Some of us know what we want to do with our lives from the time we are small children. My brother wanted to be a fireman (he currently works for an oil company – I guess he kind of went the other way with that one). My sister wanted to be a veterinarian and instead she is pursuing a degree in accounting. I, ever the odd egg, told my mother than I wanted to be a chicken when I grew up; not in a metaphorical sense, either. I have no idea what I was thinking at the time, but clearly my aspirations grew (thank goodness). In any case, we all have dreams of grandeur when we’re young. And some special people embrace the lofty goal of helping and caring for others in need. But wanting a career and actually being able to do the job are two different things. So how do you know if nursing is right for you? Here are a few traits you’ll definitely need if you want to pursue a successful and fulfilling career in nursing.
- Compassion. This is the number one trait that separates good nurses from the rest. Certainly you need an education, and your patients will appreciate the use of your vast knowledge and technical skill on their behalf, but bedside manner is important, especially when people are frightened and in pain. If you truly care about your patients it shows, and when you connect with them you can help them to cope with whatever they’re going through. As a caregiver, there is no higher calling than to soothe the souls of your wards just as much as their bodies.
- A strong constitution. Let’s face it: nurses definitely have to deal with some sights, sounds, and smells that the average person would find gut-wrenching. Depending on where you work (ER versus private practice, for example) you could be called upon to deal with everyone from trauma patients (those involved in car accidents, say) to those who are experiencing digestive trauma (nausea, vomiting, and other unfortunate expulsions). The point is, you still have to treat patients with dignity and respect (not to mention keep your lunch down). So a strong constitution is a must if you want to make it in just about any medical field.
- Attention to detail. Nurses are often the first people to see patients and they are responsible for passing important information along to doctors and other staff. They also have a heavy burden of accountability when it comes to filling out paperwork pertaining to their cases. In other words, scatter-brained applicants need not apply.
- Adaptable nature. If you’re one of those people that can’t change directions midstream (i.e. you get flustered when interrupted or forced to multitask), then nursing may not be the profession for you. This demanding job will keep you on your toes with a variety of challenging tasks each day and you have to be able to keep up and prioritize.
- Communication skills. Although you will want to obtain an online nursing masters or other degree in pursuit of your professional goals, you may also want to take a few courses that will help you to hone your communication skills. Since you will often serve as an interface between patients and staff it is important that you can relate information in a concise and efficient manner. But you also need to convey a sympathetic and helpful tone when it comes to dealing with patients and their loved ones.