Nursing is an exciting, fast-growing, and in-demand field. Many people who wish to help others in need, and to find meaning and fulfillment in their careers, will pursue the nursing path. It offers many benefits. Of course, as with any career, there can also be drawbacks to the nursing profession. It is important to weigh both the pros and cons of nursing, before diving into the field.
Any healthcare career is innately challenging. There may be stressful situations, or messy situations, that you will have to handle in your role as a nurse. However, as many nurses will tell you, the pros of being a nurse far outweigh the cons. Nurses have the unique ability to help people through some of the most vulnerable times in their lives – and they can make a comfortable living, with job security, while doing it.
Below we assess the pros and cons of being a nurse, to help you decide if this is the right career for you.
The Pros of Being a Nurse
- Nursing is highly rewarding – personally, and professionally.
Nurses, like doctors and surgeons, have the unique opportunity to save lives or, at the very least, to make a difference in their patients’ lives. For this reason, nursing is a highly rewarding field. Every day, nurses work to help people who are sick, injured, disabled, and/or enduring a vulnerable time in their lives. Nurses are often the ones closest to patients, performing routine, bedside care and serving as an advocate for those in need. Every time a nurse spots a symptom, diagnoses a condition, administers a treatment, or offers a listening ear, they are making an impact in another’s life.
Just as nursing is personally rewarding, it also has professional benefits. Depending on your role in the field, you can expect a comfortable salary. Registered Nurses, for example, earn over $75,000 annually, on average in the United States. Some states, like Connecticut and Massachusetts, offer even higher earning potential.
- Nurses are trusted, respected, and appreciated.
Nurses are viewed as the most honest, ethical, and trusted professionals in the United States, according to Gallup research. In fact, nurses have been ranked the most trusted professionals for 19 consecutive years, including in 2020, when they fought relentlessly against the COVID-19 pandemic. This underlines how important nurses are to Americans, and how much nurses are appreciated by patients and communities alike.
- There is great job security.
Simply put, there will always be a need for nurses. There will always be a need for qualified, compassionate healthcare professionals. No matter where you are in the world, the skills and knowledge that you carry as a nurse will be both valued and vital. In fact, the need for nurses is expected to grow, promising job security for nurses both old and new.
If 2020 taught us anything, it is the need for nurses and healthcare professionals. The global COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the importance of having nurses staffed at all stretches of our communities – in hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, and more. It heightened the need for nursing employment, which was already growing at above-average rates even before the pandemic hit.
With the constant evolution of disease, the ongoing advancements in medical technology and research, and the record-breaking number of elderly people expected in the coming years, you can rest assured there is significant job security for nurses in the many years to come.
- There is also great upward mobility.
There are many different levels of nursing professionals, from entry-level practical nurses to advanced nurse practitioners. The more you are willing to learn and grow your knowledge in the field, the more opportunities you can expect for career advancement. Registered Nurses may qualify for basic patient care positions when they start, but may evolve into roles that require more specialized knowledge and skillsets, such as a pediatric or neonatal nurse. Additionally, you can always go back to school to advance your education and your career title. Registered Nurses are offered many flexible programs, such as online RN-to-BSN programs and RN-to-MSN Bridge programs that are designed for the busy, working nurse. Earning a higher-level degree can qualify you for higher-paying and higher-charge jobs within the field, such as a Nurse Manager, a Case Manager, or even an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).
- There are many different places you can work.
In addition to job opportunities, nurses have a wealth of options when it comes to where they will work. As noted above, nurses are needed in all facets of our communities. As a Registered Nurse, you may work in a hospital, physician’s office, outpatient health clinic, nursing home, addiction rehab center, school, in patients’ homes, or even travel abroad. This is just the beginning of workplaces available to nurses, even those just starting out.
- You can also specialize in different areas of nursing.
Beyond the diversity of workplaces, nurses also benefit from many options for specialization. In other words, there are different titles you can pursue within the nursing field. For example, RNs can earn specializations in Pain Management, Critical Care, Dialysis, and Surgical Nursing. With a bachelor’s degree, you can pursue special credentials in Psychiatry, Oncology, Neonatal Nursing, and more. Ultimately, if you are considering becoming a nurse, ask yourself which demographic you would like to work with most. More than likely, you can pursue a specialization or focus in that area of work.
- There is variety in your day-to-day work.
