Would I Be a Good Nurse? 11 Questions to Ask Yourself
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 nailed down quite yet, you know that you have a desire to find a career where you can help others, and this keeps bringing you back to a possible career in nursing.
Nursing certainly seems like it could be a strong career choice. But it’s tricky to leap into a career path when you have no idea if you are a good fit for the work. Fortunately, a little self-reflection can go quite a way in providing career clarity.
If you find yourself asking, “Would I be a good nurse?” you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a list of 11 questions to help evaluate your aptitude for a nursing career. Read on to find out if you have what it takes to be successful as a nurse!
11 Questions to ask yourself before you consider becoming a nurse
1. Can I handle blood?
This basic question is a key one to start with. Most nurses see more than their fair share of blood, vomit, pus and otherwise not-so-pleasant bits of human anatomy—and you’ll need to get past that fact quickly. 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.
2. Am I a good listener?
One of a nurse’s primary jobs is to listen to their 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. Nurses often have the most face-to-face time with their patients, so they are the number one advocate for their patients’ health. To advocate well, a nurse must be quick to listen from the get-go and be ready to answer questions or have some longer discussions.
3. Can I work long hours on my feet?
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 physical stamina is one of the requirements for RNs, as noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1 You should be comfortable standing or walking for hours at a time if you’re serious about a nursing career.
4. Can I empathize with others?
Good nurses can empathize not only with their patients but also with 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).
You don’t have to agree with—or even be all that fond of—the patients in your care, but you do have to be able to mentally put yourself in their shoes and act in their best interests.
5. Can I analyze information?
When connecting with patients, nurses hear a litany of symptoms and complex medical histories all day long. It is through analyzing these various pieces of information that a diagnosis finds its first footing. “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.
6. Do I know when to follow the rules?
“Nurses struggle to balance following policies versus independent thinking,” says Angelis. The medical world is filled with proper procedures and rules—and the vast majority of the time, they serve their purpose and enhance patient care. Every healthcare environment will have policies for employed nurses to follow.
That said, patients are complicated and exceptional situations happen. That means sometimes rigid adherence to rules or guidelines may not be the best course of action. Good nurses need critical-thinking skills to know the difference and know when an issue may need to be escalated. “It is always worth it in the long run to have the priority of doing what is right for patients,” says Angelis.
7. Am I a good communicator?
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 BLS.1 Clear and effective communication is essential for preventing errors, keeping patients comfortable and improving the overall quality of their care.
8. Can I deal with irregular hours?
Many 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 structure can be a bonus for some, especially if you’re working around your family’s schedule, interested in potentially earning more with shift differential pay or happy to pick 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.
9. Am I observant?
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. They also have to be on the lookout for side effects from medication and signs that a patient is getting worse rather than better. Some of these changes aren’t always obvious at first glance, so it takes sharp senses to catch when something seems off about a patient.
10. Can I prioritize?
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.
11. Can you emotionally regulate your work experiences?
Throughout your workday as a nurse, you will directly encounter both the highs and the lows of the human experience. Emotional stability is an essential skill to making a career in nursing work in the long term.
“Self-care is one of the most important practices for nurses. If you are not taking care of yourself, you can’t help others,” says Jennifer Hovden, RN at The Ohana Addiction Treatment Center. Hovden explains this is an essential part of her day, whether that happens through yoga, meditation or spending time in nature. While practically every job can have overwhelming moments, nursing may be particularly challenging for those who struggle to keep a healthy emotional balance.
Is a nursing career in your future?
Take some time to consider these questions. 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 as soon as possible. Our article “How to Become an RN Fast: 3 Potential Paths to Pursue” will help you make sense of your options.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2016. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2022.