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How can I figure out if nursing is right for me?

Pre-Nursing   (2,090 Views 29 Comments)
by ShouldIBeNurse ShouldIBeNurse (New Member) New Member

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I'm a mid-life career changer from engineering. And I have ADHD.  For the past few years, I've been bouncing around in various degree programs in another health care field and then back to something related to the job field I'd been doing previously. I tried the other health care field based on I really enjoyed shadowing and thought I'd like the field, but once I got into school, found that it was something that really valued philosophy and psychology over science, and that the schooling had a lot of subjectivity.

I'm trying to find some sort of job where I a) get to use mostly logical/scientific/non-subjective skills b) get to interact with human beings a good bit of the time, not always in a combative way and c) feel like I'm making a positive contribution to the world. 

In my previous jobs, I've enjoyed on my feet troubleshooting, and/or interacting with other people in a supportive or collaborative way and disliked doing intensive tedious detail-oriented paperwork for most of the day or interacting with people in large groups where people were arguing or being demanding. I didn't mind creating new documentation for things I was doing, but having a job where I had to enter and maintain spreadsheets was awful. I generally have not been good at multi-tasking, at least without keeping track of things on paper. 

I know that nursing is stressful, but so are plenty of other jobs. And there's a difference between doing something that is stressful for 36 hours a week and going home, and doing something that wants you to work 50 or 60 hours a week. 

However, I've found a few things from going to school for the past several years. I strongly prefer learning from physical textbooks than reading stuff online or having no textbooks at all. And it really helps me to know what readings go with a lecture so that I can read it ahead of time and then only need to take notes on new information. There's something about physically making highlights and writing flashcards that makes me learn better. 

I also find many forms of group learning to be frustrating. As an older student, my hearing isn't perfect. If I'm in a room with 60 students in 10 groups, somebody in each group is talking, and the person in the neighboring group that is talking is closer than the person in my group who is across a table, I can't hear what they are saying. I've also found that being in classes where all the work is done as a group is painful if I'm really interested in a class, but other people want to do the bare minimum, or else don't want to contribute anything. I've also found that I strongly prefer face to face classes with the chance to ask questions than watching videos with online classes. 

How can I find out more about nursing to see if its for me besides what I've seen as a patient myself, and observing the care of family members? How can I find out more about a particular nursing school to see if it would fit me? 

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Sour Lemon has 9 years experience.

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Honestly, it sounds like nursing is the opposite of what you're looking for. There's endless, repetitive, documentation. And the one thing you forget is the one thing someone will notice and get upset about.
As the "coordinator of care", you're the dead center of (and somehow responsible for) every conflict involving every department, patient, family member, or physician.

Multi-tasking is what you'll do every day, and all day ...and your priorities will change constantly. Take two steps to the left, and you'll suddenly need to turn and head right- immediately. If you are not extremely good at it, you'll need to get that way to survive.

My school required lots of group work, including group projects and even doing physical assessments on each other. Things were largely unorganized and changed at the last minute. A 4PM class on the west side of town might be moved to a 6AM class on the east side the day before it starts. You deal with it, or you sit out the semester. I'm not sure if every school is quite that bad, but I've certainly heard a lot of similar stories.

Nursing tests may also be much different than what you're used to. You're not simply memorizing facts, you're also got to "get" the big picture. It's a plus that you like to actually read your books.

And while there's hard science involved in nursing, there's also plenty of "fluff". And there are lots of non-scientific tasks involved, like cleaning people and fluffing pillows.
You call yourself an "older" student which could be another hurdle, depending on how much older we're talking.

I would say try working as a nursing assistant for a while to observe. But I think there are so many things that can't be "seen", even in such a close role. Maybe read some threads on this site?

My view is based on med/surg floor nursing.
 

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Pixie.RN has 11 years experience as a MSN, RN, EMT-P and specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CNE, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

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8 hours ago, ShouldIBeNurse said:

 

disliked doing intensive tedious detail-oriented paperwork for most of the day or interacting with people in large groups where people were arguing or being demanding. I didn't mind creating new documentation for things I was doing, but having a job where I had to enter and maintain spreadsheets was awful. I generally have not been good at multi-tasking, at least without keeping track of things on paper. 

These are red flags to me. I don't think you sound like a great fit for nursing. 

What was the other healthcare area that you tried? It'll be helpful if you are more specific. 

I was going to say maybe a career in something in imaging, like ultrasound. 

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Kitiger has 40 years experience as a RN and specializes in Pediatrics.

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9 hours ago, ShouldIBeNurse said:

I'm a mid-life career changer from engineering. And I have ADHD.  

 

I'm trying to find some sort of job where I a) get to use mostly logical/scientific/non-subjective skills . . .

 

I generally have not been good at multi-tasking, at least without keeping track of things on paper. 

 

I know that nursing is stressful, but so are plenty of other jobs. And there's a difference between doing something that is stressful for 36 hours a week and going home, and doing something that wants you to work 50 or 60 hours a week. 

