Why Nursing? 10 Reasons to Become a Nurse
There are a lot of reasons why nursing could appeal to you. If you want to help sick and injured patients, have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings and want to be a role model for those around you, nursing is an excellent way to make that happen.
Entering the nursing profession has been a consistently smart career choice over the years, ranking in the top 25 best jobs of 2020 by U.S. News & World Report.1 The nursing field is expansive, covering dozens of job titles, specialties and work environments.
So what makes nursing such a great career option? We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 reasons why today is the right time for you to start your educational path toward a career in nursing.
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Why become a nurse? 10 Reasons worth considering
It’s no secret that nursing can have its stressful times, so it’s understandable if you’re looking for something to make the jump worth it. Let’s take a look at some of the most compelling reasons.
1. A nursing shortage creates demand
“As the baby boomers age and more and more people have access to insurance, it seems that hospitals are having a hard time keeping up,” says Brooke Wallace, co-founder of RegisteredNursing.org. Among those aging and reaching retirement age are thousands of practicing RNs that will need to be replaced when they retire, further exacerbating the shortage.
As a travel nurse, Wallace has experience in many different ICU environments. “The one thing they all have in common is too many patients and not enough staffed beds,” she says. This massive influx of patients combined with RN retirements—while a serious issue—does offer a silver lining for aspiring nurses as demand for services should remain strong. In fact, for 2018-2028 the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 12 percent increase in employment for RNs and an 11 percent increase in employment for licensed practical nurses (LPNs).2
2. You help people for a living
It’s been said a thousand times, but we’ll say it again—you can make a difference as a nurse. This is a people profession. You will more than likely help patients in some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives. You will take care of their medical needs, but you may also have the chance to make them feel safe, cared for, and heard like few others.
That’s an incredibly rewarding feeling that isn’t found in every career—and certainly something nurses can hang their hats on when dealing with an inevitable rough day at work.
3. Nurses have solid earning potential
Altruism aside, your career still needs to pay the bills. The good news is that nursing positions tend to fair well—the BLS reports a 2019 median annual salary of $73,300 for registered nurses.2 For LPNs, the BLS reports a 2019 median annual salary of $47,480.2 Not bad, particularly when you consider the fact that both roles do not necessarily require a Bachelor’s degree.
4. Technology is adding new dimensions to nursing
Advances in technology are rapidly changing the scope of the healthcare industry, including nursing. One field in particular, informatics, has created a whole new career path for nurses. Informatics deals with measuring data where diagnose that data and convert it into easy-to-understand information that can be used for patient treatment and care. Nurses that specialize in data analysis will be able to help forge this new frontier.
5. Nursing career choices are expanding
Nurses today can be entrepreneurs, administrators, policymakers, bloggers, professors, researchers and even doctors of nursing practice at the uppermost levels of nursing.
“There are so many opportunities out of the hospital for nurses,” says Janice Dolnick, RN-BSN and legal nurse consultant. Dolnick advises nursing students to take classes that pertain to more than just patient care.
“Nursing is a labor-intensive profession, and the long-term physical effects are important to consider,” Dolnick says. “Gaining some experience and education in the business management role is one thing I wish I could add to my resume.”
As nurses become more mobile throughout healthcare, business, politics and other spheres of society, they gain more influence to change the industry. Plus, nurses who experience burnout on the floor now have more choices to change their work lives without leaving nursing.
6. Nursing has a vibrant community
Nursing is positively stuffed with organizations, community boards and interactive blogs. Larger umbrella associations, like the American Nursing Association (ANA), trickle down into organizations dedicated to specialties, which in turn trickle down to blogging communities, local groups, podcasts and pretty much any resource you could hope to find from fellow nurses. If you are a nurse and have internet access, you’ll never need to feel alone.
7. Nurses have a lot of support for educational growth
As part of an initiative to increase the overall quality of nursing care, in 2010 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Institute of Medicine released a report calling for 80 percent of nurses to hold Baccalaureate degrees by 2020.3
“Many hospitals will now only hire registered nurses with a Bachelor’s degree,” Dolnick says. “When I obtained my license through an ASN program, my employer immediately pushed me to return to school to obtain my BSN.”
While it appears the 80 percent goal has not yet been met, there’s a clear push from many healthcare providers to increase the overall level of education possessed by their nursing workforce—and that may include chipping in with their employees’ education costs. Nurses who take advantage of options to further their education can potentially open the door to leadership and other specialized roles. Many institutions offer RN to BSN programs that are designed to maximize the nursing experience RNs already have.
8. Nursing careers provide increased flexibility
It’s a commonly-known fact that nurses have a lot of flexibility in their schedule, but that’s not the only place that nurses have a plethora of options from which to choose.
Flexibility in location is another reason to pursue a career as a nurse. Nurses can work anywhere from traditional locations, such as hospitals and doctor’s offices, to less-obvious locations, such as home health care, schools and even in the air as an emergency flight nurse.
And if you like to be on the go, travel nursing is always a great bet. Wallace says travel nurses move from hospital to hospital, responding to fill in for sudden staffing needs. Due to the in-demand nature of these jobs, they often pay very well and cover the expense of your travel to boot.
9. Education choices for nurses are extremely flexible
Many healthcare careers offer just one path—get the degree, then get the job. This can be restricting if you aren’t sure what you want your career to look like, or if you prefer to get working faster. Nursing offers multiple paths that can be added to as time goes on.
“I did the 13-month LPN program, then immediately started an LPN-to-RN program while I worked at an Alzheimer's unit and as an agency LPN," Wallace says, emphasizing that this route enabled her to begin working quickly while still gaining an education. Wallace later completed an RN-to-BSN program online to gain her Bachelor's degree in Nursing.
“I recommend this path to every person I meet who is interested in nursing. This was the fastest way to get nursing and make money while continuing my education.”
10. The nursing profession is well-respected
Nurses have been consistently rated as the “most respected profession” by consumers, according to Gallup research polls.4 Nursing is a career that you can be proud of—even respected for. While nursing might not be the first profession people think of when looking at the medical world, it is one of the first professions people think of when they look for ethical and honest work.
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“After being a nurse more than 10 years, I can say that some things have changed drastically and others are the same and probably always will be,” Wallace says. “The basic fact for the field of nursing is that the need is there and can’t be replaced by non-nurses.”
There are a lot of reasons why nursing is a great profession to choose. But perhaps an even more important motive for those that pursue this path is the constant opportunity for nurses to change lives—a purpose that will never go away.
Think you’re ready to begin a career in nursing? You’ve got plenty of options for becoming a registered nurse in short order. To learn more, check out our article, “A Beginner's Guide to Understanding the Levels of Nursing Credentials.”
11U.S. News and World Report, 100 Best Jobs, [accessed April, 2020] https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/the-100-best-jobs
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed April, 2020] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
3Institute of Medicine, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health [accessed April, 2020] https://www.nap.edu/catalog/12956/the-future-of-nursing-leading-change-advancing-health
4Gallup, Honesty / Ethics in Professions, [accessed April 2020] https://news.gallup.com/poll/1654/honesty-ethics-professions.aspx
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2020.