How to Determine If Nursing Is the Right Career for You

Juliet D'cruz

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Many people dream of having a job that enables them to help other people. There are, of course, many different roles that meet this criterion, from charity work to teaching and firefighting. However, one altruistic career path that is especially popular is nursing. 

There are a wealth of reasons why becoming a nurse can be advantageous. It’s a role that brings high levels of job satisfaction and personal fulfillment, as well as employability and job security. At the same time, the position is not without its challenges. As such, it’s important to think carefully about whether it’s the right option for you before enrolling on a nursing degree. To help you out, this post will look at the role in more detail and discuss the type of skills and characteristics you’ll need to excel as a nurse.

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What does a nurse do?

The role of a nurse is a very varied one, with the exact duties and responsibilities you have differing depending on where you work and the type of patients that you see. For example, nurses can be employed everywhere from hospitals and clinics to specialist treatment centers, schools, community centers, assisted living facilities, and the military. As a general guide, you can expect to perform at least some of the following tasks wherever you work:

  • Conducting physical examinations of patients and talking to them about any symptoms they have
  • Taking patients’ medical histories
  • Ordering or conducting regular checkups, diagnostic tests, and screenings
  • Taking blood
  • Dressing wounds
  • Administering vaccines and other medications
  • Updating medical records and handling other admin tasks
  • Providing emotional support to patients and their families
  • Preparing patients, rooms, and equipment for medical procedures
  • Assisting with certain medical procedures
  • Referring patients to other healthcare professionals and services where necessary
  • Educating people about relevant topics such as disease prevention, healthy living, and so on

What career progression options are available for nurses?

One of the great aspects of becoming a nurse is the wide range of career progression options that open up to you as you gain experience and improve your skills. This enables you to find a job role that truly matches your personality, interests, and talents. 

For example, if you want to progress to advanced roles in direct patient care, you could choose to specialize in treating a specific medical condition or working with a particular patient group. This could be caring for senior citizens as a geriatric nurse practitioner, looking after children as an acute care pediatric nurse practitioner, working in women’s health, or focusing on treating patients with cancer, psychiatric conditions, or diabetes. 

There are also a wide variety of roles that focus on indirect patient care. For instance, you could work in management, train up the next generation of nurses, or conduct research. Other options include combining healthcare with computing in nursing informatics, helping to develop new healthcare policies, and focusing on the intersection of nursing and law.

What skills do I need to be a good nurse?

When studying for your nursing degree, you will acquire all sorts of specialist knowledge and clinical skills that will help you to do your job effectively after graduating. However, there are also a number of more general transferable skills that you should aim to cultivate in order to truly excel. 

For example, it’s important to have strong communication skills because you’ll be working with people of all ages and from different backgrounds. This includes not only patients but family members and other healthcare professionals. You may need to explain complex medical information to those who have no background knowledge in the field or reassure a child that the vaccine you’re about to administer won’t hurt. 

Another key skill you’ll need is attention to detail as nurses have to check information such as expiry dates and batch numbers carefully, handle precise dosages of medication, and pick up on medical symptoms that are not always immediately obvious. Not only that, you’ll need to do so even after long hours on shift – and when a mistake can mean the difference between life and death.

Finally, admin skills such as organization and time management will be a big help in nursing. You’ll be working with lots of different patients every day, each with their own unique problems, and you’ll have to keep on top of your busy workload without being reminded of your tasks. Don’t panic if you’re not confident that you have all of these skills yet, though, because you’ll get the chance to hone them during your clinical placements.

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What kind of person makes a great nurse?

Nursing isn’t all about subject knowledge and clinical skills. It’s also about your personality and what is referred to as your ‘bedside manner’. To truly be a fantastic nurse, there are certain characteristics that you’ll need to embody as you go about your work. The most obvious of these are probably compassion and empathy, both of which are vital for providing the best level of care and emotional support to your patients. Beyond this, as a nurse, you need your patients to trust you. That means always exhibiting professionalism, honesty, and integrity in everything you do. Think of yourself as a role model for your local community and conduct yourself accordingly.

It’s important to recognize that nursing can be a tough job at times. You will inevitably find yourself having to deal with stressful and upsetting situations, and so you’ll need a certain amount of mental strength to cope. It can also be physically tiring due to the long hours spent on your feet, which means physical fitness and stamina are key to preventing burnout. This might sound intimidating; however, having a clear view of the negatives of the job as well as the positives will help you to make an informed decision about whether it’s the right career for you.

Lastly, as a nurse, you will need to be adaptable in order to respond quickly and effectively to any unexpected problems and emergencies that arise. In line with this is the ability to remain positive, patient, and friendly no matter what the day throws at you. Rest assured that the vast majority of nurses find their job to be hugely rewarding, and if you start down this path, you’re sure to have a fulfilling and enjoyable career ahead of you. Good luck!