 

However, I've found a few things from going to school for the past several years. I strongly prefer learning from physical textbooks than reading stuff online or having no textbooks at all. And it really helps me to know what readings go with a lecture so that I can read it ahead of time and then only need to take notes on new information. There's something about physically making highlights and writing flashcards that makes me learn better. 

I also find many forms of group learning to be frustrating. As an older student, my hearing isn't perfect. If I'm in a room with 60 students in 10 groups, somebody in each group is talking, and the person in the neighboring group that is talking is closer than the person in my group who is across a table, I can't hear what they are saying. I've also found that being in classes where all the work is done as a group is painful if I'm really interested in a class, but other people want to do the bare minimum, or else don't want to contribute anything. I've also found that I strongly prefer face to face classes with the chance to ask questions than watching videos with online classes. 

 

I see myself in a lot of what you wrote. I would probably be diagnosed with at least a mild form of ADHD. Multitasking is exceptionally difficult for me; I am so distractible. Writing everything down helps a lot, but who has time to write it and read it when the pace is so fast?

You are right about the fact that you can limit your hours at work. I come to work rested and ready to work, and when I go home, I'm free to do as I please. You can reduce the stress somewhat if you can actually leave it at work. Not all nurses can do this; they stress about their job even on their days off.

It's good that you know your learning style. I, too, depended strongly on textbooks, always reading ahead and making flashcards. (I still make flashcards.) And dealing with a hearing loss is truly difficult. Excellent hearing aides ($6,000 plus) will mitigate the problem, but the problem still remains. I graduated in '79, so I really can't speak to how nursing schools are run now-a-days.

I have found my niche in private duty home nursing, but I don't think that would work for you. You say that you're  trying to find some sort of job where you get to use mostly logical/scientific/non-subjective skills. Home nursing requires great interpersonal skills and a willingness to go with the flow.

If you can get through nursing school, you could maybe work in nursing research?

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CalicoKitty has 7 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Med-surg.

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There is a lot of "subjectivity" in nursing. You can measure things like vital signs and labs, but sometimes you just "look" at your patient and can tell something may be wrong. Maybe a tad grey, a tiny bit confused. Need to be able to determine if maybe the confusion is from narcotics or an infection starting. And nursing is a LOT of psychology and some philosophy. Some science, but it is slower to develop. Much coaxing confused patients to take their medications.

Everyone is demanding. Patients. Patient families. Charge nurse. Managers. Transportation that wants to move your patient NOW. The person calling you on the phone while you're cleaning poo. Getting the insulin to your patient as close as possible to their meal.

Nursing is very hands on and people oriented.

Nursing school is it's own beast. Books are fine, but learning how to answer NCLEX style questions is the most important, since 99% of your NS gpa will be based on test results.

I use Cerner for documentation. Documenting on this is sometimes just charting a whole column in an excel file.. Other bits may be radial dials and excel files. 😄 Your "healthy" patients will all probably be the exact same documentation. AAOx4, calm and cooperative, normal heart rate and sounds, +2 pulses, no edema, lungs clear, regular respirations, belly round, regular bowel sounds, BM today, urine clear, yellow... Etc. The challenge sometimes is remembering your outliers. But, much of the time, you will see it when documented in the shift before... on the column next to yours.

Some jobs are stressful. Nursing can be going home after your patient dies and wondering if it is your "fault" because of something insignificant, and rehashing that death months later while trying to sleep. The reality, patients die. Patients may come into the hospital dying, and we're lucky when we can send them home in better shape, and postpone the inevitable for another day or decade.

Nursing can be very rewarding. We can save and improve lives. Teach people how to live with new illnesses. Teach families to care for loved ones.

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While yes, other fields are stressful, nursing is a whole other level.  This comes from someone who has worked in multiple fields over the years.  In retail, I had the stress of corporate visiting my store, making sales numbers, getting things done in a specific time frame.  But, nursing? I have people’s lives in my hands.  Family members are expecting me to make their loved ones better so they can come home.

Its one thing to be stressed over forgetting to do something your boss asked, and another to go home and worry you missed something subtle in a Neuro check.

Yes, I’ve worked 60-80 hours a week in other fields.  36 in nursing kills me.  I’m spending a whole day today recovering from working 3 shifts in a row.

Dealing in tragedy and death day after day is wearing.

Just beware what you are jumping into.

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I've thought about working as a CNA, but it's a matter of finding a CNA school at the right time that they still have openings for the next class. And I'm wary about going into a for-profit nursing or CNA school. 

Documenting what I've done, making notes for 20 minutes after I interact with a patient, then going on to the next patient isn't a problem. I'm just trying to get away from spending 8 hours sitting at a desk, staring at a computer, never seeing a person. 

Patient care, like reassuring people while doing something in their room, or transporting them in a wheelchair, or fluffing pillows, or getting ice water, is just fine. I've realized that I'm really motivated to do work when it is for an individual person I can see, rather than crunching numbers to benefit a large corporation. 

What I was concerned about in my old health care related school (which I'm not going to mention because I want to stay anonymous) was an attitude that we have to validate patients for being who they are and the care they want to the extent that you tolerate that they won't vaccinate their kids.  Or a guest presentation that talks about crystals grow differently depending on whether they are listening to heavy metal or classical. And that the profession has to follow a certain philosophy and it doesn't matter if it is backed up by research or not. No evidence-based practice.

