Nursing is a profession that is respected around the world and one that will always be in demand. Healthcare is an essential service that society relies on, so there will be a consistent need for compassionate and ambitious healthcare workers to support patients and improve the overall healthcare industry. It's easy to see why a lot of people are attracted to nursing roles, as they can offer job security and the opportunity for career growth, and it's also an incredibly rewarding role where you know you are making a difference in other people's lives. While these are all attractive qualities in a career choice, it is important to recognize that there are also many challenges that nurses face throughout their careers. Not everyone has the right personality or drive to be successful as a nurse, and this is why you should always carefully consider whether or not it is the right option for you before you pursue these goals.
Below are some of the key things to think about before you decide to embark on your nursing journey, including the different options available to you and the type of characteristics you will need to succeed.
Have You Had Previous Experience in a Similar Role?
You don't necessarily need a background in healthcare to choose to pursue a career in nursing, but some experience in a similar role could benefit you. For example, a position where you were responsible for the care of others and working in a relatively fast-paced environment would give you some indication of what nursing might be like. A previous administrative role in a healthcare environment could also be a useful experience, especially as you will be used to the right type of setting, and there is a lot of administration involved in nursing, too.
If you haven't worked in roles that can provide some transferable skills in this way, you may want to think about reaching out to nurses and seeing if it is possible to shadow one or two of them instead. This might be more challenging to arrange, but there are opportunities where you can do this to help you see the average working routine for a nurse so that you can get a better idea of what to expect.
Another way you could gain some work experience in a similar role is through volunteering. If you do have the time to dedicate a few hours a week to support in a healthcare environment, or even somewhere like a nursing home, mental health charity, etc., this can all help you gain some valuable skills that can be used in your nursing career too. The closer the volunteering environment is to where you would like to work as a nurse, the better.
Have You Thought About Where You Would Want Your Career to Go?
In a lot of cases, you might find that your interests in specific nursing fields change over time, particularly throughout your nursing school journey and in the early years of your career. While you don't have to have your career path entirely figured out by the time you apply to nursing school, it is a good idea to take some time to research the different paths you could take. There are various roles nurses can pursue throughout their careers, such as teaching roles or becoming the head nurse in your department. Working in mental health is another option, as are research-based roles. You could choose to work as a geriatric nurse if you want to work closely with senior citizens or in pediatrics if you would prefer to be around children and teens.
You could even consider working for the department of health for your government, working towards innovative ideas to help improve the healthcare services in your country and creating better access for those who need it the most. This can be an exciting change of pace and could be a good role for someone interested in the political aspects of healthcare, too. Some roles focus more on the business side of healthcare management that your nursing degree may help you transition into at a later stage if this is something that interests you.
Again, you don't need to have the complete trajectory of your nursing career planned out at this early stage, but it is worth looking into the various options available to you so that you can start thinking about which fields of the profession seem like a good fit for you, as this will help to give you some direction.
Are You Committed to Your Education?
Nursing as a job can be challenging, but it won't just be dealing with patients and other healthcare staff every day that will get tough occasionally. Another essential part of becoming a successful nurse is taking the time to study and develop your skills, both practically and academically. You will be required to get a nursing degree if you want to be able to become a registered nurse, and there will also be examinations to get your licenses in your state. If you want to pursue specific career roles and progress as a nurse, you might find that you need to go back to school and achieve a higher-level qualification to do this also. With all of this in mind, you do need to ask yourself if you are willing to make such a big commitment to studying for the sake of your career. You'll even have to continue refreshing your knowledge during your career, as there will be new developments in the healthcare field that can change approaches to treatments and care plans.
You might also want to think about how you want to approach your nursing education, as there are a few options to explore. Attending nursing school in the traditional sense is an option, but you can also look at online programs that might be able to offer more flexibility when it comes to your studies. You will still need to meet deadlines and complete all of your modules, but for students who would like to work or fit in other commitments around their studies, this could be the ideal approach for you. Check if your online course can organize work placements for you too, as this will be an essential part of your nurse training. If you want to learn more about online nursing degrees, look at Holy Family University and its nursing program as an example.
Do You Have the Right Characteristics for Nursing?
You might be attracted to the idea of nursing for various reasons, but you do need to think about whether or not you have the right personality for the job. It will take a lot of determination and resilience to work as a nurse, as well as a strong desire to help other people. There will be difficult periods in your career, particularly times when you might lose a patient and have to help support grieving and concerned loved ones throughout these challenging moments in their lives. You will also need to be prepared to work long hours, as although not all nurses work in more high-pressure environments like hospitals, you can expect to experience this at some stage in your career.
Compassion is one of the most important personality traits nurses need to have, for the reasons mentioned above, but also to extend that sense of care and respect to their other colleagues who will also be working hard as part of the wider healthcare team. Patience is another key trait, as this kind of understanding is important when coping with these difficult circumstances. You will also need to be willing and able to adapt, as there are often scenarios where quick thinking and a change of pace will occur when it comes to patient care, or even changes in your shift patterns if you are working on a rota-basis.
As a nurse, you will also need to be well-organized, as you will be working alongside numerous patients with different needs and treatment plans. Being able to manage your time effectively and keeping up to date with all the relevant patient information is essential, as well as being able to record all of this information in patient files and other important documentation. Having a good memory will also be greatly beneficial in this line of work, as you will need to remember different statistics and different patients' medical history, etc., and you won't always have time to write this down.
Strong communication skills will also be vital in your career as a nurse when you are dealing with patients, their relatives, as well as other healthcare team staff to ensure the best quality care is being given at all times. This includes verbal and written communication, and the ability to assess situations so that you can respond appropriately.
All of these characteristics are important for nurses, and you will likely develop these skills as you progress in your career. However, it is important to have a natural imposition of this from the start as this would suggest that you are someone who can handle the pressures of the job well, giving you a better chance of success in your career.
What Are Your Motivations for Becoming a Nurse?
Finally, what are your true motivations for becoming a nurse? This is an important question to ask, as although nothing is stopping you from changing careers at a later date, embarking on a nursing career journey can be a big commitment. It will not only take several years to commit to your education at nursing school but there are additional exams to take after you get your degree to enable you to practice legally. This is why it is important to carefully consider the reasons why you are pursuing this career and to make sure you're making this choice based on the right reasons.
A lot of people do look for careers that can provide stability and good salaries, and nursing can certainly offer this to you. However, a nursing salary might not seem huge compared to how much work this job entails, and this is something that is debated often. How much you get paid will depend a lot on your expertise and where you work, so this is something to take into consideration before you begin your nursing career. Furthermore, working in a job where you are responsible for the well-being of others can be a lot of pressure, so you do need to be motivated by more than money and job stability if you do want to work in a role like this. Your drive to help others and make a difference in your local community will be what gets you through the more difficult periods of your career, and this will and should be the biggest reward for you.
Make sure that you have thought about why you are interested in a nursing career, and that your motivations are enough to keep you committed to this role.
Nursing can be a wonderful line of work to enter into, and for the right person, choosing to pursue this path could be the best decision you have ever made. Nonetheless, it is a choice that you do need to think about with care and do further research to help you form a more realistic view of what to expect from a nursing career. The points above are all good places to start when you are trying to make a decision, so use them as a base when you are thinking about what a career in nursing could mean for you and whether or not it will be the right choice. If you think you have what it takes and are willing to commit to nursing and the healthcare sector, start looking at options for nursing degree programs in your local area or beyond to find the right course for you. You might also want to look at other work experience opportunities to help you get a more well-rounded view of what life in this role could mean for you and to better prepare you for this incredible career.