By Diana L. Gallagher MS, RN, CWOCN, CFCN
Regardless of your job title or scope of practice, being a professional nurse is hard work. Nursing is not a job for the faint of heart. In fact, nursing is not a job at all; nursing IS the ultimate career. Not everyone is suited to nursing; only the best and brightest need apply. Nursing requires a unique blend of intelligence and the ability to think critically while maintaining a tight grasp on common sense.
Thriving in a nursing career takes courage, stubborn determination, and heart-felt compassion. A healthy sense of humor is an added plus. Not unlike medicine, law, architecture, or engineering, earning the proper education and clinical skill set takes years of preparation. Over one’s lifetime, nursing will carry you on an amazing, fulfilling journey as you move from novice to expert.
Nursing Isn't Something You "Settle For"
I am a nurse; it is simply a part of who I am. I am proud to be a nurse. Nursing continues to afford me wonderful opportunities and satisfaction in what I do on a daily basis. Being such a strong advocate of nursing, I am bothered when I hear anyone who does not share my regard for my profession. Recently, a colleague who works as a nursing educator expressed frustration that young men and women interested in health care were essentially triaged between medicine and nursing. The brightest were encouraged to pursue a medical degree and those who were perhaps not quite as bright could always do well in nursing. I do not mean to disparage my physician colleagues, but I contend that the best and brightest deserve a career in nursing and our patients deserve to be cared for by these great nurses.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, once a student is accepted into a US Medical School, there is less than a 2% chance of academic failure. Too much is invested in their success for failure to be an option. Compare that to nursing. Both thrust students into a high stress and academically demanding curriculum. Programs in both nursing and medicine are difficult to gain admittance to. Both frequently have a 1-2 year waiting period for admittance. However, once the acceptance letter is received, the similarities end.
Although nursing programs want their students to succeed, the motivation is different. They need to graduate students who will be successful with their registration boards to maintain accreditation. Nursing educators also have a commitment to graduate nurses who will be successful in their careers. We all want future nurses who will provide compassionate and competent care. In nursing, there is no assumption of successfully completing a program without mastering both didactic and clinical skills. Nursing is not a second choice or a fall back option if medical school is not an option. Nursing is an ideal career for the best and the brightest.
How Life Experience Affects Our Career Paths
I admit that before entering my first nursing program, I met with a career advisor who did steer me toward medical school. I wanted a challenge and based on their expert advice, I started the prerequisite coursework. Over three semesters, I questioned if I really wanted to be a physician and the reality was that I could not see myself in the role of a doctor. That perception was shaped by my life experiences. I could not remember a single physician encounter that I remembered positively. It was not that I had received poor care. I grew up moving from one Air Force Base to the next and never developed a relationship with any physician providing my care. If my life experience had been different, perhaps my career options would have been different, but I certainly hope not. Nursing has been the ideal career for me and I know that it is an ideal career for others.
Something for Everyone
Nursing is simply a cornucopia overflowing with a variety of opportunities perfect to satisfy every aspiring nurse. For the individual craving stability and job security, nursing is clearly positioned to satisfy that need. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks nursing as one of the 10 jobs that holds the brightest future with a documented 26% rate of growth in the last decade. When everything is said and done, having a job available at the end of a rigorous educational program is highly desirable. Unlike some other professions, jobs are available and the variety of available jobs is impressive. Admittedly, we do hear about challenges in finding that perfect job. Whether it is from novice nurses frustrated by offers for night shift positions or older nurses having difficulty landing a job after relocating, there are jobs and opportunities to be had.
Once you become a nurse, you control your own destiny as a valued professional. You can decide where you work, the shift that you work, whether you are full-time or part-time, the role that you fulfill…nursing gives you options. Very few careers are in such high demand. Very few career options are ever more respected.
Nursing allows you to have both a satisfying career and maintain a personal life. You can find a nursing job that accommodates your current life situation. As your life changes, you have the ability to modify your role or career setting to meet your current needs. Perhaps a new baby, a return to school, or responsibility for aging parents will make a more flexible schedule attractive. Very few jobs will allow you the flexibility that a career in nursing affords. Settings can range from acute care to long-term care. There are options with outpatient clinics, physician offices, long term acute care, home care, and hospice. Direct patient care may focus on either curative or palliative care. Indirect patient care may extend your nursing reach through education or research. There are endless opportunities to specialize. If you tire of working in a particular location, you can reinvent yourself in another area of nursing. Once you are a nurse, the world is full of possibilities and promise.
Career Advancement Opportunities in Nursing
Nursing also offers a myriad of opportunities for career advancement. One can advance by climbing a clinical ladder as skills and expertise with clinical or administrative skills are refined. With good work, you can move along a path that takes you from a position as a staff nurse to a preceptor and then advance to assistant or charge nurse and perhaps even earn a position as a director of one or multiple departments. If patient care is what fuels your passion, opportunities abound at the bedside. Another option for advancement is through continued formal education. Advanced degrees will open more doors to new opportunities. With a bachelor’s degree, you may be eligible for clinical specialties in wound, ostomy, and/or continence nursing. With a master’s, opportunities in education may open or you may opt for the clinical path as a Clinical Nurse Leader or Advanced Practice Nurse. With a Doctorate in Nursing or a PhD, the sky is the limit. Nursing is a career that can take you as far as you want to go.
I am proud to be a nurse. I am proud of what I can accomplish as a nurse. Every day I am given the gift of touching and improving lives. By being a nurse, I know that nursing has touched and improved my life. I am not a nurse because I was not bright enough to be a doctor. I am a nurse because nursing was the ideal career for me and I know that it is an ideal career for all of those bright, shining stars waiting to begin their journeys.
About the Author
Diana Gallagher has over 30 years of nursing experience with a strong focus in wound, ostomy, continence, and foot care nursing. As one of the early leaders driving certification in foot care nursing, she embraces a holistic nursing model. A comprehensive, head to toe assessment is key in developing an individualized plan of care.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.