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The Best Grants and Scholarships for Nursing Students

Here's what you need to do, when you need to apply, and how much you can get when it comes to nursing school financial aid.

2018-10-29

Image of student walking outside of university building
Image via Unsplash.com/Victoria Heath

The U.S. healthcare system is due for some big changes. An ever-increasing aging population means there will be a growing demand for healthcare professionals — specifically nurses. According to the American Nurses Association, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2022 we will need 1.1 million new nurses to join the labor force if we want to avoid a nursing shortage.

But going to nursing school isn’t cheap. Educational costs for a nursing program can range anywhere between $40,000 to $200,000, according to the College Investor. Before you rethink your career path, look into all the financial aid options at your disposal to help offset tuition costs. The most popular forms of financial aid are grants and scholarships, so here's some helpful information about those options to assist in your search.

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Grants vs. Scholarships: What’s the Difference?

Grants and scholarships can be valuable sources of support for nursing students looking to pursue either an undergraduate or graduate degree. However, there are a few important differences between the two that you should be aware of before you start sending in applications.

Grants are typically awarded based on a student's financial need. Students must indicate that they need monetary assistance when they fill out the financial aid form associated with a specific grant. This type of aid usually comes from federal, state, and local governments, as well as from colleges and universities, and it does not need to be repaid.

Scholarships can be awarded to students based on merit, financial need, or both. Merit-based programs typically tend to focus on students’ academic achievement and/or their level of community service. Scholarships are offered by a whole host of entities, including schools, healthcare companies, philanthropic organizations, government agencies, and nonprofits. Depending on the rules set by the funding organization, the award money can go either to the recipient’s school or to the recipient themselves to pay for things like school supplies. Scholarships, like grants, do not need to be paid back, which makes them another appealing option for students.

Every nursing student’s needs are different, so you’ll need to find the scholarships and grants that fit your life, background, and interests. The application window for most financial aid opportunities closes before the start of the semester. If you've missed the deadline, don't worry. Many awards open up on an annual or per-semester basis. Each scholarship will have different eligibility criteria and application requirements. We’ve provided the high-level takeaways for you below. If some of them sound appealing, be sure to check out their respective websites for more details.

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Federal Scholarships & Grants for Nursing Students

The federal government provides a variety of grants and scholarships for nursing students who are U.S. citizens or eligible noncitizen (U.S. permanent resident with a permanent resident card) with a valid Social Security number. The money can be used for undergraduate- or graduate-level programs.

To apply, you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form offered by the U.S. Department of Education. It's free to fill out and can give you access to grants, federal student loans, and work-study funds to help you pay for school. The amount of money you receive will depend on your demonstrated financial need. You will need to reapply for the FAFSA each academic year because your financial needs may change over time.

The following are some of the most popular scholarship and grant programs offered by the federal government.

The National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program

  • Offered By: The Human Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) National Health Service Corps
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. national and be eligible for federal employment.
    • You must be a full-time student who is currently enrolled or accepted for enrollment at an accredited school or program.
    • You must be pursuing a degree in an eligible discipline. For nurses, the disciplines are a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, or physician assistant.
    • You must NOT have “an existing obligation to a federal, state, or other entity for professional practice or service after academic training.”
    • Applicants must commit to providing primary health care services for at least two years in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA).
  • Award Amount: In exchange for their work, applicants will be eligible to receive funding for their education.
  • Application Deadline: Rolling

The NURSE Corps Scholarship Program

  • Offered By: The HRSA Bureau of Health Workforce
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident.
    • You must NOT have any federal judgment liens nor an existing service commitment.
    • You must NOT be overdue on federal debt.
    • You must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a professional nursing degree program at an accredited school of nursing in the U.S.
    • You must start classes no later than Sept. 30.
    • Applicants must commit to working at an eligible facility with a critical shortage of nurses after graduation.
  • Award Amount: In exchange for their work, recipients will receive financial support for tuition, eligible fees, an annual payment for “other reasonable costs” (e.g., books, clinical supplies), and a monthly stipend.
  • Application Deadline: June

The Federal Pell Grant Program

  • Offered By: The U.S. Department of Education
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • Pell Grants are awarded to those who have not earned a bachelor's, graduate, or professional degree. Specifically, it is awarded to undergraduate students who have exceptional financial need.
    • You cannot receive Federal Pell Grant funds from multiple schools at once.
  • Award Amount:
    • Award amount will vary
    • Students will be paid at least once per academic term.
  • Application Deadline: June

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State-Funded Scholarships & Grants for Nursing Students

At the state level, nursing students have the opportunity to apply for grants to help them work toward their education. For a roundup of nursing scholarships and grants broken down by state, visit the National Association of Student Financial Aid and Administrators website.

