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Rookie Wit & Wisdom
When I Understood Nursing Was More Than a Paycheck

When my boyfriend told his mother, who's a nurse, that I started a nursing program, I think she thought I was going into it for the money. I'm not going to lie, I was.

The first day of lecture, the instructor said to us, "Walk out of this room if you're getting into nursing for the money." Of course, no one left. Then at midterm, many familiar faces began to drop.

My first experience with my first patient I won't ever forget. It wasn't disastrous, simply intimidating. Here I am dressed to the nines in my crisp new nursing student uniform, and here was this 82-year-old woman who'd been used to hospitalized care for years. I told her I was going to give her a bed bath, and her clothes came off matter-of-factly. Once I finished the bed bath and wheeled her into the day room, I sat down and realized I just gave this woman total care. I helped make her day just a fraction better.

Later I came home and I cried to my boyfriend. I thought about my sweet grandmother and how I would never put her in a nursing home. I thought about strange faces she'd see every morning if she did end up in a nursing home.

Then I thought I could be that one person who would make someone feel better in the morning. They’d wake up and see me--and I could help them. And somewhere along the road, they'd maybe appreciate me.

My mom is a nurse. When I see the way she interacts with her co-workers, her patients, and the physicians, I know it’s not all about a paycheck. I know the tasks of everyday can seem banal and repetitious. But for the patients, when a nurse walks into the room it can make or break their day.

So am I getting into this profession for the paycheck? Sure, I’m not complaining about the pay, but I think nursing is more than that. If you can do one thing to help one person live a better life--that should be payment enough.

I don't want some meaningless paycheck to validate who I am; I want the quality of work and amount of care I put into what I do validate who I am.

So if you’re having second thoughts about nursing or already are in the nursing program, just remember that the pay may be good, but learning in school that you have the  potential to help someone live and be a better person is priceless.

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11 Responses to “When I Understood Nursing Was More Than a Paycheck”

  1. Natasha Says:

    You are absolutely right! I am a first year nursing student at a small private college in WV. I am not going into nursing for the money, but so many of the people I attend school with are. I will be anxious to see how many students out of the 76 that began are still left when our winter term starts back in a couple weeks. I didnt cry when I came home from my first clinical setting because the nursing home I was in was a nice place. I dont want to put my grandparents or parents in the nursing home but everyone is so young in my family, we will all be old at the same time! LOL! No there are some nursing homes that are neglectful though. Fortunately for me and the many patients I worked with, the nursing home was clean and well-kept and the nurses worked together to provide for the patients’ needs.
    Anyways, your article was touching and I am definitely going to share this with my fellow classmates. God Bless and Merry Christmas!

  2. liz Says:

    here in Australia, the pay isnt that good, considering the work that we do etc etc, but it is going up lately and we’re all told that now is a good time to enter nursing. however, you certainly dont do nursing for the money. You do it because you want to help the sick get better.

  3. Lindsey Says:

    I totally agree. At first, I wanted a career in healthcare that was flexible and well-paying. Over time I have come to realize that nursing is my calling, and that we have a unique opportunity to see people when they are most vulnerable and make them feel validated and human again.

    Nursing certainly is not for everyone; my nursing class that started in August 2006 (and graduates in 5 months!!!) had 68 people. Out of the original 68 that started, there are less than 20 left who will actually graduate.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  4. michelle Says:


    it’s not that the nursing home where i was, was a terrible place. i meant that even in a
    hospital where everyone is caring and compassionate, you might not see the same people everyday and especially with older people and dementia, it’s hard to find the security you feel at home in any healthcare establishment. however, it helps a million times fold when the healthcare provider is compassionate.

    but thanks for your feedback i wish you lots of luck in your program.

  5. nursingaround Says:

    I did it because i was one of only three guys and and 65 women and liked the odds.

  6. Mr Ian Says:

    We only had 4 graduate our class. But then we only started with 8.
    I did it cos I couldn’t stand working outside in the cold in winter and gave up building work.

  7. Paula Says:

    I will admit that I, too, went into nursing for the money. It was good steady work with a great paycheck and I needed to support my two boys. And this was 25 years ago. The money is still good but there are jobs out there where you can make a lot more and not have to work nights, weekends and holidays. It is a stressful job that is full of all kinds of problems but I would’nt do anything else. It is very rewarding!!!

  8. Christian Polinag Says:

    here in the philippines, RNs are paid less than $200 a month…so, its definitely not about the money..atleast for me!

  9. Erika Says:

    I admit, I’m doing it for the money. I’m a nurturing person, & I think it will be a good fit. I like taking care of people. It may not be my life dream, but I know I’ll be happy.

  10. kathy, MSN Says:

    I’m a much older nurse, who has also taught beginning students. I would love to have a nurse like Michelle care for me, because she has internalized the core values of a true nurse.

  11. kristin Says:

    lol lmao. have u graduated and found you dont really make that much money?? feel real sorry for people who ever thought this was a good choice for the money .

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