As a nursing school that’s been operating for 125 years, we’ve heard just about everything, and even the most well-meaning nursing students tend to come in with the same handful of misconceptions.
It’s time to dispel those myths once and for all. The following are ten nursing myths that our own faculty reveal should no longer be a part of the conversation.
Myth #1: Nursing Is Only About Technical Skills
It’s still somewhat shocking to think that many students expect to learn only the technical aspects of the job.
Nursing is not a trade. The technical aspects of nursing are the baseline of your education.
Yes, you’ll be learning and honing your technical skills, but nursing also entails a compassionate, broad-thinking approach to care. The more important skills you’ll pick up in nursing school emphasize patient advocacy and critical thinking.
No two situations are alike. The textbook can give you the basics, but it can never cover the complex dynamics of a patient whose vitals constantly fluctuate and whose family has a million questions while you’re trying to juggle their needs with all your other patients on the floor.
Nursing never has been and never will be merely technical skills.
Myth #2: You’re Simply Taking Orders
That leads to another common misconception: that nurses simply take orders from physicians.
Have you heard the phrase “doctor’s orders”? Well, that’s not even a phrase you will really hear spoken anymore on the hospital floor.
Nurses have more responsibility than perhaps ever before. Yes, a physician will develop the medical plan of care, write orders and oversee a patient’s overall progress, making alterations as necessary. But it’s the nurse who is with that patient hour after hour and day after day.
When a patient’s condition worsens and a nurse needs to provide care, he or she can’t always wait to get permission from a doctor, nor should they. The modern nurse has the decision-making power to intervene for patients within their scope of practice, assess the patient, listen to that patient’s concerns and address those same concerns with a physician or the entirety of the medical team.
Myth #3: Nurses Stay Within Their Own Circles
Nurses have a voice in the care plan, and oftentimes, it’s their insights that can save a life. They can and should give their opinion on a patient to every member of a medical team.
Think of a nurse as a facilitator. The modern medical team is comprised of a variety of people, and it’s really up to the nurse to act as a collaborator. Over the course of ten or 15 minutes, he or she may visit with a patient, discuss the care plan with the healthcare team and address a potential issue with the healthcare provider. Then the nurse moves on to the next patient and repeats the process as necessary.
Communication is critical in this regard.
Myth #4: Three 12-Hour Shifts and Done
Some people love the thought of the 12-hour shift. After all, those three days of 12 hours mean that you get four full days off per week, right?
Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that. For one, by the time you brief the incoming staff on patient status and make your final rounds, that 12-hour shift can wind up being more like 13 or 14 hours. And it’s not uncommon to pick up another shift during the week, putting you at upwards of 48 hours of work in seven days.
Many people thrive in the 12-hour system, but for others, it’s quite an adjustment. What we’re saying is: don’t get into nursing just because you think three 12-hour shifts will be an awesome change from the five-day, 40-hour work week. It can and will take time to get used to.
Myth #5: You’ll Do Everything
Three or four decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see a nurse provide respiratory care, assist with rehabilitation and conduct any number of jobs required to assist a patient.
Those days are over. Healthcare increasingly relies on specialization in order to provide the patient with an optimal level of care.
Sonographers, respiratory therapists and physical therapists and their assistants now conduct the work that used to fall within the domain of the nurse. It’s up to nurses to facilitate the care plan, interacting with whoever has the specific skills necessary for a patient’s best interests. In other words, to coordinate the patient care.
Myth #6: Your Interests Will Stay The Same
Most students come to us with some idea of where they would like to work. But for 99% of students, those interests will change and evolve the more they learn.
There are so many departments within a hospital that it’s almost impossible for a prospective student to know them all. Having an idea for specialization early on is commendable, but it really is jumping the gun.
Clinical experience at Nebraska Methodist College and other nursing schools is set up to give nursing students the full array of healthcare experiences. A clinical rotation in pediatrics could be followed by time in hospice care, then a medical-surgical floor and a mental health department.
The variety within nursing is truly astonishing, and most students find that what they entered nursing school for is not necessarily what they end up pursuing.
Myth #7: You’ll Only Work In a Hospital or Clinic
Yet another common misconception is that every nurse will end up in a hospital or clinic. In truth, those are only the beginning of the possible roles a nurse can take on within today’s healthcare world.
A nurse may work for a school, a government organization, a think tank or some other type of health department. This is especially common if you choose to pursue a Nursing Master’s degree or higher. You can become an executive at a healthcare system or an educator ready to teach the next generation of nurses.
While the hospital is the most common place to work, it’s far from the only place.
Myth #8: Nursing School Is Easy
We’ve previously addressed a question we get all the time: “how hard is nursing school?”
Some people choose nursing because they think it will be easy. And if you were just memorizing the technical skills, nursing school probably would be easier. But you’re learning so much more about patient care, interaction and holism.
In fact, your four years of nursing school can be just as difficult and rigorous as any professional school. It takes dedication. You will be asked to spend hours in class and clinical rotations and required to spend additional hours studying what you’ve learned. It’s a lot to handle, but those who take up the challenge find that it’s the most rewarding experience in the world.
Myth #9: Nursing School Is Just Like Any Other College Experience
One of the reasons that a lot of students think nursing school will be a cinch is because they assume it’s just like other college experiences.
It’s not. Rarely are you sitting in a lecture hall listening to professors talk for hours at a time. Instead, you’re an active participant in your learning. Hands-on exercises happen often, and your skills will be constantly put to the test.
Then there’s the clinical component. At Nebraska Methodist College, you roll up your sleeves and participate in a clinical experience during your first year. Over the course of four years, you travel to different hospitals and community experiences for learning opportunities that place you right in the middle of healthcare.
In this way, your college experience will be quite unlike those of your peers who choose to pursue different degrees.
Myth #10: Learning Ends Once You Get Your Degree
Let this be your last takeaway: as a nurse, you’re not done simply because you’ve earned your nursing degree.
It may sound cliché to say that you’re never finished with learning, but in the case of nursing, it’s true. Not only will you be expected to earn Continuing Education credits, but healthcare and the entirety of the world around you will change at a rapid pace.
As a nurse, your journey is one of constant self-improvement even as you bear witness to the multitude of political, governmental and medical changes happening all around you that affect your job.
Best practices will constantly evolve. And so will you, especially now that you can put these top myths about nursing behind you to focus on the future.