Becoming a Nurse: Suitability Test (page 2)
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.
- Are you a critical thinker? No matter what specialty you choose, nursing requires lifelong learning and the ability to think on your feet.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do you have a sense of humor? This isn't mandatory, but it will help you get through the tough times!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
In Appreciation for What We Have, by Jacquelynn Pasamba
At the time I was a junior and abroad in the Dominican Republic, I was working as a student nurse along with my fellow classmates, a group of overworked, overcaffeinated, overstressed, and sleep deprived library rat inhabitants. We were a team of six under the supervision and guidance of one very patient professor. That particular day we began the morning in the Labor and Delivery unit at the medical center in San Pedro de Macoraris.
I will never forget the incessant piercing screaming, but even more, the smell of stagnant air—a remarkable mixture of emesis, blood, sweat, and everything in between. Picture a ward with different subsections and rooms separated by walls and doors accordingly, but each filled with as many beds as possible. It is as if the architect engineered the space planning to keep a free flow of movement yet a distinction of rooms in mind. However, the inhabitants had the complete opposite intentions, displayed by their utter disregard for patient privacy with the lack of curtains between beds and lack of patient gowns resulting in an abundance of unnecessary nudity. A lot of the major differences between American and Dominican hospitals and care are rooted in the same necessary evil: funding and lack thereof. The lack of medications, equipment, and resources as mundane as electricity and water—which many Americans take for granted—made us fully comprehend the pure novelty and genius of hand sanitizer dispensers scattered among numerous if not all hospitals in the United States. In addition, we realized the importance of resources such as bedsheets or food trays and quickly learned to appreciate them.
The delivery room was also dimly lit, crowded, smelly, and cold—cold, from the actual appearance of objects to people. The doctors and nurses wanted to get in and and out; everything was a procedure, routine. Patients were categorized versus seen or treated as individuals, people. For instance, none of the patients had identification bands. Only one doctor asked the patient how she was doing, interestingly only at the end of the delivery.
We witnessed two women giving birth adjacent to each other with literally no barrier between the two mothers, not even a curtain. One woman gave life, the other saw what could have been. The doctors examined both babies next to each other. It was a memorable and defining experience. Life and death so close in proximity, literally side by side, within arm's reach. One infant gained color and heat as time progressed, while the other turned darker and colder. The face of the mother when she realized her loss haunts me to this day. She wasn't informed until the end of both deliveries. She was alone in the room with the delivering nurse, still lying in the lithotomy position. Her sheer terror, grief, yet loneliness and emptiness when one stared into her bulging deep brown eyes painted on her blank face; her gasping for air and immediate demand to see her baby, her little girl.
As distressing and heartbreaking as this memory is to me, I've learned to take the positives from each experience. The most remarkable and admirable aspect of the Dominicans I encountered was their ability to find happiness in the most distressing situations. Regardless of their circumstance, whether it be financial, physical, mental, or all of the above, everyone was able to crack a joke, laugh, and enjoy life. When I confessed this thought to my professor she responded, "That's because they don't know anything else." In hindsight I like to think of it as, "It's because of everything they do know."
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