Enlighten me about the nursing prefession. Career for me?

  1. 0
    Hi, I am currently in my undergrad and I'm a little confused about what I'd like to do. I KNOW I want it to involve working with patients. I have been thinking I would become a Physical Therapist Assistant (so I can work in a real career, making enough money, while continuing education. Also a back up plan if I don't want to go to graduate school in the end.) then go on to get my bachelors in public health, then become a PA or PT. I would like to be able to volunteer abroad in humanitarian efforts, 3-5 months out of the year.

    Some things that have drawn me to nursing are that it is very secure, I would be able to find a job rather quickly almost anywhere after returning from volunteering abroad. It pays well, so I could afford to do the traveling I want to. I love that I hear days are never typical, and things are always changing. I would like that. I love that you can start over (essentially changing careers) in a new specialty if you'd like. I love that you are working with patients and have the ability to change their lives. And, it's kinda weird but I love being in a hospital- I study so well there and I love that everyone is working to keep the human body healthy. I think (?? do you?) my training as a nurse would tie in perfectly with humanitarian work... I would really be able to help people.

    But I am still a little confused about what a nurse DOES and can do. (I have never been sick in the hospital under the care of a nurse, only a PA). I have read discussion forums about a day in the life of a RN looks like this: "Get to work, get info from previous shift, check on patients, take vitals, move around on bed, give medicine, chart, help out other colleagues, check on patients, chart, help out other colleagues, check on patients, chat with patients, chart... etc"

    I'm not sure if that's deep enough into medicine for me. Can you tell me more? What kind of things are you charting? What kind of procedures (catheters, IVs, etc?) does a nurse preform?

    I know that nurses really have a passion for what they do. I know I need to shadow a nurse when I get back to the US to see if I would to. (currently working in The Netherlands).

    Please enlighten me more about nursing and why nurses all say it is their calling and they love it.

    Thank you!
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  3. 9 Comments so far...

  4. 1
    Many new grads can not find jobs. Orienting a new grad takes a considerable amount of time and money. I've seen coworkers go on 7-10 day mission trips, but no longer.

    RNs start IVs, insert catheters, put in NG tubes, give meds, draw blood, lots of monitoring, dressing changes. That's an abbreviated list. There are specialities where you can learn other skills.

    The money is not great compared to the responsibly. Nurses are the ones that catch the blame. Meal tray late, TV doesn't work, doctor is late, floor needs mopped, they tell the nurse and he/she gets to try to fix it.

    After you have some time under your belt, you could possibly get into travel nursing, and you can choose from available assignments, then take time off. (I've never traveled, but I think that's how it works)
    loriangel14 likes this.
  5. 2
    Your ideas about what nursing is like are the reasons I went into nursing and the reason I'm so disillusioned about it now. It's not "easy" at all to change specialties, find a job anywhere or even to take time off. I love to travel and as a nurse it's very difficult for me to take time off because of safe staffing laws. Maybe my employer is the problem (I'm working on that too!). I would suggest you talk more with nurses in your desired area if you know any. I wil I had done PA school instead.
    stephaniemaried and loriangel14 like this.
  6. 2
    Nursing is not secure and it is not easy to get a job at the drop of a hat.Being out of the loop for several months and then trying to get your foot back in the door would be tricky.If you plan on taking extended trips every few months an employer may not be too eager to hire you if you aren't going to stick around long.The pay is good but if you plan on big bucks so you can travel lots you may be disapppointed.

    It is a great job though and I do love what I do.

    A day in the life can vary so much depending on the setting.A lot of what you are charting is observations and interventions performed.Everything you do has to be documented and that can get tedious.Vitals, physical assessments, procedures, dressing changes, education,personal care, verbal interactions with patients and families, the list isvery long.You also spend a lot of your day solving problems and communicating with others.
    Altra and TraumaBSN like this.
  7. 2
    As a brand new grad myself, I cannot speak with the years of experience that these others have. However, I will say that the reasons that one goes into nursing should not solely be financial security. When I began nursing school in 2007 there was still a nursing boom in Long Island and everyone was saying "You'll get snatched right up and you'll never be out of a job." However, now that local hospitals are shutting down, nurses who worked for 15-20-30 years are now dusting off their resumes to start at the bottom of the seniority ladder all over again. And that makes it hard for me (who has no previous nursing experience) to compete for a job. That being said, I know that eventually I will land a job and everything will pan out.

