Healthcare workers have gotten a lot of attention lately. As the national number of nurses continues to dwindle, it is more important than ever to find new people who are interested in healthcare as a career.
If you are interested in becoming a nurse, there are a lot of things you should know about the job on the front end. In this article, we cover the good and not-so-good aspects of working as a nurse.
Nursing is Very Hard
Around half of all nurses leave the job after their first five years. Some of them find nursing adjacent careers and continue to put their degree to good use. However, many don’t. This is really tough for them— (who wants to completely re-invent their career?)—but it is also hard for the system itself.
Hospitals all over the country are struggling to keep their floors staffed because lots of nurses are quitting, and not enough are coming up to replace them.
Before you commit to a degree in nursing, think long and hard about how you will respond to the job’s emotional challenges. Depending on what sort of nurse you become, there may be days in which you witness someone’s final moments and then go home and eat dinner within the same hour. That’s a tough life dynamic that not everyone is prepared for— particularly not as they realize they’ve had experiences no one in their personal life is able to relate to.
It’s in High Demand
If you are interested in working in a quickly growing field, you’re in luck. Most hospitals in the United States have experienced nursing-related staffing issues over the last three years. Recently, a hospital in Washington had to call 911, asking for assistance with their overflowing ER.
No major emergency had taken place within their community that made the hospital overflow. They just didn’t have the capacity to cover normal patient intake. Obviously, very bad for that community, but an intriguing prospect for job seekers.
It’s a simple “supply and demand,” proposition. The fewer nurses there are, the more leverage existing nurses have. That can translate into higher salaries, and more comfortable professional accommodations— something that the nursing profession is in dire need of.
The Schedules are Punishing
Most floor nurses work twelve-hour shifts. And because hospitals never close, these shifts happen on weekends, holidays, and nights. Most people know about this going into the job, but they don’t always think about how it will impact their lifestyle.
If you are a night shift nurse, virtually all of your waking hours will go to the job 3-4 times a week. The rest of that week you will be trying to even out your sleep schedule and keep up with personal responsibilities all while living a semi-nocturnal schedule.
It’s not easy.
There are Many Different Types of Nursing
Often, when people think about nursing they imagine the hospital setting. Bedside nursing. However, if that isn’t for you, there are actually many variations in the profession, allowing you to specialize in something you find fulfilling.
For example, maybe you are interested in working more long-term with patients. Some jobs allow you to do at-home visits for patients who can’t make it to the hospital. There are also jobs that allow you to specialize in specific conditions.
For example, when people are first diagnosed with diabetes, they often require a significant amount of coaching to help them adjust to all of the new restrictions and requirements. You know who helps them with that?
Diabetes nurses! And as hospitals continue to emphasize data in their decision-making processes, there is also a growing demand for informatics nurses—professionals who work with data to improve healthcare outcomes for the community they serve.
Feel free to look into all of your options as you enter the nursing profession.
It's Uniquely Stressful
While all jobs come with built-in stress, nurses are known for experiencing unique forms of work exhaustion—namely in the form of compassion. Compassion fatigue is a state of mind in which the nurse no longer experiences an emotional reaction to their patient’s suffering.
A degree of emotional distance is necessary for the work. You can’t sit around bemoaning the frailty of human life while someone goes into cardiac arrest. However, when your feelings toward work completely click off it can be difficult to turn them on again.
There are other forms of work-related stress as well. The job can be physically demanding, which many people don’t think about going in. Patients come in all shapes and sizes, and some of said sizes may not be very moveable. As a nurse, your job will sometimes require you to physically assist people who are bigger than you. That will add up to some pretty heavy physical wear and tear over time.
It Can be Lucrative
While it would be a stretch to say that nurses are paid what they deserve— hard to put a number to that when your job is to save lives— they do consistently bring in more than the national average. The typical range is between $70-110K. The differences may depend on where you work, what your specialty is, and how long you have been on the job.
It’s also worth noting that salaries are trending upward all over the country as hospitals work on ways to improve retention.
It’s Not All Doom and Gloom
Nursing is hard, sure. But this article is not here to dissuade you from taking on what is, without a doubt, one of the noblest professions in modern life. While most of the headings above describe situations that are difficult, or at least uncomfortable, there are many rewarding aspects to nursing as well.
If you want to make an important difference in people’s lives as they navigate extremely difficult experiences, this is the perfect job for you. There will be challenges along the way. You may experience regret or burnout. But, if you want a career that is more than just a job, nursing is an excellent route to take.