Hi Nurse Beth,
I am now applying to go back to school but debating if I should go for ultrasound or nursing. I always liked the thought of being an ultrasound tech because it is a gentle technique (for the most part) and I could work in different locations and scan different parts of the body.
However, now I brought nursing into the picture because I really love working with babies and I feel like I handle them very well so my goal would be a NICU nurse. If I went into nursing I know I would only want to work in pediatrics/NICU and I also feel I would be good at L&D. I like the idea of ultrasound because it's a bit slower paced and less aggressive which suits my personality better but I don't want to get bored in that career since there really isn't any advancement, but I'm not sure if I'm aggressive enough to be a nurse. I do want to help people get better and make a difference but I just don't know which career is better suited for me. Any advice?
Choosing your career can be tough.
It's important to know yourself, and to know what you are getting into. It sounds like you have thought about both. Here's a couple more thoughts for you to consider.
Many nurses I know describe themselves as competitive, perfectionists, "type As" and goal-oriented. We are generally smart, practical, down to earth, and have a good sense of humor.
But there's a wide range and a place for every type of personality, because nurses can work in behavioral health (psychiatric nursing), in medical sales, and everything else you can think of in between. Nurses can be teachers, work in informatics, and practice in clinics. They can specialize in infection prevention, community wellness, and serve as parish nurses. There is almost no limit to the choices within nursing.
You say you like to help others and most all nurses will say they have a need to help others as well. We also have to learn to maintain a caring relationship and empathize with patients and families who are suffering while protecting ourselves and remaining professional.
But it's not just about personality, or caring, or boundaries.
Multi-tasking, now better described as cognitive stacking, is a required skill set in nursing.
Consider if you work best in a linear fashion, doing one thing at a time, or if you enjoy the mental challenge of juggling several things at once. Nursing requires you to manage several tasks and usually several patients simultaneously. It's fast-paced, priorities change in an instant, and you have to be flexible and focused.
It's the same set of skills an excellent food server has. Waiters and waitresses who are very good at their job have their eye on each one of their tables and anticipate each customer's needs. They are good at service recovery, and they are professional. They remember everything everyone ordered and somehow serve and coordinate everyone's meal.
It's just that, for nurses, the assessment skills and interventions are life-saving.
I can't see most nurses being fulfilled by performing ultrasounds all day. Likewise, a person who is easily overwhelmed by interruptions would not be a good fit for a chaotic hospital environment.
Content vs Ambitious
Do you enjoy always moving up to the next step? Would you say you are ambitious at all? In nursing, you can advance as far as your education and aptitude permit. You will only ever be bored by choice, not by lack of opportunity.
A career as an ultrasound tech would have limited room for advancement. That's not necessarily a bad thing if it doesn't bother you.
Level of Confidence
Is it possible this is not a personality problem, but a lack of confidence in yourself problem ? Maybe you want to be a nurse- you did write into a nursing advice column on a nursing site, after all- but you're afraid you won't succeed. If this strikes home at all, then get a session or two with a therapist to discuss this. It could give you tremendous clarity, and really be worth it.
Don't sell yourself short. The choices you make now can bring career satisfaction, or regrets. Job shadow an ultrasound tech and a nurse. Talk to friends and family who love you to get their feedback. When you talk, it forces you to name your concerns and uncover the driving, underlying themes.
Remember, too, that there are many suitable jobs other than nursing or ultrasound. In the meantime, start your core classes.