Why You Shouldn’t Ask a Nursing Student Why They’re Not Becoming a Doctor


Disclaimer: I am not trying to undermine the importance of doctors, but bring to attention the equal importance of nurses.

I have wanted to be a pediatric nurse since I can remember and it has always been my ultimate goal in life. So it always seems odd to me when people tell me I’m smart and ask why I don’t become a doctor, surgeon, or anesthesiologist? Why are nurses looked as an inferior job to “higher-level” medical professions? When people say that I am too intelligent or hard-working to be a nurse, it is implying that nurses are not as smart or determined as doctors. This is not the case. Nurses can work 12-hour days cleaning up puke, dealing with angry patients and family members, making sure patients are getting the right medical care, and so much more. Nurses have to apply their intelligence along with their patience and compassion during all of their shifts. Nursing is not an inferior job to being a doctor.

I am not writing this piece to attack people who may have asked a nurse why they aren’t a doctor. This is a piece written during my journey of learning more about nurses and the nursing world. I never knew this was an issue until I became a nursing student and found myself confronted with these questions. I am learning about the identity of nurses and the advantages and challenges of becoming a nurse. I hope after reading this, people will come to an appreciation of the hard, mentally challenging work that nurses do.

The American Nursing Association defines nursing as, “the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, facilitation of healing, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations.” To me, this is a big and important job. Nurses can make or break a patient’s stay in the hospital. Nurses are the people the patients see every day and who take care of them at their worst of times. Especially in large hospital settings, doctors often aren’t present on the hospital floor or immediately available so nurses are the first on-hand when emergency situations occur. As a nurse, you are not only relaying information to the doctor but providing the patient and their family with care and comfort to make their experience the best it can be.

I think a big reason that people ask me why I wouldn’t rather be a doctor or something “higher” than a nurse is because being a doctor is often looked at as a stable job that will provide you with a good paycheck. Both doctors and nurses are vital to the medical field and are doing amazing work -- and it’s not just for the paycheck.

I want to be a pediatric nurse. I want to be able to make a kid smile when they’re down or be there so they can have someone when they don’t want to smile. Kids are miraculous human beings that can bounce back after a bad infection or injury, but they also don’t have the age or experience to sometimes deal with all that is happening. I don’t only want to be a nurse so I can make sure kids are getting the best medical care possible, but I also want to be there for the kids who need someone to tell them a joke or listen to what’s going on in their life.

As a doctor, I might not be able to sit around and listen to a kid tell their story. As a doctor, I wouldn’t be able to take the time to know each and every patient and their families. As a nurse, I will be able to practice medicine while having the opportunity to build relationships with fellow nurses and patients. I will be able to take the time to make sure kids are getting the best medical care possible. And hopefully, I will be able to make a child’s dark moments a little brighter.

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