It is almost a given that little boys and girls want to be a nurse at one time or another in their young lives. Thousands and thousands of them achieve that dream.
The most recent statistics show more than four million registered nurses in the U.S. and another 920,655 licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), also known in some states as licensed practical nurses (LPNs). However, there are pros and cons of being a nurse, no matter what area of nursing a person chooses.
Pros of Being a Nurse
Almost across the board, when nurses are interviewed, the number one thing they say they like about being a nurse is the opportunity of helping others. Nurses alleviate pain and administer care that saves lives. Nurses educate people on all aspects of health care, and almost every day, they have the satisfaction of helping improve the lives of those entrusted to them or helping family members grieve the loss of an ill loved one.
Diverse specialty areas
The image of a nurse wearing a white uniform, donning a nursing cap, and heading to the hospital to work is a bit dated. Nurses had not worn white uniforms nor caps since the late 1980s when they exchanged that attire for scrubs. There is almost an unlimited number of nursing specialty areas a nurse can choose to work in.
In addition to caring for patients who are hospitalized, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics has identified some specialty areas for nurses, which include:
- Addiction centers. Nurses work with patients who are trying to overcome addictions to alcohol, drugs, and other substances.
- Cardiology. Nurses work exclusively with patients who have heart problems. They care for them in the hospital or work with them on an outpatient basis. They may be employed by hospitals, doctor’s offices, or public health departments.
- Critical care. These nurses work in a hospital’s emergency department or intensive care units.
- Genetics. These nurses may be employed by a hospital, doctor’s office, or public health department. They interpret family histories to determine children’s potential to inherit a disorder from their parents, such as cystic fibrosis. They analyze statistics to determine the likelihood of certain diseases having a genetic component, like colon or breast cancer.
- Public health. Generally, the county employs a public health nurse and has a significant role in educating the public about specific diseases. They conduct immunizations and other clinic work.
- Legal firms. These nurses review medical records and assist attorneys in understanding medical terminology. They may testify as expert witnesses on medical issues within their purview.
- Schools. A school nurse manages the students’ health records, educates them on important health issues, provides first aid, and tends to emergencies, among other relevant tasks.
These are just some examples. There are specialty areas for nurses in almost every health area.
In demand profession
The demand for nurses has always been high. As a result, a nurse can always find a job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), by 2029, there will be a need for 221,900 more nurses than there were in 2019. This is faster-than-average job growth.
High earning potential
The BLS reports that in 2019, the median salary for registered nurses in the U.S. was $73,300 annually. Nurse.org has a 2021 update for average nursing salaries in every state. The lowest paying state is South Dakota, with an annual average wage of $59,540. The highest paying is California, with an average yearly salary of $113,240.
The salary depends on the type of degree the nurse has, the number of years of experience, and the kind of nurse. Some specialty areas pay better than others. It is also essential to consider that the states that pay the most also have a higher cost of living than those that pay less.
Some specialty areas, like those that are hospital-centered, may offer a flexible schedule. Still, nurses must remember that getting sick or being in an accident are unscheduled events. That means that nurses must work on weekends and holidays in hospitals or anywhere direct patient care is provided, like urgent care centers, emergency departments, and skilled nursing facilities.
Hospital-based nurses often work three 12-hour days in a row, then have four days off. Those who work for corporations, schools, and public health departments, for example, will work regular business hours.
In a 2019 survey of nearly 5,300 registered nurses conducted by the journal American Nurse Today, about 8 out of 10 said they were satisfied with their jobs and would choose a nursing career again. Nine out of 10 enjoyed working with their peers. Almost 9 out of 10 were pleased with the working relationship they had with physicians.
Cons of Being a Nurse
Despite a large number of pros to being a nurse, it is not all roses and sunshine. There are some downsides. Nurses most commonly report the following disadvantages to the nursing profession.
Physical demands of the job
Nurses, especially those who work in any hospital department, are on their feet almost all day. They lift and turn and move patients. They walk down the hospital halls going from room to room. Unfortunately, they often suffer from back and foot problems.
Working long hours and on holidays
Again, this is more relevant to hospital-based nurses. Shifts are generally 12 hours. However, twelve hours may be extended to 15 hours when something extraordinary happens, or there is no time to do charting during the 12 hours.
This is relevant to all types of nurses, no matter where they work. Some people are never satisfied, feel like they will never get well, and blame their problems on the nurse. There are difficult people to deal with in all professions, but combined with the other demanding aspects of nursing, dealing with complex patients only makes the job more emotionally challenging.
Exposure to disease
In these days of COVID-19, nurses who work in intensive care or the emergency department must protect themselves from exposure to the disease. Even so, some have contracted the virus even while protecting themselves.
Without the current COVID-19 virus, there is always the risk of contracting an infectious disease even though precautions are taken.
Some nurses are faced almost daily with life and death situations. Others deal with very sick people and those who have long-term medical conditions from which they may never recover. Nurses must make quick decisions, administer medications that may be lifesaving, and deal with sick family members. In addition, they have to answer questions posed by patients and their families. Even if they are not involved in direct patient care are faced with paying close attention to details and make quick decisions.
Nurses see human suffering to a degree nonmedical people will never see. They treat accident victims, some of whom have catastrophic injuries, burn victims who scream in agony, others in severe pain, young mothers who are losing a battle with cancer, and other travesties. They come to a place where they cannot handle the emotional load they carry. They suffer burnout. Some need only a vacation away to rejuvenate. Others leave the profession for good.
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