Nursing is a great field that always will have plenty of job security and a great paycheck. Whether you are fresh out of high school or have been out of high school for 20 plus years, nursing will always need all hands on deck, no matter your lifestyle, age, gender, or experience. I was in nursing school with a guy who was an architect for the last 15 years, a lady who was in her 60s, single moms of 3 kids, and someone who worked in fast food for the last 10 years of their life. Many people who are considering going into nursing often ask me the pros and cons of nursing and what my honest thoughts are. As a result, I have decided to create a list of honest thoughts of pros and cons of the field.
CONS: I will start with the cons to get them over with.
1. Nursing school is HARD
I went into nursing school fresh out of high school and was a straight A student, usually with an average in the mid 90s, all without studying for tests. It came natural to me and I felt like I retained information pretty easily. Then I went into nursing school........I went from 90s without studying in high school, to 70s with studying in nursing school. Now I don't want you to think you can't do it or its too challenging, but just understand its a whole other ball game. I had to relearn how to study, how to critical think, how to accept help and go to tutoring sessions. I eventually got my grades up to high 80s with the help of solid studying habits. When I look back at it now, all of those skills, training, and challenges, is what makes nursing the most trusted profession. It creates resilience, perseverance, and confidence. Nursing school is hard, but you can do it and it will grow you and stretch you into a great nurse.
2.) At some point in your career you will be elbow deep in feces, blood, vomit, or urine.
This is a point that I always like to touch on because unfortunately, its not something you can escape. The beauty of nursing is that there are many areas to work in (Which I will touch on in the Pros section later) so a lot of nurses are able to avoid these bodily fluids and stinky situations. However, at some point, whether it's in nursing school or in your journey of working towards your dream job, you will come across and be very up-close and personal to some very unpleasant sights and smells! Don't let this stop your ambition to be a nurse though, there are many tactics to use in order to get through these situations. I personally am a fan of rubbing toothpaste under my nose under my mask for the stinky situations. Works like a charm. There are many other creative tips and tricks out there so just talk to some experienced nurses!
3.) You will work short staffed and in what you feel are unsafe situations.
Now, more than ever, healthcare is desperate for nurses all across the world. Unfortunately, as a result of not having enough nurses, you will at some point experience working shifts that are short staffed and feel very unsafe. I have been in many situations that I have wanted to quit nursing all together because of constantly being short staffed and feeling unsafe. The thing to remember though is that if you didn't accept those few extra patients on your load, who would take care of those patients? Whose Mom, Dad, son, daughter, Grandpa, or Grandma would not be receiving the care that they deserve? You will put a lot of miles on your shoes, feel absolutely exhausted, be mentally drained, but remember, you will make a difference in someone's life on that shift whether you think so or not. Now please remember, if you are ever put in a situation in which you feel that you are so unsafe and your patients are at risk as well as your license, make your concerns known and follow your chain of command.
4). High Burnout Rates
Even if you are fully staffed, nursing can be a physically and mentally exhausting job that can lead to feeling so burn out that you want to leave the field all together. You may deal with many difficult situations such as violent patients, working short staffed, being screamed at for not bringing a soda in the room quick enough, or constantly witnessing patients pass away. All these situations take a toll on you and unfortunately and frequently are carried home with you. Day in and day out of experiencing situations like these may lead to this burnout. It is so important to be aware of this burnout feeling and make time for yourself. It is ok to say no to picking up an extra shift. It is ok to request some time off and go on vacation. Its ok to just have you time on your days off whether its going to play golf or going to the spa or literally doing nothing all day besides laying around. Remember, in order to take care of your patients to the best of your ability, you must first take care of yourself.
5.) You will witness very sad things
Whether you work in pediatrics, maternity, med-surg, a doctors office, or anywhere else, with the nature of the job you will see very sad things. One of my first jobs in nursing was working on a pediatric/med surg floor. I witnessed a lot of very sad and unfortunate CPS cases ranging from neglect to abuse. On the med-surg side, I've sat in rooms while the Doctor explains that they found a tumor on their brain. I have held the hand of a patient who took their last breath. Taken care of homeless patients that didn't even own a pair of pants to be discharged in. These are just a few examples or some situations you may encounter. These all are terrible situations, but guess what, those patients needed nurses to get through those times, to save them from terrible situations, to comfort them when they hear bad news, to be present during their last breaths so they don't die alone. I count it as a blessing to be able to be in those situations, as difficult as they are, but to be a light in a very dark time is what I feel I have been called to do. Every nurse can tell you that there are really tough days that are so emotionally draining, but its worth every minute to be able to help these patients in their most vulnerable times. Just be prepared to experience some sad situations but understand that you are so desperately needed to be that light in a dark time.