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Scholarships for Minority Nursing Students

There are unique scholarship opportunities available exclusively to minority nursing students. All deadline dates differ depending on the scholarship. Click the scholarship link for exact dates and more information.

The NBNA Scholarship Program

  • Offered By: The National Black Nurses Association (NBNA)
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You have to be a member of the NBNA, including a local chapter.
    • You must be enrolled in a nursing program and have at least one full year of school left.
  • Award Amount: $1,000 - $6,000, depending on the scholarship. (Note: There are 17 scholarships available.)
  • Application Deadline: Varies by scholarship

[The UnitedHealth Foundation Diverse Scholars Initiative]

  • Offered By: The National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN)
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a member of NAHN.
    • You must also be enrolled in an accredited nursing program.
  • Award Amount: $5,000/year for each scholarship for three consecutive years. (Note: The number of scholarships available varies each year.)
  • Application Deadline: Springtime

[The Hector Gonzalez Past Presidents Scholarship]

  • Offered By: NAHN
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a NAHN member.
    • You must be enrolled in an accredited nursing program.
    • Male nursing students are encouraged to apply.
  • Award Amount: Varies by year. For the 2018-2019 academic year, the scholarship amount was $4,000.
  • Application Deadline: Springtime

[The NurseTim Scholarship]

  • Offered By: NAHN
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a NAHN member.
    • You must be enrolled in an accredited graduate nursing program.
    • This scholarship is geared toward students who intend to teach upon graduation.
  • Award Amount: $1,000
  • Application Deadline: Springtime

The IHS Preparatory Scholarship

  • Offered By: The Indian Health Service (IHS)
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a U.S. citizen and be an undergraduate student.
    • You must have a minimum 2.0 GPA.
    • You must be a member or descendant of a federally recognized, state-recognized, or terminated Tribes.
    • You must be pursuing a bachelor's degree and enrolled in a pre-medicine program or other subject needed by the Indian health programs.
    • You must intend to serve Native American communities as a health professional.
  • Award Amount:
    • No less than $1,500 a month for 12 months
    • IHS also makes a one-time payment for educational expenses, like textbooks, lab expenses, tutorial services, and more. This is included with your first stipend deposit.
  • Application Deadline: March

The IHS Pre-Graduate Scholarship

  • Offered By: IHS
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a U.S. citizen.
    • You must be pursuing a bachelor's degree and enrolled in a pre-medicine program or other subject needed by the Indian health programs.
    • You must have a minimum 2.0 GPA.
    • You must be a member or descendant of a federally recognized, state-recognized, or terminated Tribes.
    • You must intend to serve Native American communities as a health professional.
    • Men age 18 or over must be registered with Selective Service.
  • Award Amount:
    • No less than $1,500 a month for 12 months
    • IHS also makes a one-time payment for educational expenses, like textbooks, lab expenses, tutorial services, and more. This is included with your first stipend deposit.
  • Application Deadline: March

The IHS Health Professions Scholarship

  • Offered By: IHS
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a U.S. citizen.
    • You must be a high school graduate or equivalent, and you must have a minimum 2.0 GPA.
    • You must be able to complete a health profession degree program.
    • You must be a member of a federally recognized American Indian Tribe or Alaska Native village only.
    • You must intend to serve Native American communities as a health professional.
    • Men age 18 or over must be registered with Selective Service.
  • Award Amount:
    • No less than $1,500 a month for 12 months
    • IHS also makes a one-time payment for educational expenses, like textbooks, lab expenses, tutorial services and more. This is included with your first stipend deposit.
  • Application Deadline: March

The ENA Foundation Gil & Billie Gillespie Memorial Scholarship

  • Offered By: The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) Foundation
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be of Hispanic descent and actively pursuing an associate or prelicensure baccalaureate degree in nursing.
    • You must provide proof of at least one year of employment in an emergency department, a letter from the emergency department nurse director/manager, and a reference letter from a current ENA member.
    • Men age 18 or over must be registered with Selective Service.
  • Award Amount: $1,000
  • Application Deadline: April

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Scholarships for Nursing Students With Disabilities

Nursing students with disabilities have access to specific scholarships and grants that can help cover the costs of tuition, books, and other school-related expenses. These opportunities are open to nursing students with a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act and are open on an annual basis.

The AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability

  • Offered By: The American Association on Health and Disability (AAHD)
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must have a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide documentation to verify the disability.
    • You must be at least a sophomore enrolled full-time in an accredited college or university and studying a particular disability.
  • Award Amount: $1,000 or less
  • Application Deadline: November

The ExceptionalNurse.com Scholarship

  • Offered By: ExceptionalNurse.com
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a student with a disability as defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act and provide documentation to verify the disability.
    • Preference is given to undergraduate students.
    • You must be able to demonstrate your commitment to the academic study of nursing and career excellence.
  • Award Amount: $250
  • Application Deadline: June

The Peter Gili Scholarship Award

  • Offered By: ExceptionalNurse.com
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a student with a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide documentation to verify the disability.
    • You must have either applied or been admitted to a college or university program on a full-time basis and demonstrate a serious commitment to the academic study of nursing and career excellence.
  • Award Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: June

The Caroline Simpson Maheady Scholarship Award

  • Offered By: ExceptionalNurse.com
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a student with a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide documentation to verify your disability.
    • Preference is given to undergraduates of Scottish descent and who have demonstrated a commitment to working with people with disabilities.
  • Award Amount: $250
  • Application Deadline: June

The Jill Laura Creedon Scholarship Award

  • Offered By: ExceptionalNurse.com
  • Eligibility Requirements: You must be a nursing student with a disability or medical challenge.
  • Award Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: June

The Anna May Rolando Scholarship Award

  • Offered By: ExceptionalNurse.com
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a student with a disability as defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act and provide documentation to verify your disability.
    • Preference is given to graduate students who demonstrate a comittment to working with people with disabilities.
  • Award Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: June

The Bruno Rolando Scholarship Award

  • Offered By: ExceptionalNurse.com
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a student with a disability as defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act and provide documentation to verify your disability.
    • Preference is given to nursing students who are employed at veterans hospitals.
  • Award Amount: $250
  • Application Deadline: June

The Mary Serra Gili Scholarship Award

  • Offered By: ExceptionalNurse.com
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a student with a disability as defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act and provide documentation to verify your disability.
  • Award Amount: $250
  • Application Deadline: June

The AG Bell College Scholarship Program

  • Offered By: The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a male applicant with bilateral hearing loss that was diagnosed before the age of 4.
    • Your primary communication mode must be Listening or Spoken Language.
    • You must be enrolled in or planning to attend a mainstream university and pursuing a four-year undergraduate or graduate degree.
    • You must have a GPA of 3.25 or higher.
  • Award Amount: Between $1,000 and $10,000
  • Application Deadline: March

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Scholarships for Female Nursing Students

The following scholarship opportunities are available specifically to female nursing students in pursuit of an undergraduate or graduate degree.

The S. Evelyn Lewis Memorial Medical Health Science Scholarship

  • Offered By: The Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Foundation (ZNEF)
  • Eligibility Requirements: Must be a female enrolled in a program and working toward a degree in medicine or health sciences.
  • Award Amount: Varies between $500 and $1,000
  • Application Deadline: February

The ZNEF General Graduate Scholarship

  • Offered By: ZNEF
  • Eligibility Requirements: Must be a female pursuing a professional degree, masters, doctoral, or enrolled as a postdoctoral student.
  • Award Amount: Up to $2,500 per year
  • Application Deadline: February

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Scholarships for Male Nursing Students

More and more men are entering the field of nursing than ever before, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The government organization found that the number of male registered nurses has tripled since the 1970s. The following are some examples of the kinds of scholarships available to male nurses.

Breaking Barriers: Scholarship for Men in Nursing

  • Offered By: Nursing.org
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a male student actively enrolled in an accredited nursing program.
    • You must have a minimum GPA of 3.5.
  • Award Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: August

The AAMN Scholarships

  • Offered By: The American Assembly of Men in Nursing (AAMN)
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a male nursing student currently enrolled in an accredited nursing program (and at an accredited university) and have completed at least one term.
    • You must be a current AAMN member.
  • Award Amount:
    • Two undergraduate scholarships for $1,000
    • One graduate scholarship for $1,500
  • Application Deadline: Varies by scholarship

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Scholarships & Grants Through Nursing Associations & Organizations

Any nursing student enrolled in an accredited college or university in the U.S. can apply for these financial assistance opportunities.

