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Becoming a Nurse: An In-depth Look into the Profession

Update Date: Aug 13, 2020 03:09 PM EDT
Becoming a Nurse: An In-depth Look into the Profession
(Photo : Becoming a Nurse: An In-depth Look into the Profession)

If you are keen on getting a job in healthcare, there's a very good chance that you have considered the idea of becoming a nurse. While you may believe that it is an easy route to get into due to the shortages in the healthcare industry, you'd be extremely wrong. There are still requirements that need to be met, competition to beat, and the skills needed to work in nursing. 

What you need to be aware of is that it takes a great deal of time, dedication and perseverance to become a nurse. However, this guide will give you all the information you need to know on how to make your career ambition a reality.

1. Get a degree

Just a few years ago, it wasn't a compulsory requirement for individuals to attend nursing school in order to get into the industry. However, it is now compulsory to secure a job in the sector. While you may never have considered going down the education route, there are many benefits to doing so. You'll learn essential theoretical knowledge which should come in useful when carrying out practical work on the job and you may also gain work experience within your course.

A degree will equip you with all of the relevant skills and experience needed to become a professional nurse and allow you to stand out from the crowd when it comes to applying for job roles in the medical sector. However, physically attending lectures can become a huge commitment timewise, and many institutions have realized this. As a result, it is now possible to study healthcare degree courses online at Marymount University to fit around your current commitments.

2. Choose a specialism 

When you choose a career in nursing, it's essential to choose a specialism to focus on for your career. A specialism is a specific aspect of nursing that most interests you or you believe you have the relevant skills for. Many people do stray from the specialism they choose over the years, but it is always good to have an initial focus to get onto the career ladder.

There are four main nursing specialisms to choose from in the nursing sector that you may like to research. These include:

  • Adult nursing

  • Children's nursing

  • Mental health nursing

  • Learning disability nursing

If you don't have much idea on which of the sectors would be suitable for you, it would be worth carrying out some research to find out more about each discipline and what a typical day-to-day schedule may look like.

3. Get the relevant experience

As with any career choice, you'll need to have the relevant experience before getting a professional job in the medical field. As a minimum, most nurses will have at least a couple of months of voluntary work experience in the sector to prove that they understand what the job role entails and how the industry works.

The good news is that you don't always have to go looking for work experience placements - some degree courses will provide you with the relevant experience needed to work in the sector, however, on most occasions, you'll need to seek voluntary placements on your own accord.

You're likely to find placements in hospitals, care homes, and surgeries that may not necessarily be connected to your nursing specialism, but this ultimately proves to future employers that you have worked in a clinical setting and know what to expect.

This type of experience will provide you with a solid foundation on what it takes to work in the sector and develops your quality of care to the point that you have a good baseline to work from when you start your very first paid job.

4.  Personality traits

People have distinct personality traits, which means that different careers are suited to different people. To become a nurse, you need to have specific personality traits and skills in order to carry out the job efficiently. As an absolute basis, it wouldn't be advised to go down this career path if you panic in high-pressured environments or are squeamish. However, you will flourish if you have the following:

Interpersonal skills

The ability to communicate is essential regardless of your workplace or position, but especially in the healthcare environment. You need to be able to communicate information both on the level of the patient and to a healthcare professional. You'll also be expected to manage extremely distressing situations, which can lead to heightened stress levels, so keeping calm and collected at all times is a must.

Listening skills

To become a good nurse, you need to be able to listen to information and interpret messages being communicated to you. In a medical environment, the slightest misinterpretation of information can lead to serious consequences, especially when it comes to patient health.

Decision making

Nurses are required to make extremely quick decisions based on the circumstances unfolding around them. From one moment to the next, a situation could escalate and require quick judgments to be made on the spot in the best interests of the patient. While it can be extremely traumatic to have to be responsible for unfolding situations, the more experience you have, the more confidence you will gain over time that you're making the right ones. You'll have to refer to both your theoretical knowledge and past experiences to make the most suitable decisions at any given time.

Scientific knowledge

A nursing degree will equip you with the scientific knowledge needed to get a job in the nursing industry and make decisions based on your understandings, but it's extremely important to keep up to date with the latest trends and advancements in the industry for the best interests of your patients and potentially help further your career.


