The Pros and Cons of Nursing (page 3)

Updated on Dec 8, 2010


Most hospitals and other agencies offer sick leave, paid holidays, vacation time, shift differential, occupational health services, employee assistance programs, health insurance benefits, and retirement plans. Others also offer additional benefits or discounted services that include: short- and long-term disability plans, life insurance, long-term care insurance, tax-sheltered annuities, credit unions, and parking.

The nursing shortage has given rise to a wide range of benefits as an incentive to fill their mounting vacancies. Some of these include:

  • Sign-on bonuses that can range from $500 to $20,000. These typically require that you stay employed at that facility for a period of time—the longer the time, the bigger the bonus.
  • Tuition reimbursement. You can advance your education at little to no cost.
  • Relocation assistance. This makes it easier for you to uproot your family to a new location.
  • Housing assistance. Employment facility-owned housing can also cost less per month.
  • Day care. Day care on the worksite or nearby decreases your out-of pocket expenses for child care.

Flexible Scheduling

The need for nurses has increased the availability of flexible schedules for both full- and part-time employees. Hospitals and other agencies often offer 4-, 8-, 10-, and 12-hour shifts and allow you to work weekdays, weekends, or both. Twelve-hour shifts sound, and often are, grueling. But working three 12-hour days per week usually means you are off for the other four days. Flexible shifts are especially helpful for working parents, allowing one of them to be available to the children at all times.

Opportunities for Self-Employment

Many nurses have struck out on their own, combining their nursing knowledge with business know-how. Some have their own businesses and even employ other nurses, while others are independent contractors. Practicing independently gives you more autonomy, more income, and more control over your professional life.

Making a Difference

You can help bring a baby into the world, hold a lonely elder's hand when she dies, breathe life back into a man who had a heart attack, lift a depressed person's spirits, or ease the pain of an injured child. Few careers give you the opportunity to impact on so many lives in so many different ways. There is no greater benefit than having a client thank you for making them feel better. As a nurse you can, and will, make a difference.


No job is perfect, and nursing is no exception. The job is demanding and challenging. Beginning salaries are high, but in most cases they plateau, creating frustration for experienced nurses. Hazards abound because nurses are exposed to infectious diseases, chemicals, and violence, and the hours can be long.

Nursing Is a Demanding Profession

Nursing is a physically and psychologically demanding profession, and the nursing shortage has increased these demands. Fewer nurses mean more clients per nurse and less time per client. Nurses are forced to work overtime, adding to their exhaustion, and the decrease in client contact creates frustration because nurses can't do what they were educated to do.

Shift work can cause adverse physical and psychological effects, including disruption in your biological rhythm, sleep disorders, health problems, diminished work performance, job dissatisfaction, and social isolation. Nurses spend much of their day on their feet, causing foot, leg, and back problems for many. Back problems can also arise from all the lifting that is required. Most of the latter problems can be minimized with good shoes, suitable hosiery, and proper body mechanics.

Nurses are there when bad things happen to people. Cancer, accidents, mental illness, violence, and death are but a few of the issues that nurses deal with on a regular basis. They also work closely with clients' families, and they often need to make critical decisions and deal with ethical dilemmas. While it's rewarding to help people through these tough times, it can also be psychologically draining. Unlike other healthcare professionals, nurses have an intimate relationship with clients, caring for their most personal needs—bathing them, helping them use the toilet. Nurses are also with hospitalized clients around the clock. Working with people at some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives makes some workdays difficult, and nurses must take steps to assure that this stress doesn't affect their professional, personal, or family life.

Potentially Dangerous Work Conditions

Nursing can be hazardous to your health, especially nursing in hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and home care where nurses may come in contact with infectious diseases, toxic chemicals, potent medications, and hazardous waste. Nurses must observe strict standardized guidelines to protect themselves and others from disease and other dangers, including accidental needle sticks and radiation.

Emergency nurses care for victims and offenders of violent crimes, thus making emergency rooms dangerous places to work at times. Some emergency departments have round-the-clock police protection. All nurses work with victims of family violence—child abuse, intimate partner violence, and elder abuse, and all work with clients who have psychiatric disorders, even if that is not their primary diagnosis. Violence has become a concern in healthcare. But while the exposure to violence presents a disadvantage to nurses, it also has become an opportunity in the form of a relatively new specialty, forensic nursing.

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