I recently had someone ask me about the field of nursing as a career choice, and as they described their reasoning for wishing to join the profession I almost cringed. I wanted to make sure they understood that while nursing was indeed what they had stated, it also was not something you could continue in simply for that reason alone.
There are a lot of reasons people decide to become a nurse, but some of them should really be called reasons not to become a nurse. Because, seriously, if any of these three things are your sole reason for entering the field then you’re in for a big surprise.
1. You can finish your education quickly. One thing that makes nursing a popular field with many people is the short amount of time you can attend college and yet still have a sought after degree. Honestly, twenty years ago this was even an important factor to me. I had been attending college for two years already, and the idea of years of further education ahead of me seemed daunting. The idea of achieving a professional career within a two year program sounded wonderful to my nineteen year old self.
So what happened? Well, I was shell-shocked for sure. Once in nursing school I realized how in-depth the curriculum really was. It was like they somehow managed to cram ten years of knowledge and skills into a two year program, and trying to maintain a passing grade in that kind of demanding and stressful environment was insane!
Sure you may have an associate degree in two years (if you don’t fail), but after completion you may feel like Wesley from the Princess Bride after a lifetime is lost on Count Rugin’s Machine. Don’t worry, you’re only “mostly dead.”
2. The pay! Oh my goodness. I just knew when I became a nurse I would be rolling in the dough. I imagined all the cool decor I would buy for my apartment from Pier One. It was gonna be epic.
Imagine my disappointment when I didn’t have a Scrooge McDuck vault of gold coins to swim in.
Listen, I won’t lie to you. I make good money. No, I’m not rich, but it’s a great, reliable income for my family. I enjoy a wonderful benefit package, and the options and shifts available to nurses are fabulous. I currently work a weekend position of my choosing that is extremely family friendly for our household, and I know I wouldn’t have that available if not for my career choice.
But… I think this is something often overlooked about a nurse’s pay. Somewhere early in your career, most likely within the first couple of months, you will have a day where you feel like it’s not enough.
When you’re elbow deep in excrement, or running on ten hours with no lunch you’ll think a pay raise is in order. When you’re working short-staffed, on holidays, and even in blizzard conditions, you’ll wonder why you don’t get paid more. And when you discover that you’re responsible for the life or death of the people under your care, the legal risks you encounter, and just how much is expected of you to complete safely and efficiently in twelve hours, you’ll definitely realize you’re not doing it for the pay alone.
3. Job security. People will always be sick or seeking wellness, so if you’re concerned about landing a career with ultimate job security then healthcare is a good way to go. Especially nursing. As people begin to live longer and the baby boomers are getting older the field of nursing is always looking for new recruits. Hello?! Nursing shortage.
But here’s what’s going to happen. When you become a nurse you will wake up one day and realize the weight of responsibility that rests upon your shoulders. It’s overwhelming at times.
You will have to face a busyness like you have never known, frustration over situations beyond your control, and the realization of the fact that you cannot change how people take care of themselves.
You’ll endure psychological stress you never knew you could face successfully, physical demands you know aren’t healthy, and emotional upset that leaves you in a torrent of tears some days.
You’ll even encounter a time in your career where you don’t think you can do it anymore, and job security won’t mean a hill of beans at that point. You’ll be so fed up with the turmoil of it all that you won’t think you can be a nurse any longer, and the fact that you’ll always have a job will be irreverent. Because you won’t be sure you want it anyway!
It’s a this point that your true motivation for becoming a nurse is paramount. If it’s how quick you were able to begin your career or how fat your paycheck is then you will fizzle out fast. No amount of job security or paid time off accrued will matter if you hate your work.
No, nursing is considered a vocation for a reason. Nursing takes a special kind of person to make it long term. So while the money and reliability of employment is real awesome it cannot stack up to the calling to care.
When I decided to become a nurse my mother (also a nurse) made sure to not hold back a bit. She told me every horrible, demanding thing I would face in the field, and I still wanted it.
I spent the following year later struggling to pay my rent, work full time, and pass my clinicals with that really mean instructor. I still went back to nursing school the next year.
Knowing that it would be difficult, struggling through school, and even as student loan debt piled up I still went forth. It wasn’t the thought of pay that kept me going. It wasn’t the job security that spurred me forward. Rather it was the certainty that nursing was the field for me.
And on the bad days, cause bad days happen, it’s that certainty that carries me through. It’s the calling that keeps me constant. It’s the love for the profession that drives me on. And that, in the end, is the only reason you should become a nurse.