If you came into nursing as a calling, would you recommend nursing as a career?

Nurses Career Support


Hi. I'm requesting some lengthy responses, I believe. Under another thread in another forum taking a poll of why those of us who are nurses entered nursing, I became engaged in another posters response that nurses who enter nursing as a calling have underminded the forward progression of our profession. What do you think? Of all the nurses who would not recommend nursing as a career, I would like to know how many came into nursing as a calling. Also, define what having a career in nursing means to you.

If someone wants to make a poll out of this under another topic, feel free to do so.


125 Posts

I didn't answer the other post, but I'm going to try this one:

I entered nursing because it was always what I wanted to do. I grew up wanting to be a nurse. Nothing else.

I enjoy being a nurse. It is a big part of who I am, although NO WHERE NEAR AS BIG AS IT USED TO BE. I have grown up a lot since I became a nurse 15+ years ago. And, I am continuing to grow up.

In my opinion:

A calling is something you want to do and enjoy doing. A career is a job that you choose to do. A profession is a job that takes skill and education to perform.

The old Websters that I have:

A calling is "one's work or profession. An inner urging toward some vocation".

A career is "one's progress through life. a profession or occupation".

A profession is "an occupation requiring advanced academic training. all the persons in such an occupation".

A job is "a piece of work done for pay. task; duty. employment; work"

And work is "effort exerted to do or make something; labor; toil. employment; occupation"

While I entered this profession as a calling, I remain because it is still a calling to me and a good career. Part of me would like to be able to do this for the 32+ years I have to work until I will retire. But I know I will probably not be able to do, nor will probably want to. I may choose later to further my nursing education. Or I may choose to head toward another career. I may even just choose to head into one of the many other areas of nursing I have never experienced. That is my future and I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Now, will I recommend nursing as a career to anyone. By all means, I encourage them to do so. The pay is better than minimum wage that the majority of Americans have and we need more nurses working. I also would encourage anyone to test the waters first, see if they really like it before sinking that much time and effort into a career they may not enjoy. Volunteer a little while or start out as a Nursing Assistant,etc. See if you can even put up with all the BS you get dished out.

Now with my children it is another story. With them I will want them to think long and hard about the career they choose. If they really want to be a nurse I'll help them however I can. But unless they truly WANT to do it, I'll head them toward some lower stress field.

Is that lengthy enough?


125 Posts

We all have to work for a living. To be honest, if I didn't have to work I'd have told them to stuff it all a long time ago.

And you might as well enjoy the work you're doing. If nursing was not a calling in some fashion to me, I wouldn't be able to enjoy doing it like I do.


1,301 Posts

Hi justanurse. Very good and informative post. Thanks for the response. Especially the definitions. I hope that your post will enlighten some of us who may not be clear on the differences and similarities between a calling, profession, career, job, and work. It should really be helpful for those newly entering the field or considering the field of nursing.


20 Posts

I was not 'called' to be a nurse, in fact I was the only one of my classmates who did not want to be a nurse forever.....

Before the days of major liberation, there weren't many options discussed as career choices.

I became a nurse because I could not afford 4 years of college. [i wanted to be a teacher] The counselor suggested nursing. It was 3 years and our local hospital gave tuition support. Why not try it??

It was the best thing for me, I went to school learning what nursing is, not what it isn't. Many of me classmates became disillutioned and grieved over their lost perceptions. I came with a clean palette to paint upon!

As liberated I became in the 70s, I was realistic enough to know that nursing is one of the very few professions where you can change hours and shifts to suit your family life.

I wanted minimal outside caregivers for my children, I could work 3-11 so they only went to grandma's 2 1/2 hours a few days a week.

When the last one was in first grade, I went to days so I could be home at night with them. Many people work nights for the same reason.

I have been able to constantly learn what nursing is. I experienced Med-Surg, Peds, ICU, Emergency, supervision, etc. All a wonder to behold!

I have been able to do some teaching, getting back to my first dream. Only now my students are adults who are interested in learning, not some high schooler who does not want to be there.

[nothing against teachers, my 2 daughters became teachers]

Even as a supervisor or director, your skills are being used. We nurse the nurses and find ways to get our ideals of care to so many patients!

Now I am moving into nursing informatics, yet another job, but STILL a NURSE.

problems, yes we all have issues, but I'd pick it again and again.

just some rambles from and 'old' nurse

good luck to all


238 Posts

I'm not sure what to say. If a potential nurse sees it only as a calling, he/she is too likely to be let down by the reality of it to stay in nursing. Someone who is too careerist, could not have enough empathy for the patients, or that internal drive that keeps you going, and keeps you caring, even when things get too stressful. I guess I'd feel out the person's motives, relevant experiences, perception of nursing, etc., and make a recommendation based on that. I would recommend nursing to a person who feels it is a calling, but who is career-oriented, and selfish (I mean that in a good way) enough to refuse to accept truly abusive understaffed situations.


