What do you say to people thinking about nursing?


I have been a nurse for 4 years. I work on a busy med/surg unit.

The question is specifically because of a friend of mine. He's 28 years old, still in college, not really sure what he wants to do. He got a bachelor's in biology with the intention to go to medical school, but he's been floating around. I think every week he wants to do something different. Sometimes it's medical (pharmacy school, PT/OT, PA, etc) and sometimes it's completely random (going back for accounting or English or engineering??).

You may be able to tell that I don't take him too seriously to begin with.

Lately he's been talking about nursing. Usually I'm pretty cool with talking about my job. But something about these conversations just irks me. He always wants to know 1. How much money do you make? and 2. bad stuff. Not good bad stuff either, like "whoa! Tell me about that crazy infected wound!". More like "you don't really have to help with bedpans and stuff, right?"

I tell him that if you go into nursing for money, you will be seriously disappointed because there are less stressful ways to make a buck and you're not going to be very patient and understanding with annoying people if you're there for money. And secondly, yes, I do have to deal with crap. Literal and figurative. Lots of it sometimes. I go home at the end of my shift and I feel like my scrubs are covered in C-diff and MRSA and my muscles ache from the physical work. I'm not going to pretend like it doesn't bother me or anything like that, but it's just part of the job. You get over it.

He's still talking about it, and usually now it's something about how he could go directly to grad school, or work in another field, clinic, etc. Where he wouldn't be expected to do the dirty stuff like me. Maybe he could be a good nurse, work somewhere he'd have less dirty stuff, but I still don't know what to think.

I feel kind of offended by his questions and attitude about nursing, but I can't pinpoint why.

My questions are: how do you respond to people like this? Are you slightly offended like I am, and why? I seriously don't know why it irritates me so much.

Have you ever known someone like this? Do you still encourage them to follow today's dream? How do you describe your job accurately, and do you ever feel like the people asking just wouldn't make a good nurse? (probably mean of me to say). Maybe he'll be good, maybe he'll be shocked in school and either change his attitude or find a different field.

Thanks in advance for all the input!

ThePrincessBride, MSN, RN, NP

1 Article; 2,592 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, NICU. Has 8 years experience.

I am graduating from nursing school in a few weeks and I have to say, I find it extremely irritating when people come into nursing with the attitude that they are above "dirty" work. They don't realize that nurses are in the patient's room the most and provide most of the hands-on care. A new grad isn't usually going to get the "cushy" clinic/non bedside job that requires some years of acute care experience so dealing with the messy stuff in nursing is hardly avoidable.

In regards to pay? Pfft. What a joke. Nurses are severely underpaid for the level of stress and responsibility they have. Sure, next to other female-dominated professions and professions that don't require a college degree, the pay is very good. But it is also one of the few jobs where lives are at stake and an error can kill someone. Nurses should be paid handsomely for the long hours, physical work and critical thinking that comes into play at the bedside. There are way less stressful and easier jobs one could do making more money with better schedules and work environment.

I don't think those people would do well in the vast majority of nursing fields (particularly acute care). The first year alone would break most of them.

You're irritated because he does not respect what nurses stand for. He is picking your brain and you are letting him.

Stop beating your head against that wall... refer him to a school counselor whenever the issue comes up.

He needs to pull up his big boy pants.( all by himself, without any help from you).


38,333 Posts

Since he does not seem to be very serious about anything, I would stress that he will need to be committed to what he is doing if he expects to be successful in becoming a nurse. We all know that nursing school is not for the faint hearted. Does not sound like he is up to the challenge.


91 Posts

Specializes in OR.

I agree with the person who said he doesn't respect nursing.

I'd tell him I get my pay docked if I don't fill a certain bedpan quota (say...8?) per hour and that if I ask a CNA to assist with bodily fluid issues (heavily implying that the nursing degree comes with a lot of emphasis on reading people's futures based on the consistency of their poops), I get fired with bad references /tongue-in-cheek.

....THEN I'd refer him to a school counselor.


3,726 Posts

Why does it bother you if someone considering nursing doesn't want to deal with bedpans? Bedpans are hardly a main responsibility of all nursing fields.

Unless he has other characteristics that are not compatible with the major aspects of nursing ie he's a sloppy flake with stress intolerance, I would tell him that it depends on what area he goes into, that he will have to cope with whatever is thrown at him in school and that most patient care positions require dealing with bodily fluids/waste and while toileting is not always a direct duty it is something that will likely occur in the course of work and that you just deal in order to provide care and perform your job.

RNperdiem, RN

4,580 Posts

Has 14 years experience.

Lets see... A 28 year old man/boy without the drive or follow-through to make things happen in life? A person with a Biology degree and only an intention of going to med school is going nowhere, not when his fellow applicants are putting their intentions into real action.

If he wants to find out about nursing, tell him to go shadow some nurses and find out for himself. I sense an implied disrespect for nursing.


5 Articles; 4,547 Posts

Specializes in critical care.

He offends you because, by your description, he judges what you do rather harshly and has decided he's too good to do it himself. How to respond? "Hey, buddy, feel free to lose my number."

OrganizedChaos, LVN

1 Article; 6,883 Posts

Specializes in M/S, LTC, Corrections, PDN & drug rehab. Has 10 years experience.

He kinda sounds like my best friend who had a prior bachelor's degree, then went & got her second bachelor's in nursing. She whined the whole time she was in school, after school & then put off getting a job for a minor surgery (even though she was offered a job). Then 8 months later with no job & no experience, she couldn't get a job. When she FINALLY landed a job, she whined some more. Oh how she whined. She only lasted at that job for 2-3 months. I've been an LVN for 4 years & she warned me not to become an RN. I think I know what I got myself into.

But now she's onto something completely different than her first two degrees & doesn't like it either. But my point is, he's grabbing at straws. He sounds like he doesn't know what he wants to do.

Esme12, ASN, BSN, RN

4 Articles; 20,908 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care, ED, Cath lab, CTPAC,Trauma. Has 43 years experience.

Just tell him the pay isn't nearly enough to compensate you for all the crap, yes figuratively and literally, you put up with and it isn't for those who are 28 years old and can't commit to a career.

Has 13 years experience.

I wouldn't let him bother me a bit. He sounds like a flake and a friend whose number I would lose. He needs to grow up as he is 28 not 18 anymore. Healthcare isn't for everyone. Unless he figures out what he wants to do he's on a fast track to nowhere. His loss not yours.

Specializes in ER.

I tell people that it is a tough field to get into and in many areas it is saturated. I also tell them that nursing school is strange. My sister is studying nursing now. It kind of drives me nuts when she calls me because I didn't really struggle that much with nursing school so I can't tell if she is just new to the questions or if it is the school itself. I was a paramedic before so I was kind of used to the way questions are done. I also went to a school that had a great way of setting up their clinicals and skills.