Advanced Degree: To Be or Not?
Hollis Forster, RN
So now, you have been doing hospital or clinic nursing for some time, maybe a year, or three years, or five, and you are thinking about a change of direction. Maybe you are beginning to succumb to the all-too-common “burn out” that new nurses seem to experience. Will more schooling help? Will one of a number of advanced nursing degrees help keep a good nurse (you) in the system? Will a new field of nursing re-new your interest? Or perhaps you are not necessarily considering gardening as a new vocation, but you notice that you may want more; more autonomy, more authority, more intellectual stimulation or more ability to influence change.
Once you have chosen a career in nursing, you realize you may be on this path for thirty or forty years and it may feel limited and uncreative at times. It is very important as a nurse to stay engaged and satisfied intellectually and to assure a favorable financial reward for your work. Pursuing a more advanced degree can open new paths and new possibilities that allow you to create a unique niche in the world of nursing, thereby, ensuring continued satisfaction throughout your long and successful career.
Consider the possibilities that these advanced degrees could offer you:
1. Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)- in any number of fields
2. Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
3. Nurse practitioner (NP)- a generalist or specialty
4. Certified nurse midwife (CNM)
These degrees allow for specialization in a particular area of interest. Delving deeper into one specialty can be very exciting. Instead of having a cursory understanding of many physiological systems, you develop a much more complete understanding of one system or area of practice. For some, this increased understanding can increase satisfaction with the job and with themselves. Becoming more specialized also introduces you into a community of professionals engaged in research or practice in your area of interest. This in itself can be very inviting.
Then, consider the avenue of pursuing a Master’s degree or a PhD in nursing or in healthcare administration. This path can lead to teaching (at any level), research, or developing a healthcare consultant role in a variety of fields.
The direct patient-nurse relationship is the foundation that supports us all, but the possibility of being a catalyst for change in an environment that needs to change and grow in response to new technologies, new discoveries of the human system and new political environments is enticing to many nurses.
In terms of salaries, some of these advanced degrees can lead to beginning salaries of $60-90,000 a year depending on the geographic area of practice. In some states nurse practitioners can set up solo practices with coverage and referral arrangements with a local physician.
These paths lead to more autonomy and responsibility, sometimes more socially-friendly hours (but do not count on that if you choose to pursue a CNM degree) and more employability.
Imagine delivering babies, accepting the role of dean of a teaching institution, managing the set up of your community’s emergency preparedness plan or traveling to Africa to help local physicians and nurses learn new technologies that can help them save more lives.
Obtaining an advanced degree could lead to these jobs or any number of others. They could also just deepen, refine and enhance the work you are currently doing with your hospital or clinic patients. Remember that however you intend to use an advanced degree…keep learning, keep growing and keep imaging your unique path and contribution to the health of your community and the nursing world. This is the way to expand nursing into a wide career path for life.