Thinking of Becoming a Nurse? Here's What They Don't Tell You-Part 1
The decision to be a nurse should be weighed heavily. Nursing can affect your life in ways you would not consider. Sure wish I knew then what I know now!
What a person chooses to do for their life’s work is a difficult decision at best; more difficult for some than others. Unless one is lucky enough to be born gifted in some area or feel a calling to do something, the decision regarding what profession to choose is for many a shot, taken in the dark, in good faith and with high hopes.
It is unfortunate that so few are driven or called to a particular profession, especially when one considers how little most people at the age of 17 or 18 know about themselves, the world and life in general. If a person is lucky they might have a little bit of an idea about what qualities make them unique and have a basic understanding of strengths, weaknesses and areas of interest based on the short few years of awareness that the individual has had up to that point.
For many, whatever the reason, thinking about the future at the age of 17 or 18 is like staring into an empty abyss. Decisions get made often based on adult influence and information provided by someone like a school guidance counselor.
If an individual is lucky, they will have a guidance counselor and other influences in their life able to provide information regarding the wide array of professional opportunities and an accurate description reflecting each possible choice. Representatives invited into the high schools from colleges and or trade schools provide useful information to the students, further helping them with their career choice.
Among all the information provided to future college students about the nursing profession, there are some serious omissions. If someone had sat down with me and explained to me what they are, it would have no doubt made me think twice about becoming a nurse. At the very least, it would have affected my decisions about how to become a nurse and how much education to receive. It would have given me the understanding that not all nursing is created equal and that having a life’s plan as a nurse is very important because, let’s face it, we change.
As we change, what we can tolerate in a job, especially one that deals with some of humanities darkest moments, change too. We have to consider that we are just as a human and susceptible to frailty, physical and emotional weakness as the patients we will be caring for. We have to also remind ourselves that our families, friends and all those we love are too.
We need to have the ability to create boundaries and a healthy emotional distance from our patients. We need to be the kind of person that will do our very best to meet our patient’s needs while at work and leave the job to the next competent nurse when we go home.
Before making a decision about a profession in nursing or any other health care related field in which direct care and or management of sick patients are required, it is important that individuals do some deep introspective work which answers questions related to views about what it means to be healthy, sick, young, old, black, white, purple etc.
You would want to consider hypothetical situations such as the possibility that you might have to care for someone that committed a crime, possibly murder. You should explore your feelings and beliefs about religion. Can you come to terms with any given situation, with an understanding that there is a higher power overseeing whatever it is you might encounter as a nurse?
Do you believe that the higher power will be present for you while on the job on your most difficult days as well as on your best days? Are you the kind of person that can accept a negative outcome as it relates to the possible death or suffering of your patient? Can you remain detached enough so that you can understand that the situation’s outcome, whether good or bad, was part of a greater plan not created by you?
Can you remain detached enough so that your competence level remains consistent, even in the most stressful of times. Can you stay focused in times of great stress? The quality of care you provide must not deviate and should be within the realm of your nursing license while meeting hospital policy guidelines at all times.
Ethical values, though deeply engrained and often beyond the scope of awareness, must always be present to assure that in addition to the skills you use to care for your patients, you are also using common sense and ethical values to do the ‘right’ thing for your patients in times when lines become blurred.
How well do you work with others? You will be a part of a team in which each member has an important function needed to promote a positive outcome for the patients. The team works together like a well- oiled machine, each performing their own job responsibilities which come together to meet the physical and psycho-social needs of the patient.
Unless you or someone on your team has been negligent in some way, a negative outcome will not be your fault. There will be nothing you could have done differently, the outcome was what the ‘higher power’ intended it to be. Do you think that you could have this outlook when a patient does not respond as hoped to treatment? Perhaps the patient has died. What are your views about death?
Of course, you are human. You will feel sad, possibly angry and possibly a little hopeless because you will realize how much is not within the control of the nurse, physician or any other healthcare discipline. We are all human, fragile and part of a greater plan. Can you understand this?
Do you suspect that poor patient outcomes will take a toll on your emotional well-being? Do you think that you can maintain a level of healthy detachment so that you can fully enjoy all the beautiful things in life that your ‘higher power’ intended without the intrusion of thoughts and visions that come from the intensity of what you do for a living?
Speaking from the perspective of an RN, that has been working for approximately 30 years; I cannot tell you that the visions do not affect your life. Even the most emotionally healthy individual with a strong faith is adversely affected by the visions of horror, sadness, deformity and whatever given situations an individual has been exposed to occupationally.
Again, we are human. The nursing profession certainly keeps one humble. An RN is constantly aware of the finite nature of life, which in turn creates an extra special value for good health and time. We have the constant awareness that our good health and our time WILL run out.
In many ways we are robbed of our innocence and our ignorance with regard to the human condition. Many of us, would have preferred to be able to keep this innocence and ignorance because, like they say ‘ignorance is bliss’. Many of us would prefer to not have the visions and little movies scripts that run through our minds as we relate work situations to situations in our personal lives. We don’t want to think about the quadriplegic patient we took care of as our child is doing back hand springs and back flips on the balance beam.
At the same time, the understanding and true awareness that life and health are not forever allows us the opportunity to cherish our good health, time and to cherish what we have with the ones we love. We know that at some point, we will change places with those we care for and we will rely on a well-oiled team of professionals to work in conjunction with the ‘Higher Power’ to help restore our precious health and allow us more valuable time to do what we love to do and be with those that are valuable to us.