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What You Need to Ask Yourself Before Starting Your Nursing Career
What You Need to Ask Yourself Before Starting Your Nursing Career
There will come a time in everyone's life when they need to consider what they are going to do for their career. Perhaps that time is when you are leaving high school, and you need to know which college to go to and what to study (or whether you should simply start work right away and forego college altogether). Or it could be later in life, after you have raised a family or when you realize that the job you're doing now just isn't fulfilling enough and you need something more. It could be at any time – and when it happens, making that decision can be tough. After all, you'll want to find a career that works for you, that is interesting, flexible, makes you happy, and, for some, they'll want a career that makes a difference in the world too.
Nursing is an option that you might want to consider if you have reached this stage in your life, whether you're eighteen or you're fifty-eight. This will certainly be something that makes a difference to the world, and even if this isn't a top priority for the career you decide on, nursing is also a job that is extremely fulfilling in other ways, is secure, and has plenty of potential for progression. Nursing makes a lot of sense to a lot of people, assuming you have the skills and personality to do it well. This is what you must consider; not everyone will take to nursing well, and it's not a career that will suit everyone. This is why it's important to ask yourself some in-depth questions before you begin your studies. Read on to find out what they are.
Why Do You Want to Be a Nurse?
It's good to start at the very beginning no matter what kind of career you are looking to get into, and the most basic question of all is why you want to do it. Why do you want to be a nurse? When you answer this, you need to be completely honest with yourself; it's all too easy to make something up to convince yourself that nursing is the right career. However, if you do this, you might find that you have made a mistake and don't enjoy the training or the job. When this happens, you'll either have to stick with something that makes you miserable, or you'll have to start all over again – neither option is particularly appealing.
When it comes to nursing, you'll know why you want to do it or why you know it would suit you and your personality. You need to be aware of just how much nursing can take out of someone; it's a wonderful job, but it's also difficult physically, mentally, and emotionally. You might feel overwhelmed or become stressed. Knowing this and knowing that you can deal with it because you have the right attitude, personality, skills, and capabilities make many differences.
What Do Nurses Do?
You might think that this is an obvious question, but in reality, it might not be. If you have gathered all the information you have about what a nurse does from TV, movies, fiction, magazines, and so on, you might not have a full picture of exactly what will be asked of you. When you look at the media, you can often only be furnished with part of the story.
If you have friends and family who already work as nurses or who know nurses who you could talk to, this would be ideal. Then, you can get a much fuller picture of exactly what you will be asked to do, what you need to do, how hard you will be expected to work, and how you can fit the career in with anything else you want to do in life.
To completely round off the experience, or to begin with, if you don't have any friends or family who are already nurses, you should get in touch with a healthcare clinic or hospital or other setting and ask if you can shadow a nurse for a while. You won't be able to do anything practical to help patients (although you will be able to talk to them), but you'll get a much better idea of exactly what you will need to do in your day-to-day work. Not all hospitals will allow this, but don't be deterred if you find you are turned down; there will be lots of places to ask.
Are You a People Person?
When you are a nurse, there are many requirements you need to fulfill. One of these is that you are a ‘people person. In other words, you need to be able to speak to your patients, take care of them, and put them at their ease, and this should be something that comes fairly easily to you. Your patients will be in pain, scared, and possibly might even be coming to the end of their lives. They will need a nurse who can make them feel better and who is able to talk to them in the right way. If you are the kind of person who would prefer to work on their own and never speak to anyone at all, then nursing probably isn't going to be a job that suits you very well.
Of course, you should also be aware that patients aren't the only people you'll need to communicate well with. You'll also need to talk to your colleagues – other nurses, doctors, additional medical personnel, and anyone else who works in the hospital or clinic with you – and your patients' families. In addition, you'll have to know how to communicate important medical information in a way that's easy for those without medical knowledge to understand, and that's not an easy thing to do while also being as caring as possible. Yet, nurses need to be able to do it. Can you?
Are You a Team Player?