    My point is this: check your motives and be sure you're in it for the rewarding and unique position in which you can affect a positive change in the lives of so many. In some ways, I agree with sbostonRN. Part of me thinks that if I could have gone back, I would have become a Physician Assistant purely because of the flexibility and better pay, but who knows what will change in the next 5 years?! This field is so rapidly changing that you never know what's around the corner. Nursing is different now than it was in 1990. So if you choose nursing be prepared to work, HARD. Both in school and after you get a job. Be prepared to clean up crap, and keep in mind that if we don't do it, then no one will. It's perspective that kept me going until I graduated. I expect that perspective will keep me going when I finally get a job too. Same goes for you. Best of luck.
    Last edit by TraumaBSN on Jan 12, '13 : Reason: typo
    stephaniemaried and loriangel14 like this.
  8. 2
    I saw this on Facebook:

    About NURSES:
    Somebody asked:"You're a nurse? That's cool. I wanted to do that when I was a kid. How much do you make?"
    The nurse replied, "HOW MUCH DO I MAKE?"
    I can make holding your hand the most important thing in the world when you're scared.
    I can make your child breathe when they stop.
    I can help your father survive a heart attack.
    I can make myself get up at 5am to make sure your mother has the medicine she needs to live.
    I work all day to save lives of strangers.
    I make my family wait for dinner until I know your family member is taken care of.
    I make myself skip lunch so that I can make sure that everything I did for your wife today is charted.
    I make myself work weekends and holidays because people don't just get sick Monday-Friday.
    Today, I might save your life.
    How much do I make? All I know is that I make a difference.

    Things nurses do:

    Head to toe assessment: from the healthy to the critical--lung sounds, heart sounds/rhythm, neuro/GCS, and more
    Plan care for patients: create goals for and implement interventions
    Educate: patients and families and other nurses
    Communicate: patients, families, doctors, ancillary health, co-workers, etc.
    Charting: documentation good enough to hold up in court
    Paperwork---
    Comfort
    Explain
    Restrain....

    Take vital signs: Blood pressure, pulse, respirations, temperature, SpO2
    Provide direct care: bed baths, turning and repositioning, cleaning blood, puke, urine and feces off patients (yes, adult patients)
    Draw blood
    Administer meds: oral, subcutaneous, intramuscular, intravenous, and more
    Insert IVs (and with training PICC/central lines)
    Administer IV fluids specific to patient needs
    Preform EKGs
    Monitor heart rhythms/ECGs: you can monitor for and detect heart attacks, heart blocks, electrolyte imbalances, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, and so on
    Insert nasogastric and orogastric tubes and lavage
    Insert urinary catheters, monitor output, irrigate bladders
    Administer enemas and suppositories (if you don't know what this is, google)
    Administer breathing treatments and oxygen
    Basic Life support: Chest compressions, ventilation and oxygen, automatic external defibrillator, Heimlich maneuver (children and adults)
    Advanced Life Support: All of the above, plus: intubation, IV meds, cardiac monitoring, defibrillation

    Depending on where you work you will experience:
    Critically ill patients
    Patients who think they are critically ill...
    Surgeries and complications
    Emergencies
    Trauma
    Life
    Death
    Blood, poop, puke, urine, (and so much more!) --you will also be privileged enough to experience the smell too....
    Happiness
    Sadness
    Humor

    I'm sure others could more than double this list...

    Not every nurse does ALL of these things. There are so many different specialties you can work in: ER, ICU, Med-Surg, Labor and Delivery, Surgery, Neonatal, Pediatrics, Long Term Care, and the list goes on.

    Being a nurse is more than just charting and chatting. You patient's condition could change at any time and you are constantly on your toes.

