Whether you’re enrolling in a nursing degree, or simply thinking about joining the ranks of the diligent and dedicated individuals who make up a huge portion of the health care sector, changing your career and becoming a nurse is a big ask. As such, you might want to make sure you have what it takes.
The qualifications you need
First of all, you might want to know precisely what qualifications you will need to work as a nurse. The answer depends largely on what kind of nurse you want to become, but most people tend to think of what they need to become a registered nurse. A nursing degree as shown at All Nursing Schools is crucial, as it teaches you knowledge, provides hands-on experiences and allows you to be present for real-life nursing duties and scenarios. After the degree, you then have to get licensed, which requires you to effectively demonstrate your nursing skills and the knowledge that you have picked up. This can take years to achieve, so you have to be willing to dedicate yourself to the career before you start working.
A passion for nursing
A lot of the people who get into nursing and then excel at it share the trait that they have wanted to be nurses for quite some time. For some, it may be because someone in their life inspired them, for others, it can really be as simple as seeing nurses on TV and wanting to be like them. It doesn’t matter where your inspiration came from. If you have a passion for nursing, and you genuinely want to get better at performing in your role and playing a vital part in the health care system, then that is a good sign. Those who treat it as “just a job” are those that tend to burn out from its demands sooner.
A lifelong attitude to learning
Nurses do not stop learning once they earn their degree and become qualified to work as registered nurses. Not only are there several career paths and ways that you can specialize as a nurse, but the healthcare industry changes pretty rapidly, too. In only the past decade, we have seen the introduction of a largely digitized health care record system, for instance. As such, when you become a nurse, you should be ready to spend a life in learning, whether that means taking ongoing education courses, getting more certifications to specialize in a particular part of nursing, or earning an advanced degree to keep climbing up the career ladder. Those who keep learning are going to keep their interest in the field and their career prospects alive.
The primary aim of the nurse is to provide care to the people that are under their charge. As such, nursing is not a career for those people who get drained by being around people and by helping them. You need to be able to keep caring and helping people through the day without it affecting your disposition. As such, nurses are often extroverts and very friendly people, and this Verywell Mind article on extroverts can help you take a look at your own traits and see if you match what would normally be considered an extroverted personality. You don’t necessarily need to fit those traits and there are great nurses who are a little more introverted, but you still need that huge capacity for care, no matter what.
Ready for self-sacrifice
Though no one should so willingly risk themselves for a career, the truth is that being a nurse is a very demanding role and one that will require you to occasionally sacrifice for the sake of the job. You need to have a selfless aspect to your personality in order to excel as a nurse. This doesn’t only mean that you have to be willing to work more than you would in other jobs, it also comes down to how you treat your patients, as well. Taking an unbiased and unjudgemental approach to your patients is important to make sure that you can treat them with the professionalism that is expected of you. You’re not representing yourself, after all, you represent the medical team you work with.
The ability to represent something bigger than yourself
As mentioned, you represent your medical team, as well as your hospital, or whatever organization you practice with when you are working with a nurse. As such, a high degree of professionalism and attention to detail are required to help patients feel at ease and secure in where they are. This comes down to your appearances, as well as how you act. Staying well-groomed, presentable, and well supplied in things like Uniform Advantage medical & nursing scrubs to appear as the confident and competent provider of care that you are is crucial. Most health care providers do have strict rules about appearance and etiquette, so you had better be prepared to follow the rules and fit in. A hospital is not a good setting for those who want to appear non-conformist.
Be ready to advocate for patients
You are there to help patients and, in part, that can mean helping them make the decisions that they want to make in their own best interests. This is a big part of what it means to advocate for them. This often begins in helping to provide answers after a diagnosis or prognosis, to help them better understand their condition as well as the options that are laid out for them. You may also have to speak up for patients when they want to talk about their care but their doctor is not immediately available for them. Brushing aside or underplaying the needs of a patient is not a habit that a nurse should get into.
A sense of patience
No matter where you work as a nurse, you are likely to have periods of time where you are pushed up against it, working your rear end off to provide care, and in that situation, anyone can find themselves dealing with a higher sense of tension. However, dealing with difficult patients is very much a part of the job. You need to be there to carry out the orders of the doctor while also complying with a range of regulations and policies, and patients that are rude or uncooperative can be very trying. However, learning to work with those patients is a crucial part of nursing. The environment isn’t always going to work with you, so you need a sense of patience to work within it.
Strong communication skills
It should not be surprising that a nurse needs strong communication skills. As already mentioned, you need to provide some advocacy for your patients, meaning that at times you will need to communicate on their behalf or explain things to them in clear terms. However, you also work within a health care team that needs to be coordinated and working on the same page. As such, communication is not just about how well you are able to express yourself and communicate an idea, but also about how good you are at listening. There are exercises at MindTools that can help you work on your communication skills so you can both give and receive information and ideas more easily.
Nurses rarely have the luxury of having all of the time to easily take care of their duties. A full hospital floor can be a very demanding place, as can any ICU or emergency room setting. For that reason, you need to make sure that you’re great at time management, from getting started at a sprint by preparing before your shift even begins, to keeping track of duties you need to take care of on a regular basis, such as repositioning patients or delivering their medication. Time management skills can be very helpful in avoiding burnout by making sure that you’re able to structure your work in a way that is organized, efficient, and not overly demanding.
Be ready for anything
The skills above will help you deal with all of the expected trouble that can pop up during a shift as a nurse, but what about the unexpected? A nurse needs to be able to anticipate the issues that might pop up by making sure they keep a close eye on patients, in terms of condition and behavior. The ability to spot signs of escalation of a symptom, for instance, is crucial for a nurse to have, and they need to be aware of the potential complications of treatments and conditions as well as they should do when such an occasion arises. This is largely learned through experience, but if you’re the kind of person who has trouble making decisions when new information is coming in at a rapid pace, nursing may be a difficult career for you.
If you have identified your life’s purpose and you believe it lies in working as a nurse in a health care environment, then there might be nothing to dissuade you. However, it’s important to work on the skills that you will need in that career.