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Reality Unscripted
Why Did You Choose Nursing?

Why did you become a nurse? Why would you recommend the profession to someone else? Was the schooling harder than the actual job?

We've had lots of posts from people thinking about getting into the nursing profession, but uncertain about whether it's really for them or not. They wonder if they're too old. Or smart enough. Or have a strong enough stomach.

I'm hoping those of you who have already taken this journey into nursing will help answer some of these questions. What's your best advice to someone thinking about nursing school? Encouragement is great, but reality is important, too. Do you feel like it was worth it? Has it met your expectations? Would you do it again, knowing what you know now?

For me, nursing has been the greatest profession I could have had. I decided in 2nd grade that this is what I wanted to do and managed to sail through college with a solid B- (I don't actually remember how I did, but trust me, I'm no genius). I tolerated my first couple of jobs, but ended up landing in Family Practice medicine, which I love. And I'm darn good at it, if I do say so myself. I am fulfilled. I love going to work. I add value at my job. It's everything I could have asked for.

This is my story...but it's not everyone's. My hope is that all of you considering nursing could have the same experience I did. But if you're over 7 and still wondering if it's the job for you, you're already on a different track :) Hopefully some of our other readers can help guide you in the process with words of wisdom and encouragement.

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14 Responses to “Why Did You Choose Nursing?”

  1. Alexander Price Says:

    Why did I get into nursing? I ask myself that question a lot. I think about it often, expecially when the ER is going crazy and the flood of humanity and need is drowning everything.
    There is all the usual stuff, I DO like helping people, I do like making a difference. I am addicted to adrenaline release.
    But mostly, I like being the garbage man. Those guys operate a little outside of society, doing and seeing things no-one else likes to think about. Doing the essential tasks a little in the shadows. Society works better for not thinking about the garbage collection.
    So, the ER nurses, who see the worst of the worst in people and behaviour. But, because we are there and ready, society can keep functioning just a litl bit more smoothly. As the ancient greeks say, it’s a little of the “essential lie” that helps everything run better.

  2. Carl Bishop Says:

    I thought about nursing when I was in high school and helping the athletic trainer. I wanted to help people. After high school I went into the Air Force and became a Medic (bedpan comando) and enjoyed working with people. During my first 4 years in the Air Force I worked on the Hematology/Oncology floor at Wilford Hall Medical Center, a clinic in Panama, and ER in Arkansas. I then started going to college when I moved back to San Antonio and got my basics taken care of at San Antonio Junior College. I then got out and went to, arguably, the best Nursing School in the United States, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Even with 7 years of working in hospitals, clinics and ERs I had some trouble in school, but I was able to get through and graduate with my BSN. I have been working in a medical career field since 1973. I still love the feel when I am able to help someone feel better and also working with their significant others. We not only work with the patient but also the family and friends. You have to love what you do. As I was told when I started, “You won’t get rich working as a nurse.

  3. MK Says:

    I sort of fell into nursing because I didn’t have any better ideas about a career. I have to say I would absolutely, definately NOT do it again if I had my life to live over! I had zero trouble in nursing school….always honor grad. It’s the real world of working the seriously understaffed hospital and the political crap that’s the problem. I started as LVN and worked the floor in a state of misery for about 11 years before I went back for my RN. (WHY?) I worked 1 more year on the floor as a RN, then decided I’d rather die than go back to the hospital….the stress was going to kill me. I worked nights to try to avoid all the politcal bs, but I felt like hell all the time….always sleep deprived.

    Medicare home health was better, but not by much ….on call all the time. Now, I work out of my home (or car) in the Medicaid CBA program. The office is 3 hrs away, so I don’t have to go there and deal with politics! It’s tolerable, much lower stress but still dealing with wacko demanding clients; and lots of driving….putting about 2500 miles on my car per month. Another problem is these nursing agencies, (even a big one like I work for) don’t offer good bennies, maybe not even health insurance. The pay isn’t that great either.

    The retirement for nurses is nonexistent, except for 401K. Working conditions almost always suck for nurses, and anything that happens…the nurse always takes the heat. Management will never back the nurse; you have to operate with a mindset to CYA first and foremost. Would I recommend nursing as a career? Not unless you’re a martyr or a masochist, or you have a need to be needed. I’d personally rather shovel manure or dig ditches all day. Nursing is the lousiest job on the planet!

  4. Amanda Says:

    Nursing has changed my life. I thoughtfully chose nursing as my major because I knew it would require something deep and compassionate within me that other fields would not require of me. My heart has a longing to go to the darkest, hardest, and saddest moments of people’s lives and walk them through it, loving and caring for them.

    Nursing school has been challenging but I continue to meet the demands and that increases my confidence and belief that I can do anything when I work hard. I am not the smartest but I am dedicated.

