Jumping into something new is scary when you don’t have all of the facts. That’s exactly why choosing a career is so challenging.
Jumping into something new is scary when you don’t have all of the facts. That’s exactly why choosing a career is so challenging. It’s not like you can just spend a few years in school, try out a job for a bit, and jump to another if you don’t like it—well, at least not without more education and training. For nursing, one might imagine sitting at a patient’s bedside, comforting them during a trying time of illness. They may envision working closely with doctors, helping them make critical decisions to save a patient’s life.
While these scenarios can and do happen, the reality of nursing is far different. The roles of nurses vary from organization to organization, facility to facility, and department to department. However, possessing certain personality traits can help one decide if a nursing career is right for them, and what is expected of them in nursing school.
An individual who chooses to become a nurse enters a profession with substantial responsibility that sometimes involves dealing with people who are experiencing the most vulnerable and significant moments in their lives. Nurses juggle physical pressures, emotional situations, and at times, mentally taxing experiences. In order to effectively care for and treat patients, nurses must rely on their inherent qualities, as well as the ones they acquire along the way, to become what many consider the ‘ideal’ nurse.
What is the nursing environment like?
The first thing we think is really important when you’re considering if nursing is the career for you is to decide if you really enjoy helping people and if you can imagine yourself helping people day in, and day out without feeling drained from it. We also think it’s important to be quite an extroverted, friendly person when you’re doing nursing because your whole day will be spent around people and your whole career will involve helping people and making sure that you can make somebody’s hospital stay the most comfortable it can be.
Nursing is a great career for those who enjoy fluid and flexible work environments. From ever-changing shifts to the types of situations you will be called upon to address, the only routine in nursing is that there is no such thing as a daily routine. While treatments and protocols are set in stone, the need for their application and the patients who will need care means that each day is a brand new day.
Nurses are also perpetual students. From learning about new medical techniques to mastering advances in technology, every day on the job is like the first day of school. There is always something new to learn and something interesting to discover. This makes it ideal for individuals who have a strong degree of curiosity and a solid desire to learn as much as they can about the field of medicine.
What are the different types of nurses and their specializations?
There are many types of nurses and many specializations that nurses can earn to further enhance their career opportunities. You can choose to specialize in cardiothoracic medicine, neurology, child care, operating room, and much more. Adding specialized certifications and nursing skill sets allows you to tailor your career toward the fields of medicine that are most interesting to you. It also creates considerable flexibility in choosing employment options ranging from private clinics to public hospitals, and nursing home facilities to in-home care.
Nurses are required to be licensed within the states where they wish to work. This licensure must be kept up to date; however, while many people fear “the boards” the reality is that nurses who graduate from accredited nursing programs are well prepared for the exams and questions required to pass the test. Moreover, many states make it easy for nurses to transfer their credentials across state lines. This makes it possible for nurses to pursue career opportunities whenever and wherever they arise.
What are the qualities one should have to enter the nursing profession?
- Compassion – Demonstrating understanding, empathy, and consideration is vital in nursing. Compassion helps build nurse-patient relationships and can even facilitate patient compliance and healing. However, nurses should not only be compassionate towards patients but to each other. Nursing can be mentally draining; supporting one another is extremely important.
- Sense of advocacy – Advocacy typically begins with a nurse providing individual patients with information that empowers and instills confidence so they better understand a diagnosis or treatment; and can more efficiently express their feelings regarding their medical care. Nurses must also speak on behalf of or help patients or groups discuss their feelings when needed, such as communicating a patient’s wishes when they conflict with a physician’s (and in some cases, their family’s) opinion.
Speaking on behalf of a patient is one of the duties expected of a nurse, and while some nurses possess a natural desire to advocate for his or her patients, others take more concentrated measures.
Helping to bridge the gap between patients and their healthcare providers, nurse advocates strive to improve or maintain the quality of care that a patient receives. In addition to addressing the medical aspect of the profession, those who concentrate on nurse advocacy also deal with social work, research, insurance, and patient education.
- Flexibility – The ability to adapt to change is one of the most important characteristics a nurse can have. Healthcare is ever-changing. When out in the workforce, change can be almost a daily occurrence. Workflows and healthcare laws can change. Policies change. It’s important for nurses-to-be to realize that organizations must keep up with change, which trickles down to the front-line staff.
Healthcare is based on evidence-based standards, which means that when new studies show certain treatments work better than others, it can be adopted as the new standard of care. Nurses must be kept up-to-date on current standards and be able to adopt them into their nursing practice.
- Commitment – Nursing is not just a job. It’s who one is. Becoming a nurse is a commitment to caring for patients, going above and beyond when needed, and devoting oneself to the profession.
- Conscience – This concept means that nurses have morals they need to uphold. They must work ethically on behalf of patients as well as be empathetic with others (more on empathy below).
