Pros and cons of being a nurse

I’ve been doing some serious thinking about a career since I dropped out of the IT course I was doing in uni. I’ve decided that I’d like the kind of job where what I’d be doing would visibly make a difference. I was batting around possibilities and one I thought of was a nurse. Since off the top of my head there’s at least one nurse (The Mermaid) and one doctor (Qadop the Mercotan) posting here (probably more than them, too) and many more people who are related to, married to, or friends with doctors or nurses I thought I’d run a list of what I can think of are the pros and cons of the job by you. Oh, and if anyone knows of a messageboard for nurses or just the medical profession in general where I can do the same thing, it would be good. I’ve done a few googles but haven’t found anything.



High demand for 'em so not much chance of being unemployed or caught in a recession (like I was by the IT fallout :()

Can travel, since different hospitals don’t require radically different skills, AFAIK

Job has immediatly obvious repurcussions other than me being fired if I do it half-assed

I’d be very obiously doing a service for whatever community I’m in – nobody needs an ISP, everyone needs competant medical help (available at least)

What with the ratio of male to female nurses I’d be surrounded by smart women :slight_smile:


Poor pay

I’m squeamish. I’m not sure how much a detriment this is though since I’ve been told you can get used to anything: my cousin was just as squeamish when she was my age but now she’s a pathologist.

Long hours

Okay, can anyone add anything to my list? Have I gotten something wrong? Am I approaching this job from the wrong direction?

What exactly do you consider poor pay?

I just kept reading about strikes in Canada due to low pay, I assume that since they keep striking they think they aren’t being payed enough.

Well, my perspective is somewhat skewed. I work in a hospital alongside people who are required to hold a four-year degree in order to make $10-12/hour while the nurses are making twice that (standard, not including high-census pay which can top out at an extra $20/hour in extreme high census) with two year degrees.

Of course, this is U.S.

IANAN, but I was married to one, and know several very well (some of my best friends are nurses).

On the pro side-

>There actually is decent pay, at least around here. I think they start in the $20-25/hr range, and that’s not including overtime, shift premiums and holiday pay (which can be triple time + $10). I know someone who worked a 12 hr on x-mas and got like $850 for the day!
>There is a demand for nurses all over, so you can travel. IIRC, there’s a company called Travel Nurse that specializes in people who want to move around. Male nurses are very much in demand, mainly for people who are uncomfortable with women and for physical reasons. I have a friend who is a male nurse, and was constantly needed because someone, for either social or religious reasons, did not want a female working on them.
>You will be doing some good in life. You’ll be helping people. Sometimes you’ll be the last person they see. It’s not like churning out widgets at the local factory.

>It’s stressful. There’s a ton of responsibility and you can be sued for malpractice. Plus, if they’re shorthanded, you can’t just go home and leave the patients.
>You burn out. Wiping up crap off of cranky sick people, installing catheters, giving enemas, and watching people die will take its toll. It has on many people I know.
>It is physically demanding. You are on your feet all day (at least in a hospital), and the shifts can be long.
>You will be surrounded by women, but many people will think you’re gay. It’s a stereotype, but it’s there.
Nursing can be a rewarding career, but make sure you look carefully at the downside. I know people that have quit, and I know people who went on to manage whole departments, are making some serious cash, and are very happy with life.

I don’t understand…do you mean NO obvious repurcussions? You can be sued, you can have your credentials revoked, you can go to jail if you do something half-assed and you cause injury or death.
I work three 12 hour shifts a week and I make around $335 a shift without overtime, holiday, evening or weekend differentials. Men are valuable nurses—strong is good!
I love being a Registered Nurse.

I don’t understand…do you mean NO obvious repurcussions? You can be sued, you can have your credentials revoked, you can go to jail if you do something half-assed and you cause injury or death.
I work three 12 hour shifts a week and I make around $335 a shift without overtime, holiday, evening or weekend differentials. Men are valuable nurses—strong is good!
I love being a Registered Nurse.

**I’m squeamish. I’m not sure how much a detriment this is though since I’ve been told you can get used to anything: my cousin was just as squeamish when she was my age but now she’s a pathologist. **

Many of my classmates have mentioned that as long as they are the ones working on the patient, they are fine. It’s watching someone else do a procedure that makes them feel ill. Not sure why that is. Many of them have said though that they got used to the really nasty stuff pretty quick.

Anyway nursing is a lot of fun even though it is really hard work. The schooling is the worst part because not only do you have an entire shift to get through, you have to go home and do research and other homework. It’s worth it though. Even if my feet are killing me right now from standing for 8 straight hours, I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

If I messed up badly in my previous jobs the worst that could happen is I’d get fired and (maybe) the company would lose a couple of clients. Obviously there’s more reason not to stuff up as a nurse than as a tech support flunky, and I think that’s a good thing :).

To everyone else, thanks for your input!

My mum is a nurse, and my father also works in a hospital (as a respiratory therapist :)) so I have a little experience with this sort of thing … it’sjust my half assed opinions though!

For what it’s worth, my mom makes more than my dad, despite him having approx. 6 years of college education and her only the RN training (which I believe is 2 years – she did it at the same community college I’m now attending.)

I could be wrong, but it is probably possible to get a job where you don’t hae much contact with actual blood & guts type stuff. My mother worked in ER when she was younger, but she quickly grew burnt out with the icky stuff and death, etc., so she got a job in the pre-op(eration) department. There’s much less blood and guts type stuff there: more of an emphasis on helping very frightened people to feel better. Of course, you will almost certainly still have to deal with death, if you work in a hospital.

