Confucius once stated, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” (Stevenson, 1987). Those profound words truly encourage the importance of choosing a career that one is passionate about in order to attain happiness. However, many individuals fail to recognize that they must be well-suited for their chosen career. While becoming a nurse may not be for everyone, the job can definitely be worthwhile. The abundance of demands and responsibilities that the job entails may be intimidating, but there are so many different opportunities within the nursing field that make it advantageous. Pursuing a career as a registered nurse will certainly be challenging, but it will be an extremely rewarding profession.
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A career in nursing is one that has a long history, although it has evolved over time into one of the most demanding careers in the medical field. A nurse is defined as “a person formally educated and trained in the care of the sick or infirm, especially a registered nurse” (Random House, 2001, p. 911). However, nursing has not always been considered a profession in which training or education was required. According to The New Book of Popular Science, in earlier times “nurses were generally untrained, learning only what was needed for the specific situations in which they worked” (2005, p. 482). Eventually, nursing transformed into a profession that entailed a great deal of knowledge and skill. “Nursing as a modern profession can be traced back to the mid 19th century” (The New Book of Popular Science, 2005, p. 482), as Florence Nightingale became known as one of the first pioneers of nursing. “Nightingale cared for wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War, which showed the importance of skilled nursing … and in 1860, the first nursing school, based on Nightingale’s methods, was founded in affiliation with Saint Thomas’ Hospital in London” (The New Book of Popular Science, 2005, p. 482). Nursing schools gradually became more popular, and “in 1872, Boston’s New England Hospital for women and children established the first U.S. nursing school, which awarded a nursing diploma to Linda Richards, the first trained nurse in the U.S.” (The New Book of Popular Science, 2005, p. 482). Since then, millions of men and women have entered the medical field as trained nurses, as it has proven to be an excellent career. While I have always had an interest in the medical field and a strong desire to care for and help people, being exposed to a hospital environment and observing a hospital staff allowed me to discover my desire of pursuing a career in nursing. The nurses, so intelligent, compassionate, and understanding, had not only provided their patients with necessary treatments, but offered them their utmost support and companionship. Knowing that I possess those attributes, it is that vision that has given me the drive and the willingness to help others.
As an aspiring registered nurse, one must be committed to working diligently in preparation for her career. Although each approach is quite challenging, “there are three educational routes to becoming an RN: 1) Two year associate degree programs offered by community, junior, and technical colleges. 2) Three year diploma programs offered by hospitals. 3) Four year bachelor’s degree programs offered by colleges/universities. These award the bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree” (S. Wischnitzer & E. Wischnitzer, 2005, p. 172). These three educational routes allow individuals to pursue a career as a registered nurse, while being able to choose a program that is tailored to suit their needs. Nevertheless, nursing students are all required to take several pre-requisites. For example, “basic courses cover anatomy, physiology, sociology, English, psychology, philosophy, microbiology, and nursing concepts and techniques” (S. Wischnitzer & E. Wischnitzer, 2005, p. 172). If a student opts to enroll in a four year bachelor’s degree program, they “must also take courses in precalculus, chemistry (both general and organic), biology, anthropology, and epidemiology, as well as several advanced nursing courses” (S. Wischnitzer & E. Wischnitzer, 2005, p. 172). Regardless of which program a student is enrolled in, all prospective nurses must obtain a nursing license before they are able to work. To do so, candidates must pass a “written state board examination after graduating from an accredited nursing school” (S. Wischnitzer & E. Wischnitzer, 2005, p. 172). While education is obviously an integral part of becoming a nurse, it’s important that nurses possess certain characteristics in order to be successful medical professionals. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor explains that “nurses should be caring, sympathetic, responsible, and detail oriented. They must be able to direct or supervise others, correctly assess patients’ conditions, and determine when consultation is required. They need emotional stability to cope with human suffering, emergencies, and other stresses” (2010-2011). Providing a student possesses these characteristics and is capable of doing well throughout her nursing program, she should be fully prepared to succeed in a career as a registered nurse.
