The Reality of Being a Nurse: What You Should Consider

The Reality of Being a Nurse: What You Should Consider

Mar 23, 2015 | 10:00 am

Some people envy the high earning potential, flexible work schedule and other amazing benefits a career in healthcare has to offer, but the reality of nursing is often much different than what is imagined.

Nursing is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and surveys show nurses are among the most trusted professionals out there. So what goes on behind the scenes of this time-honored profession?

Reality of Nursing #1: Flexible schedules don’t mean easy work hours

If you’re feeling drawn to a career that offers nontraditional hours, this is one of them, but the hours worked are often full, long and in some cases, unusual. The American Journal of Nursing says that while 12-hour shifts are becoming the norm, especially in hospital settings, research shows that these nurses are often more fatigued and have greater risk for making errors.

There are “shift” hours, including night shift, weekend hours and holiday hours, but there are also non-clinical nursing positions that offer standard business hours. In any case, while “time off” is a perk to the job, the reality of nursing would reveal that starting out in the field often involves taking on some of the least popular shifts or work hours. And in general, getting out “on time” isn’t always much of a reality.

Reality of Nursing #2: Nurses provide actual medical care

Movies and TV shows often portray nurses as the helping hands who pop in and out of rooms at just the right time, but depending on the level of education and position, nurses are much more proactive and involved medically.

According to the BLS, advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) such as nurse practitioners or nurse anesthetists, can provide primary and specialty care, as well as perform exams, diagnose various health issues and analyze results from diagnostic tests, all while working collaboratively or independently with physicians.

Reality of Nursing #3: Their educational requirements are ongoing

Maybe you thought that once you graduated from nursing school, the “school” part was over – and at some point in nursing history that may have been the case. The health care landscape is changing though, and nurses are being called to change with it.

Studies show that nurses with a BSN or higher have better patients outcomes overall, and more employers are showing a preference for hiring them. This trend has resulted in more nurses returning to school to advance their careers or stay up with the latest.

Reality of Nursing #4: There are so many career choices

If you thought all nurses went to nursing school and then jumped in wherever they fit best, that’s a myth. From Licensed Vocational Nurses to registered nurses to APRNs, depending on a nurse’s level of education, experience and chosen career path, the roles vary greatly. But that isn’t half of it: there’s also medical specialty to consider. notes there are 104 nursing specialties, many having different settings in which to work.

Most nursing students will discover their preferred field during supervised clinical experience in school, but others will change specialties throughout their career. In either case, deciding which level of nurse, what field of medicine and where you want to work are all points to consider strongly.

Every career has its ups and downs, and nursing isn’t exempt. While every day holds something new, it’s also worth it to consider some of the more predictable aspects of the job. Good luck!