Happy National Nurses Week! While the public’s understanding of just how difficult and important nurses’ jobs can be—along with their trust in nurses—has deepened in recent years and decades, some misconceptions and stereotypes remain. Sadly, there are still those who look down on nurses as aspiring doctors who simply weren’t smart enough to get into med school. This pernicious idea should have died long ago, as it is directly contradicted by the fact that the nursing profession is populated mostly by medically brilliant folks who deliberately chose to become nurses instead of doctors strictly because they decided it was the best field for them. There are any number of reasons why they might make this decision (no, “to meet a nice doctor to marry” is absolutely not one of them – get outta here with your ‘50s patriarchal nonsense). Here are a few common ones.
Nursing and doctoring simply involve different skill sets. Neither is more inherently valuable than the other, and some people are simply more adept at one rather than the other. While both professionals require extensive medical knowledge and intense patient commitment, doctors often need to depend on more technical skills, while nurses are more reliant on soft skills—communication, attention to detail, compassion, teamwork, etc.—to get their jobs done. As in any workplace, both types of skill sets are necessary to keep everything running smoothly. Sometimes, a nurse doing something to make a patient more comfortable or relaxed can be just as valuable to their care and recovery as a doctor deciding which course of treatment to take.
Most nurses are just as thirsty for knowledge and new technical skills as doctors, if not more so. But the reality of the training and day-to-day immersion that goes into being a doctor can often lock one into a particular specialization with little time or opportunity to explore other areas of interest. By contrast, nurses are constantly exposed to all corners of the medical field, and in fact need to have least some level of knowledge about all of them in order to do their jobs properly, offering ample time to expand their expertise on a daily basis.
Time and money
Let’s be honest: being a doctor requires an almost superhuman commitment of time, resources, and energy, both mental and physical. Starting with the four-year time suck and financial drain that is medical school, continuing with 786-hour work weeks (seemingly physically impossible, but some find a way) when you don’t sleep or see your family for days on end, and culminating in eventual burnout and long overdue retirement to Florida, it’s an absurdly taxing job. Many nurses are unquestionably capable of taking that leap, but just have different priorities. While nurses work long hours and undergo extensive training too, nursing offers greater scheduling flexibility that leaves more time for things like family, hobbies, and even additional medical training. That doesn’t make nurses any less committed to medicine or their patients than doctors are; it just means that they wisely prioritize work/life balance.
Direct patient interaction
When it comes down to it, in medicine, nurses are the ones who interact with patients on the closest and most consistent basis. Essentially, nurses are the friendly face of the medical industry. For some, that is the ultimate reward for working in medicine: fostering meaningful connections with patients and being able to witness, up close, the magnitude of the impact you have on them.
Why did you choose to become a nurse? Share your reason in the comments below or on our Facebook page by Friday, May 13, to be automatically entered to win a $100 Visa gift card.