Although the current nursing shortage in the United States pushes a lot of people to consider nursing as a career, it’s not the type of job that’s suited to everyone. Like teaching or social work, this profession is one that can quickly wear down a person who is not 100 percent committed to making a difference. If this is a field you’re interested in, you might want to take an internal look to see if you’ve got the personality suited for nursing.
Caring Personality: Nurses, by definition, are caregivers. They provide both physical and emotional care to patients, families, and other stakeholders in health. Being concerned about the well-being of others is one of the most important traits you can have. This includes traits like empathy and compassion.
Detail-Oriented: The health care field is one that pays very strict attention to details. All patient care is charted and documented, and nurses often have to juggle several patients all at one time. Being focused and able to work through mountains of paperwork are key.
Emotional Strength: Nursing can be heartbreaking, devastating work. Patients die, babies suffer life-altering diseases, and families break down before your very eyes. If you don’t have the capability to handle this kind of devastation (or if you don’t have a support framework in place to help you), this might not be the right job for you.
Physical Strength: Nursing is also physically demanding work. You’ll most likely be on your feet, moving through the hospital, and lifting patients through the whole eight hour shift (if not longer) every day. Being strong and healthy and paying attention to your overall health are important in avoiding burnout.
Flexibility: This can be a fast-paced field that is always changing and shifting—and you have to be prepared to change and shift along with it. The ability to make fast decisions and adjust to circumstances can go a long way in boosting your success.
Great Communication: You will spend your days navigating relationships between health care providers, patients, family members, advocacy services, hospital administrators, law enforcement, and a range of people who are both emotionally and financially invested in the health care outcomes you provide. A good nurse is able to handle all of this on top of an already heavy workload.
The good news for those who don’t have all these traits is that this list is primarily focused on practicing nurses in a clinical setting. If you find that some of these qualities aren’t exactly your style, you can always turn to academic nursing (research or public health development) or other fields (such as forensic nursing in a legal setting or even hospital administration).