Somewhat connected to what we have just been talking about is that nurses must be able to work in a team. It doesn't matter what kind of healthcare they specialize in, or even if they go and visit patients in their own homes, for example, and therefore work entirely alone most of the time – they still need to work in a team. So being a team player is a vital skill for any nurse, whatever their vocation might actually be in terms of the department or place they want to work in.
This means that you should put the patients' best interests at the forefront of everything you do, meaning that no ego can be a part of your work. If you have to step back and let someone else take the lead for the good of the patient, or if you need to take charge for the same reason, that's what has to happen. By working together, nurses and other medical personnel can give the very best care to their patients; by working together, you can do so much more. Of course, this isn't how everyone likes to work, and it's not something everyone is good at. Don't worry if you fall into this category; some people are better at being in a team than others. However, if you already know you're not good at working with others or you prefer to always be a leader and never like to relinquish control, then a different career might be better for you.
Are You Committed to Learning?
As a nurse, you must have a strong commitment to learning and gaining as much knowledge as possible in terms of your career (and even getting to know yourself better). It all starts when you take your initial degree to become qualified as an RN (registered nurse), and there is no denying that studying for this qualification will be a hard thing to do. You'll need to dedicate plenty of time and effort to it.
However, once you have completed this part of your studies, the learning doesn't (or shouldn't) end. Nursing and medicine, in general, is always changing, so keeping up to date with those changes is crucial. If you don't, you run the risk of sticking to outdated methods that might not be best for the patient. There will always be refresher courses running throughout your career and taking as many as you sensibly can be helpful. On top of this, you can also go back to school and take additional nursing qualifications. Finding an online nursing course at Carson-Newman University, for example, will allow you to gain a second degree or even a third one, in the nursing category of your choice. Since the learning will be online, you can work when it suits you, and it won't interfere with your work as a nurse.
You don't have to do this. You don't have to go back to school once you are a qualified RN; it's perfectly possible to remain at that level throughout your career if that's what you want to do – and many nurses do just that. However, if you want to progress, you must be ready and willing to continue your studies.
Are You Resilient?
There is no doubt about it and no point ignoring the fact that nursing is challenging. Some days might be easier than others, but every day will bring a variety of problems to be solved and hurdles to get over. Sometimes you might think you have dealt with something only for it to become a problem again later on or for something else to happen that changes the situation.
This is why nurses need to be resilient people. Things won't always work out in the way you want them to or even expect them to, and you need to be ready to change plans, make new solutions, have answers, and deal with setbacks in a calm and measured way. What you can't do as a nurse is to give up or walk away. People are relying on you, so no matter what, you need to keep going.
Can You Keep Calm During Emergencies?
Nurses will be there when the worst happens. They will be there when things go wrong or when an emergency is brought in, and work has to begin on healing the patient right away. Can you keep calm in such situations? If so, nursing could work out well for you. If you tend to panic and get stressed and can't think when under pressure, then you'll need to find a job that doesn't have life or death emergencies as part of its everyday routine.
If you can't handle emergencies well or don't like it when your routine changes and you tend to get frustrated and upset, you will find nursing a huge challenge. No matter how much you might want to help people, if you can't stay calm under pressure, you'll be miserable and won't be helping anyone, let alone yourself.
If you do get flustered, there are other careers that will help people in a much calmer, more measured way, and those should be the ones you think about most.
Can You Handle Suffering and Death?
As part of their job, nurses have to be around suffering and death. There will be good outcomes and lots of pleased patients who recover perfectly well, but there will also be those that don't make it, and even those who do pull through may well have been in a lot of pain before their treatment began.
Are you equipped – mentally and emotionally – to be able to handle this kind of work? This is a huge question, and many people won't know the answer until they are in that situation, but you might have an inkling of how you would feel about these things. It links up with staying calm in an emergency, but it's more than that too.
Of course, no one will (or should) ever get entirely used to death and suffering; we are all human, after all. However, if you're going to be a good nurse, you'll need to be able to handle it well.