The Challenges of Nursing and How to Overcome Them

Why People Go Into Nursing

People choose to become nurses for a variety of reasons, and motivations can be deeply personal. Often it’s because a person has a strong desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Nurses play a crucial role in patient care and well-being, and the opportunity to contribute to the health and comfort of individuals can be highly rewarding. Another reason is their passion for healthcare. Some individuals have a genuine interest in healthcare and medicine. Nursing allows them to be actively involved in the field, applying medical knowledge and skills to help patients. A third reason is that nursing offers a wide range of specialties and settings. Whether working in a hospital, clinic, school, or community health setting, nurses can choose a path that aligns with their interests and passions.

Anonymous thought the varied roles of nursing would be more enjoyable than doing the same thing, day in and day out like dental hygienists (her alternate option). But her main motivation was more personal. “I grew up listening to my mom, a licensed practical nurse (LPN), tell stories of how she cared for and loved her patients,” she says. “She rubbed their backs and massaged their feet, changed their position in bed, brought them their medication, refilled their water (and their hopes), and spent many hours bringing comfort to them as well as to their families. She just loved helping and serving them. I wanted to be just like her.“

The Education

Becoming a nurse is not a walk in the park. Nursing programs require prerequisites and can be competitive to get into. These programs include classroom instruction, clinical rotations, skills labs, simulation exercises, didactic courses, and often a capstone or clinical intensive course. But the education doesn’t stop there. Once graduated, nursing students must pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam to receive their license and then must earn a certain number of Continuing Education (CE) credits each year to be able to keep that license.

“[Studying to become a nurse is] rigorous,” says Anonymous. “I wasn’t single and going to college, I was married and had 4 children. It was rough. I earned a 4-year degree, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), and had to carry 12-18 credits every semester as well as over one summer so that I could graduate early in December instead of in May. It was dang hard. But I loved it. I love learning new things. The human body is amazing, and I thought I could make a difference in the world even if it was just one patient at a time.”

This rigorous education process prepares nurses to jump into a demanding field, but it’s not until they use that knowledge that it really starts to stick. “Nursing knowledge and experience is quite different from book learning,” says Anonymous. “Once you see a patient with low blood sugar and are able to give them glucose to get their blood sugar back up, helping to save their life, it’s easier to remember what low blood sugar looks like the next time because you’ve experienced it. See one. Do one. Teach one. It’s experience and determination and a grand desire to keep loving and caring for patients and being there for them that leads to satisfaction and success in your chosen career.”

This base education and the constant process of learning new things is what prepares nurses for the many facets of their careers. Nurses work with families, children, doctors, surgical patients, and expecting mothers. They work in emergency rooms, labor and delivery, outpatient clinics, and surgical rooms. They are needed everywhere, and the longer they work, the more experience they gain, leading them to various areas within the nursing field.

The Clinical Environment

Because nurses work in many different places, the environments vary widely. Working in a private doctor’s clinic is more relaxed than working in an ER. But wherever they are, seeing people in pain or who need help can be difficult, especially when you don’t have the time to be as compassionate and helpful as you want to be.

“Nursing is supposed to increase the quality of life for patients and to love and care for them at some of the most difficult moments of their lives,” says Anonymous. “You go into nursing because of the desire to help patients and care for them, but you aren’t necessarily given the time, resources or ability to be set up for success. You could thrive and do well caring for fewer patients but are often given way too many patients so that caring for them, meeting all of their needs, as well as the expectations of the hospital, is nigh impossible.”

Change is Okay

After years in outpatient care, and after working in several different hospitals, Anonymous decided that it was time for a change. She was tired. She’d had many good experiences and a lot of not-so-great ones. She decided to take a nursing job as a case manager in utilization review. “It’s definitely a different area than floor nursing and doing direct patient care, but I needed to be PRN (work as needed) and have more of a flexible schedule,” she says. “They said it was kind of like detective work, seeking for the signs and symptoms that qualify a patient for inpatient status rather than observation status. It’s a lot of computer work and managing several different applications at one time. I do miss patient care at times, but not enough to go back. At least at this point in my life.”

How to Make the Most of It

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, We asked Anonymous what she would tell other nursing students. “My advice would be—at the end of the day—to look back at all the things you did and all the things you accomplished on your shift and find satisfaction and joy in those things you were able to do. If you look at the things you didn’t do, or couldn’t get to, you’ll somehow feel like you failed and that’s a hard way to live.”