    Nursing is not a job, it is a calling. You are challenged everyday with situations that you can allow to grow you or make you bitter. I have become a better friend, a better sister, a better girlfriend, a better woman… because of nursing.

    I absolutely LOVE nursing and my soul is HAPPY that this is field I have chosen. I look forwards to my career in nursing. The field is endless with possibilities.

  5. n00bienurse Says:

    Nursing has always been my life. My mother’s a nurse, as is my aunt, my great aunt, and my cousin. My mother would come home with stories of her day (no names or specifics of course – just the gory details) and all I could do is see myself as a nurse one day.

    When I got accepted to nursing school and told my high school science teacher, she told me that I could be so much more than JUST a nurse – so before I even started I switched my major to Biology at the same university. After two years of looking through microscopes I said enough when they told me to memorize 500 speicies of fish and be able to identify them on sight and know just about everything about them. And I do mean everything. That’s not what I wanted to do. At all. So I begged my way back into nursing and worked my ass off to graduate only one summer later than I would have originally.

    I wanted to be a nurse because I wanted to work WITH people. I always loved teaching and helping and science and I found the perfect balance of that in nursing. Of course nursing these days has its downsides (as MK described), but I’m doing exactly what I always wanted to as a Maternity nurse – teaching people.

    Then again, I do have those days when I’m ready to flip out if one more person asks me for help, but I just find it a little ironic and laugh it off.

    All in all, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I love it too much. And if I do want to do something different – something not nursing – I have a bachelor’s degree and time management skills and people skills. That kind of combination can take a person many places. My friend who works for an insurance company actually asked me to come to the dark side to be a cosultant for them.

    But I’m much to happy with my choice to be a nurse. And I’d do it again if I had to do it all over.

  6. karen stead Says:

    I worked in a bank before I chose nursing. Once the financial institutions went on a sell, sell,sell footing Iwanted to be doing something forpeople not doing them over. At the age of 34 I started a 3 year diploma in nursing. After qualifying I worked for 2 years in gynaecology some PACU and surgery, then I tooka degree in Midwifery my ultimate goal. 7 years later I am working in Australia as a clinical coach for new staff and existing wishing to upskill. Many days I ask myself why do I do it.

    It is a miracle watching women labour and a privilege to help birth those new lives but the politics isa nightmare. Why does everything have to be medicalised beyond normal, why are women not given choices and when will nursing become a serious profession?????

    Only when everyone stops pussy-footing around and makes a stand. If we want to be taken seriously we have to act. Here in Victoria we are still waiting for a payrise awarded in October, I doubt any other workforce would allow themselves to be walked over in this way.

    Also what about incompetance in staff. Any other workforce would sack them.

    Would I chose it again, certainly not. But the mortgage needs to be paid

  7. Jillian Says:

    WOW!!! I hope I never have MK as my nurse!
    Psssst: You should find a new career.

  8. emzee3 Says:

    After spending my twenties and early thirties raising my kids, I felt it was time for me to do some changing and growing, only I wasn’t sure where that realization was leading me! After much thought and prayer, it became very clear to me that nursing is where I belong. I can use my brain, skills, and love of helping others, as well as continue to be both present and a good example for my children (and pay my bills). I am both excited and honored to be entering this noble profession, where the opportunity to make a difference in another person’s life is mine with every patient encounter. True, there are certainly aspects of day-to-day nursing that I would prefer not to deal with, but I’ve found that this is so in every job I’ve ever had, being a mother included! With my heart in the right place and my head where my feet are, I feel certain I am making one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

  9. aimee Says:

    I was in an awful car accident when I was 21. I had the entire trauma situation….liver lac, ruptured aorta, broken jaw and the complications that come from having two surgeries in fifteen days…infection, jaundice, you name it. I was in the hospital 3 months. At the time I was a junior in college majoring in English.

    After I was discharged from the hospital I decided I had to go to nursing school. I had been in a military hospital because I was a military dependent and my nurses were the most amazing human beings I had ever met. They inspired me to want to help save other people’s lives.

    Thirty years later I still love making people more comfortable and seeing them get better. What I don’t love, and what is not going away, is the ever increasing emphasis on penny pinching on the part of hospital administration. When I was a young nurse hospitals were liberal about providing free quality continuing education (and paying your wage while you were in class) but now that notion has gone the way of the Burma Shave signs. I have a lot of years of experience behind me and I have seen so much, but the young nurses aren’t getting what I got in terms of education and it is very obvious in the sort of care they provide. I don’t blame them, I blame the entire system for having failed nursing. I blame the insurance companies for dwindling reimbursements, the government for consistently paying out less and less for medicare and medicaid patients, and the communities for not finding a way to help those who are uninsured find ways to pay their bills.

