CCU nursing student working in medical lab

How to Further Your Nursing Career with Continued Education

Few things last forever, but nursing is one of the few unique professions that are always needed. There will always be a need for professionals to help the sick and injured among us. There will always be a need for knowledgeable nursing professionals to show others how to improve their health.

As a nursing professional, it's important to continue learning and staying up-to-date with the latest technology and research. Especially if you want to advance in your career."It's important to be a lifelong learner," said Dr. Kristen Mauk, Director of Graduate Nursing Programs at Colorado Christian University. "That's the takeaway. Never stop learning. Always look at evidence-based practice and practice what the research shows. When you're a lifelong learner, that can make all the difference."

Before you choose what type of education you will need, it's important to identify which nursing path you want to take. Here are some options and the education track to help you get there.

Pick your Nursing Path

When Florence Nightingale founded modern nursing, it was a fringe profession, and soap was a cutting-edge tool. Today, nursing is the largest healthcare profession in the country, with roughly 4.2 million registered nurses nationwide and more than 200,000 new positions added each year, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Your options in terms of education and advancement vary as much as the individual fields you seek to serve. Let's look at seven popular nursing paths/specialties to explore:

1. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Certified nursing assistants are assistants to nurses in hospitals, nursing homes, and other adult care facilities. The responsibilities of a CNA are less than that of a nurse, and the education requirements follow suit. CNAs are required to complete a 4-8 week certification program. However, an associate degree is helpful to have. CNA is a non-licensed entry-level position.

2. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is a licensed professional that is a step above a CNA. LPNs will assist in more nursing specialties, such as updating medical records and helping with medication administration. LPNs have more educational requirements than CNAs, starting with a one-year LPN program.

3. Registered Nurse (RN)

Registered nurses (RNs) work in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and outpatient facilities. Becoming a Registered Nurse does not require earning a bachelor's degree, but that is increasingly becoming the norm with Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs, and RN-to-BSN programs designed to help practicing nurses earn their bachelor's degrees.

4. Home Health Nurse

Home health nurses provide patients with one-on-one care in their homes. Selecting which patients you will service offers nursing professionals more flexibility in scheduling. For example, home health nurses may have several patients they visit regularly.

5. School Nurse

School nurses work in public health to protect and promote student wellness and overall academic success. School nurses must have a bachelor's degree and a registered nurse license.

6. Emergency Room Nurse

Emergency room nurses work with patients in the E.R. who have experienced a traumatic or severe injury, many of which are life-threatening. To become an E.R. nurse, you must obtain, at minimum, an associate degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

7. Advanced Practice Nurse (APRN)

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) have a minimum of a master's degree but often have a doctoral degree. APRNs are educated in diagnosing and treating diseases as well as promoting health. There are four main types of APRNs: nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists

Other types of nurses include labor and delivery nurses, rehabilitation nurses, orthopedic nurses, nurse educators, nurse administrators, and nurses in various other specialties.

Never Stop Learning

At a minimum, most nurses must take continuing education credits and regularly re-certify in life-saving procedures such as CPR and the like to maintain the status quo. However, if you desire to move up and make an even more significant impact, you must take that next step in education and training.

More and more nurses are turning to graduate school to move into leadership positions and advance their careers.

By earning an advanced degree, you can open many doors regarding career growth: nursing educator, charge nurse, care manager, program coordinator, university professor, etc.

"That's one of the great things about nursing," Mauk said. "When you have a master's degree, many more doors are open to you, whether in practice or education. By getting certified in a specialty area, you can validate your knowledge and move up the ladder in your field."

Since earning your BSN is the baseline, let's look at ways you can grow your career from there.

Advanced Degree Opportunities

"Advancing your education by earning a master's degree in nursing is one of the considerable ways you can advance in your career," Mauk said.

One of the more popular advanced degree program options today is the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Nurses interested in growing their careers can choose to earn an MSN, which qualifies them to perform advanced care to patients or become nursing educators and mentors to others in their field.

The MSN program at CCU has an emphasis that prepares candidates for the latter option to fill what is becoming a daunting need in healthcare throughout the country.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing professions were facing a severe shortage. With a growing population of Baby Boomers aging and in need of healthcare, the demand was outgrowing the ability of the current nursing field to meet. That has only been exacerbated by more nurses from that generation retiring and the onset of the pandemic.

In a U.S. News & World Report report, the nursing field was facing a projected shortage of more than 100,000 nurses even before the pandemic. Due to sudden job loss due to the pandemic, burnout, lack of training or support, retiring Baby Boomers, and a host of other issues, that shortage has increased.

The problem is more profound, with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reporting that a shortage of nursing educators to serve as faculty is forcing some nursing programs to turn away students interested in becoming R.N.s because they need more resources to be required to train them.

"There is a huge faculty shortage," Mauk said. "The lack of qualified nurse educators, particularly in academia, is growing."

For nurses interested in remaining in patient care but still interested in advancing their careers, there is the MSN program with an emphasis on Clinical Care Management in Adult and Geriatrics. This program offers advanced education for RNs who would like to work as an APRN with adults and older adults. The clinical nurse specialist (CSN) role gives you the tools to significantly impact patient-care settings and organizational leadership or managerial positions.

"The CNS emphasis is broader than the Nurse Practitioner (NP)," Mauk said. "Clinical nurse specialists can still prescribe medication like an NP if they choose, but the CNS role is well-suited for nurses who want to become leaders in their organization."

Nurses who have already earned their MSN – which may include nurse practitioners, nurse administrators, healthcare leaders, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse educators – are eligible to apply to enroll in the Doctor of Nurse Practice in Visionary Leadership program at CCU.

This doctoral program prepares expert-level care providers with advanced competencies to engage in industry-changing projects through evidence-based practice and to improve healthcare outcomes in their facilities and the industry.

CCU's DNP program can be completed in as little as 24 months and prepares graduates for career advancement in roles such as Director of Nursing, CNO, academic nursing faculty nurse entrepreneur, and more.

How Can CCU Help?

Like all programs at CCU, the nursing degree is taught with a Christian worldview while focusing on providing patients with the highest standard of care in all clinical settings. Pursuing your nursing degree at CCU means you will not only receive a world-class education, but you will also get the biblical integration that prepares you to use nursing as ministry.

Whether you're starting with your BSN degree or continuing on to pursue your MSN or DNP, CCU has what you need to succeed.


Colorado Christian University does not guarantee any job placement as a result of earning this or any other degrees offered by the university.

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