The AANA Foundation Student Scholarships

  • Offered By: The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA)
  • Eligibility Requirements: The AANA offers about 58 scholarships each year. Click to learn more about each one.
  • Award Amount: Varies between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on the scholarship
  • Application Deadline: March

The AANA Foundation General Research Grants

  • Offered By: AANA
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be an AANA member.
    • You must use the funds for a research project.
    • This is best suited for doctorally prepared CRNAs (clinical or research).
  • Award Amount: Award amount depends on the proposed budget for the project as outlined in the application.
  • Application Deadline: November

The AANP Education Advancement Scholarships

  • Offered By: The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • The AANP has offered a number of scholarships to those pursuing advanced degrees in nursing, including: Master’s of Nursing Scholarship; Doctor of Nursing Practice - Post Master Scholarship; Doctor of Nursing Practice - BSN to DNP Scholarship; and Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing or Related Field Scholarship.
    • Applicants must be members of the AANP.
  • Award Amount: $2,500
  • Application Deadline: Varies by scholarship

The AAOHN Foundation Scholarships

  • Offered By: The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN)
  • Eligibility Requirements: There are four different scholarships available, and each one has a different set of criteria.
  • Award Amount: Varies between $1,000 and $1,500, depending on the scholarship
  • Application Deadline: January

The AAOHN Foundation New Investigator Research Grant

  • Offered By: AAOHN
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a member of AAOHN.
    • Proposals in the early stages of development may be submitted.
    • Completed research projects will not be accepted.
  • Award Amount: $3,000
  • Application Deadline: June

The ENA Foundation Scholarships

  • Offered By: The ENA Foundation
  • Eligibility Requirements: There are 40 different scholarship and grant opportunities available — each with a different set of criteria.
  • Award Amount: Varies between $1,000 and $10,000, depending on the scholarship
  • Application Deadline: Varies by scholarship

The FNSNA General Scholarship Program

  • Offered By: The Foundation of the National Student Nurses' Association (FNSNA)
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a U.S. citizen currently enrolled in a state-approved nursing program.
    • You must be involved in student nursing organizations or community health activities.
    • You must document your academic achievement.
    • You must also be able to demonstrate your financial need.
  • Award Amount: $1,000 to $7,500
  • Application Deadline: January

The AfterCollege.com-AACN Scholarship Fund

  • Offered By: AfterCollege.com and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a legal U.S. resident, 18 years or older.
    • You must be enrolled in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher learning that is an AACN member institution by the scholarship deadline.
    • You must be a registered member of aftercollege.com.
    • This is not open to current employees, officers, directors, and agents of the sponsor or their immediate family.
  • Award Amount: $2,500 awarded each quarter
  • Application Deadline: March 31, June 30, Sept. 30, or Dec. 31

Bridging Your Career: The RN to BSN Scholarship

  • Offered By: Nursing.org
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be 18 years old or older with a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
    • You must have active enrollment in an accredited nursing program.
  • Award Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: August

Nurses First Scholarship

  • Offered By: Nursing.org
  • Eligibility Requirements: You must be 18 years old or older with a minimum GPA of 3.5.You must have active enrollment in an accredited nursing program.
  • Award Amount: $1,000
  • Application Deadline: August

The Roberta Scofield Memorial Certification Award

  • Offered By: The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC)
    You must show an interest and dedication to oncology nursing.
  • Eligibility Requirements: You must show a commitment to obtaining or renewing an oncology nursing certification.
  • Award: Free registration for an ONCC certification examination
  • Application Deadline: September

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Scholarships & Grants Offered By the U.S. Military

The U.S. military offers a variety of nursing programs with ongoing nursing student grant and scholarship deadlines. You must be a U.S. citizen to apply.

U.S. Air Force Nurse Health Profession Scholarship Program (HPSP)

  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a U.S. citizen.
    • You must either be a high school senior with a 2.5 GPA or higher, OR a sophomore or junior majoring in nursing at an accredited college or university.
    • You must pass the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test and Air Force ROTC Physical Fitness Test and meet the age, moral, and other eligibility requirements of the Air Force ROTC.
    • You cannot already be a contracted scholarship recipient.
  • Award Amount:
    • Covers 100 percent of college tuition and authorized fees at any public or private institution with Air Force ROTC detachment.
    • Awardees will also receive a monthly living stipend and an annual stipend for textbooks.
  • Application Deadline: Rolling

