Being a nurse is by no means an easy job. The hours are long, the stakes are high, and it can be extremely physically taxing. Yet many of those in the profession believe it is one of the most fulfilling jobs anyone can choose to do. And nurses everywhere are working hard every single day – that’s why it’s so impressive to see these 40 consummate pros looking good while doing it.
It’s safe to say that nurses are generally caring, patient people who enjoy – or are good at – working with the public. During any shift, after all, these medical professionals can work alongside and interact with a huge variety of people from all walks of life. And that’s part of the reason why nursing is one of the most important professions in our society.
Nurses must also possess the ability to communicate clearly and with accuracy to everyone they work with. These pros will be exchanging important information with colleagues including doctors, surgeons and other nurses on the regular. So this element of teamwork is vital to the proper functioning of a hospital’s medical staff.
Nurses communicate with patients regularly, too, so the ability to put them at ease by being calm and efficient is also important. They will be required to control their emotions in potentially upsetting circumstances as well. And an ability to be proactive will serve a nurse well; the medical professionals should be able to make important decisions quickly and safely.
All these common characteristics don’t go unnoticed by the public, either. You see, the analytics company Gallup conducts a survey every year in which it asks Americans to rate the ethics and honesty of various professions. And in January 2020 it found that U.S. citizens rated nursing as the most honest and ethical profession for the 18th year in a row.
Yep, an impressive 85 percent of Americans told Gallup that they considered nurses’ ethical standards to be “very high” or “high.” The percentage for nurses hasn’t dropped below 82 since 2016, either. They even ranked well above doctors, pharmacists and dentists, who were rated at 65, 64 and 61 percent, respectively.
But that’s in the past. So how can people become nurses today? Well, in the U.S., the most tried and tested method is to work for a nursing diploma. This requires three years of study and a set number of hours spent gaining work experience in a hospital. But there are further qualifications that can be obtained.
U.S. students can also study for associate, bachelor’s, master’s or even doctorate degrees in nursing. Each higher qualification requires extra years of study, of course, but they can give students better employment opportunities when they graduate. If any of these qualifications are gained, people then have the option of becoming registered nurses by passing a licensure exam.
As of 2018, 3.1 million registered nurses were gainfully employed in America, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It also reported in the following May that the median annual wage for a nurse was $73,300, with the top 10 percent of the profession making more than $111,220. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $52,080.
Almost two-thirds of the 3.1 million registered nurses were employed in hospitals. Eighteen percent were employed by ambulance healthcare services, and 7 percent plied their trade at residential care institutions for the elderly or disabled. Finally, 5 percent of the registered nurses worked for the U.S. government and 3 percent in education.
In the U.K., 94 percent of nursing graduates move into employment inside six months of attaining their degrees, according to the National Health Service (NHS). There is also non-repayable financial support available to nursing students of up to around $10,000. Their degrees contain a portion of work experience in both hospitals and the local community.
The fields available to study in Britain are children’s, adult, mental health and learning disability nursing. Dual-field degrees also allow a student to study in two of the disciplines – increasing their future employability. Qualifying to be a nurse allows you to work in the United Kingdom and around the world, too.
In the U.S., many choose to operate as travel nurses because the qualifications mean that their skills can also be applied anywhere in the world. So these nurses are assigned to a city and will work in any hospital or facility where they’re required. They do this for a set amount of time and are then sent to a new location.
The demand for nurses is so high that many hospitals secure nurses through employment agencies. Individuals who come from these companies can be used to fulfill temporary or permanent positions, but they are not employed by the hospital itself. This type of situation is commonplace nowadays because there are often staff vacancies that need to be filled quickly.
Nurses employed in hospitals work long day and night shifts, as 24-hour care needs to be provided to patients. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing states that these staffers make up the largest portion of the healthcare labor pool. Many of them are even “on call” on their days off, meaning they must be prepared to return to work on short notice if the need arises.
In 2006 a study was published in MEDSURG Nursing – the official journal of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses. And it aimed to find out just how physically taxing the average 12-hour shift is for these healthcare professionals. 146 staffers were surveyed, and it was discovered that they walked an average of between 4 and 5 miles each shift.
Obviously, walking up to 5 miles over 12 hours is an exceptionally long distance for anyone at work. The website Travel Nursing notes that most American citizens walk an average of 2 to 3 miles over an 18-hour day. So it’s no wonder that many nurses are left fatigued by their job.
The study found that day-shift nurses tended to walk slightly more than those on nights, due to there being more need for patient-care during the day. The lead author of the research, John Welton, also pointed out how nurses are at risk of back pain from standing for long periods. And his advice to combat this threat was all about footwear.
Welton said, “The top advice I would offer to nurses is to wear good-fitting shoes and two pairs of socks.” He went on, “This may not be a practical solution for many nurses, but it does raise the point about potential orthopedic problems with frequent walking on hard surfaces.” Nurses should also apparently change their footwear frequently.
