Did any of y'all nurses choose nursing over counseling/psychology?

  1. Weird question, I know, but I might gain some useful insight here. Through my research, I'm pretty much going back and forth between becoming a psychologist and becoming a nurse (probably looking to go all the way to advanced practice, though I can't foretell the future). I can't seem to separate the two to any great extent and find a clear winner.

    So I'd like to hear from any people who at one point had the same quandary - psychology or nursing - and chose nursing. Specifically, how has it worked out for you, what gave nursing that edge over psychology when you chose to pursue nursing, and do you ever wish you'd chosen psychology instead?
  2. Visit RomaniGypsy profile page

    About RomaniGypsy

    Joined: Jan '18; Posts: 34; Likes: 19
    Specialty: 1 year(s) of experience

    8 Comments

  3. by   AnnieOaklyRN
    Nope, I have a strong dislike for psych patients...

    Annie
  4. by   verene
    When making my career change to nursing counseling, social work, and psychology were all on my list of potential fields to transition into, and spent quite a bit of time exploring each of these pathways (in addition to others). I tried to read up as much as I could on each profession and spent time interviewing individuals in each field about their jobs - the day to day role, education pathways, favorite part of the job, biggest factors for burn out and so on.

    Ultimately nursing seems to combine much of what attracted me to these other professions in one profession and have fewer of the factors that would be likely to cause burn out for me in particular. Other factors that influenced my decision were length/cost of education, job prospects, flexibility --I can change specialties within nursing with out significant retraining, counseling has a pretty limited scope of job roles -- as well as where I work - there are jobs for nurses all over the U.S. and in a variety of settings. I've also always been some one who likes science and learning about the nursing profession and studying science classes brought back a lot of the excitement I'd had as a child who was interested in veterinary medicine. It some ways it felt like coming home to an old passion rather than turning down a whole new pathway. I enjoy learning all the nitty-gritty details of how the body works and understanding medications.

    I spent time working as a CNA to explore the healthcare field further and found I was substantially less stressed out in health care settings than in an office job, which affirmed my decision that doing something in healthcare would be a good path. The fact that nurses get to interact with so many different parts of the healthcare system and team was a bid draw to that particular role over others within healthcare. I also like that nursing has room for advancement - advanced practice, management, or education -- and is a career that demands life-long learning.

    I graduated from nursing school a year ago and now work as a psych RN. I can say that I do not regret my decision to go into nursing over the options I might have chosen.
  5. by   caliotter3
    A relative went into psychology and either they can't get a job or they can't hold a job. Nursing has better employment opportunities it would seem.
  6. by   RomaniGypsy
    Quote from verene
    When making my career change to nursing counseling, social work, and psychology were all on my list of potential fields to transition into, and spent quite a bit of time exploring each of these pathways (in addition to others). I tried to read up as much as I could on each profession and spent time interviewing individuals in each field about their jobs - the day to day role, education pathways, favorite part of the job, biggest factors for burn out and so on.

    Ultimately nursing seems to combine much of what attracted me to these other professions in one profession and have fewer of the factors that would be likely to cause burn out for me in particular. Other factors that influenced my decision were length/cost of education, job prospects, flexibility --I can change specialties within nursing with out significant retraining, counseling has a pretty limited scope of job roles -- as well as where I work - there are jobs for nurses all over the U.S. and in a variety of settings. I've also always been some one who likes science and learning about the nursing profession and studying science classes brought back a lot of the excitement I'd had as a child who was interested in veterinary medicine. It some ways it felt like coming home to an old passion rather than turning down a whole new pathway. I enjoy learning all the nitty-gritty details of how the body works and understanding medications.

    I spent time working as a CNA to explore the healthcare field further and found I was substantially less stressed out in health care settings than in an office job, which affirmed my decision that doing something in healthcare would be a good path. The fact that nurses get to interact with so many different parts of the healthcare system and team was a bid draw to that particular role over others within healthcare. I also like that nursing has room for advancement - advanced practice, management, or education -- and is a career that demands life-long learning.

    I graduated from nursing school a year ago and now work as a psych RN. I can say that I do not regret my decision to go into nursing over the options I might have chosen.
    Very well-detailed response. I like it. My first question is - how old are you?

