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5 Things You Should Know About Working as a Nurse

Some people are lucky enough to feel that they have a real calling toward one particular job or career field. Nurses tend to be these kinds of people. If you know someone with a profound desire to help others and a fierce work ethic and intellect to match, they just might work in nursing. But, while the job can be quite fulfilling, it's far from an easy career path. Let's get real about what it's like to work as a nurse in 2016. Here are a few things you should know.

Some people are lucky enough to feel that they have a real calling toward one particular job or career field. Nurses tend to be these kinds of people. If you know someone with a profound desire to help others and a fierce work ethic and intellect to match, they just might work in nursing. But, while the job can be quite fulfilling, it’s far from an easy career path. Let’s get real about what it’s like to work as a nurse in 2016. Here are a few things you should know.

nurses

(Photo Credit: All-Nite Images/Flickr)

1. Nurses find the work meaningful and fulfilling.

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First and foremost, nurses know that they are making a real difference in people’s lives every day when they go to work. PayScale’s Most and Least Meaningful Jobs report is a great illustration of this fact. Healthcare jobs are ranked very high in terms of meaning.

Doctors and surgeons report only slightly higher job meaning than registered nurses. However, RNs earn significantly less than physicians, and other aspects of the career can be quite trying as well. The meaningfulness of the work itself is certainly important to nurses, but other factors of the job influence their lives as well.

2. Nurses work long hours and the work is physically exhausting.

Many nurses work 12-hour shifts, at least three days a week. And, keep in mind that these extra-long shifts are not spent behind a desk. Nurses are on their feet constantly, literally running from one place to the next. Also, they are often asked to work overtime and may feel they have no choice but to do so.

“Hospital nurses are overworked, even in primary care,” a RN who wished to be anonymous for fear of being fired told The Times Free Press. “I am expected to do the job of three full-time registered nurses — mandatory overtime, long shifts with little pay, poor benefits, not to mention the compassion-exhaustion effect. It is back-breaking and emotionally draining work. That’s why there’s lots of burnout.”

3. Nurses are extremely stressed.

Yes, the work is physically draining, but there is a lot more to it than that. Nurses have a tremendous amount of responsibility. They are expected to reliably provide the highest quality care to a wide range of patients while also remaining a font of emotional strength. A survey conducted by the American Nursing Association found significant stress levels among nurses. During the last decade, nurses have identified stress and overwork as their major health and safety concerns, and they routinely report the highest levels of stress of all healthcare professionals.

4. The gender pay gap persists, even in a female-dominated field.

Nursing, along with other “caring industry” jobs like teacher and home health aide, continues to be heavily female-dominated. In fact, PayScale data show that 88 percent of registered nurses are female.

Even in this woman-heavy field, however, the gender pay gap continues to be an issue for working women. One study found that the controlled gender pay gap between male and female nurses was about $5,000 on average. It’s almost twice that, if we don’t control for job titles and time in the workforce. (Men in the profession are more likely to gravitate toward higher-paying jobs and less likely to take time out to raise a family.)

5. The job of a nurse is very important … and changing.

It goes without saying, but it’s important to note that nurses’ work is extremely important. They have a tremendous amount of responsibility, and are asked to juggle all of the factors listed above while remaining calm beacons of care, support, and skill. As time goes on, healthcare industry jobs are changing.

“Changes with insurance deductibles created great stress for patients, decreased reimbursement created stress and frustration for hospital administrators, and physicians and nursing seemed to be the place where cutbacks were made,” one nurse told the Times Free Press. “The stress of someone’s life being in your hands is bad enough, but then add frustrated patients, administrators and physicians on top of it and that makes for a miserable situation.”

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