What do you do for a living?

I am a Registered Nurse.

How would you describe what you do?

I take care of patients who are recovering from a wide range of illnesses or from recent surgery.

What does your work entail?

I’m responsible for making sure that the patient’s pain is under control, that they receive their prescribed medicine on time, that their vital signs are stable, that the doctor’s orders are being followed and I act as a liaison between the doctor and the patient’s family.

What is a typical workweek like for you?

I work three, twelve-hour shifts and I’m stuck on night shift right now.  The night shift is really hard.  The money is good but the rest of your family is scared to call during the day because they’re scared that I’ll be sleeping.  But you kind of get used to it and then eventually you get to work days.  So I work 3-twelve hour shifts that usually end up being about 13 or 14 hours because you have to stay late sometimes to finish charting.  It ends up almost being a 40 hour work week.

How did you get started?

I actually started by going to college and getting a psychology degree and with that degree I was only able to get a job as a receptionist.

I knew a psychology degree doesn’t really do anything unless you go for your PhD or Masters so I really wanted to help people but I didn’t feel like I was really getting that opportunity and my sister was in nursing school and loved it so I went too.

I went to a school that offered a one year accelerated Bachelor’s degree in nursing program.

It was twelve months because I had already had my Bachelor’s degree.  I didn’t have to take all the other classes and so I got a second Bachelor’s.

It was a crazy year. It was probably the most difficult year of my life but it was worth it.

What do you like about what you do?

The best part is seeing patients get better and knowing that I played a small role in that. We get a lot of patients who are in a lot of pain after their surgery which can be pretty stressful trying to get their pain under control.  But once they’re comfortable and smiling it does feel really good to know that I helped them out.

What do you dislike?

I wish I had a lot more time to spend with my patients. There are some busy nights where I’ll run into a room to see something and my patient wants to tell me a joke or a story about her grandkids and it absolutely breaks my heart to have to interrupt them and leave because the patient in the room down the hall is throwing up and another patient is crying in pain and another patient has to go to the bathroom.  So there’s sometimes that there is so much going on that I feel like I can’t give my patients the attention that they desire and that I want to.

How do you make money or how are you compensated?

Nurses are all hourly so they’re not a salary. It’s not a salary position unless you’re in management.

How much money do you make as a registered nurse?

In Kansas City it seems like most hospitals for new graduate nurses start around $21 or $22 an hour and then every year the salary goes up by a little bit less than a $1 a year. I’ve been a nurse for 5 years and I’m making $26 an hour.

Hospital nurses tend to make more than other types of nurses. At doctor’s offices they only make like $18 or $19 an hour even if you are a registered nurse. So you definitely get more in the hospital and then hospitals usually pay night shift workers a shift differential which for me is $3 an hour so I get my base pay and then for the night hours I get $3 more an hour and I also get additional pay.  If it’s a weekend you get $2 an hour extra.

How much did you make starting out in this career?

I started out at $22 an hour maybe but that was in TX.

What education or skills that are needed to be a Registered Nurse?

Most hospitals require a registered nurse degree but you can do that two ways. There’s actually a Bachelor’s degree which is called a BSN and some hospitals prefer that and pay more; other hospitals don’t distinguish between a diploma nurse, which is an RN without the Bachelor’s, and the Bachelor’s.

What is the most challenging about what you do?

The patient load and the severity of their sickness.

If I have five patients and I have one patient who demands a lot of time because they’re in a lot of pain or they’re really sick then my other four patients might not get the attention that they deserve.  So I’ve learned time management skills are just absolutely critical and even then sometimes I’ll have my whole night figured out and something will come up and throw everything off.  So it’s definitely a skill learning to prioritize and juggle my plans for the night I guess. That takes a long time to learn.

What is the most rewarding for you?

The patients, just getting to know the patients and their families and seeing them get better.

What advice would you offer someone that’s considering this career?

The best advice I could offer would be to contact a hospital in the area and see if there’s any way that you can shadow a nurse for a full shift because I think that a lot of people watch TV shows and see doctors doing all the work and they think that’s the way things actually are and it’s not like that. Nursing is a very, very physical job. It’s a lot of thinking and it’s a lot of work.  I love it but I’ve met a lot of people who I think if they would have actually seen what it was really like before they went to school that they might have chosen something different.

I don’t want to sound discouraging by any means but I think it’s a good idea to actually shadow someone to see what it will be like.

How much time off do you get or take?

Well we technically have a 12 hour shift. It’s only three days a week so every week you get four days off and then it seems like hospitals give you a lot of paid time off because you don’t get holidays paid.  With most jobs you get paid when you don’t have to work on a holiday but hospitals they’re open every day all day so you sometimes have to work holidays so we do rack up a lot of paid time off and so it just seems like occasionally I’ll be able to take a day or two off which is really nice.

What is a common misconception that people have about what you do?

That nurses just give medicine and they don’t do much else.

What are your goals or dreams for the future?

I guess to eventually to try different areas of nursing and just see what is all out there because that’s one of the best things about nursing, there are so many different areas that if you get bored with something or something isn’t the right fit you can try a different specialty, or you can go from being a floor nurse to an operating room nurse and it’s almost like a different profession.  So you have a lot of options I guess. In the future I would like to try out different things and see what the best fit is for me.

What else would you like people to know about what you do?

That’s a good question. To be nice to their nurses! No, I’m kidding.  It’s a very rewarding job, you learn a lot, it’s constantly evolving, that people should only go into nursing if it’s their true passion.

And that if you really do want to help people and you are interest in medicine that it is a very rewarding and exciting career.