Many nurses enjoy the fact they don’t work a typical office job. Every day, they can expect something new in their role. New patients, with new symptoms and conditions, are constantly challenging and fulfilling nurses. New treatments, new technologies, and new research are constantly broadening nurses’ knowledge and capabilities within the field. Nursing is an exciting profession where no day is alike. And perhaps now, more than ever, it is such an exciting time to be a nurse.
- Flexibility, such as a short work week.
Nurses have the benefit of a flexible schedule in a variety of workplaces. For example, in hospitals, nurses often have the benefit of a three-day work week, consisting of three, 12-hour shifts. This leaves them more time off (four days!) for other priorities, like family and self-care. If you don’t like the idea of a five-day work week, nursing offers this flexibility. Of courses, nurses can also work typical hours in doctors’ offices or schools, if they prefer. Additionally, nurses can choose to work full-time or part-time, per-diem or permanently, in many different settings.
The Cons of Being a Nurse
- Long shifts.
As noted above, one pro of being a nurse is the short work week. Many nurses work three, 12-hour shifts and benefit from four days off. However, not everyone sees this as a “pro.” 12 hours is a long shift, especially if you are going non-stop and caring for patients through the night. If you do not want to spend long hours on your feet, or long hours away from home, however, you can still become a nurse. Not all workplaces offer this schedule. Physicians’ offices, for example, are typically open between 9 am and 5 pm. School nursing is another option, with shifts between 7 am and 3 pm, typically.
- Physical demands.
As a nurse, you must have physical stamina. Often, nurses have to perform physical tasks such as lifting patients onto a bed, stretcher, or a wheelchair. Additionally, nurses can be on their feet for long hours, navigating between patients’ rooms and helping people in need. For some people, this can be considered a con of being a nurse.
- Bodily fluids.
If you cannot stand the sight of blood or are sensitive to bodily fluids, this aspect of nursing can be considered a “con.” Nurses often have to draw blood from patients, collect and assess laboratory samples, or deal with a sick child who is throwing up. Even if you can handle the sight of blood and vomit, it can be unpleasant when they get onto your scrubs. This comes with the job, and most jobs in medicine. (However, there are other alternatives that don’t involve blood, too.)
- Exposure to germs and viruses.
Similarly, some nurses consider the constant exposure to germs (via contact with patients) another con of the job. While personal protective equipment (PPE) is usually worn by nurses, there is always some inherent risk of getting exposed to viruses, germs, or fluids while on the job. For this reason, nurses and other healthcare professionals must adhere to hygienic, cleansing, and testing procedures to ensure their safety and health.
The final con of being a nurse that you may hear is related to the stress of the role. On one hand, nurses often handle situations that are a matter of life and death. They must also think on their feet in the face of emergencies. This, inherently, can be very stressful. The good news is that nurses do not work alone. They have a team of healthcare professionals who can help them make effective decisions and act on behalf of their patients.
There is also some emotional stress involved with being a nurse. Sometimes, nurses lose their patients to illness or accidents. Sometimes, nurses must deal with families who are upset and emotional. This can take a toll on your emotions. For this reason, it is recommended that nurses maintain emotional stability and resilience, and have coping mechanisms to deal with these types of stressors. At the same time, remember that you have an invaluable role in helping people—when they are stressed, or hurt, or vulnerable, you have the ability to comfort and assure them during difficult times.
While there are both pros and cons of being a nurse, many RNs will tell you that the pros outweigh the cons. Nurses are highly-respected, highly-valued professionals that get to help people day-in and day-out. There is strong job satisfaction, salary potential, work-life balance, and career opportunities for nurses today. For these reasons, nurses consistently rank among the best healthcare jobs in the nation.
As Barack Obama once said, “America’s nurses are the beating heart of our medical system.”
Perhaps the greatest pro of nursing is the fact that, unlike many health-related careers, you do not have to spend 4+ years in medical school. To become a nurse today, and to start making a difference, you need to achieve an associate degree from an accredited nursing school, followed by certification. At Goodwin University, the associate degree in nursing can be completed in just 20-months part-time.
If you are ready to get started and launch a rewarding nursing career, do not hesitate to reach out. Goodwin University is a recognized nursing school in Connecticut, with flexible, RN, BSN, and MSN degrees available for both new and seasoned nurses. Call 800-889-3282 to learn more, or request more information online.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.