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Should I become a nurse? The pros and cons of the nursing profession

At a glance

Though nursing is one of the most impactful professions in the lives of patients, it can also be very demanding. There are several things to think about before pursuing a career in this field. This article will explore some of the pros and cons, educational requirements and the overall scope of the industry.

Should you become a nurse?

The nursing profession isn’t for everyone, but people with an interest in medicine and patient care may find this as a rewarding career option. Before you get started, it’s important to take the time to learn about the different career opportunities and the nursing degrees necessary to pursue them, including a nursing diploma or associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees in nursing, and what it means to get involved in the field. While several advantages may benefit your life and career goals, there may also be some challenges.

Nurse salary range

A nursing career offers a high salary range for your level of education and can be a good choice for a more financially secure future. According to 2021 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the salary range for registered nurses was 59,450 to 120,250 a year.

Furthermore, concentrating in a specific area of nursing may enhance your earning ability. Registered nurses who have experience or are specialized in particular fields such as critical care can earn higher wages, though salaries also vary widely by region or location.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Flexible work schedule

A typical nursing schedule varies depending on where the nurse works. Some settings have more flexibility than a traditional 9-to-5 job. For example, some registered nurses work three 12-hour shifts every week. Some nurses have a set schedule that includes nights or one week on, one week off. Other times nurses work on an “as needed” basis (sometimes referred to as “PRN“), where you may fill a temporary need, work one or several days and/or are on-call only.

Additionally, many hospitals are hiring more part-time staff, such as travel nurses to fill staffing gaps, so there are new opportunities for flexible scheduling.

Growing demand

Nursing shortages are prevalent across the country. Due to an aging population, growing demand for healthcare, and a concentration on preventive care, the demand for nurses is evident. BLS projects employment for registered nurses to grow 9% between 2020 and 2030.

While growth is on average for all occupations, BLS notes that the demand for nurses should increase with the aging population, which will require additional care. Additionally, the number of men in nursing has been rising, and they constituted an estimated 13% of all registered nurses in 2021, according to BLS.

Plenty of room for career growth

Nursing provides many opportunities for advancement. So whether you’re on the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing track or opt to work as a licensed practical nurse (LPN), the healthcare industry offers potential.

Overall, you can pursue any of a number of specialties that may align with your ultimate career goals, including but not limited to the following:

  • Nurse education
  • Research
  • Primary care
  • Private practice
  • Emergency nursing
  • Administration
  • Community health
  • Home health

On a personal level, you can develop your leadership abilities and explore new areas of patient care. Supporting patients from birth through the end of life, nursing specialties can broaden your knowledge and improve your life through new experiences.

A sense of purpose

Nursing opens the door to some of the most impactful job positions within healthcare. When you become a nurse, you can make changes in your patients’ lives and the community surrounding them.

Opportunities to travel

Nursing offers the ability to travel and work in a variety of locations and settings. You may have opportunities to work within the United States or internationally (if you meet the requirements of the country/locality in which you want to work). In addition, numerous agencies help nurses decide on their next career destination should they be looking to branch out.

The job of a travel nurse can be highly gratifying. You get to see new parts of the country, work in different settings and meet new colleagues.

Disadvantages of being a nurse

Nursing can be a challenging job. While it has plenty of advantages, there are some drawbacks as well.

Interacting with difficult patients and family members

Nurses deal with difficult patients almost every day. Although patients can sometimes be frustrating and exhausting, it’s important to remain calm and treat them with respect and dignity. Behind the angst are feelings of helplessness. A patient and family member can be difficult because they feel that their situation is out of their control.

Tips for dealing with difficult patients:

  • Be patient and honest.
  • Listen and be in the moment.
  • Be sensitive and listen to the patient’s concerns.
  • Don’t take anything personally; it’s not about you as a nurse or person.
  • Keep the conversation as objective as possible.
  • Don’t downplay their concerns or anger; acknowledge their feelings.
  • Remain supportive and work with them to find a solution.

Many difficult patients are scared or worried, which makes them lash out at nurses. Patients also often feel exposed and vulnerable when they’re in a hospital bed and dependent on others.

Feeling undervalued or underappreciated

Nurses often feel undervalued by the very people they’re serving. It isn’t easy to feel like you’re making a difference in someone’s life when they continually tell you that what you do isn’t necessary. Many patients don’t realize how much their nurses are doing for them, day in and day out.

While it’s important to remember that not everyone understands the intricacies of nursing, you should also know how much your hard work and dedication mean to those around you.

Working in a stressful environment

Nursing can be incredibly stressful, especially in hospitals or with high-risk patients. Additionally, nurses often encounter emotionally heavy days when they must care for patients in pain or who have a terminal diagnosis.

Other everyday stressors can include:

  • Long shifts
  • Inadequate resources, such as those for patient comfort or pain management
  • Patient neglect due to being understaffed
  • Lack of appreciation from other healthcare professionals and patients
  • Working with people who cannot be saved

Though the list of stressors for nurses is long, you should not let it deter your decision to become a nurse.

Can be physically demanding

One of the biggest challenges is that nurses are often required to stand for long periods and transport patients. This can be exhausting, especially when you’re not accustomed to it.

Additionally, personal protective gear like scrubs and masks requires washing and should not be overlooked as an added burden on your already busy schedule.

