Wants to be a nurse but afraid it's gross

by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Columnist Innovator Expert Nurse

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Hi Nurse Beth,

I am a freshman in college majoring in nursing. I have been struggling a lot with knowing if nursing is really for me. The reason I went into nursing is because I love anatomy and know I want to work in some type of health care/ health science, and I also know I want to work with kids if possible (I want to be a pediatric nurse).

I really enjoy the classes I'm taking so far, but sometimes I hear what my professors say about the gross things you encounter in nursing and it freaks me out. I also don't really know what to expect because nursing is so diverse and I really don't know the day to day duties. I don't think I will get a feel for it and know if I really like it until I start clinicals in two years and then it will be too late to change my major.

Because of this, I have been looking at other career options such as becoming an OT or child life specialist. However, nothing else I have found seems to be as secure and as flexible as nursing, which leads to wonder if I only want to go into nursing because of all the flexibility rather than the actual work. I know this is a loaded question and I am sorry if it's confusing, I just don't know how I am supposed to know if nursing is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Any advice would be helpful! Thanks!

Dear Struggling,

It is a big decision, I hear you.

You say what's important to you is working with children and working in healthcare. You are drawn to flexibility, and you sound conscientious. 

I think I know a way for you to find out more about nursing. You need to get inside a hospital. One way is as a CNA or PCT, or even volunteer, depending on where you live. Many hospitals will hire first year nursing students as CNA equivalents, if you do decide to continue your path. You could also contact a local professional nursing organisation to ask about scholarships and possible opportunities. Your college nursing department can probably help you with information on local organisations.

COPE Health Scholars offers opportunities to shadow preceptors and gain first-hand patient experience, but it is California-based. Research your state for similar affiliations.

Some things we encounter in nursing are gross, yes, but what's gross to one person may not be gross to another. Nurses are not immune to natural reactions. Many nurses overcome natural aversions by their desire to help patients retain their dignity in time of need and vulnerability-and nurses are uniquely positioned to do so. One thing most nurses have in common is a strong desire to help others.

 Finally, ask the people who love you and who you trust for feedback on your career choice. Not to decide for you, but they know you, and you can take their counsel under consideration.

I wish you all the best in finding your path,

Nurse Beth