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Why Become a Nurse: 7 Pros and Cons to Help You Decide

Nursing has been thrust into the international spotlight since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article discusses the pros and cons of being a nurse and why you should consider taking the leap.

Why Become A Nurse - a picture of a young nurse walking

Are you thinking about becoming a nurse? If so, you’re not alone. The role has risen in popularity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and there are no signs of it slowing. Surveys show that, despite the pandemic, nursing school admissions have grown by almost 6% since 2020. So, if you’re here, you’re likely wondering why become a nurse?  The answers you seek, in addition to other insights, may be found in this article. Below, we discuss the pros and cons of being a nurse and why you should take the leap yourself. 

Why Become a Nurse – The Cons 

Let’s start with the cons. There can be many for any job choice, and they’re important to remember when choosing a career path that’s right for you as it could influence your decision. 

Why Become A Nurse - a picture of a nurse laying down tired

1. The workload is often heavy, physically draining, and mentally demanding

Nurses have faced historically high workloads since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is most obvious in nurse-to-patient ratios. Patient ratios are the number of patients each nurse takes care of. Furthermore, this ratio varies by unit and experience. For example, the highest recommended patient load for non-critically ill patients is no more than five patients per nurse. However, the average patient-to-nurse ratio in the U.S. has recently been as high as eight patients per nurse. This is a drastic increase and has impacted nurse workload, leading to increased levels of stress and burnout

2. Your outside life is affected 

It may seem nice that you only have to work three days a week, but working as a nurse can affect your life outside those three days. For instance, most report feeling tired or stressed after work and on their days off. As a result, you may have less energy to do things like run errands or spend time socializing. 

62% have reported their desire to leave the nursing profession because of how it affects their lives. They have less time for friends and family, feel exhausted, and feel like all they do is work. If you’re feeling like this on your days off, are they really days off? 

3. Patient suffering is hard 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many nurses have seen an increase in suffering and death. This has drastically increased the trauma they are exposed to, leading to 96% of all nurses reporting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

4. The schedule can be more challenging than it looks 

Nurses generally work three 12-hour shifts weekly, giving them four days off. However, these shifts are hard! You also have to work night shifts, weekends, and holidays – which can be especially hard when you have a family. These 12-hour shifts have a mix of pros and cons. Patients get a continuity of care, nurses have fewer absences or sick days, and most have higher morale. However, they usually have more mental health issues, fatigue, and physicality issues. 

5. Nurses make mistakes and you will too (don’t worry, it’s okay)

A medical error is a preventable adverse event that may or may not cause harm to a patient. These medical errors can include: 

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Under-treatment
  • Over-treatment
  • Surgical injuries 
  • Restraint injuries
  • Death
  • Falls
  • Pressure ulcers
  • Mistaken patient identities 
  • Medication errors 

Seven million people are affected by a medication error every year, and there are only about four million nurses in the U.S. This means that almost every nurse will make at least one mistake, if not more, every year. As a nurse, you will make a mistake. It may be minor or severe, but it will happen. Remember, everyone makes mistakes, don’t dwell on it. Rather, learn from it and move on. 

6. Nurse bullying is real

Unfortunately, the saying “nurses eat their young” is pretty accurate. Up to 60% of nurses experience bullying as new nurses. This can range from mild to severe and encompass things as simple as snide comments to full-on death threats. Learning how to navigate and resolve conflicts is an important skill for a nurse to develop. 

7. You’ll always feel underpaid and overused

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a registered nurse is $82,750. However, the annual average wage in the U.S. across all professions is $50,000. So, while nurses are paid above the national average, most feel underappreciated and underpaid. This is likely because of the hard work they do. As mentioned, nurses are mentally and physically exhausted, and some even live paycheck to paycheck. This is unlikely to change with rising healthcare costs in the U.S.

Why Become a Nurse – The Pros  

Now, we’ll move on to the pros because it’s not as bad as it sounds! 

Why Become A Nurse - a picture of a nurse hugging her patient

1. Flexibility 

Most nursing positions have schedules that provide more flexibility than traditional 9-to-5 jobs. This gives them more time to spend with their families, get errands done, and engage in hobbies or self-care. In addition, surveys of workers who recently left their jobs during the mass resignation during COVID-19 suggest that flexibility is one of the most important factors when considering a new career. 

2. Competitive salary 

As we mentioned, the average salary for nurses in the U.S. is around $82,000, with earning potential approaching $120,000. The average college graduate earns only $55,000 – over a $30,000 difference! 

3. Endless learning opportunities

Evidence-based practice evolves constantly. Nurses must complete an average of 45 continuing education hours every two years to renew their nursing licensure. This opens up opportunities to expand their knowledge about various specialties. Nurses also have the chance to earn specialty certifications. There are 183 certification tests in multiple areas of healthcare, such as diabetes management, pediatric, education, obstetrical care, and many more. 

4. Leadership and growth opportunities 

Nurses make up to 30% of the healthcare workforce, making them ideal leaders in the healthcare world. They have also ranked as the most trusted profession 20 years in a row. Examples of typical leadership roles nurses hold and abundantly available include charge nurse, chief nursing officer, and patient care director. 

Nurses can work anywhere and everywhere- they are not confined to the healthcare setting. Recently nurses are branching into education, entrepreneurship, and any other industry they can think of. There are many different types of jobs that nurses can hold outside the hospital, including: 

  • Writer
  • Educator
  • Coach 
  • School nurse
  • Home care nurse
  • Case management nurse
  • Legal nurse consultant 
  • Informatics nurse
  • Medical equipment sales representative 
  • Forensic nurse 
  • Public health nurse
  • Sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE nurse) 
  • Hospice nurse
  • Dialysis nurse
  • Research nurse
  • Nurse midwife or doula 
  • Phone triage or phone COVID nurse 
  • Vaccine nurse 

… and many, many more! 

5. Nurses create close relationships with coworkers 

Together, nurses share the physical and emotional burdens of being responsible for their patient’s well-being or lives. When patients’ conditions improve, nurses celebrate with each other. When a patient dies, they mourn together. No one understands what you’ve been through as a nurse better than another nurse. 

Working together in stressful and traumatic situations can be a powerful bonding experience. Moreover, these experiences can lead to unbreakable bonds among nurses, which are invaluable relationships. 

6. You get to make a difference every single day.

Nurses have the opportunity to change lives every day, which makes for meaningful work. This is the main reason most people choose this profession in the first place! And this is one reason why job satisfaction is high, despite the challenges they face regularly. 

7. Nurses have a regular sense of purpose 

Nurses help people and make a difference every day and in everything they do. They feel powerful in their role because of this sense of purpose. As a result, they have been shown to have increased job satisfaction and morale and lowered rates of turnover and burnout. 

Are You Ready to Take the Leap? 

While there are some cons to working as a nurse, there are many powerful pros. The profession is truly a life-changing career path and one that you will not regret. Take the leap today and check out Aspen’s BSN program!

Aspen U Guest author Alison ShelyAlison Shely, DNP, FNP-C, is a nurse practitioner, nurse coach, yoga teacher, and nurse writer specializing in articles, blogging, and copy. She has been in nursing since 2014, working in intensive care, women’s health, and primary care as a RN and FNP. Her specialty topics include mental health, health and wellness, yoga philosophy and practice, and community health. She also serves as a mental health coach primarily to other healthcare workers concerning healthy lifestyles and mental health.

Visit her website for coaching details: npcoachalison.com