What You Should Know Before Choosing a Career as a Nurse

February 8, 2022

It can be hard to choose the right career. You might always have wanted to do something, only to find that you don’t enjoy the study for it. Or perhaps you have no idea what to do, and suddenly an idea will come to you out of nowhere. No matter how long (or short) a time you’ve been thinking about what you might be able to do for a living and what would suit you the best, it’s crucial that you have a deep understanding of everything involved within it. It’s unlikely that anyone will enjoy absolutely every aspect of their work, but you must like more than you don’t like; otherwise, you are going to be miserable. Careful consideration has to be a priority. 

Nursing can often fit into the category of both long-term career goals and sudden realizations (perhaps because you or a family member have needed a nurse’s care, for example). Yet going into nursing without having all the facts can be a mistake. Although there are many benefits to being a nurse, there are also some drawbacks, and unless you know about them, you won’t be able to have a good sense of whether or not nursing is the right thing for you to do. With that in mind, here are some important things you should know before choosing a career as a nurse; they will help you to move ahead with your nursing training or ensure you don’t pick a profession that you won’t enjoy. 

Nurses Have to Think for Themselves 

It should come as no surprise that nurses must be able to think for themselves. They have to take care of patients, understand their particular medical needs, and do what is best, sometimes in emergency situations. However, what might come as a surprise is just how much freedom a nurse has to think like this right from the start of their career. In fact, it is expected of them, and it’s a crucial trait to have. 

If you don’t have a thorough understanding of what nurses do, you might assume that a doctor or other medical professional will need to give them instructions to carry out and that they simply follow orders all day. There is an element of this, but there is just as much scope for a nurse to think for themselves and to work autonomously when needed, often making literal life or death decisions in a calm and measured way. 

Nurses must be able to think on their feet to provide the appropriate degree of care to a patient and to cope with emergency circumstances. This is an important aspect of nursing, and although you will be working in a close-knit team, you may not be able to depend on others to assist you all of the time. Are you capable of doing this? If not, could you possibly learn? These are highly important questions to answer truthfully. 

It’s Not Just Night Shifts 

Something that can put people off from starting a nursing career is the idea that nurses – or at least new nurses – will need to work nights all the time because they don’t have any choice in the matter. Not everyone is happy with the idea of night shifts, and many people who would have made excellent nurses will stay away from the profession as a result. 

The reality of nursing is that people get sick all the time, and certainly not just within what might be classed as normal working hours. Because of this, there must be a team of nurses working 24 hours a day in each hospital setting (clinics with specific opening times are a different matter, of course). This means that night shifts are important, but they are not something that should stop you from applying to be one of the much-needed nurses or nurse practitioners if that’s what you want to do. 

Although night shifts (and weekend shifts and working on holidays such as Christmas) are necessary, they won’t be used as any kind of punishment or initiation for new nurses, or anyone else for that matter. Usually, shifts are worked out well in advance and are allocated on a fair basis using a system so that everyone does some nights, some days, and some weekends, with plenty of time off between the different shifts. If you happen to prefer night shifts, then you can ask to do more of them since most people will be happy to switch with you, for example. If you need a specific day off, again, you might be able to work something out with your colleagues. 

There are many different nursing categories and careers, so if the shift pattern of an RN doesn’t appeal, you might think about using your nursing qualification to work in a school or clinic or to specifically work in a department that suits you better, such as the ER or children’s department. The shifts patterns will be different in each place, so research this ahead of time. 

Hospital Jobs Are Competitive 

Nurses are extremely important and are needed all over the country and in plenty of other countries too. This can be why some people choose to study to become nurses; they know they will get a job once they have qualified, ensuring that their studies won’t have been in vain and they can start working right away. This is not guaranteed in many professions. 

Of course, although you might think it or assume it, the truth is that it’s not guaranteed in nursing either. Or at least not in the way you might expect. There will be nursing jobs, and it’s highly likely that if you have the right qualifications and possibly experience, you will be successful in getting one of these jobs. However, you might not get a job at the hospital you were planning to work at. It could be that nurses aren’t specifically needed there, which means you’ll have to apply elsewhere or wait until there is a position available. This is something you will certainly need to bear in mind because if you are planning everything you do around working in a specific place – perhaps because you can walk to it from home or because you know it has a wonderful internal training program, for example – and you are then unable to get a job there, you’ll have to rethink your plan. 

The issue can also be that hospitals are looking for nurses with experience. As a new graduate, you won’t have that experience, so they might choose an applicant who does over you. Therefore, it can be a good idea to get a job in any hospital you can, gain the experience you need, and then apply at the specific place you want to work once you have the skills required. All of this will need to be planned out in advance so you can get the result you’re looking for. 

Being a Nurse is Not Only Medical Care

Being a nurse is similar to being a patient advocate, a waitress, a maid, an electrician, a technology specialist, and a liaison between families, physicians, and families all at one time – and plenty more besides. 

Although you might be focused on giving the best medical care, you might find yourself being asked to change the TV channel, to get a light fixed, to heat up food, liaise between estranged family members, arrange visiting schedules, and much more. You need to do all of this in a calm and collected way without getting distracted from the core medical work that you’re doing, but also without upsetting patients and ensuring they have the best possible care. This can be a hard juggling act, but it’s something that good nurses do every day. 

You Won’t Get Used to Someone’s Suffering 

It’s hard to see someone suffering. If they are in pain, either physically or mentally, it’s not easy to be with them and help them. You might assume that, when you are a nurse, you can get used to this kind of thing and block it out because it’s your job. However, nurses find it just as hard to see people suffering as anyone else; in fact, this could even be the reason why they chose to be a nurse in the first place – they want to help people who are suffering. 

Of course, nurses do manage their emotions well, and this is what sets them apart from those who are not nurses and who don’t think they would be able to stand to see other people in pain and suffering, and not just patients either, but their families and friends too. 
Nurses can get past the blood and injury portion of their job; this is something they can get used to. However, the emotional side is something quite different, and you shouldn’t expect that just because you study and qualify to be a nurse, you’ll ever find it any less difficult to see suffering as time goes on.

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