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Help! Advice Needed! Social work vs. Nursing

cjohns889 cjohns889 (New) New

Hey everyone!

Thanks so much for looking at my post! I definitely in need of some advice!

I am a 20-year-old nursing student. For my first one-and-a-half years of college, I was a psychology major and planned on getting my masters (ie. MSW or LPC) in order to become a counselor/therapist. I just loooove learning about the human psyche and would really love helping people get through their problems. I switched to nursing midway through my sophomore year for various reasons. My parents really wanted me to be a nurse (my mom really wants me to be secure money wise in the future, and it's flexible with having a family, etc.), and because I was/am interested in that as well. I figured "well I want to help people, but I might not be able to help some with mental disorders who just can't get better, but in nursing it's like fixing a bo-bo! Much more positive and rewarding!" Plus, getting a masters adds on another 3 more years AFTER 4 years of college...

I am in my first semester of nursing school/clinicals (before now I was in psych and then taking pre-req classes that I didn't have and needed for nursing). After this semester, I will have been in college for 2 and a half years. I am scared to change majors again so late, but I am just worried that I am not doing the career I should be!

It's not that I don't LIKE nursing... it's just scary! I have done well so far and have worked my tail off to make good grades. But reading about all of the responsibilities and techniques and things you have to remember how to do... I am just not sure I want to be accountable for all of that! Of course in any profession, you have to know what you are doing. But with nursing, I keep reading about liability and how someone's life is in your hands and... I'm just scared of making a mistake and remembering every single thing!

I don't want my nerves of "omg I just really don't want to put in an IV/what if I mess up?" to defer me from a career choice, because I'm sure you get used to the techniques and procedures after doing it over and over again. However, I am clueless as to what it really is like being a nurse once school is over. Do you do MORE than just take care of patients medically wise? I just don't think of putting in catheters, giving shots, administering meds, etc. all day long as something fun/that would make me happy. On the other hand, does talking to the patients and interacting with them keep it interesting/fun?

I don't want anyone to say "well it sounds like you don't want to be a nurse" because I do and that's why I'm torn! For ex: our first semester has been at the nursing home. The first day, I called my mom hysterical saying "Oh my gosh ew I do NOT want to touch these old people's butts and change their diaper, gross!". However, within a day of being there, my love for them is so tremendous and care definitely overcomes the "gross stuff." The head activities director even sought me out to tell me that I was going to be the best nurse out of any of the other students!

However, there is that part of me that feels like my heart is set on counseling people and doing the mental aspect rather than the medical. I have to decide within the next month, because money and registration is due and I would have to switch back to the university I was at originally (I am at a private nursing college now because the nursing school was an hour away). Plus, I am getting older and I don't like it (haha!)

Sorry if this is long, but I am so stuck and need input from people with experience. Everyone roots for me to be a nurse (not just my parents, but all of my family members, friends' parents who are nurses, etc.) Do they know something I don't?


NurseThis21, BSN, RN

Specializes in Adolescent & Adult Psychiatry.

Hi There!

I have two words for you: Psychiatric Nursing.

I was just like you two years ago and didn't really fall in love with the concept of learning a gazillion techniques and remembering them for the rest of my life. However, I was introduced to the wonderful world of psych nursing my senior year and I haven't looked back since!

It's definitely what I always wanted to do and the nursing aspect just makes it that much more succinct. I learn something new about my patients every day and I am also a part of their therapeutic treatments. I get to listen to their needs, what's making them feel happy, sad, angry, afraid, etc. It's totally worth it and I think your background in Psych will really add to your expertise!

I'll admit, there are times where I will have to use my technical skills and do some downright icky things for my patients, but I"m their advocate and I just have to accept it and move on! Other times, I'm using my nursing judgment and intuition (which is invaluable) and it gets me through the day with my patients intact!

You're on the right path and I suggest you stay in nursing school, get the degree, and look into psych. It's a very rewarding profession and I'm sure you'll love every minute of it!

Good Luck with everything!!!!

NurseThis21, BSN, RN

UIC Alumna

Psychiatric Registered Nurse

NurseThis21 - that was SUCH helpful information! Thank you so much for your input!

If I stick with it, I actually am doing Mental Health in January so maybe you are right - I will fall in love and realize that is where I ought to be! Best of both worlds.

Do you have to get any special training aside from Bachelor's? (For ex: do I have to specialize in psychiatric nursing/more schooling/tests?)

Thanks again for your help!

I am still in nursing school. But you really sound like you have a wonderful heart, and I think the nursing profession needs you (and more people like you). It sounds to me that you are on the right track.

At my psychiatric rotations I got to listen to many patients' stories. I used less of my nursing skills there but did a lot of therapeutic communication. Again, I am still a student, but I don't feel that I was able to really help patients. Obviously, these people were in a hospital and were very sick. They seemed to need much more interventions than I could provide (even some of the RNs there didn't seem to relate well to the patients because of the severity of their illnesses). It wasn't very rewarding for me.

I've also done a rotation on telemetry (using nursing skills, giving meds) and was able to really listen and connect to people. The people on the tele floor were physically ill and probably somewhat emotionally ill but definitely not as severe as on the psych floor. I feel that I made a difference in their lives regarding their physical and emotional well-being which was incredibly rewarding for me as a nursing student.

Good luck and keep us posted :)

WONDERFUL advice! So kind, and I'm so thankful!

I'm loving the input!

I think a big part is that I'm just getting scared of all the responsibilities and liability. I am a smart girl and work hard to make good grades, but I don't think I give myself enough credit/am confident until I have done something multiple times. For example: you said you did a telemetry rotation - I am just so scared of doing something wrong! So far, the most "intense" thing we have learned to do med admin (giving oral meds, crushing them and putting through NG tube, IM and subQ injections, catheters). I haven't done any of it on an actual person yet (we get checked off on dummies in a practice lab - haha!), but I am later this week I think! How much scarier does it get: IVs? Inserting tube feedings?

I guess I'm just wondering if I am strong enough to be confident in a job with so many responsibilities and things to remember. I know for a fact I would love the caring/people part, but that is part of counseling or just any people-involved job... so I'm nervous/stuck.

I think I'll end up sticking with it, but keep the thoughts/opinions coming!


Specializes in Home Care.

Clinicals are nerve wracking for lots of people. I was nervous too during my first few clinical rotations.

You have so many options open to you once you complete your BSN and consider your Masters program.

Why not give yourself a few years to find your niche. You're young and you're going to learn alot about yourself in the next few years.

Don't rush into a program that might not be "you" a few years from now.

There are a bunch of older "social work vs. nursing" threads here that you may want to review, to see what others have discussed. You could find them with the "search" button.

Just wanted to let you all know that I have stuck it out for the remainder of the semester and things have gotten better! I am sticking with each of ya'lls advice - STICKING WITH NURSING! I truly think that my love for people will help me overcome my anxiety in performing new procedures for the first time, etc. Plus, I'll get used to it all, right?

Huge Fundamentals final tomorrow... gotta go cram some more (Hello, Diet Coke).

I made one of the only A's on my Pharmacology final :) ... one more to go!

Wish me luck.


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