Since I’ve gotten into nursing school, many people around me have questioned one of two things 1) why did I go back to school or 2) why did I choose not to apply to medical school. Since I was a young kid, I always looked at hospitals with awe and aspired to somehow work my way in. Unlike some people who knew what they wanted to do since they were young, I never really thought about what it is I exactly wanted to do with my life. All I knew was that I wanted to be in a career that worked in the hospital directly with patients, whether it be a pharmacist, doctor, physiotherapist, or even a nurse. For some reason, I was intrigued by what lay behind the walls of the hospital, the complex cases, and the need for people to be cared for.
I won’t lie. there are days when I questioned why I didn’t bother to apply to med school. The prestige, reputation, the ability to diagnose and treat patients, and pay are often factors that draw many to apply in the first place. But there are pros and cons to both professions and for me I felt nursing aligned more along with my own personal values and goals down the line. I can’t tell you if I would or wouldn’t get in, I mean I had the marks, references, and extra- curricular’s to support a strong application but that wouldn’t mean I would be guaranteed admission. Similar to how I wasn’t guaranteed to get into nursing school, let alone a competitive program such as the one offered by McMaster. I consider myself fortunate that I was selected alongside 140 of my peers to enter such an exciting and diverse profession in 3.5 years.
I chose to become a nurse for a number of reasons. Namely for the fact that I always wanted to be the one at the bedside, caring for patients one-on-one, being there for families, and doing everything I can to help them.
I’ve also always been intrigued by the fact that nursing is like an art as much as a science, and practiced with skill. Nursing is different from the medical practitioner, and is in my opinion the more intuitive specialty. I’ve always been amazed at how well using the nursing process works for a patient, in that there is truly a relationship between nurse and patient that actually does encourage health in the patient. Whereas, doctors do not usually participate in this process. Their contribution is more of a scientific nature: “Lab X says this, so we’ll treat it thusly. I view physicians as specializing in diagnostics. it’s a different job. they figure out what’s the most likely medical diagnosis and best treatment regimen based on test results and research in this area. nurses manage patient care. I’ve learned slowly in nursing school that nurses treat the whole patient. Nurses often have to think beyond the math, including something as simple as repositioning a patient or bringing the patient a small snack after a stressful wait in the emergency room.
To have gone to medical school would have been costly and I wouldn’t be guaranteed to end up in the specialty I would want to be in, let alone the location I would want to live in after graduating. Depending on the specialty I would have entered, the hours I would have to put in as a resident would be immense. I often thought about the fact that at some point I would likely feel trapped by my career and by my committments if I entered a specialty like family medicine — owning my own practice, having to employ staff, being on-call, etc. The fact that it would difficult to move from one place to another and almost impossible to switch specialties. Whereas in nursing, there is an incredible amount of flexibility if I am drawn towards a particular specialty. For me it was also about the ability to have more flexibility and I felt in medicine I wouldn’t have that sense of freedom that I felt nursing could bring me.
In comparison with being a physician, my shift ends when the clocks stops (for the most part) and I know there are people to take over my shift and continue care for the patient. I don’t have to worry about sitting at home to complete paperwork or to review labs, I can enjoy time with my family and friends. I think the most important factor for me was the ability to build patient relationships, something most doctors don’t have time to do. One area that did concern me was autonomy, in the sense sometimes nursing can be restricting in making decisions for a patient. However, I have the ability to become a nurse practitioner down the line if I desired and would therefore have the ability to do tasks such as interpret and order labs, make diagnoses, prescribe medications, counsel patients, perform annual physical exams, and make referrals to social services.
For many, nursing may not have the esteemed reputation but we get patient contact, flexible work and time to have a life outside work, and that’s what drew me to become a nurse. At the end of the day, it is hard to make a comparison between the two professions, both require people dedicated to their professions. But I know I made the right decision for myself in choosing nursing regardless of factors such as prestige or pay, I get to be part of a rewarding and enriching career that will have the opportunity to come across many patients requiring compassionate and competent care.