    I would not recommend nursing to a young person today. The frustration of always having more sick patients than is safe to care for, of having to drag someone to the morgue while the grieving family is still new in their grief because the hospital needs the bed of the dead man, the demoralization of the incessant chants of family members that patients don’t get good care….I don’t make enough money for the wear and tear on my soul that the profession has lowered itself to.

    I don’t see it getting any better. MBA’s now supervise directors of nursing, and the good DON’s are quitting. I don’t see any psychically good future for this profession.

    I hate it so much, because being a good nurse is the only and best thing I could ever hope to do.

  10. Amy Says:

    I’m in my 3rd year of the B.Sc.N Program. I know I haven’t yet graduated, but I feel that perhaps I could also give some insight.
    Like n00bienurse I too began in Biology, but quickly learned that I wanted to work with humans. I switched to Nursing as I have always been interested in all things health, and am the first to run if someone needs a hand. It just fits well.
    This course is not easy, of course there are a few easy credits, but overall it is not easy. With that said, you don’t have to be the most brilliant person out there. Effort has a lot to do with it. If you are passionate and willing to work you will likely do great.
    What everyone has been saying about the politics is true. As a student we are very aware of politics in the unit as some staff still do not accept us. However, I feel that there are good units, and it’s how you decide to make it. Take a stand against the back-stabbing, and I’m sure that people will pull together.
    As far as whether you have a strong stomach or not.. that is individual. I can say for myself that I was squeamish at some sights when I began. One thing I can say for sure is my stomach is a lot stronger now. For the most part you become accustomed to a lot of the sights and smells.
    I don’t think you’re ever to old to get into nursing! (this coming from a 23 year old). I have 50+ women in my course and they are at the top of the class.
    Like I said, I haven’t quite graduated yet (very soon!), however at this point I would not change my career choice. I love the work and enjoy interacting with the patients. I am also excited because nursing offers endless opportunities, life will never get dull!
    Good luck in your decision!

  11. pamela Says:

    I will be graduating in May 2008 with a BSN in Nursing and I am 44 years old. My past experience is administrative in medical offices. I am no “spring chicken” and I truly believe that in order for me to be a “great nurse” I will have to take care of myself. I work in a community hospital as a Student Nurse Apprentice (CNA) and I understand the real world is different than nursing school. Nursing is what YOU make it!

  12. nursingaround Says:

    Accident really, didn’t know what else to do, plus with three guys and sixty girls, thought the odds pretty good.

  13. britnurse Says:

    MK – I’m so sorry you are unhappy in your career. I truly sympathise, but really you need to change your career xoxox.

    Well guys here I am over here in not so sunny England and I felt compelled to share.
    I qualified in September last year. I will be 40 years old in May and I have NEVER been happier.

    I started my nurse training in order to be a midwife (majority of maternity care over here is midwifery led) but within 6 months of starting my training i realised that i LOVE nursing. (the two are seperate careers over here)

    I had a placement for 6 months in my first year on a Neuro-surgical ward and found my home! TRULY and for the next 3 years i prayed that I would get a job in neuro.

    My training did not run smoothly – academically i was fine B’s and A’s – and my clinical capabilities were highly complimented (though not my spelling and grammer!!) – however I had pneumonia twice in one year! So my training was delayed by a year whilst i convalesced. This was extrememly stressfull as i found myself changing cohorts twice. Losing your moral support is tough!

    But you know what – i DID it – i finally graduated last september and landed my dream job in neuro surgery (the same ward i had been on as a student) last december – ive been here 4 months and its sickening how happy i am.

    I have a bounce in my step and smile from morning to night on shift. Dont get me wrong – I get as frustrated as the next nurse at the understaffing, the over working and the under paying. But when i go into a bay of patients (like i did this morning) and say good morning and start my work – i know that i am where i should be!

    For anybody thinking of starting nursing – just do it – its the most rewarding thing – training never runs smoothly for anyone but when you get your registration and start out on your career – im sure you will be as happy as me – and all without the aid of medication lol!

  14. Lindsey Says:

    I got into nursing because I enjoyed working with people and I wanted a professional job. I am an intelligent person who didn’t want to go to medical school so I chose nursing.

    There are days where I wonder if I’d do it again if I could, and there are days where I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I think it’s all about finding what kind of nursing fits you best and going for it!

    I work in the ICU and I enjoy the one-on-one care that I give to the patients. I enjoy the support I am able to give to the families. On the flip side, when I worked med/surg, I felt like a crazed robot trying to make it through the 12 hour day! I had little interaction with patients and relied on UAP to be my eyes and ears in the patient’s rooms.

    It is a challenging career but certainly rewarding if you have what it takes to rise above the bureaucracy and remember what nursing is truly about!

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