In the mix: The Professor’s Perspective: Am I sure I want to be a nurse?

Stressed Out Nurses Weekly, September 22, 2008

By Richard Freedberg, RN, MSN, MPA

I'm not sure I still want to be a nurse. Has this thought ever crossed your mind? Whether you have heard fellow students or new graduates openly disclose it, it's fairly safe to assume many share the same doubts and apprehensions. Here's what we all need to agree on: It is never wrong to have doubts since they are an important part of the human experience. They sometimes prevent us from blindly racing down the wrong path. We should also recognize qualms can arise from insecurity about unfamiliar situations, in which case, we ought to have a reasoned and reflective conversation. So, let's talk ...

There are a couple of important questions to ask. The first: What does not wanting to be a nurse mean? Are you questioning your knowledge base and cognitive or thinking capability? Or are you perhaps concerned about your clinical ability? Perhaps you fear making the wrong decision and inadvertently causing harm to a patient. Maybe it is a more elemental concern; you are really uncomfortable being around sick people who need you and feel some conflict about that. Or might it be that your studies and recent experiences have made you aware of new potential opportunities more congruent with your interests and life goals? 

Let's take a look at some of these questions.

We need to take a moment and remember we don't necessarily feel confident with newly acquired knowledge and skills. Remember the first week after learning how to ride a bike or how to drive a car or how to give a subcutaneous injection, insert a NG, or start an IV or ... (insert any one of a billion potential items here!). We just barely knew how. We could do it, but there was a lot of uncertainty and fear of failure. The analogy to initial nursing practice is appropriate. Some pretty seasoned nurse theorists and educators uniformly agree students and new graduates experience an unsettling transition period during which fledgling nurses find their nursing voice, mindset, and rhythm prior to feeling ANY (sorry for shouting) level of comfort in their nursing practice. The take home message is this: Time truly does make a wonderful difference. We feel comfort, purpose, and professional gratification in the clinical environment through practice and experience.

We also need to consider the motivations and expectations that led to our decisions to become nurses ...

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