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Why did you become a nurse?

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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.

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Sean Dent

Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing. After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital. He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
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8 Responses to Why did you become a nurse?

  1. Duane Birchmore

    I was headed to Phys. Therapy school when my dad got really sick. While in CICU, he had a male nurse, Mike, who was awesome with my dad. He even cried with us when we had to take dad off the vent. Mike is the reason I became a nurse. I try to remember how he treated us when I am around my patients.

  2. Tim Thomas

    Wow, talk about feeling. I have been a nurse for 33 years. I just hope that some of my patients talk about me that way. I will go to work tomorrow charged with the feeling that I might make that kind of impact. Thank you

  3. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @Duanne Well I’m glad I’m not the only one who was affected by a fellow nurse. So glad you chose this profession. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @Tim I’m pretty sure after 33 years you do that very thing.

  5. MrDog RN

    I got into nursing, or *back* into nursing, after being on a medical track that jumped the rails in my late 20′s. After a lay-off, I went back and got a nursing degree. It was a perfect fit. I have always worked to help others. As a Medic in the Army, a nursing assistant in the ER, and even as a network administrator. My goal was always to help people. Occasionally, people thank me or acknowledge my effort to help them, I simply say “I live to serve.” They sometimes take it as a facetious answer, but I mean it whole-heartedly. I live to serve, and nursing allows me to serve in the best way I can think of.

  6. JerZFox RN

    To have an excuse to get out of cooking or entertaining on the holidays (“Sorry, I have to work Xmas/Thanksgiving/New Year’s/July 4th/Easter/Groundhog Day/whatever…”)

  7. Sean this is a great story. It demonstrates that nurses come in a variety of qualities and how being a patient can really change your perspective on nursing, whether you are a nurse or not.

    • Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

      It truly is amazing how being on the other ‘side’ of the bedside will change your perspective forever.