With hefty school fees to study, becoming a nurse is a big investment in you, your goals, and where you want to be in the future. As it is such a ginormous life step, we have compiled a few things you may want to think about before taking the plunge and finalizing your decision to go into the nursing profession.
Different Types of Nursing
When most people think of a nurse, their mind goes straight to a standard RN on a hospital ward. However, nursing as a profession is so much more than that. The opportunities after completing a standard nursing degree are endless. Within just the hospital system, nurses can do additional training to become nurse practitioners and take on roles and responsibilities that would, in the past, have been reserved for doctors. There is also an endless number of specialized roles nurses can go into.
Nurses can specialize in anything from cardiac to mental health, from critical care to ambulatory care, and many more. That is before we even begin to talk about all the different settings nurses can work in now. That includes schools, home health, and even less conventional roles such as being a legal nurse consultant. Additionally, nurses can go into further education and research. There are masters degrees and doctor of nursing practice degrees as well as research positions that look into trying to improve patient care and outcomes. The possibilities after a nursing degree are endless and can lead you into a much broader number of roles than most people initially envisage.
Evidence-based practice should be something you think about throughout your whole career, from being a student to retirement. It is being increasingly integrated into healthcare and the nursing profession. Most chief nurse executives believe this practice improves patient outcomes. Therefore, it is an important model to look at when thinking of joining the profession.
Modern nursing encourages nurses to act with more autonomy than in the past. To graduate as a nurse now, you must have a high level of skills and expertise. Evidence-based practice is about using your knowledge to make clinical decisions that result in the best outcome for your patients. This involves evaluating scientific research, using your practical experiences to guide you, and taking into account patient practice to create a model of individualized care.
This might sound a little daunting before you have even started studying, however, it is important you start to develop problem solving skills and get used to looking at scientific research as soon as you possibly can, so you can work on building your skills and expertise. This critical thinking was identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the most important skill registered nurses will need in their career. Working on and practicing this as soon as you can in your career will give you the best chance of becoming a successful and competent nurse in your future career.
One thing anyone considering going into the nursing profession should be aware of is that nursing is a career that promotes lifelong learning. This means that even after graduating as a registered nurse, education and training continue. This differs from the past and other professions, which after graduation, end the requirement for further study. One huge advantage of this is that it creates great opportunities for job progression within nursing. It also allows a varied number of career paths meaning nurses can specialize in essentially anything of interest to them.
However, this professional development is not really a choice and is now expected of all nurses. Everyone going into the profession must continue studying and learning years down the line. If you hated studying, you might want to consider going into a different career because continued professional development is now a huge part of the modern role of nurses. On top of the qualifications and formal learning you have to do, you also must be open to learning from your experiences. This is especially true when it comes to learning how to deal with the public and working with different, and sometimes challenging, groups of people.
Before committing to joining the nursing profession, you should be warned about how brutal some aspects of the job can be. To elaborate, working as a nurse involves doing long shifts at unsociable hours. Nurses are generally expected to work 12+ hour shifts and do their fair share of night and weekend shifts. Likewise, it is common for nurses to have to work on holidays like Christmas and Easter. This means more often than not, you may have to sacrifice time with your family and friends in order to work, and without the right expectation of this, it can lead to burnout. Of course, communication with your superiors is key here to ensure if you are struggling to work with the shifts, they can find a compromise that works best for you. However, it is reasonable to expect that you will have to give up some quality time both with loved ones and yourself.
Not only this, but nursing is very physically demanding, and nurses will spend the vast majority of their shifts on their feet and moving around. This means it’s worth considering if you are physically able to cope with these demanding hours and the physical effort involved. Members of the profession have to be willing to work hard.
This includes being adaptable and resilient, as their role involves constantly preparing for or dealing with emergencies. As a nurse, you will be put in incredibly challenging and overwhelming situations and have to learn how to deal with it on the job. This is definitely something to keep in mind. If you are a person who does not cope well with stress, you may possibly want to reconsider entering nursing, a profession where pressure, challenges, and stress are all part of a day’s work.
Additionally, working as a nurse can take a large emotional toll on those in the profession. Many nurses have to deal with distressing and traumatizing situations daily. Nurses, therefore, should have the emotional resilience to witness people suffering and still go on to be professional and perform all of their duties. That’s not to say you won’t have difficult days, or that you are expected to be happy regardless of your situation, but it means you should reach out to your superiors or a mental health professional if you find a particular incident or situation weighing on your mind.
One final thing to consider before entering nursing is the weight of responsibility that will be on your shoulders. Nursing is a profession that is becoming more and more autonomous now with the more training and education required to be a nurse. This additional knowledge and expertise possessed by nurses also means they are more in control of important clinical decisions and interventions.
All nurses have a duty of care to the patient – this means that you are accountable for each action you take. This essentially means that you must agree with the patient alongside their families and carers that the treatment is one they are happy with and are consenting to, as well as one that complies with local, national, and worldwide professional bodies and law. This has several implications – firstly, that you are always are of everything you carry out, and that you take into account all of the consequences your actions may cause. Your patient has to completely trust that you are making the best decisions for them, and to take advantage of that (whether you meant to or otherwise) can not only have severe implications for your patient but can put your role and career in jeopardy.
Another issue where this comes into play is delegation. As a registered nurse, you may have the ability to delegate tasks to other workers. This may sound like an easy way to get out of a difficult job but delegating this job does not reduce your responsibility to look after your patient. By delegating, you are ensuring that whoever is taking up a specific role or task has the ability and competence to fulfill the task to the best of their ability.
Furthermore, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a delegation, in which case you have the right to say no if you feel that the task is out of your control. At the end of the day, the most important thing is the safety of the patient, and so you must be clear at all times about your responsibilities and limits in order to ensure that safety.
These are just some of the important aspects of nursing you should consider before taking up this career path. But the most important thing to remember is that with every hardship and challenge you face, nursing will be one of the most rewarding professions you’ll ever experience.