Why Did You Become A Nurse?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Or, alternately, “Why do you want to be a nurse?”

This is one of those ‘character’ entrance questions most of us get when we apply to nursing school. I’m pretty sure every school has some version of it. Some have you answer the question on paper, while others will ask you a version of this question during that ‘fateful’ interview. You know, that pressure cooker of an interview in front of ‘the panel’. Either way, the question tries to dig deep into the ‘why’ you are pursuing a nursing career.

I thought I’d share my story.

Rewind 10 years (approximately). I, like the rest of society (still does), thought nurses were poop scoopers and pill pushers. Why in the world would I want to do THAT for a living?! I was already in the health care field, but I just wasn’t happy – or should I say it wasn’t ‘it’ for me. I felt I wanted more from a career, and to simply do more. I had heard rumors that nursing was more than meets the eye, but I unfortunately did not know any nurses that I could talk with to get that kind of information.

As ‘fate’ would have it, I suffered a pretty serious injury that landed me in the hospital for a couple days. The care I received during those two days did not differ in the least bit. My plan of care, diagnosis and treatment plan was identical for those two days. Yet, my experiences as a patient during those two days were complete opposites.

Day 1 with my assigned nurse (let’s call her nurse A) was rather miserable (I’m being kind with my description). She was non-existent most times. When I asked for assistance, it seemed as if it took hours to at least answer my calls. When she did bedside care, it seemed as if she was ‘put off’ by me. I was taking up her time. She wanted to get in the room, do her thing, and get out as fast as possible.

Day 1 = Nurse A did not help my situation at all.

Day 2 with my assigned nurse (let’s call him Nurse B) was amazingly refreshing. His presence was noticed. He was in my room more often, even if it was just to poke his head in to ‘check’ on things. He performed the same ‘duties’ as Nurse A from the previous day, but I was not miserable. I felt important enough that when I had a concern or called out for assistance I didn’t feel like a burden. When he was in the room with me, he gave me his undivided attention. I don’t think he knew anymore about my situation than Nurse A did, but he put me at ease.

Day 2 = Nurse B helped me feel better.

So, if you’ve paid attention to my grammar you’ll notice Nurse A was a female, and Nurse B was a male. I like to think there was some sort of divine intervention at work during my stay, since I’d been curious about men in nursing, but as I admitted earlier, I was just as ignorant as the rest.

During the end of Day 2 with Nurse B, he poked his head in one last time to ‘check’ on me. It was the end of his shift, so he was wrapping things up with me. When he asked if there was anything I needed, or did I have any questions, I jumped at the opportunity. I asked him about his job, men in nursing, and what he thinks of his career.

He spent almost an hour or more talking with me about the nursing career. He told me stories about his own experiences and his career choices. And he emphasized at the unlimited opportunities nursing has afforded him.

I went home from that hospital admission with this burning in my belly. I couldn’t stop thinking about my experience. I was in awe at how much of an impact the care of one nurse made on me. It didn’t matter if I got better, healed, or fixed whatever ailed me. What Nurse B provided for me was immeasurable, intangible, and indescribable, yet it was the most important part of my care.

That was when I realized I wanted to do that. I wanted to be that.

I too wanted to impact lives.

The rest, as they say, is history. I continue to impact lives every day as a nurse, and I don’t foresee any end in sight.

So what about you? Share your thoughts on why you became a nurse in the comments section below.


This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

22 COMMENTS

  1. I decided to go into healthcare/ems when I was about 13. We were driving in a snow storm(Buffalo) and came across a youth struck by a car. He was laying in the snow/roadway and the only thing I could was cover him with a blanket and hold his head. He died 2 days later. I decided there and then that I would never be helpless again. I got
    My EMT when I was 17, joined the army at 19 became a medic 91B and eventually a health care specialist 91C. I continued on taking every alphabet course I could. Went to school after discharge got my RN and continued on BTLS, ACLS, PALS- NTP. I was able to attain the highest level of certification PHRN- I worked as Critical Care Transport Nurse/paramedic in NW Pennsylvania. I also had the opportunity to attend the TNATC in Charlotte, NC. It was an honor to care for the sick and injured, and transported them by ground when called upon. Never again helpless.