- Competence – Nurses must demonstrate competence in everything they do. Patients rely on them to work safely and competently. Nurses must hold themselves to a high standard and ensure they remain up-to-date by completing continuing education courses. Learning is ongoing and life-long in nursing
- Confidence – No matter the scenario, nurses must demonstrate confidence. Patients trust nurses to care for them safely. A nurse who doesn’t appear confident will make patients concerned about their health and safety. It’s okay to not know everything, but nurses should be confident to admit that and know who or where their resources are.
- Patience – From the fast-paced environment of an emergency room to dealing with family members at a nursing home, nurses who are tolerant and patient are better able to treat and care for others. Having patience goes along with flexibility. One might have an idea of what to expect during their workday, but in reality, anything can happen. A patient may refuse medications and treatment. A family member might verbally abuse or yell at the staff. A manager may be too “present” during a shift. Doctors may take their time rounding or returning phone calls.
It’s important to remember that nurses are there to take care of patients. That is the priority. So, while learning to “expect the unexpected”, nurses should remember to take deep breaths, take challenges as they come, and make decisions based on what is best for patient care.
- Listening skills – In order to conduct a thorough observation and examination of a patient, fine-tuned listening skills are a must for a nurse. Not only is it important for a nurse to listen to orders given by a physician, but to also pay attention to the verbal cues of patients, as well as the remarks of their relatives.
- Communication skills – As a caregiver, nurses cannot deliver adequate care if they lack proper communication, which goes beyond the act of simply speaking with a patient. For example, using a soft, polite voice makes patients feel at ease during appropriate times, whereas a firmer tone is necessary when explaining medication and discharge instructions.
- The ability to anticipate issues – Nurses are the first line of defense for patients. Therefore, all nurses must have an innate ability to anticipate through examination and observation. Since nurses spend more time with patients than any other clinician on the care team, their ability to ‘read between the lines’ is often a pivotal point in the outcome of health-related issues. Nurses should possess a second sense of sight where they can read the unspoken messages and body language displayed by a patient that cannot be determined by vital signs and/or verbal communication.
- Critical thinking skills – Nurses are faced with decision-making situations in patient care, and each decision they make impacts patient outcomes. Nursing critical thinking skills drive the decision-making process and impact the quality of care provided. Critical thinking is embedded in a nurse’s everyday routine. They flex this mental muscle each day they enter the floor. When nurses are faced with decisions that could ultimately mean life or death, the ability to analyze a situation and come to a solution separates the good nurses from the great ones.
- Empathy – Nurses must have an incredible amount of empathy. Empathy means the ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, without experiencing them. Being able to empathize helps nurses establish a nurse-patient relationship and helps nurses demonstrate compassion for patients suffering from all types of illness and/or disease. Nursing is an incredibly emotional job; empathy and compassion are paramount in the field.
- Humility – Humility is a trait that not many people associate with nurses (except nurses!). Humility means to feel humble or modest. This does not mean nurses should not be confident in their abilities. It means to always be aware that nursing is never black-and-white. There is always something new, something to learn, and something you may not recognize. Nurses are held to such a high standard that making errors is frowned upon. Of course, errors can affect patient safety, but being humble enough to admit you don’t know everything can help prevent errors.
Caring for patients almost automatically leads to humility among nurses. Nurses connect to humans at an almost primal level – nurses can suffer from the disorders and illnesses their patients suffer from, too – it sort of levels the playing field. Nurses consider their own morbidity and mortality because they face it frequently. Being a nurse is not just a job, it’s who one is. Nurses don’t stop being nurses after they clock out or retire, it’s ingrained in them. It’s their life.
- Time management skills – Prioritizing and little planning can make the nurses plan better and manage the time for their work and imparting quality care. This also may help to spend time relaxing and socializing at work without feeling nervous and exhausted. Effectively managing time and tasks will ease the transition from feeling overwhelmed to being in control.
- Physical endurance – From rushing to the aid of an emergency to being able to help lift a patient from bed to a wheelchair, nurses are expected to maintain a certain level of physical strength and endurance.
- Leadership skills – All nurses are in a position to lead regardless of his or her title, and effectively developing leadership skills allows a nurse to better steer patients towards wellness and away from sickness, guide new co-workers, and even lead physicians towards achieving a better understanding of their patients. To enhance personal leadership skills, a nurse must develop as an individual first, and then experience growth, enhance communication skills, increase self-confidence, and exhibit a bit of valor as well.
Not all nurses will embody every single one of the above-mentioned qualities, and for some, it may take many years to develop a few. Nurses themselves play a significant role in inspiring their co-workers to embrace some of the qualities every nurse should ideally possess. In the end, these nurses participate in a cycle of motivation that encourages others to grow within their profession.
“I want to look back on my career and be proud of the work, and be proud that I tried everything.” – Jon Stewart
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