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Ask a Nurse: Why Did You Become a Nurse?

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated April 11, 2023
    Nursing offers a unique set of opportunities in a variety of fields. Check out how it can be a means to an end, just like any other career.
    Credit: shapecharge / Getty Images

    In our Ask a Nurse series, experienced nurses provide an insider look at the nursing profession by answering your questions about nursing careers, degrees, and resources.

    Question: Why did you become a nurse?

    “I became a nurse because of my caring and compassionate spirit. [However], I also have always loved to teach others. I found beauty in the nursing profession when I was able to combine caring, compassion, and education together.”

    — Sheniqua Johnson, RN, Author, Motivational Speaker, Health/Life Coach

    Nursing: Passion Driven vs. Mission Driven

    Nurses sometimes choose their careers based on a passion or because they believe that nursing is their mission in life. However, both passion-driven and mission-driven individuals choose nursing as a career.

    Nursing as a Passion-Driven Career Choice

    A career that is passion driven helps you stay focused on the love you have for what you do, not profit. For example, a nurse may be passionate about helping vulnerable populations. This can be expressed in a variety of jobs, like bedside nursing, volunteering, administration, or a nurse entrepreneurial endeavor.

    Passion is a deep interest in something that triggers powerful feelings and drives consistent action. Mission-driven career development can have the same results, but the driving force is different.

    Nursing as a Mission-Driven Career Choice

    Mission-driven nurses may choose this career as a means to end. For example, if a nurse’s personal mission is to offer deaf children the best opportunities in life, they may choose the career as a foundation to gain experience with the population before developing an organization to address the needs of this population.

    Sheniqua Johnson is a nurse, author, empowerment specialist, and motivational speaker. After working as a registered nurse for 21 years, she vividly remembers her first days as a graduate nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland. She packed her bags and left her parent’s home to start her new life. But, when she didn’t pass her state boards, she was crushed.

    Johnson recalls that moment in her life:

    “I learned a very important lesson during that traumatic event in my life. It truly taught me to focus on why I wanted to be a nurse in the first place. Passing the exam became less about me and more about how hard I was willing to work to have the opportunity to do what I believe I was called to do.”

    Johnson is a mission-driven nurse who believes she is called to be an educator; her nursing career was a means to that end. Nursing is often painted as a profession of passion-driven professionals whose reward and satisfaction are derived solely from patient care.

    While passion is important, it’s not the only reason to become a nurse. Some people become nurses as a stepping stone to achieve their ultimate goal, which may be far from the bedside. Nursing administration, nursing informatics, logistics, and legal consultants are all nursing positions that use information from other professions to improve healthcare and patient outcomes.

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    Becoming a Nurse for Growth Opportunities

    Nursing is a unique profession; nearly all nurses enter their careers in much the same place — as bedside nurses. However, the significant number of growth opportunities means that many of those same nurses will have unique experiences throughout their career.

    The foundation of nursing is to provide and coordinate patient care and educate communities about health conditions and prevention. With a growing aging population and a nursing shortage in many states, there is an increasing demand for registered nurses. In recent years, the profession has also enjoyed an expansion of opportunities for nurses at different levels.

    For example, there are well over 30 specialty careers for nurses who choose to advance their education and complete a master of science in nursing. Nurses have the opportunity to work in ambulatory care, hospitals, prison systems, public health, schools, emergency rooms, and critical care to name just a few.

    Nursing education and background also can support an entrepreneurial spirit for nurses who choose to open brick-and-mortar stores or, as Johnson has, an online platform. Johnson uses her online platform to encourage and empower nurses.

    “Throughout my 21-year journey as a nurse, I have been blessed to provide care in the hospital on med-surg, orthopedic, and geriatric units. I have worked as a homecare community health

    nurse, and then I found my true passion as a nurse educator,” she says. “I even had the opportunity to serve as a college professor at my alma mater, teaching med-surg to over 500 aspiring nurses in a baccalaureate program.”

    As Johnson’s career demonstrates, she worked in hospitals and home care before finding her true passion as an educator. One of the core responsibilities nurses have to their patients and the community is teaching and education.

    Many nurse specialty careers embody those core responsibilities. Nurse practitioners, nurse educators, legal nurse consultants, informatics nurses, and school nurses all must use different strategies and skills to be strong teachers and educators.

    “I became a nurse because of my caring and compassionate spirit. I also have always loved to teach others. I found beauty in the nursing profession when I was able to combine caring, compassion, and education together,” Johnson says. “It brings me great joy to teach people how to become better self-managers over their minds and bodies. This is why I became a nurse, and over the years I have learned how to do that outside of the four walls of a facility.”

    Advice for Nurses Looking for a Change

    Change can be challenging. You may not have considered leaving your current position only because you don’t like change. Yet, change is necessary for growth to occur. Adapting to change is no small feat and requires tools and resources to be successful.

    It is important to realize that nurses who want a change in job direction do not have to leave their nursing career. There are many choices for nurses that don’t involve patient care if that’s the motivating factor to change. Nurses are valued employees in the insurance industry, as health coaches, and risk managers.

    “My advice to anyone thinking about entering the profession and to those pondering about staying in this career, would be the same advice, and that is to examine your why! Why do you want to become a nurse? Why did you become a nurse?” Johnson advises. “If you did it for reasons that will fade, like for the money, you won’t last in the profession. The monetary compensation will never match what nurses truly bring to the world.”

    You will face disappointment in any career you choose or job you take. Nursing is not different. Yet, nurses often find that the rewards and satisfaction far outweigh the disappointments. No matter what career path you choose as a nurse, the foundation of what you do will be giving back to the community in a way that uniquely supports your mission and passion.

    “As nurses, we are beacons of hope! Your longevity in this field will only survive if you have a deeper and greater understanding of your unique role as a nurse,” Johnson shares. “I have learned that and it has given me greater satisfaction that outweighs any disappointments faced. Always search your heart. If you are called to be a nurse, then a nurse you will be. It is my hope that if you do choose nursing as your pathway in life, that you will find an enriching passion that will keep you evolving as a nurse over your lifetime.”

    In Summary:

    • Nurses may choose to enter the career because they are driven by passion or have a mission to fulfill.
    • Nursing offers growth opportunities that may or may not involve patient care, such as legal consultant, informatics, and administration.
    • Nearly all nurses enter their careers in much the same place — as a bedside nurse. But most end their careers having experienced unique opportunities within different organizations and with different patient populations.
    • There are well over 30 specialty careers for nurses who choose to advance their education and many diverse workplace environments to get a job, such as schools, camps, correctional facilities, community centers, outpatient clinics, homecare, emergency vehicles, military bases, or your own office.

    Meet Our Contributor

    Portrait of Sheniqua Johnson, RN

    Sheniqua Johnson, RN

    Sheniqua Johnson is a registered nurse by profession and an encourager by nature. She is the author of several motivational and inspirational books. Her first book titled “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength: How My Faith Moved My Mountains” is a self-help book that encourages readers to discover their inner strength. She is also the co-author of “Reach Your Greatness” with James Malinchak from ABC’s “Secret Millionaires.” In this book, Johnson shares tips on how to be successful in life.