Being a nurse is by no means an easy job. The hours are long, the stakes are high, and it can be extremely physically taxing. Nevertheless, many of those in the profession believe it is one of the most fulfilling jobs anyone can choose to do. Nurses everywhere are working hard every single day, and that is why it is so impressive to see these 40 consummate pros making it look easy.
Nursing is one of the most important professions in our society, and it takes a number of important attributes for someone to excel in the vocation. Generally, nurses are caring, patient people who enjoy or have an aptitude for working with the public. During any shift, these medical professionals can work alongside and interact with a huge variety of people from all walks of life.
Nurses must also possess an ability to communicate clearly and with accuracy. They will be working alongside doctors, surgeons and other nurses, so these staffers will need to exchange information with those colleagues. Indeed, this element of teamwork is vital to the proper functioning of a hospital’s medical staff.
Nurses communicate with patients regularly, so the ability to put them at ease by being calm and efficient is also important. They will also be required to control their emotions in potentially upsetting circumstances. Additionally, an ability to be proactive will serve a nurse well and the medical professionals should be able to make important decisions quickly and safely.
But how are nurses viewed by the public? Well, the analytics company Gallup conducts a survey every year in which it asks Americans to rate the ethics and honesty of various professions. In January 2020 it found that U.S. citizens rated nursing as the most honest and ethical profession for the 18th year in a row.
An impressive 85 percent of Americans told Gallup that they considered nurses’ ethical standards to be “very high” or “high.” In fact, the percentage for nurses has never dropped below 82 since 2016. They ranked well above doctors, pharmacists, and dentists, who were rated at 65, 64 and 61 percent respectively.
Interestingly, the birth of modern nursing is credited to Florence Nightingale, who began her career as a field nurse in the 1850s during the Crimean War. The medical professional treated injured soldiers on the battlefield and witnessed first-hand how terrible hygiene and sanitation were leading to deaths among the men.
Nightingale and her staff of 34 nurses set about greatly improving the hygiene levels of the field hospital. She also appealed to the British government for more resources and it provided them accordingly. According to History.com, the death rate was subsequently lowered by two-thirds – aided massively by implementing a level of cleanliness that would be standard today.
Following the war, Nightingale become a national hero upon her return home to Lea Hurst, England. The nurse was given an engraved brooch by the Queen and was awarded $250,000 by the British government. She used this money to form St. Thomas’ Hospital in the U.K. capital and started the Nightingale Training School for Nurses.
Nightingale is largely credited with helping change the public perception of nursing as a profession. Young women all over England were inspired by her – including those of the upper class, who began training to be nurses. Even songs, plays, and poems were written about the English woman. Indeed, History.com also notes that Nightingale had turned nursing into an “honorable vocation.”
Sadly, the “Angel of the Crimea” became confined to her bed at 38 and would stay that way until her death in 1910 at the age of 90. However, she continued pushing nursing forward by speaking with politicians and people of influence from her room. She published Notes on Hospitals in 1859, and her advice was even requested during the U.S. Civil War about how best to operate field hospitals.
Speaking of the Civil War, there was another important figure in the history of American nursing who also rose to prominence following this conflict. Clara Barton worked as an independent nurse during the war, which took place over a four-year period from 1861. Like Nightingale, Barton was also called “the angel of the battlefield” by the soldiers she treated.
Barton later became known for giving lectures about her experiences of the conflict. She then traveled to Europe during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 to work with the International Red Cross. This prompted her to campaign for a U.S. version of the organization, and in 1881 the American Red Cross was formed with Barton as president.
Nursing schools were run entirely by experienced nurses and trainees would learn from hefty medical textbooks during this period in American history. This meant there was little innovation made in the profession. However, hospitals were given direct control over the schools in 1900, and this opened trainee nurses up to more on-the-job experiences. Crucially, they could now learn and innovate in the field.
A nursing degree became something young American women could work towards. According to NursingSchoolHub.com, the U.S. had 294,000 people trained in the profession by the late 1920s – considerably more than the 150,000 untrained ones. Mary Breckinridge formed the Frontier Nursing Service during this period, and this organization focused its care on lower-income patients living in rural regions.
The period between the end of World War I and the dawning of WWII saw significant advancements in nursing. This was due to improving technology, but also simply in terms of the sheer numbers of people pursuing nursing. NursingSchoolHub.com notes that Queen Alexandra’s Nursing Service in Britain had 2,200 members at the start of World War I and more than 10,000 when the conflict ended.
World War II saw a tremendous focus placed on nursing in the U.S. The medical professionals were portrayed as valiant heroes, and thousands of them volunteered to go overseas to treat soldiers fighting in the war. Furthermore, many of these women brought home new nursing skills that they had learned on the battlefield.
When WWII ended the American government put millions of dollars into healthcare and this fueled the industry’s expansion. Technology continued to advance and more education was offered – increasing the number of licensed and registered nurses. Meanwhile, the prestigious American Journal of Nursing enabled nurses to read about new studies and the latest research regarding their profession.
Over time, more scope developed for nurses to specialize in specific aspects of the profession. They began to dedicate themselves to areas such as orthopedics, trauma, pediatrics, neonatal and critical care. Nurses also began to be seen less as the assistants to doctors. In addition, many of them began prescribing medication and performing important procedures themselves.
But how can people become a nurse today? Well, in the U.S., the most tried and tested method is to work for a nursing diploma. This requires three years of study and a set number of hours spent gaining work experience in a hospital. However, there are also further qualifications that can be obtained.
