Deciding on a nursing career: the good, the bad, and the underappreciated

by Jul 17, 2020

How do you want to contribute to the world? To take one small corner of it and shape it into something better than it was? These can seem like lofty questions, but they are important ones to answer for yourself. This is especially true if you are one of many university students working towards defining what you want your major to be, or looking to change degrees. Of course, your goals can change over time, but whatever you choose as a major will likely set you down a path that will open thousands of doors while closing others.

For many students, the ultimate way to contribute to improving the world lies within the field of healthcare. Particularly within nursing, as this career offers more direct interaction with the day-to-day struggles of patients. Nursing can be a profoundly rewarding career path and is a worthy endeavor. However, choosing nursing should not be a decision made lightly because ‘everyone else is doing it.’ At times, it can be one of the most challenging, unforgiving jobs on the planet.

If you are considering a career in nursing, here is a brief breakdown of what to expect: the good, the bad, and the underappreciated.

The good

There are more worthy reasons to be a nurse than can probably be described in a single blog post. It is easy to see that nurses make the world a better place by caring for us when we are at our worst. They ease our pain, provide comfort, help us maintain our dignity, and shower us with encouragement when we’re down. It isn’t hard to see why the nursing profession consistently ranks amongst the most trusted professions globally.

Beyond just the sheer good feeling that comes with being able to help people in such a direct way, there are numerous practical benefits to choosing nursing over a different career path. For instance, from an educational and personal development perspective, nursing degrees:

  • Allow for a quicker entry into the workforce. Compared to other healthcare professions, nurses graduate more quickly and start making a difference faster
  • Offer variety – within nursing, there is plenty of room to specialize
  • Create opportunity – nurses can go back to school to gain further education and open even more possibilities

Once you graduate from a nursing program, chances are you will find a job relatively quickly. Nurses are needed globally, which means you will have the ability to live just about anywhere you want, provided you undertake the required training to work in the healthcare system of your new country of choice. Nursing offers a solid starting wage with many opportunities for salary increases. Some employers even allow for relatively flexible work schedules.   

The bad

As expected, not everything is peaches and rainbows in the nursing world. There are certainly pros and cons to considering a career in nursing and the healthcare industry in general. For example, although many employers offer flexible schedules, someone always needs to be on call whether it’s the weekend, the night shift, or even Christmas Day. As a newer employee, chances are that many of the less desired shifts will fall to you at first.

Nursing is also a stressful career. Sure, you’re doing your best to improve people’s lives, but that isn’t always easy. Emergency situations call for snap decisions and a cool head under pressure. Oftentimes, the decisions you are making – the good and the bad – can have lasting impacts. Even if the situation isn’t life-threatening, you are charged with keeping the health of another person stable or improving at all times.

Both while in school studying and after graduation, it will be critical to maintain a solid work-life balance so you don’t get burned out. While in school, create a schedule you can stick to, don’t procrastinate on assignments, and take time off when you really need it. Once you enter the working world, find ways to separate your life from the lives of patients under your care, use your annual leave, and build a strong support system outside of work.

The underappreciated

Although nurses are trusted and respected above nearly every other career including other careers within healthcare, they can also be deeply underappreciated. For instance, while nurses have medical degrees and spend a great deal of time with patients, their suggestions on treatments can easily be ignored by doctors who take nurses for granted. Not only can this make for a difficult work environment where you feel underappreciated, but it can cause long term harm to patient health in some instances.

Patients are not always the angels we would like them to be, either. As a nurse, it should be expected that many of the people you treat will not express much gratitude. In reality, they might not express much more than disgruntled complaints about their entire tenure under your care. Some cases can be easy to look past as people act out and say things they don’t mean when in pain, but others leave lasting impressions that can make it difficult to remember that your job is to help everyone no matter how they treat you in return.

Even in modern pandemics, nurses can feel highly undervalued. Covid-19 is a prime example of how under-supported many healthcare professionals can be. In the U.S., nurses have been forced to work without proper personal protective equipment due to national shortages. Many have struggled with mentally coping with such challenging medical situations, and some have been discriminated against for wearing scrubs to the grocery store (because of fears they may be spreading the virus).

There is a great deal to consider before making the choice to pursue a nursing degree. Though there are certainly some negatives associated with the job, there are just as many, if not more, positives. Nursing can be profoundly rewarding for those who have the mentality and compassion to make it a lasting career.

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay

Charlie Fletcher

Charlie Fletcher

Freelance writer

Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. You can follow her work at