Nursing is one of the most satisfying and rewarding career paths out there, and that’s no hollow talk. In fact, a survey from AMN Healthcare showed that nurses are, by and large, satisfied with their career choice, with around 85 percent of nurses reporting emphatic job satisfaction. With a looming shortage of both registered nurses and primary care providers (including nurse practitioners), this is one career path that you can bet will be in serious demand for the foreseeable future.
If you’re thinking about becoming a nurse, it’s a good idea to get a general idea of the profession before enrolling in a nursing program. Getting acquainted with the basics of nursing with the info below is a good first step, but you should also consider spending a bit of time with working nurses in your community. Be sure to inquire with your local hospital about any nurse shadowing programs or ask to have coffee with a nurse in your network to get up-close and personal with this much-needed career.
What You’ll Do
Your day-to-day tasks will vary greatly based on what kind of nurse you are. From the most basic and lowest paying to the most specialized and complex, these are some of the more common nursing titles:
- Licensed practical nurse (LPN)
- Registered nurse (RN)
- Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
- Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
- Certified nurse practitioner (NP)
Education requirements and salary range widely, with LPNs requiring only an associate’s degree and advanced nursing titles requiring a master’s degree. In general, a nurse’s primary role is to monitor a patient’s condition and progress and administer medication, but each type of nurse has his or her own unique skills and duties.
More responsibility is given to highly trained nurses—called advanced-practice registered nurses—such as NPs, CRNAs, and others who have a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). They may be able to order tests, design treatment plans, write prescriptions, and diagnose conditions in a greater range of environments than LPNs and RNs. Depending on the state, advanced-practice nurses can sometimes practice independently, providing primary care with or without the supervision of a physician.
What You’ll Make
So, how much do nurses make? Nurses boast a median salary of $68,450 in the U.S., but the professional pay scale is varied, with some of the best-paid registered nurses earning more than $100,000 and the least-paid nurses earning salaries in the $40,000 range. LPNs, who are only required to have an associate’s degree, make around $40,000 per year on average, while nurse practitioners and other advanced-practice registered nurses may make over $150,000 annually.
What You’ll Wear
Most people assume that all nurses wear scrubs and, while that’s generally true, some nursing professionals who do not regularly interact with patients—such as case managers and supervisors—may wear dress clothes or adhere to an office casual dress code. Some nurses wear lab coats, especially nurse practitioners and those who work in private practices. Most hospitals and healthcare systems have dress codes that guide what employees can wear to work.
When You’ll Work
Because our communities need around-the-clock care, hospital nurses don’t usually work on a typical 9 to 5 schedule. In fact, the vast majority of nurses work longer shifts and are often scheduled to work three 12-hour shifts per week. A nurse might work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. or—if you’re a new nurse and low on seniority—an overnight shift, such as 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
There are advantages and disadvantages to working 12 hours, but many nurses prefer them because it means they get four days off each week. Nurses who work in private or family practices usually work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and do not work on weekends.
What You’ll Love
There are many things to love about being a nurse, including:
- The Rewarding Feeling –Research shows that helping people boosts happinessand, when you’re in any helping profession, whether it’s health care, education, or non-profit work, you’ll appreciate the joy that comes with doing good. Nurses get to see people get better and improve their lives every day.
- The Stability – According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the world is expected to see a high-impact nursing shortageas Baby Boomers age and health care needs grow. The profession is projected to see a growth of about 16 percent by 2024. Nursing is also one of the few careers that is pretty safely robot-proof, at least for now!
- The Money – Nurses not only have a relatively high earning potential, but they also have lots of opportunity for upward job advancement, allowing young nurses to advance and grow at different points throughout their careers through promotions and higher degrees.
What You’ll Hate
There are a few things that aren’t so pleasant about nursing, including:
- The Emotional Toll– Nursing isn’t all warm and fuzzy, in part because those in this profession are often treated not just as nurses, but also as therapists. In addition, nurses regularly come face-to-face with emotionally taxing aspects of life, including death, violence, stress, disease, and
- The Stress – Nurses who regularly work multiple 12-hour shifts per week (or shorter but more frequent high-stress shifts) tend to get less sleep and suffer from higher levels of stress. This lifestyle can lead to depression, anxiety, weight gain, and other mental and physical health problems. Striking a good work-life balance may be difficult in stressful and demanding nursing roles.
Talk to a Nurse
Nurses are often very candid people who would be happy to tell you all about the nitty-gritty of this important career path. If you are able to spend time shadowing a nurse at your local hospital, you’ll get a better idea of what kinds of things get thrown at nursing professionals every day. Although there are certainly pros and cons to the job, nurses still say they love the work, so make sure to look at the big picture!