U.S. students can also study for associate, bachelor’s, master’s or even doctorate degrees in nursing. As with any profession, each higher qualification requires extra years of study, but this can give the student better employment opportunities when they graduate. People then have the option of becoming a registered nurse if any of these qualifications are gained, and they achieve this by passing a licensure exam.
As of 2018 3.1 million registered nurses were gainfully employed in America, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It also reported in the following May that the median annual wage for a nurse was $73,300, with the top 10 percent of the profession making more than $111,220. Meanwhile, the bottom 10 percent earned less than $52,080.
Almost two thirds of the 3.1 million registered nurses were employed in hospitals. Eighteen percent were employed by ambulance healthcare services and 7 percent plied their trade at residential care institutions for the elderly or disabled. Finally, 5 percent of the registered nurses worked for the U.S. government and 3 percent in education.
In the U.K., 94 percent of nursing graduates move into employment inside six months of attaining their degree, according to the National Health Service (NHS). There is also non-repayable financial support available to nursing students of up to around $10,000. Furthermore, the degree contains a portion of work experience in both hospitals and in the local community.
The fields available to study in Britain are children’s, adult, mental health and learning disability nursing. And dual field degrees allow a student to study in two of the disciplines – increasing their future employability. Furthermore, qualifying to be a nurse allows you to work in the United Kingdom and around the world.
In the U.S., many choose to operate as travel nurses because the qualifications obtained there mean that their skills can also be applied anywhere in the world. These nurses are assigned to a city and will work in any hospital or facility where they’re required. They do this for a set amount of time and are then sent to a new location.
The demand for nurses is so high, in fact, that many hospitals procure nurses through employment agencies. Individuals who come from these companies can be used to fulfil temporary or permanent positions, but they are not employed by the hospital itself. This type of situation is commonplace nowadays because there are often staff vacancies which need to be filled quickly.
Nurses employed in hospitals work long day and night shifts, as 24-hour care needs to be provided to patients. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing states that these staffers make up the largest portion of the healthcare labor pool. Many of them are also “on call” even on their days off, which means they must be prepared to return to work on short notice if the need arises.
In 2006 a study was published in MEDSURG Nursing – the official journal of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses. And it aimed to find out just how physically taxing the average 12-hour shift is for these healthcare professionals. 146 staffers were surveyed, and it was discovered that they walked an average of between 4 and 5 miles each shift.
Clearly, walking up to 5 miles over a 12-hour period is an exceptionally long distance for anyone at work. The website Travel Nursing notes that most American citizens walk an average of 2 to 3 miles over the course of an 18-hour day. So, it’s no wonder that many nurses are left fatigued by their job.
The study found that day-shift nurses tended to walk slightly more than those on nights, due to there being more need for patient-care during the day. Lead author of the research John Welton also pointed out how nurses are at risk of back pain from standing for long periods. And his advice to combat this threat was all about footwear.
Welton said, “The top advice I would offer to nurses is to wear good fitting shoes and two pairs of socks.” He went on, “This may not be a practical solution for many nurses, but it does raise the point about potential orthopedic problems with frequent walking on hard surfaces.” Nurses should also apparently change their footwear frequently.
According to Travel Nursing, these staffers should follow a similar schedule to runners, who are advised to replace their footwear every 400 to 600 miles. It will offer less support to the feet because of wear and tear – even if the shoe still looks in good condition to the naked eye. Nurses are therefore recommended to change their footwear every eight to 12 months.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has estimated that there will be 12 percent more nursing jobs available for the ten-year period from 2018. That’s a total of around 210,400 American jobs that will need filling. For reference, the organization has arrived at this number due to the large number of nurses in the country who retire every year or are about to.
Seventy thousand nurses retire from the profession every single year in the United States, according to The Staffing Stream website. And as of 2020 the statistics show that one third of all nurses are over 50 years old. Incredibly, that amounts to over one million nurses who may retire within the next ten to 15 years. This means that the numbers entering the field may end up being less than those leaving.
Meanwhile, the U.K. is facing a similar problem. Figures released by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in December 2019 show that the number of nurses, nursing associates and midwives being registered has risen to its highest level ever. However, the organization is concerned that much of the workforce is nearing retirement and that some of the newly registered nurses are of close to that age.
For example, the NMC found that the number of newly registered nurses between the ages of 21 and 30 increased by 1,659. But there were 2,220 new registrations in the 61 to 65 age range – suggesting that the cohort of nurses is aging. This worried the organization’s chief executive and registrar Andrea Sutcliffe, who also noted that there were troublesome shortages in some of the speciality nursing fields, too.
Sutcliffe told Nursing Notes in December 2019, “We know the incredible impact that nurses, midwives and nursing associates have in providing highly skilled and person-centred care for millions of people living across all four countries of the U.K. I’m pleased to see such an increase in people on our register.” However, she felt that the worrying trends couldn’t be ignored.
“But the reality is, even with this considerable mid-year growth, there are still serious shortages across the health and care sector – not least in specialist areas such as mental health and learning disabilities,” Sutcliffe continued. But how should this problem be dealt with? Well, the Royal College of Nursing believe there needs to be more government investment in the profession.
Clearly, nursing is a challenging profession for many reasons, but it is also one of the most fulfilling jobs out there. Nurses take care of sick, injured and dying patients, and this serves their community. As New York nurse Alicia Schwartz told Daily Nurse in May 2016, “The reason I love [the job] is because it is so rewarding to make a difference in someone’s life.”