Nursing isn’t for everyone. Some people shy away from the prospect of working long hours in a stressful environment where they would rarely get the credit they deserve for their hard work. For the right person, however, nursing is an exciting opportunity. And for people who have certain shared qualities, like emotional stability, organizational skills, patience, and strong communication, nursing can be a rewarding and enjoyable career.
As sad as it sounds, hospitals and doctors’ offices are full of human suffering. If you are weak emotionally, you likely won’t cope well with the news you’ll receive every day – news that your patients’ treatments aren’t working, that a patient you were rooting for has been readmitted, and even that they’ve passed away. Good nurses are able to stay strong and positive even in the face of constant bad news. One the same token, you’ll deal with frequent emergencies and other stressors, especially if you work in the emergency room (ER) or intensive care unit (ICU). In a 12-hour shift, you might not get a lot of time to sit down. If you witness a patient suddenly gripping his or her chest because of a heart attack, or a child falling into status epilepticus (a type of long-lasting seizure), you’ll need to know how to act, and not let your emotions get the best of you.
Even if you work in a highly specialized doctor’s office, you’ll still work with patients who have a variety of different health needs. Part of your duties will be administrative – recording patients’ medical histories and symptoms and setting up plans for patient care, for instance. It’s important that you accurately keep track of your patients and their differing needs. It could spell big trouble if you slip up and give one patient the wrong meds or record the wrong symptoms and pass the file onto a doctor.
In an ideal world, a patient could come in, report a list of symptoms, and leave later that day with both a diagnosis and a treatment plan. Alas, that rarely happens. Especially if you grow attached to patients, you might start to feel frustrated that the process is so slow. Getting “to the bottom” of a set of symptoms often takes time, and includes a long list of tests, blood work, and potentially multiple visits. You might deal with overburdened doctors who can’t pay attention to every patient the way they’d like to, or who, despite all their knowledge, ultimately scratch their head and discharge a patient without a comprehensive solution. You’ll need to practice patience to deal with all the stress, chaos, and waiting that accompanies the position.
Sometimes, nurses act as the voice for doctors. They might get directions from a physician and then get shouldered with the responsibility of explaining a treatment method, the purpose of a test, or discharge instructions to a patient. As a nurse, you should learn how to effectively communicate to help keep the patient informed and make sure they understand all the developments in their care. You’ll also work in teams with other healthcare professionals to provide care, so strong communication with coworkers is also important. Some of the most successful nurses are also bilingual, allowing them to communicate with patients whose primary language isn’t English.