Pros & Cons of a Nursing Career

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Nurses at every level are in high demand, as nearly every health care facility has an acute and chronic shortage of nurses. As a result, nurses' salaries have increased dramatically in recent years. Students who successfully complete nursing education programs are nearly guaranteed to find work.

What Is a Nurse?

  • A registered nurse (RN) is the standard designation for professional nurses. Nurses at every level are trained and expected to perform the following functions: treat patients and ease suffering as much as possible, educate patients and their families, provide emotional support, record patient medical histories and monitor symptoms, perform some diagnostic tests and procedures, and operate some medical machinery. The vast majority of nurses work at hospitals, but nurses can also be found at outpatient clinics, nursing homes and in educational institutions. The standard certification for nurses is the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). It is necessary to pass the NCLEX to become a registered nurse. Nursing education programs are accredited by the National League for Nursing or the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education.

General Advantages of Nursing

  • Nurses are highly skilled, well respected and can earn very high salaries. Nurses have challenging and rewarding jobs, yet require much shorter training time than that for a doctor. Some consider the 3-day, 12-hour workweek to be an advantage, although some would rather work 9 to 5. Another advantage schedule-wise is that nurses can work part time so they can be home with family when they want.

Advantages of Nursing Specialties

  • Nurses are able to train for a number of highly skilled and well paid specialties. These specialties are challenging and rewarding, yet require much shorter training time than that for a doctor. For example, nurse practitioners (NP) are licensed to provide primary and preventative care, as well as diagnose medications. Certified nurse-midwives are licensed to provide routine gynecological and obstetrical care. Both specialties are often employed by women's clinics. A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is licensed to treat a number of physical and mental health issues. They also work in administration, research and education. Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) administer nearly two-thirds of all anesthetics annually. It is also possible for nurses to earn advanced degrees in business or law in combination with nursing education.
    Not many nurses go on to a specialty, so those that do find jobs easily.

General Disadvantages of Nursing

  • Nurses work strenuous 8- or 12-hour shifts, mostly on their feet. They are often scheduled to work nights, weekends and holidays. While nurses are an essential part of the professional staff of a hospital or clinic, they rank lower on the totem pole than doctors. They are often the first line of defense for patient care, and are frequently required to deal with distraught families and perform difficult tasks such as assisting patients with bodily functions.

Salary Disadvantages of Nurses

  • While salaries for nurses in general have continued to increase, and salaries for nurse specialists can be substantial, salaries for nurses are still much lower than those for doctors. This is despite the continuing shortage of nurses and the difficulty of the work. To make a comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the salary range for registered nurses (RN) in 2006 was from $52,490 for nurses employed in nursing care facilities to $64,260 for nurses working for employment services. General practitioner physicians (who did not include obstetrics) made an average of $137,119 with less than 1 year of experience, and averaged $156,010 after gaining at least 1 year of experience.

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