My decision to become a nurse was admittedly not based on an extensive exploration of the associated pros and cons of a career in nursing. In fact, I was originally accepted into my alma mater’s College of Engineering. But for an eleventh hour episode of doubt that forced me to reassess my goals and strengths, I would not be a nurse today. I was simply drawn to nursing for reasons I did not completely understand. Eighteen years later, I thankfully don’t regret my decision to go to nursing school. I’m also better able to articulate some of the reasons why.
Following is a list of what I consider to be the top ten advantages of being a nurse, in no particular order:
1. Job Security
Despite being laid off from an inpatient staff nursing position once in the late 1990’s, I have always had options for employment. Even during the recession, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an increase in health care jobs. By 2018, more than 580,000 nursing positions will be created. Nurses are in high demand, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
The nature of nursing care is that it is needed all the time, and everywhere. As a result, you can opt to work full time, part time or per diem on day, evening or night shifts. You can work in rural or urban settings, inpatient, outpatient, in a home setting, in a school, in a law office, in a research setting—the prospects are endless.
As an RN, I have worked as an inpatient nurse, an outpatient nurse, in a law office, for a medical device company, and have even been self employed. Very few professions offer the plethora of career choices that nursing offers. In addition to the various specialties you can choose from, nurses fulfill a variety of roles within each specialty. Experienced nurses are in high demand in many non-traditional settings as well. In nursing, it’s possible to explore other options without jeopardizing your career progression.
4. Opportunity to Make a Meaningful Contribution
It may sound trite, but it’s true: nurses routinely make meaningful contributions to the lives of patients and their families. The work you do on a daily basis, though frequently stressful and repeatedly frustrating, has a real and tangible impact. I still have the first card a patient’s wife wrote to me thanking me for caring for her dying husband. It reminds me that the work we do is important.
5. Lifelong Learning
The science of nursing is always advancing, and a successful nursing career requires a commitment to learning and openness to change. Attending conferences, joining specialty organizations, reading journals, attending graduate school keeps me interested in and inspired by nursing.
In the years I worked in oncology nursing, I never encountered the same patient or the identical situation twice. You can count on the unexpected and the unpredictable, which I think tends to keep things interesting.
7. Competitive salary
Nursing offers a competitive salary and, in many cases, potential for overtime. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean national nursing salary is $67,720, but the range is highly variable depending on location, educational level and role. For example, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners reports the average salary of a nurse practitioner is $89,450.
Nursing is a career that you can take with you wherever you go. Once you have a registered nurse license in one state, you can apply for reciprocity in another state. (Each State Board of Nursing has different requirements, so check with them for specifics.)
Over the years, nursing has challenged me intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and at times even physically—and although the challenges aren’t always without frustration, they do have way of keeping me engaged and motivated.
Since 1999, nurses have been ranked as the most trusted profession in the United States every year except 2001. (That year, fire fighters were ranked first.) To me, that speaks to the relationships we have and the value we bring to our patients.