Applying transferable skills to a nursing degree

Nursing may be a thoroughly challenging and demanding profession, but it is also one of the most respected and sought-after jobs in the world. Indeed, it is increasingly common for people to select nursing as a second career after initially working in another field. Often, people who have already worked in other areas can draw on a wide range of transferable skills that can help them thrive in their new profession. So, what kind of people are typically choosing to go into nursing, what kind of pathway can they hope to have, and how can their current experience benefit them in their future career?

This article will look at the motivations for moving into nursing, the various transferable skills professionals might have, and the advantages they can bring to a nursing career. In addition, it will also look at the possible higher education options in this field, how to identify nursing skillsets, and the added benefits of experience and lifelong learning.


A vital calling

Nursing is one of the most difficult professions in the world, yet many people seek it out as a second career. Arguably, this is in part because it is so challenging. As nursing is demanding, often varied, and extremely busy, it can be the perfect alternative to a quiet nine-to-five office job. In addition, the fact that the basic goal of a nurse is to help other people – often in difficult or upsetting situations – can make it a refreshing change from other professions where the focus might be exploitation or profit-making. After all, many people seek something meaningful in life, and helping to improve people’s health is a clear, positive, and potentially extremely rewarding objective.

Another significant advantage of the nursing profession is that it is in very high demand. A combination of staff shortages, an aging population, and a rise in the number of people seeking medical or psychiatric care means that there is no shortage of work for nurses. The number of available positions is only set to grow for the foreseeable future. This means that nurses are not only highly appreciated by society for the crucial role they play in helping patients, but also by healthcare providers, whose success depends heavily on establishing a well-trained and highly effective nursing team.

This demand tends to lead to an above-average level of job security, whether nurses are employed in hospitals, private practices, mental health facilities or any other area of medicine. The job also tends to be highly varied, with an emphasis on examining and treating patients while providing vital assistance to physicians, plus administering medicine, administrative work, and a wide range of other tasks and duties. There are also plenty of opportunities for career advancement in the field of nursing, through greater specialization in a particular field of medicine, or as a nurse leader, senior management figure, or Nurse Practitioner (NP). As a result, it is an extremely viable career in the short and long-term.

Crossover skills: admin and finance

People move into nursing from a wide range of different professions. While some might arrive from similar areas, such as caring for the elderly or other vulnerable people, others come from seemingly unrelated fields, such as HR or marketing. In each case, however, there will almost certainly be plenty each individual can bring to the table. Someone who has worked in a HR position, for example, should have valuable people skills that could be extremely useful in dealing with patients and other staff members, while they are also likely to be competent in organization and administration.

Indeed, previous experience in any kind of admin-related job can be a huge advantage, given the significant administrative burden often faced in healthcare institutions. Whether dealing with suppliers and completing orders, managing complaints, or navigating intricate client management software, previous experience is often extremely useful. The same applies for anyone who has worked in financial administration or similar areas. Once again, this is relevant to healthcare organizations where budgeting and other finance-related concerns are of fundamental importance in ensuring smooth operations.

Public-facing and high pressure

People involved in customer-facing jobs, whether working in a call center, a café, or a store, will also have a significant amount of experience dealing with the public daily. Someone who enjoys this kind of work and feels comfortable communicating with people, particularly in uncomfortable or stressful situations, will have a significant head start with certain aspects of the nursing profession. Any experience of high-pressure situations can be a huge plus, while previous positions of responsibility and leadership can also prove to be helpful, especially for advancing a nursing career.

People who choose to pursue a nursing career can also come from many other professions, including a science or academic background, teaching or childcare, or other medical or care-related roles. In each case, they will bring an important skillset that can in some way be applied in the field of nursing. Naturally, there will always be new areas and skills to learn, and some situations where their current knowledge may not apply, but it is important to remember that this is the case for anyone entering the profession of nursing for the first time.

The value of life skills

Even someone with no work experience can apply for nursing school. In fact, many nursing students come directly from school, and often have little or no professional experience. When applying to nursing school from this position, it makes more sense to focus not only on previous education, but also on personality traits and soft skills that are particularly well-suited to the profession. Enthusiasm for the job and dedication to nursing are also critical factors to consider.

