UNITED STATES—Nursing is the kind of profession that has many different myths related to it. The most likely reason for this is that nursing is a mysterious career. Although we all know that nurses help people, treat patients, are compassionate, and work extremely hard, the actual day-to-day life of a nurse is often much less easy to determine. Since only a small number of people train to become nurses, myths take the place of truth.

Although in general terms this isn’t such a problem – nurses know what they are supposed to be doing, and that’s the important part – it might have a knock-on effect in terms of the numbers of people who choose to train in nursing. If the myths are believed, they could easily put people off, meaning that much-needed nurses never train and the nursing shortage continues.

The country – and the world – will always need nurses, so the more people who understand exactly what nursing entails, and who see that some of the myths surrounding the profession are debunked, the better. Finding out the truth will give those who are interested in nursing the chance to take the next step. Once you read through this list of debunked nursing myths, you might decide to take that step too, and start training to become a well-respected, much-needed nurse. Read on to find out more.

Only Women Become Nurses

When you think of a nurse, do you think of a male or a female? Although both genders can become nurses, and there are no restrictions in this regard, the most usual idea of a nurse is as a woman. This is what most people would picture, and, many decades ago, this would have been entirely correct. Yet despite the world have moved on (or at least the world of medicine), many people still have a stereotypical view of things, wherein nurses and women and doctors are men.

In reality, things have been changing since at least the 1970s, and although it’s true that there are more female nurses than male ones, in the last 50 years, the number of male nurses applying for jobs and training has actually tripled, with more and more men choosing a nursing career every year. Nursing is a career that is open to everyone, not just in terms of their gender, but anyone from any background, financial situation, or educational system can apply to train as a nurse. As long as you are willing to work hard, you complete the training required, and you are a kind and caring person, nursing can be an ideal career for anyone and everyone, male or female.

Not only is this good news for those who want to become nurses, but it’s also good news for patients. It means there will be a wide range of different nurses to treat them, and usually someone from their own background, or who understands their particular culture or belief system. Although this is not essential, it can be a way to help patients be calmer and more at ease in a potentially worrying clinical setting.

Nurses Only Work in Hospitals

Nurses only work in, and are only needed in, hospitals. Isn’t this true? It does make sense to think this; after all, hospitals are where the most unwell people are, and where those who need surgical procedures need to be. When a nurse has gained their qualifications, they will often find there is work to be found within a hospital setting, as nurses are always required to help the many different patients who are sent to, or who go to, such a medical setting.

Yet, although hospitals might be where most nurses work, and where they feel they can make the most difference, the truth is that nurses can work in a variety of different medical areas and clinical settings, such as prisons, school, or even in the community, visiting people in their homes. Plus, within the hospital setting itself there are dozens of different departments and specialisms, including elderly care, oncology, working in the ER or the OR, neonatal, or being a specific type of nurse like an RN, a certified nursing assistant, a clinical nurse specialist, a nurse care manager, or a family nurse practitioner, also known as an FNP.

Really anything that you find interesting or any area that you can see yourself making a real difference because of your particular personality or your own personal experience is open to you as a nurse. You may need to gain additional qualifications for some positions, but thanks to online learning this can be done without having to stop working or sacrificing family time – you can study at a pace that suits you, and in your own time. You’ll also need experience, so there’s no need to worry about specializing right from the start; you can enjoy being an RN without any pressure to change disciplines or work in a different area.

All Nurses Want to Be Doctors

There is another myth that needs to be debunked about the reason people choose to become nurses in the first place. Rather than thinking about the fact that for some, nursing is a calling, or that they want to help people, or that it would suit their family situation, or anything else, some people feel – or at least there is a myth that suggests it – that nurses only become nurses so that they can then become doctors. The myth suggests that nursing is a ‘shortcut’ to being a doctor, and it’s easier than going through medical school. So of course, all nurses must secretly (or not so secretly) want to be doctors.

If a nurse decides, after seeing what a doctor does and finding it exciting or interesting, that he or she wants to do the same, there is no reason why they shouldn’t train to be a doctor. Their nursing degree will help them in some way, giving them a good grounding, but it’s not a shortcut, and they would need to start from the beginning.

The majority of nurses, however, will remain as nurses, often for their entire working lives. This is the career they have chosen after a great deal of consideration, for any number of reasons, and this is what they have studied hard for. Yes, they may well decide that nursing isn’t for them or that the life of a doctor would be better, but in most cases a nurse is a nurse and has worked hard to be a nurse – and that’s it.

