What does it take to be a good nurse? That's a heavy question April. I think the main thing is probably the same answer as to what does it take to be a good plumber or a good bus driver or a good surgeon. First and foremost, you have to love what you do. In nursing it means you have to be genuinely concerned for the health and wellness of others and be willing to help them. You have to care. Besides this, you need good "people skills," an interest in the sciences, a willingness to never want to stop learning, a willingness to work odd shifts/weekends/holidays, etc.
The one thing you mention about emotional involvement is a good point. Know that you will be exposed to all the extremes of the human emotion in our profession. You will be reminded on a daily basis of what is important and what really matters in life. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. But don't let this discourage you, the rewards of touching lives far outweigh the emotional "wear + tear" that it brings. When it gets to be too much, nursing offers a variety of settings that can give you a "breather." About specializing (OR,ER), usually it means experience. If you want to pursue careers in a specific field, get involved. Volunteer, work as a technician and Network (who you know does matter). Specialized courses, college electives and certifications are also available but as a first step, most managers want experience or show of interest and involvement. Your inquiry on this subject shows that you are analytical and take your career seriously. These are great nursing traits. Hope this helps and I wish you happiness in whatever you choose to do.
Martin Schiavenato RN, BSN, MS