By Zoë Kanfelc

What You’ll Be Doing

Finally passed your prerequisites? We all see nurses in dramatic life-saving situations on TV, but what does their actual day-to-day life consist of? As a nurse, you may administer medication, consult with other healthcare providers, monitor patients, educate individuals and families, and hold responsibility for important records. 

“We treat patients thinking that we will be the educators, but more often than not, your patients are the ones teaching you,” Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences graduate Kristin Beard said. Because injury and illness have no time restrictions, many nurses work on weekends and certain holidays.

While they can work in hospitals, the location will not always be set in stone. They can work in clinics, ambulances, offices, and critical care too. This career built on caring helps people who are problem solvers, critical thinkers, and compassionate people thrive in the work force.

The classes you’ll take 

When deciding to declare a nursing major, you will realize it takes a lot of work. Many undergraduate nurses take classes in the sciences. Get ready to take chemistry, basic nutrition, human anatomy, physiology, human development, microbiology, nursing sciences classes, communication and pharmacology.

Quite a mouthful of a schedule, huh?

Depending on what program you decide to do, your classes may vary. However, the list above provides a general idea of what to expect. As you begin to take more specialized classes, a nursing student will participate in clinicals. Experiences in doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, hospitals or clinics help you get a feel for what you are actually doing.

Many schools built their own labs and clinics where students can practice different things. The technology makes learning in a classroom very hands-on without the fear of hurting a real human before you feel ready. Once you graduate, you will also pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) before you can start officially working as a nurse.

Internships for Nursing

Want real-life experiences? Lots of options for nursing students shed light when it comes for internships. College students and graduated alumni of all majors will agree that internships make an amazing way to get experience in your field. Internships will give you experiences and knowledge from working in the real workforce that classroom lectures and clinicals will just not give you. Opportunities to work with registered nurses in intensive care units or in the hospital room.

Many internships require you to work under the supervision of other nurses and actually provide hands-on care services to patients in need. “I have been working in an extended care facility working with geriatric patients. This experience has been very eye-opening to what the geriatric community goes through on a daily basis when they can’t do things for themselves and how frustrating that must be.  It has taught me patience,” PA College of Health Sciences sophomore Samm Ernst said.

Who knows, your internship might just land you your dream job working as a hotshot in a big hospital.

Career Opportunities

Want to specialize in the nursing field? The hundreds of options right at your fingertips for nursing majors should get you excited about your major and your career. From traveling to specialization in nursing homes, nurses work in every aspect of life to make it as enjoyable as possible. Take a look at these 5 nursing specializations to get pumped up about.

  • Research nurses dedicate their lives to evaluating, creating, and perfecting current common medical practices, treatments, and medications for all medical problems. Research nurses prepare evaluations of subjects and track their results as well as provide support for cleaning instruments and administer medication to subjects. Most research nurses work in pharmaceutical and medical research labs. If you communicate well, can embody patience, and love exploring the unknown then consider research.

  • Traveling Nurse – Many travel nurses partner with a company and provide medical services to their coworkers all over the world. Others partner with non-profits and administer care to people in third-world countries. As a travel nurse, you don’t worry about staff meetings, going to in-services or sitting on committees. Keeping care of patients comes as your top priority 24/7. After one year of experience, you can look for companies that hire nurses to travel with their workers. Sometimes they will send you do cool new cities all around the world and to tropical getaways, all part of the job.

  • Cruise Ship Nurse – Want a permanent staycation? Apply as a cruise ship nurse. A cruise ship nurse means a rewarding career but a change of scenery. In order to work as a nurse on the cruise ship, you’ll need special licensing and requirements. Most cruise ships require a nurse to experience three years in the field and advanced cardiac life support training. Cruise ship nurses deal with cardiac arrest, first aid, sea sickness, and bad sunburns.

  • Nurse Anesthetist – Nurse anesthetists work a rewarding job due to personal satisfaction, benefits, and a very nice salary. Nurse anesthetists take on a similar responsibility as anesthesiologists. This includes giving general and local anesthetics, spinal and nerve blocks, and performing epidurals. It takes about seven years of higher education to deliver anesthetic. You also have to pass a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) exam which requires 2,500 clinical hours and administering 850 anesthetics.

  • Pediatric Nurse – Does working with babies and teenagers seem like a dream come true? This awesome job will spark your interest if you want to work with children. Pediatric nurses work with children ranging from newborns to 19-years-old. They provide a variety of care for all age groups and it requires a lot of change. No day resembles another, especially when it comes to children and their growing bodies. Many times, pediatric nurses regularly take patients’ heights, weights, and development patterns. Nurses will work with children with other injuries like broken limbs which requires good communication skills to understand young children and inform or comfort the patient’s families.


“As an ER nurse who sometimes sees the worst of the worst… it’s not a bad job. It’s just a bad day. I love my job!” – Kristin Beard, PA College of Health Sciences grad

“I worked for 10 years in hospital settings, specializing in pediatrics. When I was working I really was in it because there was a lot of patient interaction. I felt that I was making a positive impact in the lives of my patients and their families. Nursing is still about service and helping people; however, there is not a lot of time to interact with patients. RNs are doing all the care management and there really is not time to get to know anyone.” –Vickie Sekits, San Francisco State Nursing School grad

“My nursing externship helped me tremendously in nursing school because this one-on-one preceptor experience fostered a new sense of confidence in my nursing skills that helped me through my last year of school.” – Emily Heise, University of Pittsburgh grad