According to Travel Nursing, nurses should follow a similar schedule to runners, who are advised to replace their footwear every 400 to 600 miles. That’s because shoes will offer less support to the feet because of wear and tear – even if the footwear still looks in good condition to the naked eye. So nurses are directed to change their shoes every eight to 12 months.
The BLS has estimated that there will be 12 percent more nursing jobs available for the ten years from 2018. That’s a total of around 210,400 American jobs that will need filling. For reference, the organization has arrived at this figure due to the large number of nurses in the country who retire – or are about to retire – every year.
You see, 70,000 nurses retire from the profession every single year in the United States, according to The Staffing Stream website. And as of 2020, the statistics show that one-third of all nurses are over 50 years old. That amounts to over one million nurses who may retire within the next ten to 15 years. This means that the numbers entering the field may end up being less than those leaving.
The U.K. is facing a similar problem. Figures released by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in December 2019 show that the number of nurses, nursing associates and midwives being registered has risen to its highest level ever. But the organization is concerned that much of the workforce is nearing retirement and that some of the newly registered nurses are close to that age.
For example, the NMC found that the number of newly registered nurses between the ages of 21 and 30 increased by 1,659. But there were 2,220 new registrations in the 61 to 65 age range – suggesting that the cohort of nurses is aging. This worried the organization’s chief executive and registrar Andrea Sutcliffe, who also noted that there were troublesome shortages in some of the specialty nursing fields.
Sutcliffe told Nursing Notes in December 2019, “We know the incredible impact that nurses, midwives and nursing associates have in providing highly skilled and person-centered care for millions of people living across all four countries of the U.K. I’m pleased to see such an increase in people on our register.” Yet she felt that the worrying trends couldn’t be ignored.
“But the reality is, even with this considerable mid-year growth, there are still serious shortages across the health and care sector – not least in specialist areas such as mental health and learning disabilities,” Sutcliffe continued. But how should this problem be dealt with? The Royal College of Nursing believes there needs to be more government investment in the profession.
This should perhaps not be too much to ask – considering that nurses have been looking after the public since roughly the 1850s. The birth of modern nursing is credited to Florence Nightingale, you see, and she began her career as a field nurse during the Crimean War. The medical professional treated injured soldiers on the battlefield and witnessed first-hand how terrible hygiene and sanitation were leading to deaths among the men.
So Nightingale and her staff of 34 nurses set about greatly improving the hygiene levels of the field hospital. She also forced the British government to provide more resources. And, according to History.com, the death rate was subsequently lowered by two-thirds – aided massively by implementing a level of cleanliness that is commonplace today.
Unsurprisingly, then, Nightingale became a national hero upon her return home to Lea Hurst, England. The nurse was even given an engraved brooch by the Queen. The public also rewarded her efforts by establishing the Nightingale Fund – raising an initial £45,000. And in true national-treasure style, she used this money to start the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St. Thomas’ Hospital in the U.K. capital.
Nightingale is largely credited with helping change the public perception of nursing as a profession, too. Young women all over England were inspired by her – including those of the upper class, who began training to be nurses. Songs, plays and poems were written about the English woman as well. History.com also notes that Nightingale had turned nursing into an “honorable vocation.”
Sadly, though, the “Angel of the Crimea” became confined to her bed at 38 and would stay that way until her death in 1910 at the age of 90. Yet she continued pushing nursing forward by speaking with politicians and people of influence from her room. She published Notes on Hospitals in 1859, too, and her advice was even requested during the U.S. Civil War about how best to operate field hospitals.
Speaking of the Civil War, there was an important figure in the history of American nursing who rose to prominence following this conflict. Clara Barton worked as an independent nurse during the war, which took place over four years from 1861. Like Nightingale, Barton was also called “the angel of the battlefield” by the soldiers she treated.
Barton later became known for giving lectures about her experiences of the conflict. She then traveled to Europe during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 to work with the International Red Cross. This prompted her to campaign for a U.S. version of the organization, and in 1881 the American Red Cross was formed – with Barton as president.
During this period in American history, though, nursing schools were run entirely by experienced nurses, and trainees would learn from hefty medical textbooks. This meant there was little innovation made in the profession. But in 1900, hospitals were given direct control over the schools, and this opened trainee nurses up to more on-the-job experiences. Crucially, they could now learn and innovate in the field.
A nursing degree also became something young American women could work towards. According to NursingSchoolHub.com, the U.S. had 294,000 people trained in the profession by the late 1920s – considerably more than the 150,000 untrained ones. Mary Breckinridge formed the Frontier Nursing Service during this period as well. This organization focused its care on lower-income patients living in rural regions.