U.S. Navy Nurse Candidate Program

  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a U.S. citizen.
    • You must be able to meet the physical fitness standards as set forth by the U.S. Navy.
    • You must be a full-time student enrolled in an accredited Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.
    • You must be willing to serve full-time in the Navy.
  • Award Amount:
    • An initial grant of $10,000
    • Additional stipend of $1,000/month for up to 24 months
  • Application Deadline: Rolling

U.S. Navy ROTC Scholarship - Nursing Option

  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a U.S. citizen.
    • You must have at least 30 semester hours, but no more than 120 hours.
    • You must have a minimum college GPA of 2.5.
    • You must apply via the Navy ROTC unit of the university you wish to attend.
  • Award Amount: Could cover the full cost (up to $180,000) of your nursing education at top colleges and universities in the U.S.
  • Application Deadline: Rolling deadline

U.S. Navy Nurse Corps for Nursing Graduate Students

  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • You must be a U.S. citizen.
    • You must be a nursing graduate student enrolled in a postgraduate nursing program in certain nursing specialties.
    • You must be willing to serve part-time as a Reservist.
  • Award Amount:
    • A monthly stipend of $2,088 while completing your education program
    • Up to $50,000 in nursing school loan repayment assistance
  • Application Deadline: Rolling

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Other Financial Aid Options for Nursing Students

In addition to scholarships and grants, there are several other ways you can get the financial aid you need to fund your nursing education.

1) Private Institutions and Organizations

Check with private corporations and companies to see if they offer nursing scholarships and grants. Start by reaching out to local hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare facilities. A quick internet search with the name of the hospital in your area with the word “scholarship” or “grant” should give you more information.

2) Work-Study Programs

The federal work-study program offers part-time jobs to nursing students who demonstrate financial need. There are work-study opportunities available for students in federal, state, and local agencies, as well as with private, for-profit organizations — as long as they are relevant to the field of nursing. Hospitals may even offer to step in and provide students with financial assistance for their education if they commit to working there in the future.

3) Incentive Programs for Nurses

Many healthcare systems and organizations have started using incentive programs as a tool to not only lure in top talent but also to boost employee retention. According to a CNN Money report, these incentives can include large signing bonuses, relocation allowances, loan repayment and forgiveness programs, tuition reimbursement for employees and their children, continuing education scholarships, and, in some cases, help with a down payment on a home.

4) Loans

  • Student Loans
    • When you take out a federal student loan, you’re borrowing money from the U.S. government with the intent of paying it back plus interest. Student loans from the U.S. government tend to be more flexible than private loans, in terms of repayment and interest rates. For most federal student loan options, the U.S. Department of Education is the lender.
    • The Federal Perkins Loan ended on Sept. 30, 2017. The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan is the only federal student loan program and offers four types of direct loans:
      • Direct Subsidized Loan: Eligible to undergraduates with financial need to cover the cost of college or a career school
      • Direct Unsubsidized Loan: Eligible to undergrads, grads and professionals, but not need-based
      • Direct PLUS Loan: Helps pay for education expenses that are not covered by financial aid. This is eligible to graduate students, professional students and parents of undergrads.
      • Direct Consolidation Loans: Merges all your eligible federal loan into a single loan service
  • Private Loans
    • The federal government does not fund private student loans. Rather, private loans are offered by private institutions like banks, credit unions, and state loan programs, or even by an individual lender. There are downsides to this, though. For example, private student loans do not offer flexible payback options and have higher interest rates that can change on a monthly or quarterly basis.
    • For these reasons, you may want to consider putting private student loans at the bottom of your list of financial aid options. Nursing student grants and scholarships are the preferred payment method because they do not have to be repaid. The second-most popular option is a federal student loan. Many students typically turn to private loans after they’ve exhausted all other options.

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Final Thoughts

We know that this list can seem overwhelming, but the good news is you have a whole lot of options when it comes to financing your nursing education. And before you start to second-guess whether this is all worth it, consider this: In 2017, workforce staffing software company AMN Healthcare surveyed more than 3,300 RNs to get a pulse on the state of their industry. Despite all the ups and downs that can come with the career, two-thirds said they’d still encourage others to become nurses, too.

As they write in their 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses, “Though fraught with challenges, nursing is the backbone of quality patient care, and most nurses would never want to do anything else.”

So, even when the going gets tough, know that you’re pursuing one of the most highly respected and most needed careers in the country. Feel confident in your dreams, and don’t be afraid to lean on one of the financing options above to help make it a reality for you.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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