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Worried I'm not aggressive enough to be a nurse

Nurse Beth Article   (1,681 Views | 7 Replies | 817 Words)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Writer Innovator Expert Nurse

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

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Do you have to be aggressive to be a good nurse?

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.

Worried I'm not aggressive enough to be a nurse
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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?

Dear Debating,

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.

Personality

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

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. 

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

Hi! Nice to meet you! I love helping new nurses in all my various roles. I work in a hospital in Staff Development, and am a blogger and author.

19 Followers; 115 Articles; 238,246 Profile Views; 2,169 Posts

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1 Follower; 998 Posts; 7,001 Profile Views

Experience can help you grow, and hardships can make you stronger.

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NicStrRN has 13 years experience as a MSN and specializes in OB.

3 Posts; 292 Profile Views

Self assessment and introspection, like you appear to be doing very well, are really important here. I would like to add that the areas you mentioned (NICU and LDR and Peds) are typically areas of varying acuity of patients with a lot at stake. Lots of pressure to perform. I agree with all of the expert advice given above, and would add that another major difference in the two careers is that not much about nursing is “scheduled” except your shifts and meds. Lots of variability in most nursing settings. If it is at all possible, I recommend trying to arrange a shadow with a nurse in one of the areas you described. If you are not experienced in a hospital setting yet, getting a CNA license might help expose you to the environment so you have more first hand knowledge. Sounds like you are on the right track and are very thoughtful and discerning. Good luck in whatever you choose!

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rnprincesstlo has 25 years experience.

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I would add, aggression is not needed, but assertiveness. This comes with experience which increases your confidence. I used to be quite timid in my younger days, but experience has increased my level of confidence and my ability to be more assertive.

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Checkers08 has 8 years experience as a BSN, MSN, RN and specializes in Emergency Department, Urgent Care.

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On 5/28/2020 at 12:11 PM, rnprincesstlo said:

I would add, aggression is not needed, but assertiveness. This comes with experience which increases your confidence. I used to be quite timid in my younger days, but experience has increased my level of confidence and my ability to be more assertive.

Wholeheartedly agree with this!

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67 Posts; 1,165 Profile Views

I think to be a nurse you have to be annoying rather than aggressive.

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by Sabu New Pre-Student

6 Posts; 135 Profile Views

I worry about this too. I'm direct and assertive when I need to be but I hate conflict- like physically hate it.

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Hoosier_RN has 27 years experience as a MSN and specializes in dialysis.

5 Followers; 2,112 Posts; 6,514 Profile Views

remember, too, in nursing, especially starting out, that many nurses don't get into the specialty that they desire.  So keep an open mind for other units/settings if L&D, NICU, peds doesn't pan out.  I graduated in a class of 86 (down from 120 starting) and half the class wanted L&D or other women's  or infant health setting.  Only 2 ended up in that type of setting. Most ended up in Med/Surg, some ICU an ER.

If you read threads on here, you will see many asking about how to get into such and such dept, or even how to land that first job.  Also, look at the hiring for new grads in your area, some areas are super saturated with new grads (usually large metro areas and some small rural areas are that way now). You may need to be prepared to move to get what you want, or even get that first job. I'm not trying to be a spoiler, but feel like any person wanting to go into healthcare (any job in healthcare, really), needs to go in with eyes wide open.  Let us know how you decide

Edited by Hoosier_RN

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