Nursing is a growing field, and a popular entry point into a career in medicine. The work may be unglamorous and demanding, but it is deeply rewarding: As a nurse, you have the power to save lives and make a real difference for your patients.
Unlike many other jobs, becoming a nurse requires you to go through a significant amount of education and training. Before you commit to the cost and time of nursing school, it’s important to be sure that this career is right for you.
Here are eight questions to ask yourself before you take your first class:
1. Are you a good communicator?
Nurses are constantly communicating: listening to patients and their families, giving important medical information, and working with other nurses and doctors. You’ll need to assess your patients’ conditions accurately, as well as explaining medications, treatments and important instructions.
2. Are you emotionally strong?
Emotional strength and stability will be your cornerstone: As a nurse, you’ll be helping others deal with their stress while managing your own. You will constantly be exposed to the realities of human suffering, and possibly to stressful medical emergencies. Even when long work shifts or a fast-paced environment are wearing you down, you’ll need an emotional reserve to help you provide quality care.
3. Are you empathetic?
One of the greatest qualities a nurse can have is the ability to connect with patients emotionally, to understand the patient’s needs and motivations when they are hurting, tired, and frustrated. The ability to be empathetic—or to put yourself in another person’s shoes—may be found more among nurses than in any other professional field.
4. Are you patient and calm?
As a nurse, you will face difficult patients, conflicts, confusion and stress. Your mission is to provide excellent care, no matter what is happening around you. Nurses have to “be on” even during times when you may not be feeling your best. That may include the need to swallow your own frustration and work together with patients and coworkers, even when they rub you the wrong way.
5. Do you pay attention to detail?
Nurses must be in tune with the tiniest details. Doctors and patients will all be counting on you to arrange the correct treatments and medicines, at exactly the right time. You will constantly be double-checking details and protecting against mistakes.
6. Do you have good physical endurance?
Want to see a true athlete? Look no further than the person who works 12 hours on her feet. Nurses are well-known for their dedication to hard work, but even the most dedicated person can get worn out without the fitness and physical stamina to last a full shift. Are you ready to wear through a pair of nursing shoes?
A nurse’s job may not always be easy, but it’s the kind of career that will change your life. If you’ve got the strength, stability and stamina—or if you’re willing to work on them—you can find lasting fulfillment in the practice of helping others. Even if you didn’t answer “yes” to every question on this list, consider sharing your goals with a career counselor and getting advice on which path you should take. It might be the best choice you ever make.