1,301 Posts

Hi grouchy. I think that if you read justanurse's definition of calling a little more closely, then perhaps you would consider not defining the term "calling" so narrowly. When I chose nursing as a calling, it was because I decided to make nursing my profession, career, vocation, or whatever term you define it. Also, keep in mind that I came into nursing before health and medical care officially became an industry.

I feel that many of the nurses you're referring to did come into nursing with a tremendous amount of idealism. The biggest problem is that they failed to find a way to cope and accept reality once they found out the truth. That does not necessarily mean that these nurses who left nursing originally came into nursing as a calling.

The last 20 years or so, with the changes in provider-payer relationships, managed care, increased presence of regulatory agencies, for profit investments, and changing attitudes of the public toward the use of health and medical care has tried the best of us. I think that if you took a poll you will find a wide range of nurses that ran into reality shock or burned out early in the last 20 or so years. Some moved completely out of health care and some moved into areas where they don't provide direct patient care.

I would still recommend nursing to those who come into nursing as a calling with the warning that they either do volunteer work, work as an aide or CNA, study all about nursing, subscribe to nursing journals if they can afford to, and interview a cross-section of nurses prior to signing the dotted line.


124 Posts

I agree with some of the opening post. The nurses care angle has been flogged to death and it has gotten the profession nowhere. I like nursing but I wasn't called to it. Instead talking about our altruistic fantasy nursing morals lets concentrate on some facts:

1. Nurses save lives everyday without any fanfare.

2. While its true you can't get into a hospital without a Dr., you will never make it out alive without a nurse.

3. Nursing is not a profession based on female insight, but on research, and evidence based practice, debunking the myth that only females should be nurses.

I think we should give these facts a run for atleast the next 10 years and see if the public, goverment and our patients view us in a more postive light.



1,301 Posts

Hi Mito. Your points are well taken. I still don't see what your facts have to do with the fact that a fair percentage of nurses came into nursing saying that it was a calling and that many of us continue to work as nurses despite all the storms and trials that we have gone through with nursing.

Is it that the terminology "calling" is repulsive to you and many others? Maybe you see it as a "sissyfied" term? A term indicating that the person in that category is weak?

IMO, the problem is not the fact that nurses come into nursing as a calling but that many nurses who enter the profession don't actually view nursing as a profession and/or they come in and don't change their expectations once they discover reality. We nurses have allowed outside interests to interpret nursing and nursing practice to the point where one wonders whether the profession will ever get some semblance of control over its own destiny.

It would be interesting to see have many nurses who proclaim to have entered nursing as a calling would not recommend nursing. I'm still not convinced that everyone is defining the term "calling" accordingly.


16 Posts

I do believe I entered Nursing due to a calling. As I was going to school I was a prn orderly at a small hospital ER. Finally graduation day followed by the boards and life now really begins. Or so I thought. My experiences during the first few months of my new profession opened my eyes to sex discrimination, egomania, and office politics. Needless to say, the care I gave suffered. A new medical environment followed with a much greater degree of satisfaction, but, the politics continue no matter where you are. Then another form of reality came to pass, a family, a house, more outgo than income, etc. So as you can derive, Nursing as a calling is much different than nursing as a career. It was difficult to support a family on one income full time. More time was necessary. So, I and my family suffered from this calling turned career.

I do not reccommend a career in Nursing, much less any medical field, less it be for only a short time. Overall-I have seen better nursing come from part-time and prn nurses. The longer a full-time career nurse is in the field the more likely they are burned-out. Look around.


1,301 Posts

Hi Terry. I don't know how long you've been a nurse, but you are correct that a fair number of us that entered nursing saying it was a calling had some idealist notion of what nursing should be. That's probably true for any category of people entering nursing or other fields. However, I'm a bit surprised that you ran into the reality shock you described in your post seeing that you were already in healthcare as an orderly.

Even though it's more the norm than not, I'm sorry that you don't feel that you can recommend nursing as a career. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the growing opportunities for nurses. They're so varied and flexible. It takes a while, but there are nurses who do find their niche. Some posters like me recommend nursing with the warning that potential candidates do their homework before starting their studies. That means first finding out if nursing is for you and you are really for nursing. I find what happens in some cases is that people who enter nursing enjoy the excitement of health care and the appealing opportunities, but are not really a good match for nursing.

The good part of your situation is that there are so many ways to work in healthcare and that your nursing education will always be marketable. As a nurse, if you ever decide to move on to something else in health care or a related field, you should have no trouble adapting to it. It may be, Terry, that you just need to give yourself a little more time with nursing if you can afford it. Also, try not to make other nurses, staff, or patients perception of you your problem. You may have a more at ease mind for it.

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