Often mentally exhausting

Nursing is often a mentally and physically exhausting career. When you’re not physically exerting energy, you’re cleaning equipment or charting on the computer. This can make it feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get your work done.

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Moreover, occupational stress can cause anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and feelings of inferiority in nurses. But there are ways to boost your mental health, such as through exercise, meditation and a support system.

How to become a nurse

If you’re interested in becoming a registered nurse, we covered this topic on the University of Phoenix blog. To be a nurse, you must earn at least a diploma from an approved nursing program and be licensed in your state. However, some employers may require RNs to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Graduate degrees such as a Master of Science in Nursing are required for advanced nursing roles, such as nurse practitioners.

Here is an overview of a few steps to take.

Apply for and graduate from an accredited nursing school

The first step to becoming a nurse is to earn an education. To become an RN, you need at least a diploma from an approved nursing program. To enhance your opportunities, you may want to consider pursuing an RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and then potentially a master’s degree in nursing (MSN). An advanced degree like an MSN can provide the educational foundation to pursue additional opportunities that may include a higher salary.

Advice for prospective students:

  • When looking for a school, research the curriculum and ensure that the program matches your career goals.
  • Consider the school’s location and whether it offers online courses that could fit into your current lifestyle.
  • Be sure the school offers tools and resources to learn about financing your education.
  • Talk to current and former students to get an idea of the program.

Overall, research schools and programs carefully so that you’re able to submit the best application possible should admissions be competitive.

Get licensed and certified

To become a nurse, you’ll not only have to earn at least a diploma from an approved nursing program; you’ll also have to become licensed in the state where you wish to be employed. Receiving licensure requires passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The NCLEX exams are designed to assess the knowledge and skills necessary for providing informed, safe and effective care in various clinical settings. Test preparation for the exams includes reviewing the NCLEX-PN® and NCLEX-RN® test plans

Choose a nursing specialty

Nursing has many specialties, such as acute care and oncology. Depending on your work environment and interests, you should consider choosing a specialty that fits your personality and needs.

To specialize in a particular area of nursing practice, research your desired area and the requirements. This may include additional certifications such as those required to be a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist.

Depending on your choice of study and your interests, you may be drawn to a specific type of nursing. The following are some of the many nursing career options and the education level needed to pursue them:

  • Nurse practitioner: This nurse treats patients by performing exams, diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medications and providing treatment plans. Working in this specialty often requires an MSN.
  • Family nurse practitioner: This is a registered nurse who provides primary care to people in different stages of life. This field requires an MSN.
  • Nurse educator: This nurse creates lessons, teaches nursing students in colleges or universities and mentors new graduates. This may require a Master of Science in Nursing.
  • Nurse informaticist: A registered nurse who analyzes information technology to improve patient care. This specialty may require a Master of Science in Nursing.

With a variety of online nursing degrees, it should be easier than ever to find the right program.

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RN vs. BSN: The difference between them and what it means for your career

Helpful skills needed for nursing

Nursing demands a unique set of skills from employees, from the basics to emotional intelligence.

According to BLS, here are some skills that may be helpful in a nursing career:

  • Critical thinking: This is the ability of nurses to solve problems, make decisions, plan for issues and identify information gaps.
  • Compassion: Working as a nurse requires you to be caring and thoughtful of the needs of patients and their families.
  • Communication: It’s critical that nurses can accurately understand a patient’s health needs to provide quality care. Communication skills can help clearly explain health instructions. 
  • Emotional stability: The nursing profession can be stressful at times when dealing with life-threatening situations, so nurses must be able to cope with emergencies, trauma and suffering.
  • Physical stamina: Nurses can be on their feet for 12 hours a day and be required to do physical tasks like lift patients.
  • Organization: Nurses often care for multiple patients at a time, and need to be organized to provide quality patient care. 

Most importantly, nurses should have their patients’ best interests at heart.

Tips for choosing the right career

After you’ve educated yourself on nursing and its career and educational options, the next step is to narrow down your choices.

If you’re interested in a nursing career, here are a few tips to help you on your path:

  • Use assessment tools: Before applying, use assessment tools that test your educational readiness and match your personality, interests and skills with different nursing degree programs.
  • Try out personality tests: These should help you find a career where your personality might flourish.
  • Choose a goal-oriented program: Seek out schools that offer diplomas, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees in nursing.
  • Choose a program with flexible scheduling: Look for a school that offers online courses or classes that fit your schedule.
  • Follow your intuition: You should be most comfortable with a nursing degree program that makes you feel at ease when it comes to your career.

When finding the right career path, consider several factors when making your decision:

  • Salary and wages: This is one of the primary considerations because it reflects how much money is typically earned in the career you’re looking at.
  • Health insurance and retirement benefits: As a nurse, you may be offered health coverage and a pension plan for your future needs after you retire from the job.
  • Hours of work: This depends on the type of nursing you want to pursue. You should also consider factors such as overtime or on-call work.
  • Flexibility of the job: This depends on your personal preferences and those of your family.
  • Travel requirements: Some nurses may be required to travel between facilities.

When making this choice, you will want to take the time to think about your personal goals and values before deciding if this career path is for you.

Interested in learning more about nursing degree programs at University of Phoenix? Click here for more information!

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Michael Feder is a Content Marketing Specialist at University of Phoenix, where he researches and writes on a variety of topics, ranging from healthcare to IT and everything in between. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars program, and a New Jersey native!


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