RNs Get Real About the Pros and Cons of Being a Nurse
Nursing is in your blood. You have a deep interest in healthcare and a desire to do hands-on work that truly helps people. Becoming an RN seems like the right fit, but before you take the leap, you need to be sure that it’s right for you.
One tried-and-true evaluation method is the old fashioned list of pros and cons. This puts it all out in the open for you to make an informed decision. That’s great and all, but you might be wondering where to find the information you need to consider.
To help with this, we asked professional nurses to weigh in with what they think are the biggest pros and cons of being a nurse. Keep reading to hear their insight.
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The pros and cons of nursing
There probably wouldn’t be more than three million nurses in the United States if there weren’t some attractive benefits of the career. However, unless you’re a professional chocolate-taster, there are always going to be a few negatives attached to every job as well.
This list of pros and cons will help you decide if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks:
Pro: Nursing is a trusted profession
It might not come as a surprise, but people generally trust nurses. In fact, it’s been rated the “Most Trusted Profession” for 15 straight years, according to a 2016 Gallup poll. Nursing has long been a well-respected career, and that’s something nurses should be proud of.
This positive factor isn’t only about a sense of pride that comes with the job, either. This level of trust and respect can lead to some under-the-radar benefits as well, according to Nick Angelis CRNA, MSN and author. This can take the form of adorable thank you cards from children, warm hugs from appreciative family members, and even treats, parties and gifts during National Nurse’s Week.
Con: Dealing with bodily fluids
Even if you don’t mind seeing blood or smelling some of the other unpleasant things nurses deal with, it’s still not pleasant when said fluids come into contact with your body, according to Lisa Lund, RN.
Body fluid exposures can come in the form of needle-stick injuries or splashes of body fluids on the eyes, nose or mouth. These exposures do pose a risk, but a series of cleansing and testing is set in motion to make sure nothing happens because of it. The good news is that most exposures are preventable through safety and precautionary equipment.
Pro: Many different specialties available
There are a ton of nursing specializations and career paths to choose from. Whether it’s cardiac, critical care, nephrology or neonatal, there are plenty of options for nurses to explore. This means plenty of new challenges and earning potential as you pursue in-demand specializations.
Pro: Getting ready for the work day is simple
Do you hate picking out clothes to wear in the morning? As a nurse, you get to avoid that frustration and learn to love the scrubs—even if they aren’t always the most flattering.
“If you look good in scrubs, you’re probably wearing the wrong size,” Angelis jokes.
All kidding aside, comfortable work attire that you don’t have to think about is a nice perk for anyone who bristles at the thought of wearing a tie or heels to work every day.
“Since I'm a nurse anesthetist in the OR, I don't have to do my hair because I'm in a scrub hat, and I can cheerfully eat kale because the mask will hide any green bits that may become lodged in my teeth,” Angelis laughs.
Con: 12-hour days
It’s no secret that the shift schedules for nurses can be taxing. While not every healthcare facility subscribes to a 12-hour shift schedule, it is still pretty common. Going non-stop those 12 hours, with limited time for a lunch break or a pit stop to the restroom is hard and strenuous work. However, some love the 12-hour shift because …
Pro: 12-hour days
The 12-hour shift schedule is a prime example of give and take. When you think about it, working 12 hours for three days or even 10-hour shifts for four days means you’re not working the typical five-day work week. Lund cites having more days off to be home as a big plus, as it allows you the ability to travel more often with your long weekends and spend time with your family.
Pro: Variety in your daily work
For most jobs, you have a pretty good idea of how your day is going to go when you walk in the door. That’s not always the case in nursing.
“Every day or night is different,” Lund says.
The day of a nurse is often decided by the personalities and ailments of their patients. Both factors can vary wildly. One day, you might be making rounds on patients and checking in on them, while another day you could be dealing with an emergency situation, helping a healthy patient check out or comforting a grieving family.
Con: Being underappreciated
Not all patients will outwardly appreciate your hard work and dedication to their health. Many are dealing with stressful personal situations and that can lead to some unpleasant patient interactions. Dealing with difficult patients—and their families—is a fact of life in nursing.
Pro: Being appreciated
Though not everyone you interact with as a nurse is appreciative and friendly, remember that nurses are considered trustworthy and are appreciated by many.
“You can make someone’s day,” says Lund. She says she finds satisfaction when patients do take the time to acknowledge her work and express their gratitude. You’re a unique part of each patient’s health and wellness, and when the patient knows and appreciates that, what could be a better reward?
Lund says nursing can be a high-stress career. The job requires constant attention to detail, serving others and sometimes hustling for hours without much down time. For some, a little stress can be a motivator, making the work days go by fast and full of purpose. For others, this stress can be debilitating and trickle over into other areas of life.
It’s up to you to determine if some on-the-job stress is something that will keep you trucking along or if it will leave you feeling drained at the end of the day. If you’re a little wary of the stress associated with nursing, you might want to look into some of the less-stressful job options out there.
Pro: Helping to save lives
“If you’re able to catch a change in patient condition, [you] essentially save their life,” says Lund.
What could be more rewarding then saving lives? The care and attention nurses give their patients allow them to be up-close and aware of any changes that might be life-threatening for their patients. This is particularly true for nurses working in specialties with patients who are dealing with and recovering from serious trauma or illness. You can confidently say the work you do benefits the world—and that’s something people truly value.
Consider your future
Now that you have a nice start on your list of pros and cons of being a nurse, you should be feeling good about whether this career is truly for you. Choosing to pursue a nursing career is a big decision—it’s important to do your homework before diving in.
For more insider information on what the life of a nurse is really like, check out our article, “What I Wish Someone Told Me BEFORE Becoming a Registered Nurse.”