nursing isn't for everyone


Inspired by the thread on the realities of nursing/healthcare vs. what people expect...

If you are having second thoughts about nursing school and/or entering the nursing profession, listen to your intuition. YOU know yourself better than anyone else - including well-meaning friends and family- and you know what is best for you.

People are fond of saying "it takes a special kind of person to be a nurse" and "not everyone is cut out for it" and while the often-condescending attitude implied in that is wrong, the premise is right. It takes a particular set of talents, interests, personality traits, and passion to be successful AND happy as a nurse- just like it takes a certain unique combination of attributes to be a chef, lawyer, au pair, day trader, plumber, cinematographer, computer programmer, or any other job you can possibly think of. Take an honest look at your talents, interests, and personality traits before you go to nursing school if you are having any doubts at all. If you feel you are better suited to something else, pursue that instead!

Also think about WHY you want to go into nursing. If nursing honestly doesn't appeal to you, don't go into it just for the money or the job security. (Healthcare is always changing and there is NO guarantee your job and/or salary won't be cut on a whim. It's happened before and it can happen again.)

Don't go into it to please other people. (YOU will be the one getting up at 5 am, holding your pee for hours, paying back your student loans, etc.)

Don't go into it thinking it's an easy way to fund your real passions and/or side business, or that it's a "fallback plan" to rely on while you try to make a living doing what you love. (If that's your line of thinking, imho you're more likely to be successful if you channel all the time, effort, money, and energy you would have spent getting a nursing degree and direct it toward what you really want. Nursing is a full-time job and then some, and they expect to be your #1 priority.)

I majored in violin performance in undergrad. After graduating I started teaching private students and playing local professional gigs - I was not rich obviously, but I was supporting myself independently and making it work.

My family, otoh, thought I was a failure and a disappointment because I didn't have a 9-5 career. "when are you going to grow up?", "XYZ's daughter is applying for law schools, and I have to tell people you teach violin lessons", "no one makes a living at music", "you're going to end up living in a box on the street with nothing if you don't go back to school and get a real job", etc.

When the recession hit in 2008, several of my students had to cut back or stop lessons because they couldn't afford as much, and I had two performance contracts cancelled because the organizations weren't getting their money either. I panicked and decided they were right and I had to go back to school for something "secure" and "professional". According to everyone, healthcare was the only sure thing left.

My intuition was saying "don't do it", and logically there was never anything to suggest that I would make a decent nurse (I'm not a nurturing person, I'm crap at science, I don't like working with sick people or old people, and I hated working as a CNA).

When I received an acceptance letter my first thought was "I could just shred the letter and tell everyone I was rejected".

When I started struggling with severe depression in nursing school, it scared me - I've always been a happy, generally positive person. If that's not a red flag that you're on the wrong path, I don't know what is. I've been working for a year, and I finally have to admit this isn't for me and I need to make a change.

So right now I'm working PRN and actively working on getting back into teaching and performing violin. I have so much regret about the time and money I spent doing something I never wanted to do- I can never get those 5 years back, and I will probably be on income-based student loan repayment until I'm 50, and going back to working for myself is scary because unlike nursing, there is no guaranteed weekly paycheck. But I also feel SO relieved. I'm starting to feel like myself again.

I just found this forum, and I've read several posts where people are either questioning if it's right for them, or regretting their decision and asking for advice on how to get out. Sorry for the excessively lengthy post, but I wish that even one person would have taken me aside while I was preparing to go to nursing school and said "you don't want to do this and you're not good at it; why are you doing this?"

And the scary thing is that I've met other people at work whose stories are much the same. The guy shadowing me who looked bored out of his mind all day and came alive when he talked about how he wanted to start a car detailing business and planned on using his nursing income to do that. (Wouldn't it make more sense to get a small business loan NOW and focus all your energy on that, than to spend four years doing something you don't care about and then try to divide your energy between nursing and starting your business?) The student who wanted to be a massage therapist but felt pressured by her family into getting a BSN and then an MSN because only a master's degree was prestigious enough for them. Anyway. If you recognize yourself in any of this, think really hard about whether nursing is right for you.


458 Posts

Specializes in ICU, PCU. Has 10 years experience.

Good on you for following your true passion! I'm definitely part of the crowd who entered the nursing profession by default. I had no dream job as a little kid like many of these people (I just liked playing video games lol), and nursing was a practical degree/means to an end for me. I knew I was gonna go to college, I had always excelled at math and science, but I didn't want to be stranded with a pre-medicine or biology degree and no admittance to medical school if my grades tanked at some point (whatever let it be said that I did not tell a lie!)

Anyway fast forward to right now, I'm a graduate nurse 6 months I to my first job and posts like yours are more and more relevant to me as the "first year nursing blues" hit me hard.. emotionally and physically. I ask "is this right for me?" "did I make a mistake coming into this career?" "why did my family let me do this?!" and am realizing more and more that even they are coming out and saying "yeah we were surprised you went with nursing too." WHAT? Now you say something?!

To hear my employers tell it, I am excelling in my role. My charting is complete, my patients all say nice things about me, I've escalated patients going downhill, oh and they are all tending to survive my shifts so that's a plus :p I got ACLS, my 6 month review was great, and am now part of a committee on my floor. Don't mean to sound like I'm too big for my breeches, nursing so far has been nothing but humbling to my ego so far. Hence why I find myself on a thread entitled "nursing isn't for everyone."

Currently I'm planning on going back for a single class this semester and hopefully another class and lab for the semester after that to complete some pre-requisite for advanced education. I always like to keep a backup plan - life is ever dynamic, complacency and expectation are pathways to unhappiness. I'm gonna stick it out and give it a year or a year and a half, see where I'm at, try to switch to a different specialty if I hate it, see where that takes me, then maybe consider something else if I'm still coming up empty in this career path. Thank you for your post ceccia! I can relate 100%.


