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20 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Becoming a Nurse

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Let’s face it – no matter what it is, when you’re about to make a huge life change, knowing what to expect can ease the anxiety of the unknown.

Having some inside information from someone who’s been there themselves can make the journey a little less intimidating.  With that in mind, we spoke with a couple of top-notch Galen nursing instructors, Dara Lanman, MSN, RN, CNE, and Frances Anderson Ph.D., RN, APRN, CNE, and compiled a list of the top 20 things they wish someone had told them before they got their nursing degree. (And, yes, they’d still do it all over again!)

  1. Nursing doesn’t just involve patient care.  You can be a nurse and work in hospital management or the field of education.  You can help to sell medical equipment used by hospitals, and there are also important roles in medical insurance and medical law which require the specialty of a nurse.
  2. Working as a nurse can bring out the most extreme of emotions.  You might go from mourning the loss of a patient that you had grown close to, to singing from the mountain tops as a patient who was not expected to make it is well enough to go home. This is likely to happen on the same day, maybe even the same hour.
  3. You will make such a difference in so many people’s lives, on a daily basis.  Even walking through a grocery store, you might be stopped by someone who remembers you at their bedside giving them hope when they needed it the most.
  4. Oh, the places you’ll go! You’ll have the opportunity to travel around the world assisting those who need your care, while also getting to experience different countries and cultures.
  5. Nursing lets you work in all sorts of environments; from caring for newborn infants taking their first breath, to providing comfort to an elderly person taking their last.
  6. You may end up working in various medical settings – a private practice, a public clinic or school, a business, or even making home visits to the public.
  7. Make no mistake – nursing school is hard.  You will learn that answers do not always come quickly, but when the first patient tells you that you’ve made a difference, it will all be worth it.
  8. Helping someone who was never supposed to walk again take their first steps, or being there when someone born deaf hears their first sound will cause you to cry – and that’s okay.
  9. Sometimes, holding a patient’s hand is all that a nurse needs to do.
  10. Portrayal of the medical field on TV shows such as HouseER and Grey’s Anatomy are not real!  (After all, there aren’t even any nurses on House!)
  11. If you talk about “the patient with anal atresia” at the dinner table, your seven-year-old child will go to school the next day and talk about it at Show & Tell. (True story!)
  12. When you walk into a crowd of people, you can’t resist diagnosing everyone as they walk by.
  13. Friends, neighbors and even people that you’ve never met will ask you to diagnose their rash.
  14. When one of your children has a headache, you are sure that he or she has some rare type of cancer that you just studied.
  15. You will learn to identify smells that one does not even want to talk about.
  16. On that note, you will learn that one can get really excited about the color of various bodily emissions.
  17. Just when you think you have heard it all, you haven’t, because you’re going back to work tomorrow.
  18. You’ll learn that some people have 48 hours off in a row, and they call it a weekend.
  19. You will begin to love talking about rare diseases, while your friends and family will stand there with a glazed look on their face, horrified at the story you just told.
  20. When you go to work every day, you are reminded that there are a lot of people in the world who need to be cared for, and you will be thankful that you have the honor of caring for them.


More about Dr. Anderson: 

Dr. Anderson has been at Galen College of Nursing for four years. She teaches the first of the medical-surgical classes in the Bridge program. Dr. Anderson earned her BSN from the University of Kentucky, her MSN from the University of Texas at Austin, and her Ph.D. in Nursing from the University of Washington. She spent 22 years on active duty in the Army Nurse Corps and retired as a Colonel. Following this, she returned to the University of Alabama and earned her family and pediatric nurse practitioner certification. She spent 10 years in full-time practice as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner prior to coming to Galen.


More about Professor Lanman: 

Ms. Lanman is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment at Galen College of Nursing.  She has been with Galen for over 12 years, having worked as Director of the RN Program, Associate Professor and Academic Success Coordinator in addition to her most current role.  She received her BSN and MSN from Bellarmine University in 1999 and 2005 and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. of Leadership in Higher Education from Capella University.  Ms. Lanman’s nursing specialty area is critical care, but she has experience in many types of ICUs such as Neurological, Medical Surgical and Cardiac. She has also worked in the areas of Bone Marrow Transplant, Stroke and Seizure, and multiple ER units. She is a proud member of Greater Louisville Council of Critical Care Nurses, the Kentucky League for Nursing and Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society.

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