There are so many reasons why you might wish to consider breaking into the field of nursing. For one, you would spend the majority of your time helping others and making a real difference in your community. Never mind the fact that the demand for qualified nursing professionals is constantly increasing as the years go by, meaning that you probably wouldn’t struggle to find employment or a decent salary regardless of where in the world you decided to look for a job.
However, as appealing as the vocation may sound, it certainly comes with its fair share of challenges and hard work! Therefore, before you take that leap of faith and begin your studies, here are eight important questions to ask yourself first.
Do I have the ‘stomach’ for it?
If you ask an experienced nurse what the most important characteristic of a nursing professional is, he or she will likely immediately respond with the answer of ‘empathy.’Since you are working closely with people who are sick or injured, it is vital for you to be understanding and sensitive to their needs and emotions. It is important to build up a sense of trust in your patients and to hold their hand (literally and figuratively) through the hardships that they will have to endure on their way to recovery.
Unfortunately, there is no escaping the fact that not all patients recover. Severe illness, injury, and death come with the territory of working as a nursing practitioner, and it can take a tremendous toll on a person from an emotional perspective. The question is, are you equipped with the coping mechanisms necessary to deal with these realities of the job? Don’t worry if there is still work to be done in this regard. A number of nurses take years to learn how to cope with loss on the job. Remember that if you ever do find yourself struggling with this particular aspect of the job, it is essential that you seek help and support immediately.
Am I familiar with the duties that will be expected of me?
There are many RN and family nurse practitioner duties that you should be aware of before entering the healthcare industry – many of which are not quite as pleasant as others! For example, you will often need to clean and dress wounds, help to bathe your patients, clean up bedpans, etc. This may seem daunting at first. It is a good idea to remind yourself that while there indeed unpleasant duties that form part of the job, there are a lot more enjoyable, enriching, and educational tasks that you will complete on a daily basis.
Often, you will:
- Contribute to the creation and implementation of care plans for your patients.
- Educate patients on how to care for themselves throughout their recovery, as well as how to manage their conditions.
- Provide advice regarding important lifestyle changes to improve your patients’ wellbeing.
- Take a lead role in performing physical exams.
- Take part in diagnostics, particularly when it comes to ordering and interpreting test results.
- Prescribe medication and instruct patients when and how to take it.
- Take care of patient admissions, transfers, and discharges
- Make referrals to other healthcare practitioners if specialist care or second opinions are required.
Also, keep in mind that the more experience you have, and whether or not you decide to further your education, determines the type of duties that you will be involved in. For instance, nurses that hold a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) will likely perform more entry-level duties than their DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) counterparts.
Am I squeamish?
Being a nurse means coming into contact with certain fluids that some people might find repulsive, such as urine, vomit, blood, and feces. Unfortunately, dealing with these bodily fluids is part and parcel of life as a nursing practitioner, and there isn’t any possible way to sugarcoat it! Therefore, if you are going to struggle to keep your breakfast down or feel faint while changing soiled sheets, you might want to think about pursuing a different career path!
Can I work efficiently both as part of a team and on my own?
You might assume that your first few years out of college will revolve around following orders issued by your superiors. However, the reality is that registered nurses need to be able to work autonomously right from the get-go.
Think about the nature of the healthcare profession, and you will quickly realize why. For starters, there is almost always an emergency to deal with, and hospitals and clinics often find themselves understaffed. As such, even those RNs who have recently graduated will need to know what steps to take to keep their patients healthy and happy. This involves building up confidence, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills while you are still studying so that you are ready to put it all into practice the minute you walk into your first day on the job!
Working independently is just one aspect of the nursing profession, however. There will also be a number of instances that involve working closely with other nurses and physicians. This could involve assisting in diagnosing a patient or helping to ensure swift and seamless shift changes (updating the nurse taking over from you if there are any changes regarding a patient’s health, for example).
Am I able to stay calm in emergencies?
Responding to emergencies calmly and proactively is a big part of the job when you are employed as a nurse. You need to know how to avoid letting the adrenalin boost cloud your judgment or impact your thinking. Along with staying calm in emergencies, you will also be expected to work under tremendous pressure, sometimes multiple times a day.
Can I keep up with the physical demands of the job?
There is a significant physical aspect associated with practicing as a nurse that most people forget to mention. More often than not, you will spend your days attending to patients, filling in paperwork, and lifting heavy objects, such as the patients themselves when rolling them over or helping them out of bed. This equates to spending many hours on your feet at a time, especially when you first start out and are expected to handle most of the ‘grunt’ work. Along with remaining on your feet for long periods, the average nursing shift is longer than that for most other jobs, usually averaging at around 11 – 12 hours. Be sure to invest in a pair of snug-fitting compression socks to help prevent and alleviate pain in your legs and feet.
The good news is that if you are fit enough and can endure extended working hours, you will have a wonderful, rewarding career ahead of you! Just remember to prioritize self-care in between each shift that you work, making sure that you get enough sleep, exercise a few times a week, and eat a nutritionally balanced diet full of ‘brain food’ to keep you going!
What are my strengths?
When you first begin your career as a nurse, you will have the opportunity to dabble in many different aspects of healthcare, which can assist you in deciding whether or not to specialize, as well as what to specialize in. Having said that, it is best to analyze your strengths and passions before you even apply to attend nursing school. If you know that you are a natural leader, and you enjoy working closely with children, you might already be able to focus on setting long-term goals for yourself – such as becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner.
It is important to remain flexible in this regard. After all, you never know what could change over the course of your studies and your career. However, setting long-term goals is a great way in which to keep yourself focused and motivated from day to day.
What are my weaknesses?
If you know and understand your ‘weaknesses’ ahead of commencing your studies, you will have ample time to work on improving them before entering the working world. Speak to a qualified RN to find out what sorts of skills and qualities are critical to excelling in the field, and then assess where you currently stand.
Perhaps you discover that verbal communication skills play a key role in helping you climb the ‘ladder of success,’ and you know that you struggle to convey your thoughts and ideas due to self-esteem issues? Being aware of this will push you to overcome these difficulties long before they even present as problems or obstacles in your way of achieving your goals. You could plan to speak to a psychologist, attend speech and drama classes, or simply endeavor to get out more and be more social.
Once you have answered this comprehensive list of questions, and you feel confident in your answers, you will know that you are ready to take the next steps and pursue your dreams of becoming a nurse. Do your best to stay diligent, motivated, and, of course, don’t be afraid to ask for guidance when you need it. Good luck and enjoy every moment of the journey!