In addition to their work, successful nurses often draw on their life experiences. For example, some individuals may have helped care for a loved one in the past, have extensive personal experience with medical treatment, or have volunteered in an area where caring or kindness were paramount. Similarly, parenthood can also be a valuable skill, particularly for prospective nurses interested in working in pediatric care.

Regardless of their personal background, work experience, and level of education, anyone who would like to become a nurse must also acquire the necessary knowledge, training, and qualifications to enter the profession. While it is possible in some fields to learn on the job, preparation and education are absolutely key in the field of nursing, where staff bear the highest level of responsibility daily: helping patients manage their health.

Study options

The first and most important step for individuals seeking a nursing career is to qualify as a Registered Nurse (RN). Though there are several possibilities in the US, one particularly popular option, especially among people interested in nursing as a second career, is to complete an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. This course is specially designed for people who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field and would like to finish their nursing degree. Wilkes University offers an ABSN course that will fast-track students to getting their Bachelor of Science in Nursing, covering all the applicable topics and preparing them for a successful career in the nursing field. Applicants for these courses tend to come from a wide range of academic backgrounds, including not only health and science-related fields, but also the arts and humanities, business, engineering, and education.

When applying for a nursing degree, applicants should first note down all their previous work experience and the specific duties and tasks involved. In addition, it is a good idea for applicants to go through all the typical duties of a nurse. From there, it should be possible to identify areas of correlation and similarity, where individuals may be able to transfer skills across to both the initial degree and subsequent work as a nurse.

Qualified in 12 months

With an ABSN, students can master the fundamental theories and practices of medicine and nursing in an accelerated period, usually one year. Completing an online ABSN degree at Wilkes University, for example, will give prospective nurses the opportunity to learn about the basics of physical assessment. They will also cover nursing theory in relation to treating individual patients, their families, and communities, as well as medication and pharmacology.

In addition to theoretical study, ABSN students also receive plenty of practical experience through organized clinical placements that connect them with real patients under the supervision of a preceptor or clinical instructor. Furthermore, the online nature of the course makes it possible to maintain a full or part-time job while studying (though the intense, demanding nature of the degree should be kept in mind). Removing the requirement to relocate to a campus university also adds further flexibility.

A lifelong pathway

Naturally, a nurse’s learning path continues far beyond graduation, continuing with their first job as a fully registered nurse. The first couple positions graduates will have are likely to give them a much clearer idea of the specific path they would like to follow. In addition, they will also give new nurses the chance to build on formal education and learn how to apply the knowledge gained in the degree in a practical setting.

Lifelong learning is another vital component in the career of any nurse. Particularly at the start of their career, nurses will often lean on the support of peers and more experienced nurses. Other health professionals can also provide important advice, whether through informal discussions or structured mentoring programs. In addition, the best nurses also try to stay updated in their chosen field through private reading, attending conferences, or participating in online discussion or analysis. Finally, there are also opportunities for further structured education in the form of postgraduate degrees in higher education or formal training courses.

The right place to be

Nursing is an extremely rewarding and attractive option as a second career. Though it is never easy to start again, and the prospect can at times appear daunting, there is also a wide array of transferable skills. Prospective nurses can take these skills from their previous working experience and apply them to their new profession. Indeed, experience in another field can often be a distinct advantage, as these individuals can bring a different kind of expertise and new perspectives to the world of nursing. In turn, this can lead to a valuable boost for the nursing field in areas as diverse as efficiency of operations, innovative care approaches, and effective patient management.

However, the path to becoming a successful nurse is not always an easy one. Learning to examine, treat, and assist patients is exceptionally demanding, and requires a detailed knowledge of many different branches of medicine and nursing practice. It is also essential to be not only highly determined, cool under pressure, and skilled in applying complex medical theory, but also empathetic and comfortable with dealing with diverse people in a variety of situations. There is no question that it remains one of the most challenging careers in existence, but it is also one of the most rewarding and important.