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Nursing as a Career

Updated on August 31, 2012
When you know you want to be a Nurse
When you know you want to be a Nurse | Source

Nursing as a Career

When I started my nursing career over 20 years ago it was only meant as a stop gap. I had seen an advertisement in a paper recruiting for nurses in a local hospital. Back then in the United Kingdom most of the big teaching hospitals had begun a new style of nurse training, where the practical skills were learnt on the wards and in the community and the theory was taught in University. It was a good way to get a BSc degree, learn a profession and get paid a small allowance with free board and lodgings thrown in.

I just wanted to do a bit more travelling and thought nursing would be a great choice to travel the world and earn some money at the same time. However, twenty years on I find myself continuing to work as a nurse. It was not part of the grand plan.

Nursing was once seen as a job for life and nurses were perceived to be ‘angels’ dedicating their life to the nursing profession. It was poorly paid work with long hours and for most ,little opportunity to develop skills further than the hospital setting.

Thankfully things have change dramatically. Today nurses train in a University setting, undertaking the practical learning within a hospital or community setting. Student nurses can be taught alongside medical students for science subjects and have a much broader understanding of health issues. Nurses pay has improved over the years and although it is unlikely to meet the threshold of a Banker or Lawyer it’s usually quite reasonable in most developed countries. Nurses working for the public sector also receive additional perks such as generous holiday allowance and paid study days to name a few.

What do you need to train to be a nurse?

Qualifications – usually at least one Science subject will help as will an English and Maths qualification. Don’t be put off if you didn’t do so well at school as there are plenty of ways to study online and get the required qualifications to reach the nurse entry level.

Experience in some caring profession – this is not essential, but it certainly helps if you can demonstrate some experience of working with people when you apply. It could be anything from working in a residential home to looking after children. You need to show that you are a ‘people’ person.

Willingness to embrace change - Nursing, like most professions today is a place of constant change. You will get used to one way of working and some new research or evidence may mean that you have to change your working practice to adopt this changes. Sometimes it can be unsettling and even scary but most change is good and helps to keep us open minded and seek out new learning opportunities.

Go the extra mile – Nursing can be physically and emotionally demanding at times. If you want to get the most out of a nursing career then you need to be that person that will go the extra mile and take pride in what you do to the best of your ability. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do the lion’s share of the work or always stay behind late. It may be something as simple as offering a relative a cup of tea.

Communication skills – probably the most important skill of all is having the ability to communicate effectively. As a nurse you will find yourself in situations that can be highly emotive. You need to be able to think rationally and remain calm in difficult situations.

  • As a nurse you need to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ and demonstrate an empathetic nature. Most people don’t want sympathy but they do want to feel as though someone genuinely cares. If you’ve ever experienced a loved one in hospital you will know how protective you feel towards them and want to make sure that they have kind, professional staff caring for them.
  • Assertive - there are times as a nurse that you will need to act as an advocate for a patient, relative or even a colleague. Having the ability to speak up either for yourself or someone else is most definitely an asset and will generally bode you well. This is a skill that you will most definitely learn on the job even if you’re not doing it now.
  • Listening skills – probably the best communication skill you can have. You don’t need to know the answer to everything or to try and ‘make everything ok’ with words. People usually just want to be heard and if you can set aside a couple of minutes to do this you can make a big difference to someone’s day.

Time Management - whatever area of nursing you work in you will need to know how to prioritise your work efficiently and effectively. This is a skill that is crucial in nursing and can have a huge impact on patient care. You will learn this as your skills develop.

Continuing professional development - nurses have become much more involved in evidence based care and undertaking and critiquing practice, often leading to change. This has meant nurses now have to demonstrate they are up to date within their speciality and continue life-long learning in order to maintain their registration.

Blood, Guts and Gore - if you faint at the sight of blood then nursing probably isn't for you. You will see things that will leave a last impression both good and bad. It will depend on the area of nursing your choose to work in as to how much of the above you are exposed to. For instance I work in child health so I only see a few dirty nappies, not everyone's cup of tea though. A travel nurse would most likely only see healthy people too. But to get through your nurse training you will have to work within a hospital environment.

Rewards - apart from the obvious of flexible working hours, holiday, study pay, plus an interesting challenging career the big reward for a nurse is the giving. Nurses are not selfless individuals offering their services free of charge. When you give you also receive and the benefits are huge. If you've ever done a favour for someone and you get that warm glow inside you will know what I am on about. Do not let me mislead you though as not all patient's or relatives are grateful or gracious - it takes all sorts on both sides to get the ingredients right. In general though, it's very rewarding and fulfilling to do good for another.

Nursing is now a dynamic profession, suitable for ages from 18 up until the more mature adult. I don’t put an age of the upper end as I’ve seen many retired nurses with excellent skills return to the workforce on a part-time basis and it’s usually not for the money.

Nursing as a career can take you many places. There are more possibilities and opportunities than you can probably imagine. There are superb careers in nursing for those who have the drive and ambition to work at management level as well as those who wish to diverse into the private sector and work in a specific area.

If you’re thinking about commencing a career in nursing it’s certainly worth a go, one thing for sure is you won’t be bored.


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