Changing Careers to Nursing: 5 Things You Should Know

Changing Careers to Nursing: 5 Things You Should Know

By Sarah Stasik, Contributor

With RNs making a mean wage of $70,000 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, changing careers to nursing may seem like a fabulous idea. Before you sign up for nursing school or apply to hospitals, make sure you truly understand what a career as an RN is all about. 

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5 Things to Know Before Changing Careers to Nursing

Shantay Carter is a nurse at North Shore-LIJ Health System and founder of the inspirational Women of Integrity organization. Carter knows what's involved in a nursing career. She knew at a young age that her passion was in helping people and that nursing could open doors for her in that area. She started working with healthcare organizations as a volunteer candy striper in high school before going on to earn her nursing degree and work as an RN.

Here's what Carter says individuals need to know before changing careers to nursing.

It's not all about the money. Yes, RNs can make good money. But they also work hard and deal with very complex issues, so individuals that are showing up only for a paycheck may burnout faster than those with more of a stake in the game.

Kyle Elliott, a career coach specializing in career transitions, points out that prospective nurses do have to be careful of the other side of this sword. "A lot of people go into nursing because they want to help people. Recognize that you can't heal everyone. There will be patients you can't save and people who don't want to get better."

Having realistic goals for your potential nursing career helps you avoid issues such as compassion fatigue.

The educational requirements can be a game changer. Nurses must earn a degree, pass licensure exams and stay up-to-date on continuing education requirements. Carter advises researching all these requirements so you know if you can commit to the education needed to become and remain a nurse.

You may not know what a nurse really does. Carter says to "research and ask questions about the role of a nurse and what will be required and expected from you." Grey's Anatomy and other shows don't always provide the most accurate depiction of nursing work and lifestyle, so talk to RNs you know or check out volunteering opportunities at local hospitals so you can get an inside look.

You need to be able to handle the gross factor. "Make sure you can stand the sight of bodily fluids," says Carter. It's not just about being able to see blood, vomit, feces or urine, though. Carter points out that nurses may have to clean it up.

Hours can be long and overwhelming. "This job will have long hours and times where you feel overwhelmed and unappreciated," Carter points out. "But knowing that your compassion and love of helping people makes it all worth it is important. If you don't have that, then you should think before changing careers to nursing."

Bottom line: as with every career change it is important to research and ask questions. Knowing what you enjoy doing, are passionate about and have the ability to do daily is key to long-term happiness and career success. 

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