nurse with a teen patient

If you choose to enter a nursing career, then you will embark on a rewarding journey. Many people become registered nurses because they feel a calling to help their fellow men and women become happier and healthier.  Indeed, helping just one person live a higher quality life due to your service is an unmatched experience.  However, like any career, there will be pros and cons. With the highs of success will come some lows that will sometimes be difficult to cope with.  Below are the realities of a nursing career.

Years of Schooling

Becoming a nurse is no cake walk. Generally, you’ll receive your bachelor’s degree, you’ll be expected to receive accreditation through NCLEX-RN exam and licensure. If you want to become a nurse practitioner, you’ll need to continue on to receive your DNP. Fortunately, the path to becoming a nurse is becoming more attainable thanks to programs like Gwynedd Mercy's online DNP program, but understand that advancing in your nursing career means committing to years of continued education.

Your Hours Will Vary

Your schedule is likely to be contingent on who you work for. Some facilities will have you working five to eight hour days, four to ten hour days, or three to twelve hour days every week.  If you are looking for a nine to five job, you’re in for a tough sell.  Working twelve-hour days may take a toll on your body if you are naturally prone to fatigue, as you will likely have an overnight shift, such as from 7pm to 7am.  On the bright side, you will have the opportunity to work shorter workweeks.  If you work twelve-hour shifts often, you will probably work only three days a week.  Even better, those days might be staggered, so you will have time on other days of the week to run errands or take care of matters that you would not otherwise be able to finish on the weekends.  If you enjoy having time to yourself to rejuvenate, you will enjoy having days off during the week when all of your friends are working.  Likewise, those days off would give you time to stay home with your children.  The long hours can pay off.

You Will Make Mistakes

By the time you become a registered nurse, you have gone through years of education, thousands of hours of studying, and countless more hours volunteering or interning with a hospital.  Unfortunately, earning all of this experience will not make you perfect.  You are still a human being, and therefore you are bound to make a mistake at least one time in your career.  There will always be unexpected obstacles that make your shift difficult to get through, and there is always the possibility of legal trouble.  All you can do is your best.  Accept that you will sometimes make an error but you must have the fortitude to forgive yourself and do better.

You May Become Attached to Your Patients

You must have a passion for helping people if you want to last in a career as a registered nurse.  However, this passion can become a burden if you become attached to a patient.  The nature of your job allows you to help a patient recover and live a healthier life, but there will be times when matters out of your control will continue the decline of their health.  Death is a part of life, and sometimes death will happen in your presence.  It is a sad reality that you will not be able to save everyone, but that does not mean you are a poor nurse.  In fact, learning to cope with the reality of death is an essential part of your job.  When you build an attachment to your patient, your heart will break if they pass away.  You may even become despondent and go into a depression, and feel as if your calling is worthless.  Understand that many nurses will go through this process at least some point in their careers, so it may be best to find a support system of other nurses who can help you.

You May Feel Like You Have a Thankless Job

Like any work environment, not all of your coworkers will be ideal.  Office politics may interfere with your career or the management above you.  Not everyone will have your and your coworker’s best interests at heart.  Your superiors may like to play favorites, and competition may drive unethical behavior.  Although ideally merit would win the day, this is simply not the truth in many jobs.  On the other hand, you will still likely have good managers and coworkers who balance out the negative aspects, so use your passion and comradeship to keep pursuing what you love.

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