It would be extremely difficult to work in the nursing sector if you lack self-confidence. Although you're not expected to know it all upon first starting, you need to have faith in your abilities and take the best approaches based on the knowledge you have been equipped with. Ultimately, medical professionals have the responsibility to make patients feel calm in their care, and this is often achieved when they portray an air of confidence regarding the steps they're going to take and the outcomes.

Fitness and health

While personal health and fitness aren't necessarily required as an entry into the nursing sector, these aspects will certainly work in your favor. You'll be expected to stand on your feet throughout the day and constantly walk between wards, which can be tiring. Likewise, you may need a great deal of physical strength and stamina to be able to physically deal with emergencies. Also, be aware that the nursing profession can be a fairly dangerous role, as you'll be exposed to illnesses and contagious diseases, meaning you may be at risk if you already suffer from pre-existing health conditions.

5. Applying for jobs

Once you have put all of the groundwork in place, it may be time to start applying for nursing jobs. However, it should be your aim to stand out from the crowd during the job application process, due to the competitive nature of the industry. It would be wise to create a strong resume that lists all of your key personality traits, education, experience, and skills, as well as a cover letter to support your application. It can be difficult to know what employers may be looking for during the job application process. Therefore, you could turn to a career advisor to point you in the right direction.

What do you need to know about becoming a nurse?

The above pointers should give you some indication as to how to get on the nursing career ladder, so now you may be interested in finding out some of the most important aspects of working in the role. Below, you'll find some helpful pointers which should clarify whether or not the nursing profession is for you before applying for roles:

1. Don't be afraid to make mistakes

While nurses have the responsibility to make decisions in the best interests of the patients, it's not always the case that all decisions are the right ones. Mistakes can be made easily, but this is all part and parcel of the learning process. The good news is that upon first starting out, you'll be under the wing of those in authority who will be guiding you through tasks and the decision-making process, so you will understand quickly what needs to be done. You'll also be aware of how to avoid the most crucial mistakes in the future. However, as you progress, you will be required to make decisions single-handedly based on your previous experience and knowledge.

2. It's mentally and physically exhausting

Whoever said nursing was easy? While medical professionals enjoy their jobs due to the rewarding nature of the role, it can be both mentally and physically demanding. Although you may have some idea as to what the job may entail, you won't get a true insight until your first day on shift. As mentioned, you'll need to be both physically fit and mentally stable in order to cope with the pressures you'll be faced with and understand that getting scheduled breaks aren't always guaranteed.

3. Prepare to miss out socially

Unfortunately, a nursing career isn't a role that allows you to choose your hours or have weekends off. You'll be working on a shift basis that will either be working night shifts or day shifts or both, dependent on the rota. As a result, your sleep patterns are likely to be out of sync, and you may be forced to miss certain occasions due to your working hours. This, however, is all part and parcel of the job and is something you will have to accept.

4. Make sure it is a job you really want to do

It isn't feasible to branch into a nursing role half-heartedly. You need to ensure that this is a career that you're passionate about and carrying out for all of the right reasons, or you'll only last for the short-term. Nursing is a vocation, which means you have a strong passion for the job and don't mind it consuming a large percentage of your life. There will be days when you come home from a stressful shift feeling rewarded after seeing a patient recover with the care you have given them, and at other times, you'll leave working emotionally affected after the death of a patient. Ultimately, nursing is a rollercoaster, so you need to be prepared for the ride.

5. There are progression opportunities

What you may not realize about nursing is that there are opportunities to progress in your career if you have the desire to. Although you may have your heart set on working in a particular specialism after graduating from your degree, try not to shut off your options to the other opportunities that may be available to you. You will find that your qualification will allow you to branch into other sectors, which will allow you to progress forward in your career and earn a higher wage. For example, you could earn a certificate in health administration and at one point take your career in that direction. 

Nursing is a rapidly growing field that could be the perfect opportunity for you if you're seeking a career in the healthcare industry or have the ambition to take care of others. Before you jump into a nursing career, it would be highly advised to have a thorough read of the above pointers to ensure that nursing is the profession for you.

The demand for nurses across the world has been more critical than ever, and this is not set to change in the near future. Furthermore, the aging population, as well as the rise in chronic illnesses, such as the likes of diabetes, dementia, and heart disease, to name just a few, has meant that healthcare is needed now more than ever before, putting an increasing demand on the healthcare sector.

If you possess the right skills and attitude towards learning to be a nurse, then don't hesitate. It could be the best decision you ever make. 

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