Nurses are hailed as the backbone of any healthcare system, playing a vital role in caring for and helping the recovery of both the physically and mentally ill. As a career, it’s incredibly rewarding, the type of role where you can go home at the end of each day knowing you made a genuine difference in the lives of others. A nursing degree takes three years, so even if you want to make a career change later in life, it is doable (compared to becoming a doctor for example which can take up to fifteen years). But do you have what it takes to become a nurse?

Nursing is a Work of Heart

Are You Prepared For a Physically and Mentally Demanding Role?

Working as a nurse isn’t sunshine and rainbows; it’s an incredible role but it’s hard work. You will be on your feet for a large part of the day which can be tiring, are you physically fit and able to do this? Depending on the type of role that you do, you might be helping to lift patients to and from their bed, or even physically restrain them. Dealing with patients means you always have to put yourself second, that applies to eating, sleeping, even going to the bathroom. When you work in a job like this you’re very much married to the role, it’s not to say you can’t have a life outside your career but you should be very career minded and focused on this, and prepared to make it a huge part of your life. Make sure you’re aware of this kind of commitment the role needs before taking the plunge. As well as being physically tough on your body, nursing is mentally challenging too. You have to face illness and death sometimes on a daily basis. You have to help people and be there for them during the hardest times of their lives. Not everyone is cut out to deal with this kind of thing. On top of this, nurses work difficult hours. This includes Christmases, bank holidays, your own special events during the year will need to come second. Unlike factories and shops that can close up their business hours, when it comes to looking after people you will need to be available. Twelve-hour shifts over both days and nights can be tough, so if you want to work sociable 9-5 hours, then nursing isn’t likely to be for you.

Do You Know Which Area You Want To Work In?

Nursing covers many different types of roles, what kind of nurse do you want to be? If you want to go into this kind of career without studying first, you could become a healthcare assistant. This is more of an administrator role but will also include recording vital signs, collecting samples and performing basic lab tests. It includes tasks such as changing dressings and sterilising medical tools too, so there are some healthcare elements to it. It’s not officially a ‘nurse’ role but there are similar duties, and it’s useful for those wanting to get straight into a working role. From there you could do education part-time and eventually go on to become a qualified nurse. You could become a nurse for adults, for children or for the disabled. You could consider becoming a nurse practitioner which includes roles like midwives, anaesthetists and clinical nurse specialists. If a mental rather than a physical health role interests you more why not get involved in mental health services? These nurses give support to patients suffering from mental health issues where they’re able to help them to recover from their illness, or deal with the effects of it. Some general nursing duties will be still be involved such as personal care tasks, taking vital signs and giving medication, but you will also be liaising with doctors, workers and other professionals to decide on the best care for the patient. Nursing as a job category is very broad and covers many different kinds of positions, spend some time working out exactly what it is you want to do.

Do You Want To Travel With Your Work?

Even if you don’t plan on travelling or moving abroad right now, a career in nursing can allow you to do this in the future. Being qualified in any medical career gives you options when it comes to living and working. There are very poor parts of the world which desperately need medical aid. However, it gives you the ability to live and work in a country like Australia or America. This isn’t an opportunity that’s available to everyone so is a nice bonus of working as a nurse. You could work in different countries in the world short term, long term or even permanently. It’s an incredible chance to see the world, touch the lives of many and also looks fantastic on your CV. It might not be the driving force for becoming a nurse in the first place, but you can’t deny it’s not a nice bonus!

Nursing is a difficult role, but an amazing one. If you genuinely care about and want to help people, are physically and mentally tough and a hard worker then nursing will suit you down to the ground. Work out what kind of role you most want to do based on the kind of people you want to work with, and from there you can find out what the best route is into the career. It could involve working in a healthcare role, gaining experience and studying part time. Or it could mean doing an undergraduate degree at university. Either way, make sure you know what a demanding and challenging role this is if you’re considering getting into it- and if you think you’re up for the job congratulations. The world needs more people like you.

Are you a nurse, or are you considering getting into a nursing career? What advantages and disadvantages are significant for you when thinking about becoming a nurse?