2,228 Posts

It's great that you realize it now and are doing something about it rather than working at a job where you

are miserable for 30 or 40 years as many people do.

madwife2002, BSN, RN

74 Articles; 4,777 Posts

Specializes in RN, BSN, CHDN. Has 26 years experience.

Great thread and an interesting read, thank you for sharing!


124 Posts

Has 26 years experience.

While in college in the 80's I did not have a clue what I wanted to do. I was young and have never been able to make a 5 year goal for myself and a 10 year goal etc. I had several aunts that were Registered Nurses. One of my aunts suggested I just apply to nursing school, and see if I could get in. Then I could decide if I wanted to do it or not. Also she said to me that I can't afford to be in college forever, so if I do complete the nursing program it would at least afford me the finances to be able to go back to school and do whatever I wanted to do. Twenty Six years later I am still a Registered Nurse. I love nursing. I have never regretted my decision.

However, I have worked in many different areas of nursing during my 26 years. I have seen every type of nurse. I do believe that there are nurses out there that are not cut out to be nurses. There are many others that are fantastic nurses. You are quite correct, OP, you have to trust your gut, and follow your dreams! Good luck to you!


2 Articles; 1,406 Posts

Specializes in nursing education.

Beautifully written and perfectly put. This should be required reading for people considering nursing as a career.

hope3456, ASN, RN

1,263 Posts

Specializes in LTC, Psych, M/S.
Beautifully written and perfectly put. This should be required reading for people considering nursing as a career.

I agree. Another good resource for anyone who wants to know what nursing is "really" like is an Ebook on called Nursing Sucks: 101 Reasons Why you Don't Want to be a Nurse. For current nurses, it is quite amusing;)


905 Posts

Accounting isn't for everyone.

Being a CEO isn't for everyone.

Being a cashier isn't for everyone.

Working at Burger King isn't for everyone.

My point...find what works for you and go for it.


468 Posts

Specializes in Family Medicine, Tele/Cardiac, Camp. Has 10 years experience.
While in college...One of my aunts suggested I just apply to nursing school, and see if I could get in. Then I could decide if I wanted to do it or not. Also she said to me that I can't afford to be in college forever, so if I do complete the nursing program it would at least afford me the finances to be able to go back to school and do whatever I wanted to do...I love nursing. I have never regretted my decision.

That's pretty much my story. Just replace "in college" with "newly graduated with my BA in Psych" and "Aunt" with "Dad". My Dad said to me when I had moved back home and quit a cruddy waitress job due to a sexual harassing boss, "Have you ever thought about being a nurse?" I think I wrinkled my nose and said something like "absolutely not." He then reminded me that I was an EMT, I loved medicine, and was thinking about being a midwife. He told me that nurses have flexible enough hours that I could pursue whatever other interests I wanted. And I thought about some kick-ass Irish nurses I had met while backpacking in Australia. Who really had been the antithesis of what I thought nurses were.

So I went back to school and got my associates. About half-way through my 2nd year I started to think "Hey this is pretty cool. I think I could really get into this." Along the way there have certainly been hardships and bouts of depression, but I had depression beforehand too and I ended up really loving nursing for a variety of reasons. It's not really my passion, but I liked it enough to pursue my Master's. And it leaves a lot of time for other interests that are my passion.

But, yes, OP. I think it's really good that you're following your heart and trusting your instincts. Nursing is not for everyone - in many senses of the idea. Some people can't stomach it. Some people can't hack the level of multitasking needed. Some people just aren't interested. And that's totally fine. :) Best of luck with everything.


389 Posts

Accounting isn't for everyone.

Being a CEO isn't for everyone.

Being a cashier isn't for everyone.

Working at Burger King isn't for everyone.

My point...find what works for you and go for it.

Yes! I spent 20+ years as an Import Manager & Inventory/Purchasing Controller. I am in financial hell because of nursing, but I wouldn't go back to what I did for any 6 figure salary. I would have been proud to call you my daughter the violinist. I stress to my kids everyday, find something you love to do and then be really good at it. You will find a way to survive. Money is a means to an end. Pursue your passion, whatever it may be.

Specializes in ICU, CM, Geriatrics, Management. Has 17 years experience.

Think the basic notion here applies to all endeavors... no?

Not necessarily everyone should strive to be an entertainer, scientist, poet, historian, etc.

Nursing just has its own set if specific considerations.

Well for me it's something I talked myself out of doing years ago. I'm not the best in math, so I let the science classes scare me.

So when I went to college I went to a business college. Baruch College, got a degree in Computers and never even used it. I ended up toiling in jobs as an Administrative Assistant. Miserable and totally hating it. I was working for a well known media company when I got laid off for what seemed like the umteenth time. So at 45 I lost my job, even though I had awesome skills jobs were hard to come by. I packed what I could into my car and moved back to NY. Living with my Mom. My sister knew I had toyed with going back to school suggested I go for CNA, and then go to school for nursing. I did the CNA, and plan to apply to get my degree to become an RN. When I was in college I almost transferred back then, but got talked out of it. "Ohhhh you're a junior and almost done, you don't want to have to lose credits." "Ohhhh business degrees will be way better than a Nursing degree." Well some of those same folks are also getting new degrees. In Nursing!!! Go figure.

However, I agree if this is not something you truly want to do? Then don't. My CNA instructor said I have this way about me that she knows I will do fine should I pursue it. One of my dear friends is a nurse and she bakes on her free time. I know it won't be easy. But I can't do another office job. I will go stir crazy!!! I no longer want to be doing something menial and trivial for an executive who think they are above the world. I want to help people who truly need help!!!