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So, you want to be an RN?

Have you ever considered being a nurse? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of nursing has a projected growth of 19%, much faster than that of most other professions. To give you some insight into what it’s really like to be a nurse, I interviewed my mother.


Q: What’s your official title/position?

A: My official title is RN team coordinator (charge nurse). I work on the orthopedics/oncology medical-surgical unit, and I have been an RN for 28 years.


Q: What’s your level of education?

A: I have an associate’s degree in nursing, and I am currently working on my bachelor’s degree. Most places nowadays will want you to have at least a bachelor’s degree.


Q: How challenging is nursing school?

A: It will vary from person to person, of course, but nursing school is not easy. When I was in nursing school, I had to have an 80% or above in every class, and I’m sure it’s only becoming more difficult and competitive. Also, you have to pass a board exam at the end of your schooling. Nursing school is definitely not as easy as everyone thinks it is.


Q: What’s your level of income?

A: I’m not permitted to disclose my personal income, but most registered nurses can expect to make anywhere from 60-100k.


Q: What are your hours like?

A: For my first 9 years as an RN, I worked 12-hour shifts, either from 7am-7pm or 7pm-7am, 3 times one week and 4 times the next. Now I work Monday-Friday 7am-3:30pm.


Q: Is there ability for growth in your current position?

A: Yes. I could get my master’s and become a patient care director, but I am happy in my current role.  


Q: What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

A: Dealing with reimbursement issues with insurance companies and the disposition of patients (discharging them to a safe environment).


Q: Aside from any monetary aspect, do you wish you had chosen a different career?

A: Absolutely not.

Q: How fulfilled do you feel at work?

A: Very. Quick health turnarounds, that is, really sick patients seeing improvement quickly, proves to be a very fulfilling experience. Rapport with family members during end-of-life care is truly an amazing experience. Also, coworkers in nursing build really strong relationships through trusting one another- we have each other’s backs, life family.


Q: How stressful is your job?

A: It depends on the day. One day can be little to no stress and the next can be high stress depending on the census (number of patients) and acuity (severity from case to case). Communicating can also be high stress at times. You’re part of an interdisciplinary team. You work with physicians, physical therapists, nutritionists, case managers, etc. Coordinating care among the different teams can be a challenge.


Q: Do you feel respected at work?

A: Yes, I am respected by nurses and doctors alike, but you definitely have to prove yourself and work your way up.


Q: What qualities do you think are most important to have as a registered nurse?

A: You need to have the ability to organize care. In other words, you need to be able to handle 25 patient’s cases at a time. Managing the care of multiple patients at a time can prove to be quite challenging. Critical thinking skills are also very important. Most importantly, however, is communication. Communication, whether it be between nurses and physicians, nurses and patients, etc., can save lives.


Q: Is it hard working with cancer patients?

A: No. I love it. You’re with them when they get a horrible diagnosis and you’re with them through a very difficult time. You build a relationship with them and their families and get to see them progress. Having a patient pass, however, can be an emotional time.


Q: What does a day at work look life for you?

A: I arrive a little before 7am. First, I present the team huddle- we go over what’s going on in the unit, review education, and analyze quality measures from patient surveys (communication, hygiene, falls, etc.) Then I will look over all the charts of the patients on my floor. This includes their labs, x-rays, etc. I like to get a picture of what we’re dealing with for the day. Then I will go around and talk briefly with the patients, and then make rounds with the doctors. Throughout the day, I work closely with the case manager to get patients safely discharged, check orders from patients, and problem solve with the physicians. Before I leave for the day, I report to the next person who comes in.


Q: What’s your biggest piece of advice for aspiring registered nurses?

A: Get all of the experience you can while you’re young. Take advantage of the versatility and opportunity for advancement that nursing offers. Don’t be afraid to change roles and try new things. 


“God found some of the strongest women and made them nurses.”

Penn State 2023 | Biobehavioral Health
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