The job of a registered nurse is certainly one that involves a great deal of responsibilities. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “registered nurses treat patients, educate patients and the public about various medical conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients’ family members. RNs record patients’ medical histories and symptoms, help perform diagnostic tests and analyze results, operate medical machinery, administer treatment and medications, and help with patient follow-up and rehabilitation” (2010-2011). However, depending on the nurse’s specialty and/or job location, her duties may vary. Therefore, a nurse must be able to apply her newly acquired knowledge and skills from school to the job of her choice. For example, “registered nurses have a very wide choice of work settings … these include hospitals of different types, nursing homes, schools, community health centers, public health offices, and industrial facilities” (S. Wischnitzer & E. Wischnitzer, 2005, p. 170). Fortunately, “most nurses work in facilities that are clean and well lighted and where the temperature is controlled, although some work in rundown inner city hospitals in less than ideal conditions” (Careers in Focus, 2006, p. 165). Nursing is definitely a very demanding job regardless of work setting, as it can be both physically and emotionally exhausting. For example, caring for patients often requires a great deal of strenuous activity, as patients who are ill are usually very weak. Additionally, nurses typically work long hours that include either twelve or eight hour shifts. “Those in hospitals generally work any of three shifts: 7:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.; 3:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M.; or 11:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M” (Careers in Focus, 2006, p. 165). Nurses also spend a large portion of their day either walking or standing, which is definitely physically taxing. Consequently, it is not unlikely for nurses to feel as though they are going to “burn out.” For example, one nurse reported that “if you are doing a good job, it is mentally as well as physically exhausting, demanding … you are going to burn out, as no one supports you … you are always working, always on your feet, always thinking. It doesn’t end … ever … your brain is always in overtime” (Industrial Engineer, 2011). The abundance of work and the effort a nurse must put into her job may seem very unpleasant at times, but it is undoubtably a financially rewarding career. According to the New York State Department of Labor (2010), the average salary for a registered nurse working in New York City is $82,920. Furthermore, nurses are entitled to a fair amount of time off. As for vacation time, “new employees earn 13 days per year, and bonus days are added each year for the first 7 years” (NYS Department of Civil Service, 2011). Also, “employees can earn 5 days of personal leave per year and sick leave can be accumulated to a maximum of 200 days” (NYS Department of Civil Service, 2011). Registered nurses put an enormous amount of time and energy into helping people and providing patients with proper health care, proving that they are definitely deserving of a high salary and adequate time off.
Despite the disadvantages of becoming a registered nurse, the various job opportunities and possibilities to advance make it a very desirable career choice. “Besides the chance to help others and put one’s skills to work, nursing offers diversity, ready availability of jobs, reasonable starting salaries, attractive employee benefits, a choice of educational programs, and plentiful financial aid” (Tise, 1988). These advantages are usually very appealing to interested nursing students, as the field of nursing is extremely broad and offers so many different options. Furthermore, nurses typically enjoy interacting with different types of people on a daily basis. For example, a study showed that despite nurses’ decision to quit, “they identified interactions with patients and families as being emotionally satisfying, and the loss of this interaction as their biggest regret since leaving practice” (Mackusick & Minick, 2010). However, patient interaction is not always so enjoyable, as “RNs may be in close contact with individuals who have infectious diseases” (U.S. Department of Labor, 2009), which can be quite dangerous if one is not cautious. Nurses have also reported that they dislike the people they work with, which is evident in an article from Medsurg Nursing, which states “unfriendly workplace was evidenced by nurses reporting issues of sexual harassment; verbal or physical abuse from co-workers, managers, or physicians in the workplace; and/or consistent lack of support from other RNs” (Mackusick & Minick, 2010). However, as with any career, it is important to understand that some co-workers are going to be more friendly than others. In addition to an unfriendly workplace, “overwork and stress are common in nursing … long hours, inconvenient hours, and little rest have always been a nurses lot” (Tise, 1988). For example, “researchers found that the average total sleep time between 12-hour shifts was only 5.5 hours” (Healthcare Traveler, 2010), reiterating the fact that the job of a nurse is extremely exhausting. Moreover, “nurses can be held legally accountable for providing the wrong medication to a patient even if ordered to do so by a doctor” (Tise, 1988), which is definitely a rather unattractive aspect of nursing. Nevertheless, the disadvantages of becoming a nurse should not undermine the fact that nursing has a very promising future. “Current projections are that employment of RNs is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations through 2012, and many jobs will result” (S. Wischnitzer & E. Wischnitzer, 2005, p. 172). The large amount of employment opportunities is attributed to a severe shortage of nurses, which “will be exacerbated by the increasing numbers of baby boomer aged nurses who are expected to retire, creating more open positions than there are graduates of nursing programs” (Careers in Focus, 2006, p. 165). In addition to benefiting from a very favorable job market, registered nurses have the opportunity to continue their education and advance in their career. “With additional experience and training, an RN may move into a supervisory, management, or administrative position such as head nurse. Other potential directions for advancement include specialty training, especially in one of the advanced-practice nursing specialties” (S. Wischnitzer & E. Wischnitzer, 2005, p. 172). Of the various advancement opportunities, an advanced-practice nurse is the highest degree of specialty within the field of nursing. “Advanced-practice nurses are highly trained specialists with one of four professional titles: clinical nurse specialist, nurse-anesthetist, nurse practitioner, or nurse-midwife” (S. Wischnitzer & E. Wischnitzer, 2005, p. 171). If a registered nurse decides to become an advanced-practice nurse, he or she must obtain a master’s or doctorate degree. Many nurses choose to follow this career path, as it allows them to assume a higher ranking position with enormous financial benefits.
It is evident that endeavoring towards a career as a registered nurse is demanding, but it will absolutely be worthwhile. I am definitely suited to become a registered nurse, as I am a hard-working and compassionate individual, which are characteristics that are imperative to achieve success in nursing. This upcoming fall, I will begin to actualize my goal of becoming a nurse, as I have chosen to attend Wagner College’s nursing program. After earning a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing, I hope to someday further my education and become a nurse practitioner. I am certainly aware that it is a major commitment, but I am fully prepared for the challenge and will continue to work diligently to attain my goal. I am completely confident that I will someday be an excellent nurse, but above all, as a registered nurse, I intend to “never have to work a day in my life.”