It’s actually a little insulting to nurses to assume that they’re only helping people because they want to move on to other things. Most nurses want to help people because this is what they enjoy, and it’s how they want to spend their lives; that’s something to be proud of.

It’s Easy to Become a Nurse

There is certainly a nursing shortage, and although many people are studying to become nurses and graduating with the right qualifications, these numbers are lower than demand. This means that some hospitals and other medical settings are left short-staffed, and the nurses who do work there have to work longer shifts or extra days to cover the shortfall.

This may be the reason behind the myth that has grown up around the idea that nursing is an easy profession to get into. The truth is, it’s a hard thing to do, and many people may be surprised at just how much there is to learn. Plus, the training doesn’t end with your online course or your college classes resulting in a degree; the training will continue, and nurses will gain additional skills and hone the ones they already have by working and learning as they go. This leads to a lot of ongoing hard work that potential nurses must be aware of and ready for.

Although it might be thought that, due to the fact that nurses are clearly needed, the entry requirements for nursing jobs are lower, or that the training is easier, or that anyone can be a nurse, this is not the case. No matter how short we might be of nurses, having unqualified, non-dedicated, uncaring nurses is worse than not having enough in the first place. Nurses must always be held up to a high standard, and they must always have the patient’s best interests at heart. So although nurses are needed, it’s not as easy to become one as you might think. For those who take on the challenge, however, and work as hard as they need to (often harder, taking on additional roles and more research to help them in their career), it is worth every moment of study and learning.

There’s No Career Advancement

For those who are ambitious and always want to rise as high as possible in their chosen professions, the idea of nursing might not appeal. This is due to the myth that there is no career advancement possible when you’re a nurse – you graduate, and you work, and that’s all you can do. So even those who would make wonderful nurses, and who would enjoy the experience, turn away if they are particularly ambitious. Unfortunately, this only means they are missing out on doing something they would be happy doing, because the truth is that this myth is entirely wrong, and there is plenty of career advancement in nursing.

Of course, career development and enhancement is not something that all nurses want to concern themselves with, and they are perfectly happy being an RN – which is a nursing position all hospitals, clinics, and other medical settings desperately need. Yet others who do want to try different positions and become a leader will have those chances. It will involve, as ever with nursing, plenty of hard work, a lot of study, and looking out for all opportunities for experience, but this is what would happen in any profession if the person in question wanted to move up in their career, and in that regard, nursing is no different.

Nurses Work Crazy Hours

Everyone knows that nurses work very hard; they are often physically and emotionally exhausted by the end of their shift. This is not a myth; this is something that anyone who is considering becoming a nurse must think about, and it’s why only some people are suited to nursing – despite its many rewards, it is incredibly hard work.

Connected to this is the idea that every nurse has to work crazy shifts, including nights and weekends, and that time off is a rare thing. This is partly true. Nurses do have to work at night, and they do have to work at weekends because people get sick 24/7, 365 days of the year. Yet in most cases these shifts will be on a rotating basis, so if you are working nights one week, you’ll be working days the next, or perhaps it will change every two weeks, or another schedule altogether – this will depend on the hospital or other medical workplace and the rota they have in place.

So although as a nurse you will be expected to work some nights and some weekends, you won’t have to work all of them. The shifts will change, giving everyone a fair chance of working during the weekdays only, for example. The upside of this is that, when you have downtime, you get plenty of it. Some shifts work in a ‘four days on and four days off’ system, for example. The shifts are usually 12 hours long, although they can be longer. It’s hard work, but the rewards are excellent.

Nurses Are Just Doctors’ Assistants

Sometimes nurses act as doctors’ assistants. This is particularly noticeable when in the OR or in the busy ER areas of a hospital when an entire team – including doctors and nurses – must work together to save lives or improve them for the patients.

Yet doctors and nurses actually work separately most of the time, and far from being a doctor’s assistant, a nurse will be fairly autonomous, able to make their own decisions and treat patients in the right way, taking care of them using their knowledge, learning, and experience. A doctor might diagnose the patient and come up with a treatment plan, but the nurse is the one who will (usually) carry that plan out and make decisions regarding the care of the patient.

This is why nurses need to be able to work in a team but also be happy to work by themselves and make decisions. They must be able to think for themselves.