    People have suggested that I get a job as a CNA in order to get hands-on experience, as you did... maybe the problem is that I don't know where CNAs can work beyond nursing homes. I currently perform music for nursing homes and assisted living homes as my profession, so I see these facilities and their staff constantly. Getting paid $11 per hour to wipe old people's rear ends after they poop, wash their bodies in the shower, etc.... meh.... I can do it, but not for that salary. I think I would be constantly bugged by the thought of "I have a college degree in physics and mathematics and here I am wiping butts for eleven bucks an hour at age 38". I've heard that nurses have to do that too, sometimes, but RNs get paid like three times that salary and it doesn't seem like they have to do those jobs as frequently as a CNA would. I'll do just about anything for adequate compensation.

    Many times I have thought, "I should be a psychologist... I should be a psychologist..." but that's largely because I HAVE been a psychologist, in an "armchair" sense, since my teenage years. I feel like my life experience has already taught me a lot about psychology and people, and I'm not positive what I would learn if I studied psychology... at least in terms of what would I would use in the practice of psychology. For example - I took piano lessons from age 9 and my parents wanted me to go to college for music. I felt at that time that I would be unlikely to learn anything useful if I did go to college for music, and it's turned out that that was true. I've been performing successfully as a musician for many years never having studied it in college, and some of the people who did study music, at my college at least, were playing songs in their "senior recitals" that I had played in middle school and high school. I've taken online music theory tests and I'm aware that there is much about music theory that I don't know, but if I don't need to know it in order to have a successful career as a performing musician, what's the point of learning it, right?

    In the same vein, I think that I wouldn't learn much of value if I studied psychology... it'd be just a means to an end, where the end would be getting that degree and license to practice. When I took my psychology classes last year, it seemed like there was a lot of theory being taught, and what got me was how they taught certain theories and then said "later, this theory was debunked by [name(s) of more modern psychologist(s)] who studied yadda yadda yadda and proposed the following updated theory:". It's like, what's the point of learning the old theory if it's no longer considered valid in the field?

    And then there's the pay.... yick.... I know one shouldn't go into a career for the money, but I need to make a lot more money in order to finance my long-term goals. If I didn't need the money, I wouldn't change careers at all.

    Nursing does seem to be more flexible, and I like flexibility. I also like knowing that I'm needed... man, you never realize just how expendable you are until you're a musician. And I've always been good at science, so if I had to use science in nursing, or learn more science to become an advanced practice nurse, that'd be fine by me. I want to learn the things that nurses and advanced practice nurses learn. I have an 8 1/2 month old son who is probably going to bang himself up plenty as he ages (he already has), and I don't want to have to rush to the ER every time he does, like my parents did with my brother back in the day.

    Maybe I can be a counselor / psychologist and a nurse. The rate I'm going, I'll never be able to spare enough time to die.
  7. by   RomaniGypsy
    Quote from caliotter3
    A relative went into psychology and either they can't get a job or they can't hold a job. Nursing has better employment opportunities it would seem.
    That's something that has worried me too. At the risk of irking some people of uncommonly conservative political bent, 38 years of life and 16 of those years in business for myself have shown me the evils of the "for profit" M.O., and wherever I go next, I want to be able to work in non-profit situations. I could do that as a psychologist were I a school psychologist, but I imagine that there aren't a glut of openings for school psychologists. Even at that, the starting pay is abysmally low for the education and training required - you do better as a starting RN even without overtime hours. School psychologists can travel, but their opportunities for travel jobs aren't as numerous as they are for RNs / APRNs. Sure, I could open my own counseling psychology practice if that were the route I took, but again, I'd have to be in business for myself, which would require, among other things, sales... and I HATE doing sales work, with a burning passion.

    Nursing seems to give a better pay-to-education ratio, with a lot of opportunity and flexibility. Plus, being a man, with many a nurse having told me that they need more men in nursing, maybe I would be able to "write my own ticket", eventually. I hope to do that for my son's sake, and increasingly for my wife's sake.
  8. by   caliotter3
    Men do have a tendency to fare well in nursing. They get hired quicker, at better rates of pay, and are placed into positions of responsibility quicker. Whether seen as unfair or not, it makes for a better employment environment.
  9. by   verene
    Quote from RomaniGypsy
    My first question is - how old are you?
    I'm 31.