6.) Healthcare is a Business:
One of my biggest frustrations in nursing is the fact that healthcare is a business. I have witnessed a lot decisions being made that blow my mind and don't seem ethical or legal (These decisions were legal but I don't know how!). Unfortunately at the end of the day, leadership is expected to meet budget, hit quality metrics, and continue to see growth. As a result, on a good staffed day, staff members are sent home to save money instead of boosting moral and allowing staff to actually spend the time they need with their patients. Or products that work great and are most beneficial for patients are traded in for cheap knockoffs so save a buck here or there. In a field that patients are supposed to be the priority, I feel that corners are so frequently cut to save money, hit a quota or budget, and continue to grow at the expense of the patient. Some of the wealthiest people in the country are the presidents and CEO's of non for profit healthcare organizations... but yet corners are cut daily. There are a lot of fantastic things about the healthcare field, however, you need to understand that it is a business and you will witness some sketchy decisions being made that you don't agree with.
PROS OF NURSING:
1.) You get to help people!
If you have a passion and a calling to help people, nursing is a great field for you. In most cases, people are at their most vulnerable points in their lives in the hospital and often need someone like you to talk to and just be there for them. It is such a rewarding job and you soon will realize that very quickly into your career.
2.) Great salary and paychecks!
Nursing is such a great field if you are looking for an opportunity to help others and make a great paycheck! Entry level nurses can walk in making about $50,000-60,000 a year depending on the state. Not to mention, tons of opportunities to make extra cash with critical pay or crisis pay at double time or time and a half for picking up shifts. Or you could work night shift for an extra shift differential which can be up to an extra $5 an hour. Not to mention, after a year or two of experience, you can take travel contracts around the country and even world making around $100 an hour! Travel contracts paychecks vary assignment to assignment and state to state.
3.) So many different jobs within nursing
Nursing is such a versatile field because of how many different areas and positions you can work in. If you like adrenaline and high intensity situations, you might want to work in the ER, ICU, or cardiac unit. If you love to watch surgeries on tv, then the OR or GI lab is for you! Just dress warm cause its freezing in there! If you love kids, you could work on the pediatric unit or maternity unit. If you like a mix of everything, you could work on a med-surg unit. If none of those interest you, you could work in a doctors office, quality department (Moderate amount of work experience required) , nursing administration (takes a lot of experience to get a job in this area), case management, nurse navigator, home care, hospice, you could be a professor at a local university or online, or even work for insurance companies. These are just a drop in the bucket of all the options out there! Its important to find the area that right for you!
4.) Flexible Schedules and great vacation time:
Most units and hospitals work on 12 hour shifts, which means you only work 3-4 days or nights a week, leaving plenty of time for yourself! These schedules also make it very easy to plan vacations without taking a lot of PTO. A lot of facilities also participate in self scheduling which really allows you to optimize your schedule. Don't let the 12 hour shifts fool you though, you will be tired and usually need a day of rest after working a couple shifts in a row.
5.) Tuition Reimbursement:
One giant concern for people who are considering going to nursing school, is the cost of the education. Due to nurses being in such demand, a majority of organizations offer tuition reimbursement as an incentive. Just be aware that most require a certain amount of commitment to the organization prior to them paying for your schooling.
6.) Everyday will be different from the next:
The great thing about nursing is that everyday will look different from the next. Your patient load may be different, the patients you have may be different, the procedures or skills you preform may be different, the people you work with may be different. This helps keep your job fresh and from becoming boring and repetitive.
Scrubs are one of the greatest advantages of being a nurse. What is better than being able to wear basically what feels like pajamas to work everyday. Takes not even 2 minutes to throw on and get ready in the morning and never have to worry about getting dressed up (Depending on what setting you work in). You can't beat it!