    Bottom line- don't do it for the money. Do it because it's what you want to do.
    stephaniemaried and brownbook like this.
  9. 0
    Quote from Keep_Calm
    I saw this on Facebook:

    About NURSES:
    Somebody asked:"You're a nurse? That's cool. I wanted to do that when I was a kid. How much do you make?"
    The nurse replied, "HOW MUCH DO I MAKE?"
    I can make holding your hand the most important thing in the world when you're scared.
    I can make your child breathe when they stop.
    I can help your father survive a heart attack.
    I can make myself get up at 5am to make sure your mother has the medicine she needs to live.
    I work all day to save lives of strangers.
    I make my family wait for dinner until I know your family member is taken care of.
    I make myself skip lunch so that I can make sure that everything I did for your wife today is charted.
    I make myself work weekends and holidays because people don't just get sick Monday-Friday.
    Today, I might save your life.
    How much do I make? All I know is that I make a difference.

    Things nurses do:

    Head to toe assessment: from the healthy to the critical--lung sounds, heart sounds/rhythm, neuro/GCS, and more
    Plan care for patients: create goals for and implement interventions
    Educate: patients and families and other nurses
    Communicate: patients, families, doctors, ancillary health, co-workers, etc.
    Charting: documentation good enough to hold up in court
    Paperwork---
    Comfort
    Explain
    Restrain....

    Take vital signs: Blood pressure, pulse, respirations, temperature, SpO2
    Provide direct care: bed baths, turning and repositioning, cleaning blood, puke, urine and feces off patients (yes, adult patients)
    Draw blood
    Administer meds: oral, subcutaneous, intramuscular, intravenous, and more
    Insert IVs (and with training PICC/central lines)
    Administer IV fluids specific to patient needs
    Preform EKGs
    Monitor heart rhythms/ECGs: you can monitor for and detect heart attacks, heart blocks, electrolyte imbalances, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, and so on
    Insert nasogastric and orogastric tubes and lavage
    Insert urinary catheters, monitor output, irrigate bladders
    Administer enemas and suppositories (if you don't know what this is, google)
    Administer breathing treatments and oxygen
    Basic Life support: Chest compressions, ventilation and oxygen, automatic external defibrillator, Heimlich maneuver (children and adults)
    Advanced Life Support: All of the above, plus: intubation, IV meds, cardiac monitorin, defibrillation

    Depending on where you work you will experience:
    Critically ill patients
    Patients who think they are critically ill...
    Surgeries and complications
    Emergencies
    Trauma
    Life
    Death
    Blood, poop, puke, urine, (and so much more!) --you will also be privileged enough to experience the smell too....
    Happiness
    Sadness
    Humor

    I'm sure others could more than double this list...

    Not every nurse does ALL of these things. There are so many different specialties you can work in: ER, ICU, Med-Surg, Labor and Delivery, Surgery, Neonatal, Pediatrics, Long Term Care, and the list goes on.

    Bottom line- don't do it for the money. Do it because it's what you want to do.
    ^^^Agree.
  10. 1
    Thank you Keep_Calm! This is what I was hoping to hear about. I wouldn't pick a career over salary. I like what nursing is. Shadowing a nurse would definitely help me decide what to do so I can experience a day in the life first hand.

    Thank you for taking the time to tell me about all this. Gave me the ability to envision myself as a nurse which is what I was trying to do.
    Keep_Calm likes this.
  11. 2
    As a heads-up, you might find it very DIFFICULT to be able to do humanitarian trips while working as a staff RN. Some religious-based employers might offer short 1-2 week humanitarian trips, but many employers might ask you to resign if you want to go on a month-long trip because it goes against their max-time off policy. Jobs for new grads are NOT easy to get by, you might NOT be able to get straight into the specialty you want, and you might not be able to switch to another specialty later on as easily as you think. There are many current and future nursing students who are not well informed about the actual job market before they invest a lot of time and money into this path.
    stephaniemaried and loriangel14 like this.
  12. 2
    I work for a faith-based healthcare system & feel the need to clarify One1's comment "Some religious-based employers might offer short 1-2 week humanitarian trips..."

    Uh - no, we don't do that. We have pretty much the same as all the other not-for-profit organizations. Employees have to utilize leave-of-absence or vacation time to participate in volunteer activities. We have sponsored some corporate-sponsored disaster relief teams, but those are rare.

    If the OP in interested in medical mission stuff, it may be better to explore Peace Core or Doctors Without Borders (Work in the Field - Doctors Without Borders). But, as you can see, the nursing specialties that they are interested in are OB & OR.
    stephaniemaried and loriangel14 like this.


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