  2. This is true…..I went to University in a Pre-Med program with my goal to become a doctor. As fate would have it, I was needed at home to run our family business, then got married and had two children. During a divorce, God spoke to me saying” you will be happiest helping others”. I was reading our local paper at the time and in that paper was a notice for application to Nursing School at our local Community College. I immediately applied, took the entry test, passed with a high score, graduated Magna Cum Laure. And being an RN has been a wonderful experience
    in every way. ETHEL

  3. I got the notion to work in the ER, as an RN, at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit around the age 17 or so. I was never able to pin point why. This was around 1969 and I think less than 1% of all nurses were male at that time. A few years later after high school I went to nursing school and I accomplished my goal and got the job I sought at Henry Ford Hospital in the ER. I worked various ERs until 1999. My daughter was born in 1984 and when she was about 12 she asked me if I worked in the ER to save the life of my father who died of a massive Mi when I was 9. Out of the mouth of babes…….. I believe now that is probably the answer as to why I decided in the early 70’s to go into nursing. I could save my dad’s life, but I always did my best for other kid’s dads. I wish I could say saved them all, I didn’t, but I always did my best.

  4. I always knew I wanted to be a nurse, from the time I was a small child. I would watch the St Jude specials and cry and couldn’t wait to help children with cancer. I let my mother talk me out of it after high school because she said I “had a weak stomach” and could never do it. So, finally, at 27 I still hadn’t stopped thinking of being a nurse and I signed up for nursing school and was accepted. I nearly fainted in my first clinical (mom was a little bit correct in her assumptions), but I kept going back and it got easier. Then I had my clinicals in pediatrics and went home crying every day. I realized I did not want to work with children (and their families) and had no idea what I would find myself doing as a nurse. My very last semester my clinical assignment was in medical ICU and I found my home. I loved ADULT critical care. I worked several years in MICU/SICU/ER and loved every moment of it. I’ve done many things in my nursing career of now almost 30 years. I have absolutely no regrets for becoming a nurse. It is as much what I am, as who I am. I love my profession.

  5. At the age of about 4, I saw Nurses caring for my wonderful “Pappy”, Mothers Father, and the best example of a Man that I have ever seen. The caring, compassion and professionalism that I saw, as a child, became imbedded in my heart and brain and began my dream of becoming a Nurse, just like the ones that I saw through a child’s eyes. That dream has lasted my entire life! Although I decided to be a Nurse at the age of 4, I did not become an RN until I was 48 years old. I LOVE nursing and I work at a Veterans Hospital and I cherish “my veterans”. Those Nurses wore the white outfits, white shoes and a Nurses cap, and I do that to this day. I am 72 Years old, do not think of retiring and want to continue Nursing until they take me out feet first. I have even joked with our Head of Nursing that they should just give me a plot of land on the hospital grounds and bury me here! Nursing, for me, is a calling and there isn’t a day that God doesn’t bless my work, provide knowledge beyond my learning and ability beyond my experiences. I am humbled by the sacrifices of the Veterans that I serve and am encouraged by the abilities, knowledge and caring demonstrated by my fellow Nurses. I am truly blessed to be a Nurse!

  6. I didn’t want to be a nurse in childhood even in early college. I was forced to give it a try. The last 50 years have been wonderful! There is never a dull moment. Nursing fulfills with its diversity in duties, diversity in social connections, ever changing science, Opportunities to learn and chances to facilitate solutions for others.

  7. My mom was diagnosed with MS when I was 12 or so. As a result, my brother and I were exposed to what it takes to care for someone. When my auntie had a double mastectomy from breast cancer, I offered to take of her afterwards. She healed amazingly. When I went home, she sat me down and told me that I needed to do this for a living because “when you’re good at something, don’t do it for free.”

    It’s hard right now because, while I love being a nurse, I’m burned out from emergency medicine and frustrated with how patients seem to be able to get away with horrible behavior. People are getting vicious, between Covid issues and everything else going on. I recently stepped into a non-clinical role, but still work the ER a few days a week (even though I’m not sure how much longer I can handle the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse anymore.) I guess I’m like So many of us: torn between doing a job I love and felt born to do and feeling overwhelmed by the stress of caring.

    • I am so sorry that you feel this way. Please look for another RN position that will fulfill you. I have been a nurse 33 years, in a variety of settings, and I still love what I do.