    People have suggested that I get a job as a CNA in order to get hands-on experience, as you did... maybe the problem is that I don't know where CNAs can work beyond nursing homes.
    CNAs can work in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, memory care units, psychiatric facilities, and hospitals. I was a CNA for ~3 years and I think being a CNA for me was a good experience, It helped me learn more about nursing as a profession, and gave me a bit of boost confidence wise that I was 1) in a field I would not quickly burn out on, and 2) made nursing school a little bit easier as I knew how to do some things and was already acculturated to working in healthcare.
    That being said, I do not think it is a requirement to work as a CNA before or during nursing school. While some will strongly advocate for it, I think that one can go through nursing school without the experience and still come out the other side a competent new graduate nurse. For me it made sense as I'd quit my prior profession to care for an ill family member and knew I wasn't going back to my prior profession as even before I quit I was starting to look at changing careers. My sister was a CNA at the time and so I knew it was a cheap/quick pathway into a different career area and there were lots of jobs in my area, so it was initially a way to have an income and buy time while I figure out what I really wanted to do. Pay is not great - I was in a big city with a relatively high cost of living and my intial pay was $11/hr, after switching to the hospital and getting a pay raise my highest pay was just over $16/hr. If you have a job that pays more than CNA wages and have no interest in becoming one - I think you can make it through without the experience. (Though I would recommend getting healthcare exposure of some kind, even if it is volunteering a few hours a week at a hospital or nursing home).

    In the same vein, I think that I wouldn't learn much of value if I studied psychology... it'd be just a means to an end, where the end would be getting that degree and license to practice.
    It depends on how you personally determine value. In many ways, nursing school is also a means to an end - in the form of degree and ability to obtain a license. The real learning starts once you finish nursing school and start working in the field, and that learning curve can be steep. I suspect psychology is similar - there's the theory you learn in school and then there is the real world application, and the real world application takes time to learn.

    It's like, what's the point of learning the old theory if it's no longer considered valid in the field?
    I'm guessing some of what you are running into here is introductory courses. Coursework (particularly in psychology but also in nursing) starts by building a foundation for the body of knowledge, and so it is important to know where we come from in terms of knowledge to understand where we are at today. There is some of this in nursing, but compared to the few psychology courses I've taken there is less.

    I need to make a lot more money in order to finance my long-term goals. If I didn't need the money, I wouldn't change careers at all.
    Check the rates for nurses in your area (unions usually post contracts online including wages) as how much nurses make can vary widely across the country, and pay isn't always relative to cost of living, so make sure if you are doing it for the money that the money is actually the "enough more" to reach your goals. Additionally entry level psychology and counseling jobs pay less than nursing, but with experience, and particularly if you open a private practice there is potential for very solid income down the line. One of my friends is a social worker - she started her career making relatively little however 5 years in she has a private practice and a couple contract positions (county jail, and court investigator for county mental health court) and is doing very well for herself. So the gap between the two in terms of pay may not be a big over the life-time of a career.

    Maybe I can be a counselor / psychologist and a nurse.
    It is possible. I know a few individuals who were counselors and later went to school for nursing and at least one nurse who became a social worker and an APRN who became a psychologist, so you aren't locked in stone even if you go down one path.

    There is an aspect of counseling to being a nurse - though it is therapeutic communication as opposed to true therapy - and some areas of nursing allow for more space to do this kind of work. I think sorting between the two will take some reflection on the jobs - do you see yourself administering neuropsych testing or really wanting to engage in hour long talk therapy sessions? Or are you someone who thrives on variety of work throughout the day and would find sitting still and intently focusing on one person for an hour at a time difficult? Work schedule is also a think to consider as most counselors and psychologists works M-F daytime jobs and RNs work round the clock - with new grads frequently paying their dues on night shift and 12 hour days.

    Hopefully this helps you think through your options, and be forgiving of yourself if it takes time to sort through both your emotions and the logistics for each career path; making a career change and taking a risk in going back to school isn't easy. If you really can't decide - take pre-reqs for both educational pathways, apply to both nursing and counseling programs and see who accepts you with the best financial aid package.
  10. by   rnhopeful82
    I went to school the first time to be an eye dr but couldn't pass calculus 2. Changed majors to psych. Loved it, excelled at it, didn't realize until the end of my senior year that there were no jobs unless you got your masters and even then it wasn't guaranteed and I had NO idea what specialty I wanted to try. I worked regular old corporate jobs but still hated it and still wanted to do something that was hands on and helping people. So I went BACK to school to do addiction counseling. Loved it, excelled at it. Couldn't even come close to making what I was currently making in my sad lil corporate job. Went BACK to school AGAIN for nursing and, shocker, I love it and am excelling at it. Its the perfect niche for me to do what I've been trying to do for ages (I'm 36) and it will give me enough money to live off of and give me room to grow and change departments, type of work, etc if I decide to do that in the future.

close