About the Job

Walking the Emotional Tightrope of Nursing

Walking the Emotional Tightrope of Nursing

A long-standing job in its own right, nursing has for decades provided the awe-inspiring medium between a patient and the care they require.  In addition to many difficult and potentially stress-inducing work requirements, a nurse must be able to operate in such an environment whilst remaining calm, professional, and yet empathetic, all at the same time. 

For those who choose to take the leap and become a registered nurse, the effort is put in does indeed prove to be rewarding. The job does bring with it various ups and downs.  The difficulties that come with being a nurse can present itself in many forms, of which may include a large sum of patients during one shift, or difficulties communicating with a patient or their respective family. 

This struggle mentioned above can very well start very early in a nurse’s career.  The potential for emotional experiences can become present when a nursing student is undergoing their first clinical, a type of course (or rather multiple courses) that schools require that essentially gives nursing students hands-on experience in a real hospital setting.  In the stage of a nursing student’s career, this may very well be their first exposure to difficult and very emotional situations.

It is at this point that nursing students catch their first real glimpse into what their career will entail.  An article written by author Keith Carlson discusses this very point, when he states, “In nursing school, a novice with or without prior healthcare experience is thrust into an environment with completely new language, skills, concepts and theories. Digesting untold amounts of information and instruction, the nursing student embarks on a journey that may prove to be enthralling and maddening in equal measure.”

What does it take to become a nurse?

The first step for aspiring nurses who have graduated high school include going to nursing school.  Many programs, whether it be in at a community college or a university, first require a student to undergo pre-nursing courses.  Alongside these degree-specific courses, nurses will also be required to complete all of their necessary general education course.  In most cases, nursing programs will require that student to maintain a certain grade in all of their degree-specific courses, which initially may sound like common knowledge, however maintaining a B grade in an extremely difficult course is not always as easy as it sounds! 

Following these lower level courses, nursing students will then begin their “main” nursing courses, which include classes like physiology, health and illnesses, and eventually their clinicals.

Clinicals provides a great hands-on experience for aspiring nurses.  While the seemingly endless lectures and exams require of nursing students may provide some insight and help to teach the students skills they will need in their career, nothing matches the amazing learning experience nurse receive from clinicals.  This stage in their schooling serves as the first opportunity to truly apply what they have learned in a real-world setting, experiencing the dynamics of patient and co-worker interaction that simply cannot be achieved from reading a heavy textbook.

In terms of nursing school as a whole, there are essentially two approaches in becoming a nurse.  The first approach is by attending a community college as a means of becoming a nurse, which result in the same certification at the conclusion of all required courses, yet is noticeably shorter than the 4 year university approach.  With this in mind, it may be natural to wonder which is the best approach.  The short answer is that either is okay. 

The longer answer? It depends.  At the end of the day, both scenarios result in the same certification, however certain employers may favor students that come out of a university rather than a community college, but again, it simply depends on the preference of the employer. 

As touched on before, a nursing student who chooses either approach will end up with the necessary certification in order to be considered a registered nurse.  For students who have completed all of their necessary coursework and clinical hours, the next step is to take a test known as the National Council Licensure Examination, better known as the NCLEX. 

Kaplan, a source dedicated to test preparation courses, describes the exam as follows: “The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN® exam) has one purpose: To determine if it's safe for you to begin practice as an entry-level nurse. It is significantly different from any test that you took in nursing school. While nursing school exams are knowledge-based, the NCLEX-RN® tests application and analysis using the nursing knowledge you learned in school. You will be tested on how you can use critical thinking skills to make nursing judgments.”

Upon passing the test, a student is then able to work as a registered nurse.  As the above description of the exam suggests, students must apply their acquired critical thinking skills in order to successfully pass such an exam.  The same goes for the individual once they are hired for their first job.  In thinking critically, a nurse is able to adapt to be the ever-changing environment of a hospital. This principle is applied as patients must react to certain demands as efficiently as possible, even if they have never practiced or experience such a situation.

The future for nurses

In order to become a nurse, there is so much more than being able to repeat information from a textbook, or even conducting a successful IV insertion on a patient.  To be a nurse, an individual must care for others, both physically and mentally.  A nurse must have the emotional capacity and bedside manners to accompany their respective skill-set. 

This very much is the “emotional tightrope” that nurses must walk.  In this career field, good balance in the form of passionate work is a must, as it will have a direct impact on the patients a nurse must care for.  A consistent understanding of what this balance is and how to maintain is one of the most useful tools for a successful nurse.  In turn, it is very possible that this genuine care provided for a patient could in fact change their life.