Is Nursing a Good Career? Nurses Dish the Details
By Ashley Brooks on 03/11/2019
Nursing is a profession that carries plenty of positive designations. It’s known for being a stable career that offers growth and advancement opportunities, and for being a fulfilling job that’s more than just a paycheck. Several nursing specialties were even named in U.S. News & World Report’s list of 100 Best Jobs in America!1
When you ask, “Is nursing a good career?” you might think the obvious answer is, “Yes!” Nursing certainly seems like a job to consider as you weigh your career options. However, no career is perfect, and even the best careers have downsides. Not every personality type will be well-suited to caring for patients and navigating the healthcare system.
Just because nursing is a good career for others doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right fit for you. We spoke with real-life nurses to learn the best and worst parts about working in this field—and how to tell whether nursing could be a good career for you.
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The best parts of nursing
There’s a lot to love about working as a nurse. Take a look at some of the perks of the profession, according to the pros.
Making a difference for others
Many nurses are attracted to the profession because of their desire to help people. Whether it’s through direct patient care or more hands-off nursing roles, these healthcare professionals often report that their work is rewarding in a way few other jobs can compare to.
“There are not many careers where every day you can change a patient’s experience for the better,” says RN Donna Matthezing, founder of personal flight nurse organization Compassionate Care in the Air. Other careers may offer you opportunities to improve lives indirectly, but nursing allows people to connect with others one-on-one, often during stressful situations. “You are the one who can really make a difference,” Matthezing says.
Strong job growth and security
Nursing has been around for hundreds of years, and the profession doesn’t show any signs of going away soon. In a world where people are worried that their jobs will be replaced by robots, nurses are still very much in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of registered nurses will grow by 9 percent through 2030, faster than the national average for all occupations.2
These new jobs aren’t just in hospitals. The BLS reports that new nurses will also be needed to educate and care for patients with chronic diseases and to replace retiring baby boomers who worked in clinics and nursing home facilities.2
Variety of specialties and career advancement opportunities
Nursing “allows application of a wide variety of skillsets,” says Amanda Gorman, CRNP and founder of Nest Collaborative, an online lactation consulting service. “There’s usually something for everyone.”
Registered nurses can choose from a range of specialties that allow them to capitalize on their natural interests and characteristics. Regardless of which specialty you choose, nursing is known for having ample advancement opportunities. Leadership positions like director of nursing and nurse manager can be available to RNs who are ready to move to the next level.
The hard parts of nursing
Just like any career, nursing can have its drawbacks. Here are a few of the less favorable factors you should consider.
The changing landscape of healthcare
Gorman points to the bureaucracy of some healthcare facilities and the changing landscape of healthcare as potential downsides to the job. “[The healthcare industry’s] focus on profit and the politics surrounding health insurance” in particular can be frustrating for nurses who would prefer to focus on patient care.
The U.S. healthcare system is a mishmash of private and public facilities and all need to focus on remaining financially viable. This emphasis on finances can lead some nurses to feel that they need to split their attention between keeping costs down and caring for patients.
Patients need care at all times of the day and night, and nurses often work odd hours to accommodate those needs. “If you don’t want to work weekends, nights and holidays, don’t go into nursing,” Matthezing says.
Nurses are often called upon to work 12-hour shifts, overnights, weekends and other unconventional schedules. While some RNs appreciate the flexibility these schedules offer, others find the long shifts and odd hours to be draining. Aspiring nurses who would prefer a more conventional schedule should consider work environments like clinics that are open during a typical 9 to 5 workday.
Exposure to illness
Caring for sick patients means RNs come into contact with more than their fair share of viruses and bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares that “healthcare workers have a high risk of contact with infectious agents due to the various types of activities involved with their jobs and the possibilities of contamination.”3
Sickness is a true risk in healthcare careers, but it’s important to remember that nurses follow procedures and best practices, like handwashing, that are designed to keep germs from spreading. For the truly germ-averse, consider a nursing specialty like nurse anesthetist or nurse educator that won’t bring you into such close proximity to infectious illnesses.
Is nursing a good career for you?
Only you can decide whether these factors add up to make nursing a good fit for you. Choosing a career is a big decision, so be honest with yourself as you approach these facts about what nursing is really like.
“If you’re willing to put in the time and the effort, and the hard work, it’s absolutely a great choice. But it’s not for the faint of heart, the people-hater or anyone who’s ‘too good’ to clean someone’s bum,” advises Gorman.
Matthezing agrees that for her, the good outweighs the bad. Though portions of the job are difficult or unpleasant, the reward of connecting with patients and their families and saving lives makes nursing the only career choice for her. “In all my 29 years [of nursing], I would never have done anything different.”
Nursing: A rewarding career to consider
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question “Is nursing a good career?” Now you have insights from real-life nurses to guide you as you consider entering this rewarding career field.
If you think nursing sounds like the right career for you, take your first step with our article, “How to Become a Registered Nurse: Your 4-Step Guide.”
1U.S. News and World Report, 100 Best Jobs, [accessed February 4, 2019] 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 September, 2021] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
3The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.