You’ve been thinking about your future a lot lately. Though you don’t have an exact answer to that “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question, you keep coming back to a possible career in nursing.
You’ve always been curious about working in healthcare and spending your days making a difference in patients’ lives. Nursing certainly seems like it could be a strong career choice. But that brings up another question for you to ask yourself: “Would I be a good nurse?”
We’re helping you find the answer with these 10 questions to consider before you pursue a nursing career. Read on to find out if you have what it takes to be successful as a nurse!
10 questions to ask yourself before you consider becoming a nurse
Not all medical jobs require getting up close and personal with bodily fluids, but nurses typically see their fair share of blood. Nurses are often expected to draw blood, administer IV fluids, change dressings on wounds and be present during procedures that involve blood, such as labor and delivery or surgery. If the thought of blood makes you queasy, one of these medical jobs without blood may be a better fit for you.
One of a nurse’s primary jobs is to listen to his or her patients. “If you aren't listening, you could miss an important diagnosis, an important intervention or an important complication,” says Deonne Brown Benedict, Family Nurse Practitioner at Charis Family Clinic. Good nurses are advocates for their patients’ health, and that means listening to and addressing their questions and concerns.
Nursing is a physically demanding job, from lifting and turning patients to hustling back and forth between patient rooms. Nurses are on their feet through it all. It’s no surprise that stamina is one of the requirements for RNs, as noted by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). You should be comfortable standing or walking for hours at a time if you’re serious about a nursing career.
Good nurses can empathize not only with their patients but also their colleagues. “Understanding contrasting points of view, cultural norms or even how someone could vote for the presidential candidate you abhor are good clues that you have what it takes to be a compassionate nurse,” says Nick Angelis, CRNA and author of How to Succeed in Anesthesia School (And RN, PA, or Med School).
Nurses hear a litany of symptoms and complex medical histories all day long. “Is what the patient is reporting something minor, something major, a side effect from a medication, an undiagnosed disease, symptoms of a worsening problem or do you need more information?” says Benedict. Nurses need strong analytical skills to interpret that information and determine the best course of action.
“Nurses struggle to balance following policies versus independent thinking,” says Angelis. The medical world is filled with proper procedures and rules — and most of the time, they serve their purpose and enhance patient care. Every healthcare environment will have policies for employed nurses to follow.
But every now and then, rules need to be broken for the safety of a patient. Good nurses need critical-thinking skills to know the difference. “It is always worth it in the long run to have the priority of doing what is right for patients,” says Angelis.
Nurses are a vital part of the medical team that serves patients, and every team needs strong communication skills to function. Nurses can expect to consult with other medical professionals about patients both verbally and through writing every single day, according to the DOL. Good communication is essential to prevent errors and increase patient comfort and care.
Nurses don’t have a typical 9–5 workday. Twelve-hour shifts, nights, weekends and holidays are all commonplace for a nurse’s schedule. This flexibility can be a bonus for some, especially if you’re working around your family’s schedule or interested in picking up extra hours here and there. But if you’d prefer a predictable schedule with holidays off, nursing may not be a good fit for you.
A good portion of a nurse’s job is simply paying close attention to patients. Nurses need to closely monitor everything from vital signs and blood pressure to a patient’s diet and physical activity, according to the DOL. They also have to be on the lookout for side effects from medication and signs that a patient is getting worse rather than better.
Nurses care for several patients at a time, which means they’re often pulled in many directions at once. What should come first: responding to a patient in pain or helping the doctor who just called for you? It’s tempting to give in to stress when you’re feeling overwhelmed, but if you can keep your cool and prioritize, you may have the makings of an excellent nurse.
If the answer to “Would I be a good nurse?” is a resounding “Yes,” you may be wondering what you can do to get started on your new career path. Step one is deciding which nursing degree will help you reach your career goals. Find out with our infographic: Types of Nursing Degrees: Diagnosing Your Ideal Healthcare Career.