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Should I become a nurse? Part 2: Downsides of becoming a nurse

Updated on December 6, 2012

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As a nursing instructor and floor nurse, I continually meet people who ask me about becoming a nurse and what some of the pros and cons are. This article, which is part 2 in a 2 part series, seeks to go over some of the downsides of becoming a nurse. See part 1 of this series, about the benefits of becoming a nurse for more information on becoming a nurse.

Downsides of Becoming a Nurse: The Schooling

To become a licensed vocational/practical or registered nurse, there is a lot of schooling involved compared with other vocations. Licensed vocational/practical nurses (LVNs)/LPNs have to go to a two year community college program or a 12 to 18 month vocational program at a private technical school. The downside of doing an LVN/LPN program at a community or junior college is that there is generally a long wait list, sometimes in excess of a year or two. Attending an LVN/LPN school at a private technical college also takes at least a year (though there is one program I heard about which allows students to complete the program in 9 months, but I am unsure if it is still open). The other downside to this type of schooling is that it can cost upwards of $15,000-$35,000. This is a lot of money to fork over in order to make between $30,000-$45,000 a year. Many if not all of the courses you take at a private technical college are not transferable to a regionally accredited degree program, such as an ASN or BSN.

To become a registered nurse, you will have to take all of the dreaded pre-requisites. At the very minimum, you will have to take anatomy and physiology (two semesters) with labs and a semester of microbiology with labs. Many nursing schools also require a semester of chemistry (some don’t require the lab for chemistry) as well as a semester of nutrition or a semester of biochemistry (generally with lab).

Once you finish all of your nursing prerequisites, assuming they have not expired (most nursing schools require courses be completed within three to five years, depending on the school, for them to count). Assuming they are still good, you can apply to an associate degree in nursing program and that will take you about two years if you are full time, assuming there is no waiting list (there usually is, but it depends on geographical location). However, most hospitals want graduates to have a BSN degree. To get a BSN degree it is going to take four years, generally including time for prerequisites. BSN programs usually have a lengthy waiting list, unless you want to apply to a private nursing school. One such program in Southern California charges over $100,000 for a four year nursing degree. That’s a lot of dough to fork over. There are other options for LVNs/LPNs who can opt to do an online degree program through Excelsior (whose graduates can now endorse into California if they have an approved BSN from another school---see my blog about this), or you can attend Indiana State University, which offers an online BSN with local onsite clinical rotations with a preceptor.

Options for becoming a nurse

(click column header to sort results)
Time to Complete  
Waiting Period?  
12-24 months
Varies, as high as $35,000
Public colleges: yes, tech schools: no
prerequisites plus 24 months
Varies, as high as $60,000
4 years
Varies, as high as $150,000

Other downsides

There are other downsides to becoming a nurse, but they are minor and come with the territory. Nurses are peed on, pooped on, spit on, kicked, bit, punched (I have all of these things have happened to me and many others), but these pale in comparison to the benefits. Most of these things don’t happen intentionally on behalf of our patients, they occur because our patients are not in the right frame of mind, confused, or angry about their situation. Nurses have to be strong to help our patients get better. We must treat our patients how we want to be treated, because you never know if we will end up being patients someday ourselves (and, as the old adage goes, nurses often make the worst patients).


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