A Typical Day as an RN
Do you like helping people? Are you looking for a career with great opportunity? Then a career as a nurse might be right for you. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, registered nurses (RN) constitute the largest health care occupation, with 2.84 million jobs. RN’s are projected to generate about 423,000 new jobs between 2016-2026, which ranks among one of the largest numbers among all occupations.
Jen Malecha is a Twin Cities-based registered nurse who has nearly 5 years of experience in the field. She has a Bachelors of Science degree in Food Science and Nutrition from the University of Minnesota and a two-year Bachelor of Arts degree in Nursing from Inver Hills Community College and currently is employed at a large Twin Cities hospital. She recently shared her story with Job Monkey and talks about what it takes to succeed in this career, what traits make a good nurse, what to expect on the job, how a career in nursing can provide a flexible schedule and much more in the interview below. Read Malecha’s story and see firsthand what to expect from a career in nursing:
How did you get into nursing?
Malecha: When I was in the last 2 years of my undergrad work I was doing clinicals and internships to complete my studies in Dietetics and Nutrition. In doing this I worked with nurses. As a dietitian you work a lot either in an office, or in a kitchen and there isn’t much patient care. Nurses did most of the work and got to develop relationships with patients. That was something I really wanted and didn’t get from what I was doing. I wanted to see how what I did for people made a difference. I graduated knowing I was going to go back someday and get my degree in nursing. A few years later I returned and attended Inver Hills Community College. Because I had a strong background in healthcare I was able to jump right into nursing classes. I finished in two years and got a job before I graduated.
What are some key traits that a person pursuing a career in nursing should have?
- Confidence: Being part of a healthcare team sometimes means you need to speak up for your patient. As a nurse you are the patient’s voice. You may need to question an order or a judgment from another member of the team, such as from a doctor. You need to feel good about your assessment skills and say “no I disagree with you” or “my patient has something else in mind, can we work at finding a different solution?”
- Patience: Healing takes a long time. Sometimes we want to see things get done fast, but sometimes the best is to let nature take its course.
- Flexibility: You may have scheduled your day and laid out how you are going to tend to all your patients needs that day. However, that can change at any instant. You could come into a room and you are ready to give a bath, but the patient is on the phone talking to a distant relative. Well, the schedule needs to change to allow this patient to finish the call.
- Intuitive: You see things every day. Sometimes you just know when there is a problem. When you are assessing someone and you can just tell, not sure how, but something just feels different about it. You need to listen and act on those intuitions.
- Motivated: I would say this is important in being part of a nursing team. As a nurse you have one or more patients. If someone comes through the door or if someone calls out needing help you need to step up and take that patients call or need. You can’t sit back and watch everyone around you run around.
- Responsible: In this time of rising healthcare costs we need to think before we use or do. For example, patients are charged for all we use. Some patients are in isolation for different illnesses. If each time we enter the patients room we need to gown and glove (which means put on protective garments) then we need to make sure we get anything we need done during the time we go in there.
- Communication: Of all the jobs in healthcare nursing positions require great communication skills. We are communicating with many different groups of people. If we don’t use this tool wisely patients can get hurt. We communicate between nurses between every shift to maintain continued uninterrupted care. We communicate to doctors or other members of the team on patient status or questions or concerns we have. Then most importantly we communicate to our patients and their families. We need to make sure they understand what is going on, and answer questions they might have.
What are some things you’ve learned about a career in nursing that you didn’t realize prior to getting into the career and that you don’t learn in school?
Malecha: I didn’t know how emotional it can be. I knew there are some very sad and seemingly unfair things that can happen to people, that is life right? Well, you just don’t want that to happen to the person you are caring for. What is sad is sometimes you just feel there is nothing you can do, even though you want to do so much! It is hard not to get emotionally tied to people. I can have a shift where a family loses a child and my other patient is welcoming one into the world. It can be the highest high and the lowest low.
What are some misconceptions people have about careers in nursing?
