There are few careers out there as rewarding as being a professional nurse. From interacting with a wide variety of people each day to putting your natural desire to help people to the ultimate test, nursing is often seen as more of a vocation than a traditional career.
With roots in both Christian and Muslim culture, nursing was originally based in religious principles, founded upon a desire to care for the infirm, weary, and dying. Beginning with nuns — referred to, like female nurses, as “sisters” — it took the pioneering work of Florence Nightingale in the 19th century for it to move into the more secular realm that we recognize today.
Now, nursing is easily one of the most important careers out there, attracting both men and women across the world. It is worth bearing in mind though that a career such as nursing is also an immensely difficult one, only to be embarked upon by the strongest of people due to its difficult physical and emotional toll. Nonetheless, whether you have decided to consider becoming a nurse or are considering looking for college places, we would recommend that you follow and carefully read the key points that we have written out for you below. Keep reading to see which key tips we have picked for you!
It’s Not Just for Women
One of the biggest misconceptions you can find about nurses worldwide is that it is purely a job for the female sex. While the historical foundations of nursing found more women doing the job, this has changed somewhat throughout the upheavals of the 20th and 21st centuries. Now women may make up more of the workforce, but men do make up a significant 9% of the industry, a marked increase from the 2.7% who were in the industry in the 1970s. This is only likely to increase in the future as the world becomes more egalitarian. Therefore, if you are a man reading this article who is looking to join the industry, do not be put off by any of the traditional stereotypes!
Like a lot of higher education across the US, the cost of a typical nursing degree means that it is not something you want to start lightly. Before taking part in a nursing degree, it’s really worth consulting a financial advisor to make sure that you have found the right school for your budget. While the price can differ depending on whether you go to a community college or a private school, you can expect the average debt for a nursing degree to end up being somewhere around $24,000.
Type of Qualification
Before you decide to embark on a nursing career, it is worth bearing in mind which type of credentials you actually want to have, and the different qualifications that you need in order to achieve those credentials. Generally speaking, there are four different entry paths to becoming a nurse:
- Diploma in Nursing: a three-year certificate from a school of nursing based in a hospital.
- Associate of Science in Nursing: a two- or three-year certificate from a college focusing on clinical skills.
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing: a four- or five-year program with more focus on research.
- Master of Science in Nursing: a more advanced one- to three-year program in nursing for students with a bachelor’s in another subject.
If you already have a degree in a related course, you may also find a necessary conversion course that works for you. It is worth looking around and thinking through these options properly to see which qualification fits you and your interests best.
Online vs Offline Learning
Now that you may have decided on the type of qualification you want to have it is worth having a think about whether you want to do it online (learning via the internet) or offline (learning hands-on at an institution).
As online learning has accelerated over the past year and remote learning has become more integrated within the healthcare system, it may be the right choice for you. This is especially true if you are looking to get a degree while balancing other responsibilities such as childcare or another job. One institution that offers a great variety of online nursing courses is Marymount University. While they are based in Arlington, Virginia, they can help you get qualified from the comfort of your own home and in a location of your choice. Take a look at their website to see what they have to offer.
Long Working Hours
It is a well-known fact that nurses work incredibly long hours. According to a study, the average shift of a nurse in the US is between 12 to 13 hours. This is well above the average in the country which is around 8.8 hours a day. If you want a quiet and easy life where you clock in at 9am and leave the office at 5pm, then it’s worth considering a different career path. Nursing, and the long hours it entails, can take its toll on both your mental and physical health. It’s why you should also focus on developing strong fitness.
Not only are you likely to work long hours, but the vast majority of these are likely to be spent rushing around on your feet. Therefore, training to become a nurse isn’t just about clinical knowledge and ability, but also about sheer physical force of will and good body shape. One way to mitigate against this physical toll is to train your fitness through running and gym sessions well before you even see the inside of a hospital.
While doctors in the US can expect an average wage of around $105,000, nurses, despite sometimes working longer hours, don’t make quite as much, with the average salary being around $62,000. While this can easily increase thanks to overtime and achieving a more senior position, the salary is definitely worth bearing in mind before dedicating your life towards it.
