Deciding between a nursing career in acute care vs. long-term care

If you're deciding whether to take on a nursing career in an acute care setting versus a long-term care setting, consider the pros and cons of each. If you already have some experience in the field, you may have an idea of which is a better fit for you – but for others, you may be curious what life is like on the other side.

Here are a few things to consider when making a career change:

Working in an acute care setting

In an acute care setting – which most hospital patients receive – nurses act as an advocate for patients and their families. According to Rasmussen College, acute care nurses help make diagnoses, address current treatment needs and assist physicians in their work.

If you like seeing lots of different patients every day and treating a number of conditions, a career in acute nursing may be right for you. It's important to remember, however, that acute care nurses get few opportunities to make lasting connections with their patients. Likewise, they are kept constantly on their toes as they switch from one patient to the next over the course of each shift.

Working in a long-term care setting

Long-term care settings can differ somewhat, depending on the specialty of the organization. Long-term care nurses could work with hospice patients, nursing home residents or with patients recovering from serious ailments such as cancer. According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, long-term care usually constitutes facilities that care for patients for longer than 25 days.

"Emotional fatigue is a concern among hospice nurses."

In this case, nurses help patients with daily tasks such as bathing and getting dressed. They are more involved with each patient's overall health care plan. Plus, they are able to make personal connections with each patient they work with.

On the other hand, long-term care nurses also see patients in dire conditions and may need to attend to end-of-life needs. This can quickly cause emotional fatigue.

Over the course of your nursing career, you may find yourself in either of these care settings. Some nurses may prefer to stick to one or the other, while others may like to switch things up periodically. If you're just starting your career, consider gaining experience in both fields to determine which is right for you.

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