How to decide if becoming a nurse is the right career path for you?

Choosing a career can be a tricky decision. While some people know exactly what they want to do from a very young age, for others it’s not always clear what jobs we’ll enjoy or which we’ll be good at. You might have an idea of the type of work you want to do, but not the specific role itself. One common feeling people have is that they want to pursue a career in which they can help others. If that sounds like you, one of the options you might have been considering is nursing.

Being a nurse has many benefits, from high levels of employability and job security to a wealth of options for career advancement. On the other hand, it can be a tiring and stressful role at times. That’s why it’s important to think carefully about whether or not the job is right for you before jumping into training. To help you out, this article will outline the role in more detail and also talk about the sort of skills and characteristics you’ll need in order to excel in it.

The role of a nurse

Nursing is a very varied and interesting field, and the precise duties you have will depend on where you’re employed and the type of patients that you see. Nurses function as a key part of a wider healthcare team, providing primary care to those in need. This could be in a hospital, physician’s office, private clinic, specialist treatment center, correctional facility, school, assisted living facility, or a number of other locations. Some of the most common tasks you can expect to perform include:

  • Taking medical histories
  • Updating patient records
  • Running diagnostic screenings and tests
  • Conducting physical examinations
  • Taking blood
  • Dressing wounds
  • Administering vaccinations and other types of medication
  • Assisting with certain medical procedures
  • Providing emotional support to patients and their families
  • Educating patients and the general public on a range of relevant issues, such as healthy living and disease prevention or management
  • Undertaking other administrative tasks
  • Coordinating with different healthcare professionals

Career progression options

As you gain experience and improve your skills, you will have plenty of opportunities for specialization within your nursing career. This puts you in the enviable position of being able to carve out a job that truly matches your specific interests, talents and personality. As a rough guide, advanced roles in nursing can be divided into direct patient care positions and indirect patient care positions.

Direct patient care covers advanced clinical roles, and there are many different specialisms available. For example, the acute care pediatric nurse practitioner program by Baylor University trains you to work with children, while other courses might focus on areas such as psychiatric care, oncology or trauma.

When it comes to indirect patient care roles, there are all sorts of interesting options open to you. For instance, you could become a nurse educator and train up new nurses, move into nursing informatics and focus on the applications of computing in nursing, take on a management role, do research, or lobby for improvements in healthcare legislation.

Skills required to be a great nurse

During your nursing degree you’ll be taught all of the specialist knowledge and clinical skills necessary to work in the field. However, there are also a number of more general transferable skills that you will need in order to succeed. For example:

  • Communication skills to explain complex medical information to those with no prior knowledge of the subject, or who are upset or feeling stressed
  • Interpersonal skills for working with healthcare professionals from different fields, and patients from all walks of life
  • Attention to detail for dealing with precise dosages of different medications, checking information such as batch numbers and expiry dates carefully, and picking up on symptoms and side effects that might not be obvious
  • Organization and time management skills to cope with the fast pace of the job and treat lots of different patients every day, each with their own needs and medical concerns
  • Physical fitness and stamina to work long shifts on your feet

Don’t worry if this sounds intimidating, because the clinical placements you undertake on your nursing course will help you to develop all of these skills. Remember that you can always ask more experienced nurses for feedback and advice – they’re sure to be happy to help you.

Characteristics of an excellent nurse

In addition to the skills mentioned above, there are certain characteristics and personality traits that will elevate you from a good nurse to a fantastic one. This is often what people are referring to when they talk about a medical professional having a great ‘bedside manner’. For instance:

  • Empathy and compassion to enable you to put yourself in your patient’s shoes and understand what they’re going through. This will help you to provide the best emotional support for them and their families
  • A positive and friendly attitude to reassure patients when they’re scared or stressed out
  • Patience, especially when dealing with young children or elderly patients
  • Integrity, professionalism and honesty, so you can act as a role model in your community and gain the trust of your patients
  • Adaptability to cope with the inevitable unexpected problems and emergencies that arise in nursing
  • Mental stamina to avoid burnout after long shifts or difficult cases
  • The ability to set a clear boundary between work and your personal life, to avoid upsetting situations having a negative impact on your mental wellbeing or family relationships
  • A desire to continue learning throughout your career, in order to keep up with all the latest developments in technology and treatments
  • A willingness to go the extra mile for your patients – after all, that’s what nursing is all about


Hopefully this post has given you a better idea of what the job of a nurse is like and the sort of person that it suits, in order to help you figure out whether it’s the right path for you. Rest assured that for those who are passionate about caring for others in a healthcare setting, the good points of the job are sure to outweigh the bad. Nursing is a field in which people report high levels of job satisfaction; so if you choose this path, you can anticipate a rewarding career ahead of you.