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salaries series

Nurses who wrote in to The Globe said they loved the variety of their job, while others warned of the difficult parts of the job.Catherine Yeulet/The Globe and Mail

Last week, Globe Careers started a new series that looks at a number of professions, their education requirements, their earning potential, and the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the jobs.

The first story on nurses was well read, and garnered a lot of real-life responses and advice from nurses and others.

Here's a selection of some of the best comments:

Several nurses gave the low-down on what the profession entails and what they like or dislike about it.

  • M. Lyons wrote: “It’s the only job where you can run the full gamut of emotions in any given shift. It’s about caring, making better, seeing new life, and easing the passing of life. It’s about knowing yourself, your skills, your patient and your patient’s family, and continuing to learn more about all of that almost every day. After 33 years and many different areas of practice, each day continues to be a surprise. Can’t get bored in this job.”
  • Leslie Gross at the Credit Valley Hospital says she still loves her job after 10 years. “I have worked in the mental health field for the past decade. Nursing is such an honour. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel entirely grateful for the privilege of supporting patients in their care and recovery at some of the most difficult moments in their lives. Some of the most extraordinary people I have met are my patients. The courage, tenacity and perseverance they embody is awe inspiring. And it re-affirms the reason I became a nurse. Salary? It’s good. But as cliche as this sounds, the compensation of fulfilment you get from such a rewarding profession is priceless. If you want to become a nurse, please do so. Regardless of how much you will make. You will be rich based on your experiences.”
  • Kyla Cullain, a nursing project officer with Ottawa Public Health wrote that she likes doing different tasks. “The reason I went into nursing was for the variety. There are endless opportunities to work in a multitude of fields throughout your career; as well as opportunities to further your education and possibilities. I’m currently doing my Master of Nursing at the University of Athabasca through correspondence while working full time. I work at the public health department, in the area of outbreak management and communicable diseases. I work Monday to Friday (no shift work) with great pay, and absolutely love what I do. Currently, I’m conducting a full review of Ottawa’s Vaccine Preventable Diseases program to hopefully help create an innovative and strategic program for the City of Ottawa residents. When I’ve met up with others after work, many are shocked to hear that I’m a nurse since I’m wearing a suit – not scrubs. Regardless of the outfit – the outcome is the same: patients come first.”
  • Karen Lidster, who has been a registered nurse for six years, said she has worked in in-patient psychiatry and public health nursing. “I love both jobs. I’d have to say my passion comes with public health nursing. It gives a big picture to health of the individual, community and population. We work to prevent chronic diseases through education of smoking cessation, breast feeding support, child development and nutrition just to name a few. I love every day of my work.”
  • Jane McCall wrote that it can be a child-friendly profession. “My partner worked weekdays and I worked shift. When my kids were small I managed to put together a schedule that allowed us to share child care. We never needed to pay for daycare.” She added that “there are lots of opportunities for change. In my 30-year career I have done lots of different jobs, from staff nurse in a variety of different areas to clinical nurse leader to educator. You get tired of one thing and you can do another.”

Shiftwork was a drawback cited by many readers.

  • “Nursing is a well paid profession but the night shift ruins your health,” wrote DJD.
  • Chalolal, a nurse for more than 20 years, liked the night shift and wrote: “I love night shifts, and have not had any deleterious effects. In fact, I felt worse working day shift. I was nauseated, dizzy, and gained weight! I guess my body and I don’t like getting up early. In my career, I’ve worked in a variety of settings: Red Cross, home care, surgical short stay, ER, float pool in the US, the OR and now hospice. That’s what’s great about nursing. There’s variety. And you can go anywhere to practice (once the paperwork/redtape is completed).”

The more unpleasant aspects of the job came up frequently.

  • The job requires you to be resilient, said mcscotty. “It can be a real tough job. My mother is a nurse. She spent most of her career in the ICU. Her daily routine included cleaning burn victims, colostomy bags, and tracheotomy tubes. Not pleasant work and the money is average. A lot better ways to earn a living. Plus, shifts take a toll on the body.”
  • Liz2010 had quite a lot to say: “There are things about nursing you have to know. There’s a lot of disgusting work that nurses do and they put themselves at risk all the time of getting viruses. My mother was an RN and she used to come home and tell me that people with AIDs would spit at her and throw their bed pans full of feces and urine at the nurses. She had to deal with bitter people with hepatitis trying to scratch her for trying to set up an IV. You deal with a lot of disgusting things like gangrene and infections that you can smell. If you can’t stomach the smells of rotting flesh, seeing blood, gore, and helping people with viruses that could kill you, then don’t become a nurse. They earn their money for sure. They are always on their feet and hardly get a chance to sit down. When other nurses call in sick, they have to handle 42 patients in 12 hours. They have no time because of budget cuts and lack of nursing staff. In the 1970s, nurses only had to deal with 10 patients and now they have to deal with 40 patients per nurse. In Alberta, new nurses are not getting the help on the job and the stress is too much, so they quit. Thirty per cent of new nurses quit in Alberta.”

The opportunities the profession affords was cited a few times as well.

  • Dewey8 is also a nurse and gave this account: “I have been in the nursing profession for the last 39 years. If you want a career in nursing you have to enjoy working with people from all walks of life. The greatest rewards for a nurse are those that make a difference, no matter how small, to the lives of the clients he/she works with. Notice I didn’t say ‘serve.’ Nursing is a lifelong learning commitment in a fascinating field that is ever changing. Not a day goes by where you don’t learn something new! Nursing is also very team orientated involving collaboration with other disciplines. Nursing also has diverse opportunities. In addition, it is a very portable profession. Certainly, it is not without the challenges of shift work or difficult tasks. If you are considering nursing as a career, you need to establish whether you are “cut out” for the work by exposing yourself to the health care setting. Certainly, it’s not for the ‘faint at heart.’”
  • If you want to be a nurse, keep up your education in order to take advantage of the other opportunities the profession has, advised Reg Boulette. “If you join the nursing profession, as some of my relatives have done, keep up with your education in the field. This will result in opportunities in nurse practitioner, flight nursing, health program development – positions outside what you would consider the ‘usual’ hospital environment. This tactic will also keep you employed. As in any bureaucracy, when it comes to cutting budgets, useless administrators will keep their jobs at hospitals, while nurses will be laid off or cut to part time to save having to pay them benefits. Jobs outside hospitals, such as with family clinics, or specialized health outlets, can be more stable.”

While most readers felt nurses earned a good living, they determined it shouldn't be a driving force for entering the field.

  • On the Globe’s website, m77m7 wrote: “If you’re in it for the money, it’s not the profession for you.”
  • That garnered this response from M. Lyons, a nurse: “Agreed, you won’t survive if that is why you are a nurse.”
  • Crownline suggested: “$42 an hour in Alberta. Come west.”

Ultimately, readers had great things to say about nurses and the series.

  • Passerby wrote: “I like this series. I hope a lot of teachers will point out these articles to their students.”
  • Thunderbold32 wrote: “Nursing is an honourable profession and a difficult one with an aging population and government’s cutting budgets. Nurses out there, you have my respect and continue doing the best you can during these difficult times. You are appreciated!”
  • Many readers said nurses deserved more money, as JimmieB wrote: “Whatever they earn, it’s not enough. They do all the work that overworked and/or snooty doctors don’t.”
  • Bart21 wrote: “I witnessed the good work nurses do first hand when my mother was sick several years ago and I have a lot of respect for this profession. They are worth every penny.”
  • BeANurseCa sent a link to videos about being a nurse.

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