7 Questions to Ask Yourself before Choosing Nursing as Your Major

Featured Article | March 15, 2016 | By Elizabeth Killian, Academic Advisor, UB School of Nursing

Nursing students at table.

As an Academic Advisor for the Nursing Programs at a highly ranked research university, I speak with hundreds of prospective and current students each year about their goals and their coursework. Here are some questions I think you should ask yourself if you think you want to go to nursing school.

1. Why do I want to be a nurse?

For too many students the answer to this questions seems to be “because it pays well” or “it’s a stable career.” Nursing is a difficult and demanding career choice and the emotional, mental and physical requirements can be overwhelming. Nurses with the greatest success and career longevity have a passion for caring for and helping people. If you’re not really sure about why you want to be a nurse, I suggest you think about volunteering to get a better idea of what nurses do.

2. Do I really understand what nurses do?

Before committing to a rigorous course of study in a competitive program, I recommend that prospective nursing students volunteer in a healthcare setting where they can interact with and observe nurses in action. This can help you solidify your major and future career choice, or it can make you consider other options.

3. Am I a people person?

Nursing involves working with patients, sometimes patients that are very sick, in pain, afraid or maybe even dying. Sometimes this can be difficult; nurses need to be able to treat each patient as a valuable person. Nurses also work with the patient’s family as well as other hospital staff and personnel and need to know how to negotiate each individual group. You will need to be able to practice patience, kindness and compassion every day.

4. Am I a team player?

Nurses work as a team to support their patients and each other. You need to be able to play a lead role when necessary, know when to step back and let someone else lead, do more than your fair share of the work, be able to accept criticism gracefully, and be ready to learn something from everyone you work with.

5. Am I committed to my academics?

Nursing school is competitive and the prerequisites are difficult. Prerequisites often include: Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology, Pharmacology, Chemistry and Applied Pathophysiology. You need to be willing to make your academics the top priority to guarantee your acceptance into your chosen program. Nursing schools are looking for exceptional students – ones with top grades, leadership experience, volunteer experience and an understanding of their chosen profession.

6. Am I resilient?

Prerequisite nursing courses are some of the most difficult you will take in college; nursing program coursework and clinicals are rigorous and there can be many disappointments with grades and performance. You need to be able to quickly recover from setbacks, problem solve and develop plans to move forward. The nursing profession has its own share of challenges and disappointments and resiliency is a necessary skill to manage them.

7. Am I committed to becoming a life-long learner?

Learning for nurses doesn’t end with the completion of your degree and the earning of your license. Nurses are required to maintain their current skills and learn new ones throughout their career. Health care is a changing profession and nurses need to be at the forefront of reading new research, learning new skills and ideas, and presenting them to their patients and communities.