In our fast-paced modern society where Facebook provides a constant window into the lives and successes of everyone we know, it’s easy to feel directionless. But you’re not alone; there are an awful lot of people who struggle to pinpoint exactly what path they would like to follow. It can take some time to discover your calling, but the perfect job is out there.
Admittedly, finding it can be challenging, so it helps to have the right information on hand when it comes to exploring your options. One of those options is in the field of nursing. Nursing is a career that appeals to many, but a lack of knowledge and proper education is enough to deter a lot of potentially fabulous nurses from looking into it a little further.
That’s why we’ve created this handy guide to help you understand the life and work of a nurse. If you’re kind, compassionate, and caring, and you think that you could really make a difference in the lives of others, then here’s everything that you need to know about a career in nursing.
What is a Nurse?
When we use the term nurse, we’re actually referring to four separate and specialist job roles: adult nurses, child nurses, learning disability nurses, and mental health nurses. Together, these highly qualified and skilled professionals make up the largest staff group in the health sector, helping to care for countless people in need each year. These medical professionals work in every type of health setting, from emergency services, to surgeries, and even patients’ homes, providing an invaluable service to those who are ill, vulnerable, or in need of support.
What Qualities Do Nurses Need?
There are a number of important qualities that aspiring nurses should possess, and some of the most important are:
Compassion: As a nurse, you’ll encounter a lot of patients and relatives who are frightened, scared, or suffering, and it helps to be able to sympathize with their plight and offer them support.
Integrity: Patient confidentiality is an incredibly important tenet for all who work in the medical profession, and you must have the integrity to abide by it.
Kindness: Many of the people that you help will be uncomfortable or frightened, and a kind approach can go a long way towards putting your patients at ease.
Emotional empathy: You will deal with all manner of people in all manner of states, and it’s not a nurse’s job to judge. Empathy will really help you to understand the way that both your patients and their relatives are feeling, and will also aid you in building an important rapport with those you are treating.
Pragmatism: Nursing is often a less than glamorous role, so you need to be able to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.
Friendliness: Sometimes, nurses will need to extract sensitive information from their patients, and the more friendly and approachable you are, the more likely it is that the people you’re treating will trust and confide in you.
Ability to work in a team: Nursing staff work as part of an incredibly large, complex, and efficient team, so teamwork skills are essential.
When you’re reading nursing job descriptions and writing a resume, you’ll find that these are the skills that you need to emphasize, along with your professional competence and qualifications, in order to really shine and show how suitable you are for such a vocation.
How Can You Qualify as a Nurse?
There are lots of different paths into nursing, but you will always need a vocation-specific degree, and must also be registered with your country’s nursing board. In the US, on top of education, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. In the UK, you must register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Check your local registration and education requirements before pursuing a nursing career.
In order to qualify for nursing education courses, you must be able to demonstrate certain skills, such as proficiency in literacy and mathematics. Most institutions will also expect you to hold standard high school qualifications, and in many cases you’ll require a higher education equivalent as well. For those who already work in health care, apprenticeships may offer an alternative option.
In a number of countries, such as the UK, the government will fund your training, meaning that you’ll have no debts to pay off at the end of your degree. In the US, the Department of Health and Human Services runs the NURSE Corps Scholarship Program, which provides stipends and tuition relief. Getting your nursing education doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg, so make sure you look into your grant and scholarship options.
What Do Nurses Do?
As a qualified nurse, you’ll be entrusted with a large amount of responsibility for patient care, and common duties will probably include the following:
- Recording patients’ medical histories and symptoms
- Administering medicines and treatments prescribed by doctors
- Observing patients and making records of your findings
- Performing diagnostic tests and helping to analyse results
- Operating and monitoring medical equipment
- Creating or contributing towards plans for patient care
- Consulting with other health professionals, such as doctors and - pharmacists
- Educating patients on how to manage illnesses or injuries both at home and long-term.
This work will be performed as part of a large team, which will include other nurses, doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists, and more. The specifics of your role will be determined by your specialty, but your work day will be fast-paced, challenging, and highly rewarding regardless of your field.
Try to figure out what area of nursing you want to enter early on, so that you can steer your education in the right direction. While your general courses will teach you the principles you need to know for the nursing profession as a whole, some specializations can also be taught to help you become the type of nurse you want.
What Hours Do Nurses Work?
One factor that acts as a deterrent to many of those considering a career in nursing is working hours. Those who choose employment in hospitals and care facilities will be expected to work around the clock, with shifts covering nights, weekends, and even holidays. Days are often long, tiring, and physically exhausting, so the job is not for the faint of heart. Yet most who choose the profession feel that these drawbacks are balanced by the incredible sense of reward that they receive from helping people.
There is also a different route you can approach that is a bit less stressful than working in an emergency room. Finding employment as a nurse in offices, schools, or other establishments gives you the opportunity to have standard working hours. These rarely extend beyond 9-5, and can make this type of nursing better suited to those with families or busy personal lives.
It all depends on your own personal preferences and what drives you in your career. If you want the fast paced style, find work at a hospital. If you want stability, aim for a more stable job with a school or an office.
Nursing isn't a career for everyone. It requires a lot of hard work, education, and the right mannerism to be able to deal with difficult patients and difficult situations. You'll face hardships and tragedies while saving people's lives, and that can result in a truly stressful vocation. But if you feel that you fit the bill to become a nurse, your skills are needed. In the US, UK, and all over the world, there is a severe shortage of skilled nurses that needs to be corrected. So go get the education and pass the exams you need to start your nursing career.
Image courtesy of COD Newsroom.