Malecha: I think one of the misconceptions is it just is taking vital signs, giving pills and the stuff the patient sees.
There is so much charting a nurse needs to do. We are responsible for writing what is done and what is going on with the patient for anything that is not normal. If for some reason something isn’t right with the way the patients feels they were cared for, in court they will go back to the nursing notes and look for areas that were not done correctly. We have been told if it isn’t charted then you didn’t do it. So for example if you gave a medication and forgot to chart it then it is assumed in a court of law that you didn’t give it. It is sometimes stressful to have lingering over us as we are trying to get things done.
What are some of the pleasures of the job that make nursing a rewarding career?
Malecha: For me I would say the flexibility. I work nights, so I am able to be with my kids, be a part of the school activities, see them before and after school. I also like the fact that I get to work with a great staff and being part of a team and helping someone with our teamwork. In this job, you are learning all the time. We learn from patients and from classes to always further our knowledge.
Nursing isn’t a 9-to-5 job, and nurses are needed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. How has that been a positive for you?
Malecha: There are many areas of nursing. If you work in a clinic setting, you can work during the weekday. There are school nurses and you can get the same holidays/time off as the teachers. There are corporate nurses that work on the business end of things in companies either developing products or working on healthcare for company employees. Hospitals and long term care facilities are open 24/7. As a working mom it’s nice to have flexibility. If you want to be at home with your kids and avoid daycare, working 2nd or 3rd shift is available. If you work an off shift you get compensated more for that.
Working evenings and weekends also make extra per hour. The one thing that I find is nice is I am scheduled a .5 so I am guaranteed 20 hrs per week. There are so many extra shifts to pick up, so if I want to earn some extra money I can pick up extra shifts.
One thing to remember is, if you are in an area of nursing and it isn’t for you there are lots more other options you can pursue. Different age groups you can work with, different specialties. The job is flexible
As a mother of four children and someone with a family, how has a career in nursing benefited you and your family?
Malecha: I think this field is great for parents. I work either from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. or 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. This year all of my kids are in school, so I see them off to school then I go to bed. I sleep while they are in school. Then I can get up and have supper ready and help with the driving for activities. I am around during the day if there is a school activity. When my kids were smaller I would sleep when I could (nap times) then I would sleep when my husband came home. It is easier for me to sleep when I can or lose some sleep than to be tied up working during the day and missing something. I get an extra $4 per hour working nights along with a few other bonuses and it works well. I may not get all my hours of sleep in one day, but can catch up another day. I like to be involved in my kids’ activities and school, so doing this schedule allows me the best of both worlds.
If you could tell an aspiring nurse one thing, what would it be?
Malecha: Go to school, get a two year degree and then get in the workforce. There are so many opportunities. You can further your education or degree down the road. Don’t wait. In this economy, while people are losing jobs, this is one that has stayed. While there are layoffs and such, there is always something around the corner. We have hired in the last 6 months. A few nurses from my unit moved and they picked up a job within one weeks time.
Talk about the education to become a nurse. This is not an easy process, do you have any advice for aspiring nurses pursuing a nursing degree or training?
Malecha: There are two year associate’s degrees, or you can get a four -year degree at a university. I would say get a two-year degree and start working, then you can go back and many schools offer a two-year up to Masters Degree in 3 years or a BA or BS in two years. You can get a nursing degree online or at a school. The nice part is your employer can help you out with the cost. Time goes fast, it seems like a big
commitment now, but it will pay off with job security, great pay, flexibility and lots of opportunities.
One thing to remember, if you are looking into public Health nursing or being a nursing administrator or going into nursing education you need a four-year degree. If you are interested in this career there are educators in a hospital that allow people who are thinking of this career to follow a nurse for a day. That might be a good option to consider.
What has been the biggest surprise about this career that you have learned along the way?
Malecha: Nursing is the biggest part of the healthcare team. Everyone is needed to make it work, but after all is said and done they look to the nurse. It feels good.