Disadvantages & Advantages of a Career in Nursing

by Beth Greenwood

Nursing is a career that provides a good living. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average annual wage for a registered nurse (RN) in 2011 was $69,110, a figure that does not include other financial benefits, such as health insurance. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) made $42,040 in the same period. Although nursing is a satisfying career with material and emotional benefits, it is also physically and emotionally demanding. You must weigh the challenges, disadvantages and benefits to determine if nursing is a good fit for you.

Shift Work

Nurses often have the option of working different shifts, which can be an advantage when combining a career with a family or pursuing further education. Some organizations offer full-time pay and benefits to a nurse who works only weekends, leaving the remainder of the week for other pursuits. The disadvantage of shift work is the need to work nights, weekends and holidays according to the needs of the patient or hospital rather than personal preference. One advantage of shift work, however, is that organizations often pay a premium for these less desirable shifts.

Long Hours and Heavy Lifting

Nursing is a physical job, especially in the hospital. Nurses must lift patients or move equipment such as hospital beds or gurneys. The potential for a back injury is relatively high for many nurses, especially as they grow older. In addition, nurses in many hospitals must work 12-hour shifts, which can be physically and emotionally draining for the nurse. Many hospitals ask or require nurses to work overtime, which can be exhausting if the nurse has already completed a 12-hour shift.

Potential Dangers

There are a number of potential dangers in healthcare, such as exposure to blood and body fluids that can cause diseases such as AIDS, needles or other sharp instruments that can cause injury, radiation from X-rays and exposure to toxic substances, such as chemotherapeutic agents. Patients who are confused can become violent and a nurse can be injured while attempting to restrain or sedate the patient. There are also potential dangers that could occur in any workplace, such as slipping on a wet floor.

Multiple Educational Paths

You can enter the nursing field as a licensed practical nurse with 12 to 18 months of education. For a registered nurse, the options are a diploma in nursing from a hospital school of nursing – although these are less common than they once were – an associate degree from a community college or a baccalaureate from a four-year college or university. Many nurses begin their careers as licensed practical nurses and obtain further education to become RNs. Some go on for advanced education that allows them to become nurse practitioners, nurse midwives or clinical nurse specialists.

Variety of Work Settings

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 30 percent of nurses worked in hospitals in May of 2011, nursing is a career with many workplace options. A nurse may work in a correctional facility, as a pharmaceutical representative, a school nurse, a travelling nurse or in a residential care facility. Nurses may become entrepreneurs or perform nursing research, work in geriatrics caring for seniors or a newborn nursery caring for infants. Nurses also work in doctor’s offices, clinics, schools and outpatient care centers.


Although nursing can be both emotionally challenging and emotionally draining, it also offers a great deal of satisfaction. Nurses have an opportunity to support and help others through situations as joyful as the birth of a new baby. At the other end of the life spectrum, a nurse can help a patient to die with dignity. A nurse will make many human connections during her career, whether in caring for patients, collaborating with physicians or teaching a new graduate what it really means to be a nurse.

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