Need a career change? Nursing needs you

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(ARA) - Registered nursing - already the largest health care occupation with 2.7 million jobs - is on a massive growth trajectory. Employment of registered nurses (RNs) is expected to increase by 26 percent by 2020 and nursing was recently ranked No. 1 in the U.S. News and World Report's "Best Jobs" list for 2012.

Stephanie Augustin, 27, of Miramar, Fla., can attest to the nursing profession's appeal. After earning a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in reading education, Augustin worked as a fifth-grade science teacher. But various factors made her question her job stability as a new teacher, including her school's budget cuts and new salary regulations.

Deciding to seek a new career opportunity, Augustin left her position as an elementary teacher to pursue nursing, enrolling in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program at Chamberlain College of Nursing. As a full-time student, Augustin will take three years to complete the program, with flexible online classes, which allow her to work as a tutor while enrolled in school.

"I'm confident in my decision to transition to a more in-demand career," says Augustin. "Nursing provides an opportunity for me to renew each patient's sense of hope and trust in the health care process, allowing me to feel better as an individual by lending a helping hand during my patient's time of need.

"It's still in my heart to teach," she adds, "but I'd rather teach people how to stay healthy."

The nursing profession can offer many qualities that job-seekers and career-changers find attractive, such as job stability, flexibility and career advancement opportunities. Additionally, nursing is a well-respected field and has been named the most trusted profession for 11 of the last 12 years, according to the annual Gallup Poll survey.

"Many job-seekers and career-changers are looking for a profession that is not only ripe with opportunity but also a personally rewarding livelihood," says Michelle Mercurio, national manager of career services at Chamberlain College of Nursing. "Although nursing can be challenging, nurses have the opportunity to really make a positive impact in a patient's life, allowing the nurses to give personally and feel satisfied at the end of the day - knowing they made a difference."

Several different academic paths can lead to a nursing career, but many employers prefer to hire nurses who have a BSN degree rather than an associate degree in nursing. Research shows that more positive patient outcomes occur when nurses are prepared at the baccalaureate level. One group of researchers found that every 10 percent increase in the proportion of BSN nurses on the hospital staff was associated with a 4 percent decrease in the risk of death.

Recognizing the increased need for more highly educated nurses, many nursing schools now offer accelerated BSN degree programs.

Chamberlain, for example, enables students like Augustin to earn their BSN degree in as few as three years of year-round study, allowing them to enter the workforce sooner than their peers. In addition, students can earn advanced degrees, including a master of science in nursing with a specialization in the in-demand areas of nursing education, executive leadership or the high-tech discipline of nursing informatics.

The high level of fulfillment provided by the nursing profession, combined with job stability, flexibility and employment and advancement opportunities, make it a rewarding lifelong career.