  8. It was easy to chose the path. My mother was a nurse. Her stories were so interesting and exciting. I had to go there. She would take me, once in a while, long before ‘Take Your Daughter to Work Day’. Working at the County Hospital, she told stories about all the encounters she was having. It was so interesting. I remember, when she got home, she would always take her shoes off and put them on the balcony. She said there were were ‘bugs’ she did not want to bring into the house.

  9. I knew from the time I was 3 I was supposed to be a nurse. We had no nurses in the family, and I have always believed nursing is not only my profession but my vocation also. I was forbidden to go to nursing school after HS graduation in 1964. My family had the traditional negative idea about nursing: “We didn’t raise you to clean up other people’s messes”. I was 30 before I got out of my community college program, 39 before I got my BSN and 51 before I became an NP. I’m 74 as of 9/11 (hell of a birthday) and still working – I teach undergraduate nursing at a local university, and work as an NP (where I also precept graduate program RNs) in an internal medicine/pulmonary office. I have no plans to retire. Why should I? I love what I do. I’ve worked Psych, ICU, CCU, ER and – briefly (it’s not for me) management. I love direct care and teaching, and am grateful that my feet were put upon this path and the direction put into my heart so early. As long as my legs and brain hold out, I’ll be practicing this Gift I was led to from age 3.

    • Thank god for you. Please continue to teach our nurses that this vocation is a gift and an honor that should not be taken lightly, that each and every life they touch can make a difference and to never stop trying.

  10. From the age of 5 years I wanted to be a nurse. My Dad was diagnosed in his early 30’s with colitis and the only treatment back then was an ileostomy. I would go into his bedroom as he recovered from surgery #1 with my fake thermometer and blood pressure cuff and little nurses bag to help him feel better.That was over 50 years ago and although physically I made no difference, I helped him psychologically. I truly never varied from this goal except for toying with the idea of being a reporter because an English teacher told me I had a very creative way of writing. Figured I could write creative nursing notes. The same reason I went into nursing is pretty much the same reason I retired this year. I have worked Pedi ICU, Labor and Delivery and retired being a Diabetic Educator. Gone are the days of actually being able to support, console and teach patients ( now called clients). The get in get out philosophy of nursing sickened me, time is money. Give the what they need In a timely fashion and move on. Don’t get to know them and how frightened or misunderstood they may be, move them out the door. I once did an education on how to administer insulin as the patient was being wheeled out the door. Was it time for me to go, probably, I turn 70 next month, but being pushed out by business men and women who are only looking at the bottom line sickened me. I hope the nurses of today do a better job of towing the line for patient care. My dad died 16 years ago of pancreatic cancer and I was there again for him helping him and comforting him with every fiber of my nursing vocation.

  11. I became a nurse because of my aunt Helen who worked in the office of my Dr. In 1962 I graduated from a diploma program. I have worked in hospitals, taught in nursing schools, and did health classes in the community (until the virus). Loved every second of it. Would not be anything else but a nurse.

  12. I went to “Nursing school” in a hospital training school in 1962 – 65. At that time, unless your family had a lot of available money, you had only a few choices: secretary, teacher, “hair dresser” or nursing. The decision was made easier by the fact of my sister was a nurse from the same nursing school. So, after graduation from high school, off I went. Living in the nurses residence was a gift. Living with other nurses helped you to encourage each other, reach out to them, ask for help – if needed and more!! We all traveled in our time capsule, learning from our instructors, some better remembered than others. My favorite, Katherine J. Bordicks (She wrote a book, “Patterns of Shock”. It was the first book that addressed septic shock.) lead us with a firm, but loving hand. As I traveled through life I found that I had been giving many gifts which made the journey much easier. Over the years I have nursed under many circumstances. All in all, coming from my first job, in a small community in northern Michigan (at $2.02/hr) to my last position as a hospice nurse. I have been able to learn and share my gift! The gift allowed me to practice in a very special way. I believe that God has gifted me with the ability to (mostly) allow each person I cared for to feel that they were the only patient I had. I remember several years ago that one patient asked, “Is it o.k. to call you Flo?” What higher complement can you get!!??