Length of Degree
While the average pass rate for a nursing degree remains quite high, with a report showing a 92% success rate in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, the time it takes to complete a degree can be a little off-putting. You will have to invest at least a couple of years of practical experience before you can start working. This is something that may take even longer if you are working towards it part-time. Nonetheless, it is a far quicker process than becoming a doctor!
Nursing is not a job for introverts! As your primary duty is to care for the sick, elderly, and infirm, you will have to talk to and reassure a wide variety of people. Therefore, it is essential to be good at talking and socializing, especially with people who may not be as kind to you as you are to them. That is why it is also good to develop a thick skin and a strong sense of humor to get you past the more difficult patients.
When you are a nurse you are juggling a million things at once. Whether it is admin, directly looking after a patient’s needs, being able to delegate tasks to other nurses or doctors, it is essential that you have your time management skills down to a fine art. Otherwise you run the real risk of burnout as too many tasks may come your way at once. That is why we would recommend getting to places earlier than you need to and write copious amounts of lists so that you don’t forget everything. This leads us on to our next point.
Sometimes you will be so busy that you will not have the time to write tasks down. That is why it is so important to develop strong memory skills. Tactics you can invest in to boost your brain memory include:
- Having a cigarette- and alcohol-free lifestyle
- Eating less sugar
- Incorporating fish oil supplements in your diet
- Finding time outside work for meditation and relaxation
- Engaging in regular sleep patterns
- Taking your days off seriously to unwind
- Playing cognitive memory games
- Doing regular exercise
By boosting your brain health, you will train your mind to be a much stronger instrument, allowing you to remember more when you are in the field.
Sense of Humor
Doctors and nurses are famed for their dark sense of humor. While this may seem like they are uncaring and callous on the surface, this sense of humor has usually been developed as a way to process the dark nature of the job. Think of classic comic tropes found in hospital-based TV shows from Scrubs to Grey’s Anatomy. Just as important as being able to get on with your patients, we would recommend developing running jokes with your colleagues. This leads us to our next point about coping strategies.
Nurses are surrounded by sickness, waste, and death every single day. Humor is just one of the ways we recommend coping with such a difficult job. If you don’t learn how to cope, it is likely that you will develop mental health issues such as depression, stress, and anxiety. Other coping strategies we would recommend for getting through what can be an intensely emotional workday include:
- Seeking professional help
- Leaning on your friends and family
- Seeking out spiritual guidance
- Looking out for and preventing stressful situations
- Practicing Meditation
- Good time management
- Emotional distancing from patients
We would recommend not just implementing one or two of these techniques but combining a few of them to make sure that the pressures of the job aren’t weighing you down.
One thing they may not tell you a lot about is the large amount of time that you will spend on the phone. Whether it is talking to doctors, administrators, or even the patients themselves, you will be expected to constantly be using the phone. If you are one of these people that find themselves nervous when picking up the phone, we would recommend practicing with friends and family before you start doing regular shifts at a clinic or hospital.
Irregular Eating Hours
When working a long shift, you may find yourself finding little time to actually sit down and eat. In fact, you may find that the only time left to yourself is during your commute. This may be a little thing, but if you are somebody who likes to have regular meal times, then this is probably not the job for you. We would also recommend training the body to get used to this type of eating schedule because if you come in unprepared, you may find your body unable to deal with a lack of key nutrients.
Risk of Viral Infection
Hospitals can trace their roots to viral diseases such as the Black Death, leprosy, and cholera, meaning that from the very beginning of time, nurses and doctors have been at the frontline in protecting the human race from devastating epidemics. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare workers have found themselves at high risk of death and dying, especially in the US. While in a normal year, nurses and doctors are usually protected due to high levels of cleanliness that are to be found in a hospital, in the case of viral outbreaks, the level of infection of those who deal with the sick can be dangerously high.
Learning from Mistakes
We all make mistakes. The difference between a regular office mistake and one in a clinical setting, however, is huge. For nurses, making a large mistake can come with a huge mental and physical toll. Nonetheless, these types of mistakes are part and parcel of the job, and if you are unable to move past them, then your work will permanently suffer. After making such a mistake, it is worth really taking a look inside yourself as to what went wrong, so you can make sure that you never make the same error again.