My viewpoint is that you should attempt to do quantitative research as much as possible around the care you are doing, not qualitative case studies. And that is not what the profession was doing. There are certain types of things that profession was doing that they were either charging insurance or desperate parents for that external sources say are questionable practices not backed up by research. That really bugged me. 

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Pixie.RN has 11 years experience as a MSN, RN, EMT-P and specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CNE, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

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2 hours ago, ShouldIBeNurse said:

Patient care, like reassuring people while doing something in their room, or transporting them in a wheelchair, or fluffing pillows, or getting ice water, is just fine. 

Is that what you think patient care entails? Fluffing pillows and fetching icewater? You really need to shadow or nurse or get some experience as a CNA (without making the excuses about why you can't be a CNA). 

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Pixie.RN has 11 years experience as a MSN, RN, EMT-P and specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CNE, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

7 Followers; 32 Articles; 13,238 Posts; 128,450 Profile Views

2 hours ago, ShouldIBeNurse said:

Documenting what I've done, making notes for 20 minutes after I interact with a patient, then going on to the next patient isn't a problem. 

Also not how it usually works. Depending on your area, if working in a hospital (and even in clinics), you will have multiple patients with multiple simultaneous needs; charting for 20 minutes would be a luxury. Again, please don't make life choices based on what you think nurses do — get some concrete observations in so you can decide based on reality. Changing careers midlife is no small thing, you are putting yourself further away from retirement all over again. 

I wish you all the best. 

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CalicoKitty has 7 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Med-surg.

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Please shadow. Here is an example of, well, most days for med-surg.

Depending on your unit, if it is med-surg (where many people start), you have 4-7 patients. You get in at 7. You get report until 8. At 8 you try to get the 8:00 meds done (not every night shift, but days will have breakfast meals and medications to do) and assess your patients - you may even get a chance to document on one or two. Perhaps you have a discharge or two to take care of, or maybe an admission. General med pass for everyone is 9-11 or whatever. You may wait in line to get the meds, you spend a minute or so pulling the meds, get the supplies you need to administer the meds (needles, syringes, tubing, med cups, something to drink), you get to each patients, get to the room, administer the meds. Total time is a minimum of a few minutes per patient, but can really pile up when you have 3+ IV abx scheduled for the same time and 1 "working" IV that is no longer working, so you gotta get a new one in and come back to the room to administer the next antibiotic if they are not compatible and set up a few piggybacks if they are. It is 11, there are the 12:00 meds at night, or meals and meds during the day. Somewhere before midnight you would hope to have done your wound care or other treatments, day shift treatments will be later because everyone is being sent to imaging/surgery/therapy and you need to sign the form. Everyone would have needed to go to the bathroom at least once, hopefully not on themselves. Vital signs! Make sure you checked or did those at 8 and 12. So, about 12, people get their lunch, 1 they need to go to the bathroom again - though night shift some may start to sleep soon. Day shift often have 2pm meds. After 2, much of the time, you can start to document those assessments you did at 8. Perhaps you get a lunch break. Perhaps you have more discharges. 4 is vitals again, and your discharge/admission. 5 is time for the 6:00 meds and dinner and hoping you have time to check to make sure you've done everything. 7 you get to give report to all the nurses on your patients, and some of them will ask about the stuff you forgot/missed).

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Kitiger has 40 years experience as a RN and specializes in Pediatrics.

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This allnurses post, "So Why Do You Do It?" describes what a day on the med-surg floor can be.

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llg has 42 years experience as a PhD, RN and specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

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7 hours ago, ShouldIBeNurse said:

 

What I was concerned about in my old health care related school (which I'm not going to mention because I want to stay anonymous) was an attitude that we have to validate patients for being who they are and the care they want to the extent that you tolerate that they won't vaccinate their kids.  Or a guest presentation that talks about crystals grow differently depending on whether they are listening to heavy metal or classical. And that the profession has to follow a certain philosophy and it doesn't matter if it is backed up by research or not. No evidence-based practice.

My viewpoint is that you should attempt to do quantitative research as much as possible around the care you are doing, not qualitative case studies. And that is not what the profession was doing. There are certain types of things that profession was doing that they were either charging insurance or desperate parents for that external sources say are questionable practices not backed up by research. That really bugged me. 

It sounds like you have trouble working with people whose beliefs are not the same as yours.   That could be a problem in nursing - a profession that strives to accept people of all faiths and philosophies.   We provide care for criminals, factory owners, new-age devotees, law enforcement officers, accountants, artists, etc.  -- all types of people.   We also work with all types of people and gain our knowledge in a wide variety of ways -- personal knowing, empirical knowing, quantitative research, randomized clinical trials, case studies, ethnography, phenomenology, etc.

If your mind (and heart) are truly closed to this wide expanse of variability and possibility, then nursing might not be for you.   You are wise to ask that question before investing more resources into nursing.

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