  13. I don’t know if the profession ended up choosing me or if I chose it. When I was 10 my adopted Mom became ill & ended up sadly dying. I kinda thought I’d like to be a nurse or a teacher since I loved my kindergarten teacher. So as fate would have it- I became a nurse and got my BSN & now 37 years later I’m an AOD (administrator on duty) at a 380 plus bed hospital. Even though I’ve not been at the “bedside” for over 10 years I can’t not go in and care for those in need. I work nights and know that that shift is for me as I feel God has me go on my rounds where there is an issue/problem that I can help. So I’m still thankful after 37 years to be a nurse!

  14. I spent more than 20 years working at “jobs”. I say jobs, because not one of them was fulfilling, not one was the thing that I wanted to do and I really hated “going to work”. I wanted to go to medical school, but in the 1960’s with two children and a wife to support it seemed impossible. At a bowling event from my job, a friend and coworker suffered a fatal heart attack, I tried to do CPR, but didn’t have the training to do it correctly (but not one person there tried to help, they stood and watched). I took CPR training, because what bothered me wasn’t that my friend died, but that I couldn’t help him. A year or two later a friends father suffered a fatal heart attack at work. I performed CPR, clearing his airway after he vomited. He passed, but at least I tried, again, no one helped, but I wasn’t so broken up that I wanted to go home from work, just upset that I didn’t have the knowledge to help him. I went home that night and told my wife that I was going to become a Para-medic, she told me why don’t you go to nursing school instead. The short story is I’ve been an RN for over 30 years, I hold an MSN in nursing education, I’ve worked in Cardiology, ICU, Home Health Care, and taught Clinical Nursing for 3 different schools. Today I’m retired from clinical nursing but still work part time for a Medicare Home Health Agency as their QA nurse.
    My only regret is I left clinical nursing to do management. I wish that the NP an option when I was in graduate school.
    Since I’ve retired, I’ve had a triple bypass and the resection of a thoracic-abdominal aortic aneurysm, and I’m still here, thanks to some wonderful doctors and many great ICU and Staff Nurses! Having been now on both sides of the bed, I can really appreciate how good nursing care effects a patients outcomes!

  15. I became a nurse because I enjoy taking care of people and I love learning. Multiple family members and friends have been sick or hurt, and prior to becoming a nurse said that I took such good care of them, that I should do it professionally. Now, I’m an ER nurse and loving it! Every day I learn something new or improve a skill. its been nearly three years since I graduated from nursing school and it has changed my life. For the first time in my life, I feel as though I’m doing what I was meant to do. If I woke up tomorrow and found myself independently wealthy, I would still be a nurse because I love it.

  16. I believe that being a nurse is a calling, at least it should be. When I was very young, around 4, my dad used to take me to the coal mine where he worked and let me hang out with the nurse. Even now 50 years later I can still remember the smell, her uniform, the miners coming in for care. She used to let me put band aids on or hand her things, she told me what she was doing, the miners called me nurse?. I knew from that time I wanted to be a nurse, I was going to be there when people need help, a hand or just an ear. I’ve been out of school 32 years and have not for one day regretted my choice.

  17. I think that nursing is a calling. I knew in the 5th grade that I wanted to be a nurse. I think nurse A should have found a new job. No one needs that type of nurse. I started out on a farm in Montana, there were 6 kids in my family. I particle on every one , family , farm animals, and any wild animals that came my way. After high school graduation I went of to nursing school to get my LVN. I graduated and worked at one of the two hospitals in Havre Montana. I love the work and went on years later to get my RN and work in a clinic for many years. I became a supervisor and learn that management is just as much work if you are going to be good at it. I loved my staff as if they were my family. I retired recently and left them. I had thyroid cancer and had to go to the hospital. I have to say I had a young lady that went above and beyond as an MA. So they are still out there and the need is still there. I leave you with this , nursing comes from the heart, no amount of money can make a good nurse. It is love for people who are sick and need you and it is a gift.

    • I have been a Nurse over 20 years. Nursing becomes part of who you are and not just a job. Two of the most important things that happen to a person in life: You are born and then pass away. When you are with someone elderly and they are at the end of life: no one left but you the Nurse. Holding their hand and being with them at that moment is a privilege. Tired eyes, frail grasp, last breath and then stillness. That all encompassing moment. Time not to forget , but to embrace and remember all that was and is.

      Frank Lomprez RN

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