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5 Things Nurses Wish They Knew Before Becoming One

For many nurses, the job is a calling as much as a conscious career path. For most who end up in this field, their interest in the profession starts with an inherent desire to help people. They’re driven by the need to make a positive impact in people’s lives—the fact that nursing is an in-demand job that offers steady growth and a competitive salary is a big plus.

Most also assume that they know what nurses do and face on a daily basis. After all, we see a lot of nurses’ work depicted in the media, and we encounter nurses in hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. However, that’s only scratching the surface of what nurses do. What happens behind the scenes is a lot more intense and complicated. If you’re serious about pursuing a career in nursing, here are some things you should know before becoming one.

1. Nurses have to think on their feet—all the time

Good training and education are a great way to prepare for all the critical thinking and fast-paced decision making that nurses have to do on the job. However, no one can really prepare you for the level of autonomy you have as a nurse when you’re tasked to make life-or-death decisions for people under your care.

Many people assume that nurses simply follow orders from doctors. While it’s true that nurses work closely with physicians and there are in fact instances when they take their cue from them, nurses are also responsible for assessing patient situations and using their skills and critical thinking to proceed with the best plan of care. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites critical thinking as one of the most important skills nurses should develop to be successful in their jobs.

2. Nursing shifts are demanding—but they’re flexible

There’s an assumption that nurses have no choice but to work extended hours and night shifts. It’s thought of as a right of passage for new nurses—you have to put in your time on night shifts before gaining the privilege of working reasonable and much desired day shifts.

Your working hours as a nurse largely depend on specific hiring situations and where you’re working. Also, there are now rules about new nurses being able to find more flexible shifts that are more ideal and suited to their preferred schedules.

3. Hospital jobs are incredibly competitive

New nurses tend to gravitate towards hospitals after finishing their studies. However, hospital jobs can be quite competitive. Despite an impending nursing shortage, hospitals require a certain level of experience and expertise. They usually accept only a limited number of fresh graduates because a hospital demands efficiency, and more experienced nurses have demonstrated capability.

As a new graduate, don’t limit yourself to hospitals. Stay open to different job opportunities that will provide the experience and training necessary to open more doors for you in this field.

4. Experience is critical in the ER

Many nurses want to work in Emergency Care. In addition to training and education, however, experience in the field is critical. Education is an ideal foundation, but developing an instinct for handling critical patient care under pressure is gained through exposure and experience in the field.

5. The emotional aspect of nursing can be more challenging than you imagine

Even if you’ve never been squeamish about seeing injuries or blood, watching patients under your care suffer or experience pain can be more emotionally taxing than you can imagine. As a nurse, you will experience immensely rewarding situations where you see patients get better, but you will also be put through the emotional wringer when they are in pain—or when no more can be done and they die. Depending on your specialization, you may have to deal with severe health issues daily.

Nursing may be one of the most demanding professions to enter, but it’s also one of the most deeply rewarding jobs in healthcare. Your contributions to the community will be immense, and the bond that you build with your patients will be priceless. This is why the passion behind this profession is so important. Although burnout is an ever-looming threat, bracing yourself for the potential challenges is a great way to prepare yourself.

Find more information about training for a career in healthcare at HCI College.

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