Again, from my experience, hours are very very flexible, at least once you’ve got a bit of experience, etc. My mother & father both had extremely flexible, non-traditional hours – a few days of working long hours, then 4 days off… things like that. Of course, they both worked (barely) full-time, so with their incomes combined, each one actually had to work less. Still, the point remains that hours can be flexible… :slight_smile:


It is great to work in a job where you KNOW you’re helping people; just remember that not all of them will be grateful for it. In fact, lots of them will be rude, obnoxious, or downright hateful. Be sure you can be happy with a personal feeling of satisfaction, because unfortunately the “Thank you” comments tend to be few and far between.

It’s a great career; I can’t imagine doing anything else. Here’s hoping you decide to become one of the few, the proud, the overworked :slight_smile:

Nightingale, who just finished a ten hour shift in the ER

I have recently decided to study to be an RN for a few reasons.

  1. Can move to and work anywhere in the country. This is a huge deciding factor since I live in one of the most expensive areas in the US and desperately want to live in a more affordable place.

  2. I have heard about the flexible hours. I have a 14 1/2 month old daughter, and I am expecting another in May 2003. Flexible hours and good pay are very important.

  3. My prior career as a paralegal was not interesting enough and quite frankly, not rewarding. I wish I had studied nursing instead. Helping mostly irresponsible people screw over their creditors and not pay taxes got old very quickly.

I have some questions for the current RN’s. When you first graduate, are flexible hours/shifts possible, or do you get the worst shifts/longer hours when you are new? Also, my husband and I would like to have a third (and final!) child before I am 35. Would you recommend being pregnant and/or giving birth to a new baby during a two-year nursing program, or is it too demanding?

Your thoughts are appreciated and I appreciated reading all your thoughts on this thread!:smiley:

I’m not a nurse, I’m a medical student, but just on the squeamishness thing: you’ll get used to it. My first class, first day of medicine, involved cutting up little foetal pigs. It was summer, and there was no airconditioning in the labs, and they STANK! From there, we progressed to cadavers, formlin-fixed brains (which were pretty icky), bottled pathological specimens, and watching autopsies. I’ve done diagnostic microbiology labs which involved smelling vaginal discharge specimens, and microscopy on faecal samples. A few months back I went into theatre for the first time, and watched a woman having a tumour removed from just under her tongue. A couple of weeks ago I did a phlebotomy course and learned to take blood samples.

I’ve never heard of anyone dropping out of medicine because of the icky element. By the time I’d been studying anatomy for a few months, my first words on leaving the dissecting room were “I’m starving! What’s for lunch?” You do hear the odd story of people feeling woozy, throwing up, or fainting, but it hasn’t happened to anyone I know. The only time I felt remotely as if I was going to be sick was when I had to watch my first autopsy. The smell was truly foul, and I was hideously hungover from a big night-before.

So, don’t let squeamishness hold you back. You might not like it at first, but you’ll deal with it eventually. And the sights aren’t nearly as bad as the smells :rolleyes:

My little sister is studying to be a nurse. She just wrote me the other day to announce, happily, that she no longer had to rub anti-fungal cream on some old guy’s scrotum. But she was a little bummed (HA!), because she didn’t have the best story. One of her friends told her about how she had to stick her finger up some other old guy’s anus.

If my little sister can talk about this so easily, trust me, anyone can get over the squeamishness part. Hell, for a while there, I was working with fecal samples. You get over it. It’s a little gross for a while, but soon you just realize it’s just poo, and get over it.

I always said I became a nurse because I feel everybody is entitled to my opinion. I am only half joking when I say this.

The pay is good about $24/hr base rate.

The rewards can be immediate but often all you really hear are the complaints.

Sometimes you have to deal with people who are just plain psychotic but luckily those people are relatively rare.

As far as the squeamish, you do get used to it. The first time I had to give an injection I felt sick to my stomach. Now I give injections, start IV’s, and do really complicated wound care involving irrigating, packing and debriding then go eat lunch.

I love my job.

You might be interested in checking out this nursing site

I’ve always fantasized that the perfect job would be school nurse - decent pay, no shift or weekend work, summers off, and you’re providing a valuable service to others. Having kids barf on you is probably the worst that would happen.

I just spent a week offline which is why I haven’t typed anything sooner. Thanks for all the responses! I’ve pretty much decided that nursing is the way to go. Now to find out about the education part… :slight_smile:

Well, I’m a cop, not a nurse, but from what I’ve read it sounds lke all the cons are pretty much the same for both professions. We gotta deal with nuts and sick, dirty people all the time. We’ve got 8 hour shifts, but if you’ve got a suspect in custody and still need to file charges and do a report, you gotta stay over. We can get sued at the drop of a hat and even jailed for official misconduct. We’ll lose our license for just about any trouble we get into also. And 95% of the citizens out there either hate you, or don’t trust you. It’s a memorable day when someone actually stops and says thank-you.

What I’m getting at is this: When you go home feeling downtrodden and beaten because you spend the whole day under the axe, trying hard to help people who care nothing about you . . . you’ll always be able to sleep at night because you know that you are’nt part of the floatsam and jetsam of the world. You know that if you (to paraphrase Emerson) can just make one person breathe easier, because you existed, then all that BS you have to put up with is worth it.

Either that, or do it so you can meet some hot nurses.