What Nursing Is and Isn’t

  • What Nursing Is and Isn'tNursing is the art and science of caring. Effective nurses must not only deliver care that is grounded in a rigorous scientific understanding of the human body and disease processes, but must do so in a compassionate manner. While nursing is a scientific discipline, it is rooted in the humanistic conviction that every human being possesses inherent dignity and worth. In this way, nursing is both a scientific discipline and a values-based discipline.
  • Nursing is not medicine. One of the most frequent questions you may encounter when you tell people that you want to be a nurse is, “why not be a doctor?” The answer, in part, is that while nurses and doctors certainly collaborate to deliver care, nursing is an independent profession with its own scope of practice, not a servant to or an extension of medicine. Nurses adhere to a bio-psycho-social model of health. This means that nurses view health not simply as a consequence of biological (physical) processes, but also as a consequence of psychological and social processes. In contrast, medicine adheres to a biomedical model to understand human health, and has traditionally de-emphasized the psychological and social determinants of health.

  • Nursing is a profession, not a gender. Currently, only about 6% of nurses are men; perhaps it is unsurprising that the general public and the media usually view nursing as a “female” profession. But the numbers of men in nursing are growing, and there is nothing inherently “feminine” about nursing. Nursing is a profession that necessitates a particular education and skill set, and a nurse’s ability and effectiveness is not related to his or her gender. (Men are not “male nurses,” they are “nurses” like anyone else). While gender-related prejudice against men in nursing persists, this prejudice has been eroded and attitudes continue to change.
  • Nursing requires life-long learning. While you may think you will be “done with school” once you obtain your nursing degree, in reality you will not be. Healthcare is continually changing (and growing more complex), and you will need to learn about new drugs, technologies, procedures, and best practice throughout your nursing career. Moreover, many nurses pursue advanced certifications within their chosen field, and there is a growing need for nurses with preparation at the bachelors, masters, and doctoral level. Nursing is unique in the variety and levels of educational paths available, and the flexibility it offers to pursue them throughout your career. As a nurse you are never “done” learning.
  • Nursing is intellectually, emotionally and often physically demanding. Nursing requires a lot from those who wish to be members of the profession. While many nurses are drawn to the relatively flexible work hours and fair pay that the profession affords, those who become nurses primarily to realize these benefits are unlikely to be successful in practice. While it is certainly important to take care of yourself to deliver effective care, nursing is not a career for those who are prone to “sit back” or “watch from the sidelines.” Effective nurses must constantly question the care they provide, respond quickly to changing conditions, and remain vigilant to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their patients.