Before you commit to a career as a registered nurse, follow these steps so you can make a fully-informed decision about you future.
Speak to a Registered Nurse
It’s important to sit down with a registered nurse and talk to him or her about life as an RN. You may be lucky enough to already know a nurse, perhaps a family member or friend. If so, ask her out for coffee. If you don’t know any RNs, ask some of your friends if they have any connections. Some nursing programs also hold open houses and other events where program graduates and registered nurses may be available to speak with you.
If you already have an idea of a nursing specialty you are interested in, try to find a registered nurse who is in that specialty.
When you do finally get the chance to speak to a nurse, try to learn as much as you can about nursing school and the nursing profession. This is your chance to learn about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the nursing profession from someone who lives it every day. The following questions offer a good starting point for your conversation:
- Why did you become a nurse?
- How was nursing school for you? What can I expect?
- What’s your favorite part of being a nurse?
- What’s your least favorite part of being a nurse?
- What is a typical day like as a registered nurse?
- Do you know if your hospital/clinic allows job shadowing?
Visit Nursing Forums and Blogs
Once you’ve had the chance to speak to a registered nurse in person, visit some online forums and blogs. Nurses share plenty of tips and stories on these sites, allowing you to hear from many different perspectives. You may find some nurses who regret going into certain specialties, while other nurses are thrilled with their nursing experiences.
These forums offer you the chance to reach out to thousands of registered nurses and nursing students simultaneously. Through them, you can find out what hospitals offer job shadowing opportunities. You can also find out what nurses and nursing students thought of their own job shadowing experiences.
You will also find some forums specifically for nursing students. These can give you a great idea of what to expect in nursing school, so you’ll feel more prepared and confident when you start your nursing education.
One of the best ways to ensure you are ready for a nursing career is to shadow a nurse. Job shadowing a registered nurse allows you to see exactly what a nurse does every day, experience how a medical team works together with patients, see how nurses work with various types of patients and conditions, and learn how nursing schedules work.
How to Find Nursing Job Shadowing Opportunities
If you know a nurse or someone who works in the medical field, find out if his or her hospital or clinic allows job shadowing. Sometimes, you will be lucky and may be able to shadow someone you already know.
If you don’t know a nurse, call a couple of local places where you are interested in shadowing. Tell them that you are interested in job shadowing and would like to be connected to whomever can help you. Once you are speaking to someone in charge of shadowing, let them know who you are and why you are interested in job shadowing.
You may find that some clinics or hospitals do not allow job shadowing, but keep researching until you find one that does. Those that already have job-shadowing programs established will have set guidelines that must be followed, as well as set mentors available to be shadowed.
If you are already enrolled in a nursing program, contact an advisor to ask about whether shadowing is an option prior to starting clinicals. Your school may have a relationship with a local hospital or two that allow students to shadow.
If you find that the area around you has limited job shadowing opportunities or doesn’t have any openings for a couple of months, consider volunteering at a hospital while you wait.
Volunteering at a hospital or clinic offers great exposure to the medical field. Most hospitals greatly appreciate volunteers and offer them a variety of opportunities. You may find yourself crafting with patients, helping in birthing centers, working at information desks, or running errands within the hospital for different departments.
Volunteering will not only provide insight into the medical environment, but it will also enhance your nursing school application. Additionally, you may make some great contacts during your time as a volunteer, which can be extremely helpful once you graduate and start your own RN career.
Curious about how to become a registered nurse? Take a look at the different degree options that lead to an RN career.