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Nurses Badly Needed — But Is Nursing for You?

There is no doubt that there is a great demand for nurses, and that demand will likely rise in the coming decade. If you are young and wondering what career path you want to take, nursing may be for you. There will likely be greater demand for nurses than even for doctors in the near future. There is a serious nursing shortage, and the field is varied. Nurses are, of course, needed in hospitals, and there are varied opportunities in the hospital setting. Long term care will likely see the greatest growth as the current population ages. Home care and hospice will also have increased need. Nurses are needed in doctor’s offices, clinics, schools, and even exciting fields such as the flight nurses who ride on the Flight For Life helicopters, or in the military. With nursing, the world is wide open.

However, prospective nurses will face frustrations in receiving training. I will be referring to my own experiences, but other people I’ve spoken to have reported similar occurrences.

The community college where I am receiving my training states that prospective nurses can obtain their license in one year if they attend the program full time, or in two years if they attend part time. What is not pointed out initially is the fact that there are also twenty-four credit hours of prerequisite classes that are required, and that once these classes are completed, the individual goes onto a wait list. I was on said wait list for three years. 

The part time course, which I opted for due to the fact that I work full time, is really more like a full course load, averaging twelve to fifteen credit hours per semester. The full time course load is thus twenty-four to thirty credit hours per semester. A person really cannot work while studying with the full-time program. Financial aid is decent, depending on one’s income. I receive $16,000 per year. My current income is $27,000 per year. I really need every bit of financial aid that I can get because I end up taking days off from work. The nursing program is exhausting. Fortunately, I have helpful co-workers and an understanding supervisor. Not everyone is so lucky.

There is not a lot of flexibility with scheduling. The classes start in the early morning. There is no afternoon or evening option. Clinicals are 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. only. For one semester, clinicals run two days a week. In the subsequent semester, they are three to four days a week. Currently, I am working to build up my paid time off, because I am going to need it in the last semester.

There are a lot of lecture classes. I wish there had been an online option for these. Working graveyard shifts and then having to go to school at 8 a.m. is not my idea of a good time. These are the realities that one must be prepared for when entering a nursing program. Unlike some other types of training, there is not a lot of flexibility. Then, should the student stick with the program, there is still the challenge of passing the NCLEX exam.

In defense of the school, they do not have the funding to pay the instructors what they are worth, and consequently, there are not enough instructors to give the students the flexibility of taking day, evening, or online classes. It is the hospital and not the school which determined that there would only be a day clinical rotation. The program director tried to push for a 2 p.m.–10 p.m. option, but the hospital said “no go.” The equipment that we have to practice skills with is mostly outdated. We were even given latex sterile gloves, an item which is no longer in use in most hospitals. Many people, myself included, are sensitive to latex. Whenever I had to demonstrate a procedure which required sterile technique, I had to put on a pair of clean (not sterile) non-latex gloves and take the largest size of sterile glove so the latex wouldn’t touch my skin.

However, if nursing interests you, it is worth it to work through these obstacles. I’ve wanted to quit more than once. At my age (forty-four) the driving force behind my decision to be in this program is future job security. I also get incentive from the facility where I work as an aide, which is a combination retirement community, assisted living, and health care center in one building. They are paying for a portion of my tuition because it is my intent to stay with them in the capacity of a nurse once I obtain my license. I am more concerned with stability than excitement at this point in my life, but if I were even ten years younger, there are areas of nursing that I would have wanted to try.

Nursing is a field worth considering, but it’s good to know the realities of the program that one will be entering. It isn’t as easy as the admissions brochure makes it sound. Also, be sure to check if the program you are enrolling in is accredited. Those at community colleges should be. At independent schools, they may not be. It is important to be certain about this.