Hi Kathy...I'll try and answer, don't know if I'll be of any help!
1. well, a benefit is that there are many options available as a nurse. I mean, there's the obvious choices...hospital, homecare, nursing home, MD office. Within each there are many specialties with which to choose. There are *many* other options too, like school nursing, forensic nursing, occupational health, ETC (see the other boards here for an idea!). You can also move pretty much anywhere and still get a job in nursing. A drawback *to me*, well I think that would be the shifts.......I hated rotating shifts in the hospital. I finally got on a permenent shift-night-which I loved, but couldn't handle the physical strangeness and sleep deprivation (I had to wake up early when my kids came home, as a single mom, and never got enough sleep). Also, there's working holidays. Some people don't mind, and you often get pretty good pay to do so.....I for instance didn't mind any hoilday except Christmas......And yes, if I had to do it all over again, I would still be a nurse. I went to nursing school when I was 28 and had 2 kids, and never once regretted it.
2. I believe that yes, nurses are in demand. But there is a reason for that. There are plenty of nurses out there, but many have left nursing to do others things in their lives. Nursing is not without it's share of problems, and if you read these boards, you'll see that. But many people will tell you that the facility they work at is short staffed and they are carrying heavy patient loads. It's really too much for me to go into in this little spcae, and I actually don't feel adequate to go into detail.....I'm sure others will chime in with responses either way.
3. I currently working just over 40 hrs a week, but I have just gotten into a slightly different position. I am in homecare, and came to a point where I couldn't hande being in the field anymore. I was consistently working 50-60 hrs a week, plus if I was on call, even more (sometimes 12 days in a row, etc)......this is hard on most people, but I have had 2 surgeries in the past year, a bout of pretty bad depression (I have a history) and some situations at home needing my attention, rather than sitting doing paperwork all evening.....Anyhoooo......I am now in the office, and working straight days. I do go in 20-30 minutes early every daily, because I am still in a learning curve, but it is an office job and has office hours. When I was working in hospitals.......I had one job where I worked 40 hrs a week, 2 8hr shifts and 2 12hr shifts each week. Another job was 24 hours a week, which were 3 8hr shifts...plus I had to take my turn being on call (this was a maternity floor where they rely on on-call due to the nature of the biz, haha!). I never had to do "mandatory overtime", but back then our staffing was a bit better than what is seen in some hospitals these days. I would get calls asking me to come in on days off, but due to child care issues (I was a single mom at the time) I rarely could arrange for someone to watch the kids on such short notice. I'm sure I wasn't popular, but I did what I could.
Hope that helped a little. Good luck in whatever you decide to do!!