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Becoming a Nurse: Suitability Test

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Updated on Dec 8, 2010

After weighing the pros and cons and getting psyched about the nursing experience, you know you want to be a nurse. Now you're probably asking yourself, "Do I have what it takes to be a nurse?" Answer the following questions.

  1. Are you a critical thinker? No matter what specialty you choose, nursing requires lifelong learning and the ability to think on your feet.
  2. Can you handle the physical demands? You'll do a lot of lifting and standing as a nursing student. But you can choose a less physically demanding job, such as psychiatric or school nursing, when you graduate.
  3. Do you have a strong stomach? Nurses handle sputum, vomit, urine, stool, and other unpleasant excrement. Again, you can opt for a less messy specialty after graduation, but you'll still get your gloved hands dirty as a student.
  4. Do you have people skills? While there are a few nursing jobs with little people contact, most require an ability to communicate with others. You only need the ability to get along with others to get started; you'll learn therapeutic communication during your nursing education.
  5. Are you flexible? Things change quickly when you work with clients. You may face unexpected admissions, sudden changes in your clients' status, a disaster drill, or equipment failure. Regardless of what happens, you need to be able to go with the flow.
  6. Are you patient? It may take several minutes to feed a client a bowl of soup or to get someone out of bed after surgery. You need to be able to exercise patience, even though you have a long list of other things to do.
  7. Do you like working with a team? Today's healthcare system is just that, a system, and nurses are a critical component of the interdisciplinary team. All nurses work with others, including those in independent practice who still collaborate with other professionals.
  8. Are you in love with learning? Healthcare changes rapidly and nursing education is lifelong. In fact, many states require that nurses complete 10 to 30 hours of continuing education to renew their licenses.
  9. Do you have a sense of humor? This isn't mandatory, but it will help you get through the tough times!
  10. Do you want to help others? If so, you can learn to manage questions 1 through 6.

If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, you have nursing potential. If you answered "yes" to all of them, what are you waiting for? Talk to a career counselor or a nursing program advisor.

Now that you think you found your dream career, other questions may come to your mind. You're not alone. Many people ask these same questions when considering nursing.

  1. Am I too old to be a nurse? Some people enter nursing after retiring from another career. As long as you can handle the physical and psychological challenges of nursing, you're never too old.
  2. What if I do poorly on exams? You will have to take exams throughout school, as well as your licensing exam (NCLEX). If you have difficulty, talk to an advisor before applying for admission. Ask about their academic support system. Most schools have personnel to help you with your learning needs.
  3. What if I'm bad at math? You do need basic math skills. Brush up before you start your nursing program, or ask an advisor about math tutors or remedial courses. Most programs allow calculators, so make sure to purchase one before you start. Cell phones are not allowed during exams (to prevent text-cheating) or on client units (because of confidentiality), so get an old-fashioned pocket calculator.
  4. How do I know if I have a strong stomach? If you have gotten this far in life without getting your hands dirty, ask to shadow a hospital nurse for a day. Confidentiality rules will limit what you can see, but you should be able to see, hear, and smell enough to find out the extent of your stomach's strength.
  5. Can I be a nurse if I have a disability? Nurses do need to be able to perform certain essential skills. If you are concerned about your disability interfering with your career goals, talk to an advisor. There may be special equipment or circumstances to help you meet those goals, and nursing programs provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Only you can make the final decision to become a nurse. But you don't have to reach that decision alone. Besides seeking professional career advice, talk to nurses. Ask them about the advantages and disadvantages. Most importantly, ask them, if they had to start over, would they still be a nurse?

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