journey without hassle and pave the way for professional success in the future.
Learn to Manage time Productively
One of the major problems that nursing students face is issues with time management. So, develop a schedule or planner to manage time effectively and prioritize tasks based on their importance and urgency. Organize study space, notes, and materials to maximize productivity and minimize distractions.
Make Optimal use of Available Resources and Support Services
Utilizing resources and support services can also help nursing students succeed in their academic pursuits. Taking advantage of different resources such as tutoring services, roleplays, nursing simulation activities, academic advisors, licensure practice questions and faculty office hours can provide the guidance and support that is required throughout the academic journey.
Do not Neglect Self-care
Nursing studies can be stressful, especially for those who continue working. Hence, engaging in self-care and stress-relief techniques can help maintain mental and physical health while pursuing higher education in nursing. These techniques will help later on when graduates assume leadership roles and get more responsibilities. Incorporating activities such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies into a routine to help manage stress and prevent burnout. Prioritizing self-care can also improve academic performance and overall well-being.
Network and Build Professional Relationships
Networking can also be beneficial after one completes their master’s program. Though universities do help with clinical placements, it is a good idea for nursing students to expand their professional contacts. You may get better opportunities as a result. So, look to attend professional conferences, join nursing organizations and participate in volunteer opportunities to build your network and gain valuable experience.
Maintain a Positive Attitude and Mindset
Nursing students embarking on a master’s program may face a few challenges. However, they should not let that detract them from their goals. Instead, it is important to embrace a growth mindset and view challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Focus on strengths and celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem.
Choosing to pursue higher education in nursing can be a challenging but rewarding experience. It is a significant investment in the future. So, consider the long-term benefits and the impact a master’s degree can have on career and professional development. With dedication and hard work, along with a willingness to learn, students can achieve their nursing and career goals without a problem. Using the tips mentioned here will help to make the academic journey easier and more fulfilling.