The period between the end of World War I and the dawning of WWII saw significant advancements in nursing, too. This was partly due to improving technology – but also simply the sheer numbers of people pursuing nursing. NursingSchoolHub.com notes that Queen Alexandra’s Nursing Service in Britain had 2,200 members at the start of World War I and more than 10,000 when the conflict ended.
World War II saw a tremendous focus placed on nursing in the U.S. as well. The medical professionals were portrayed as valiant heroes, and thousands of them volunteered to go overseas to treat soldiers fighting in the war. Many of these women then brought home new nursing skills that they had learned on the battlefield.
So when WWII ended, the American government put millions of dollars into healthcare, fueling the industry’s expansion. Technology continued to advance, too, and more education was offered – increasing the number of licensed and registered nurses. The prestigious American Journal of Nursing also enabled nurses to read about new studies and the latest research regarding their profession.
Over time, more scope developed for nurses to specialize in specific aspects of the profession. They began to dedicate themselves to areas such as orthopedics, trauma, pediatrics, neonatal and critical care, for instance. Nurses also started to be seen less as the assistants to doctors; many prescribed medication and performed important procedures themselves.
Clearly, then, nursing is a challenging profession for many reasons – but it is also one of the most fulfilling jobs out there. Nurses take care of sick, injured and dying patients, and this serves their community. As New York nurse Alicia Schwartz told Daily Nurse in May 2016, “The reason I love [the job] is because it is so rewarding to make a difference in someone’s life.”
And just in case you don’t believe us, here’s a story about a nurse who used her own experience to try to help others. So if you’re of a certain age, then you’ve probably had a few aches and pains. Usually, they’re just part and parcel of getting older; on occasion, though, seemingly ordinary twinges could signify something more serious. That was the experience of Twitter user gwheezie, who told her alarming story on the social media site in December 2018.
A professional nurse, gwheezie had started to feel some pain in various areas of her upper body – from her shoulders to her arms. Perhaps using her best judgment, she originally put the discomfort down to nothing more than a bad case of muscle strain, and so she continued on with her life as normal.
However, gwheezie’s seemingly innocuous symptoms would take a really worrying turn. The nurse began to feel quite sick and began to vomit; she also found herself sweating profusely. Naturally, then, the concerned Twitter user called 911.
After that, gwheezie was transported to the hospital, where medical professionals finally discovered what the problem was. Then, a few days later, she returned to Twitter to recount everything that had happened – including the details of her condition. And gwheezie had a message for any other women who may be experiencing similar symptoms, too.
Of course, gwheezie is hardly alone in having aching muscles. Indeed, many people will experience such twinges – whether they’re down to growing pains as a youngster or the result of the regular wear and tear on the body that comes with age. But while such issues usually ease off, that isn’t always the case.
You may be suffering from a form of muscle strain, for instance – perhaps as a consequence of vigorous activity at work or playing a physically demanding sport. That said, the symptoms of the injury can vary in different people depending on what they’ve done; there may be bruises in the affected area or even inflammation.
Yet although muscle strains may feel incredibly uncomfortable, they can be dealt with. One of the most common remedies is referred to as P.R.I.C.E, and as the acronym suggests, it involves five different stages of treatment. The first step is “Protection,” meaning the person should cover up the affected area with a form of padding.
From there, the second stage is “Rest,” followed by “Ice” and then “Compression,” with this latter step requiring a bandage to be applied to the muscle to aid its recovery. Then, the final stage is “Elevation.” In other instances, though, the person affected may be given some medicine for the problem.
And as muscle strain is a fairly common affliction, one woman believed that she was suffering from just that at the end of 2018. However, after she had dealt with the pain for a noticeable period, other symptoms began to emerge that made it clear this was a far more serious problem than she had first assumed.
Posting under the name gwheezie on Twitter, the social media user shared her experience on the website in December 2018. To kick things off, she had a message for any other women in similar positions to herself. Then she revealed what her medical issue had actually been – and what she was ultimately diagnosed with proved to be quite an eye-opener.
“I want to warn women our heart attacks feel different,” gwheezie wrote in a lengthy tweet. “Last Sunday, I had a heart attack. I had a 95 percent block in my left anterior descending artery. I’m alive because I called 911.” And the nurse also shared a surprising piece of information regarding her symptoms.
“I never had chest pain,” gwheezie revealed on the social media website. “It wasn’t what you read in pamphlets. I had it off and on for weeks.” Prior to contacting the emergency services, though, she hadn’t felt as though her health problem was particularly serious.
Yes, initially gwheezie believed that her symptoms were a sign of something else entirely. “The pain ran across my upper back, shoulder blades and equally down both arms,” she continued. “It felt like burning and aching. I actually thought it was muscle strain.” Before long, though, the severity of the situation became clear.
Having had what appeared to be an innocuous muscle ache at first, gwheezie began to feel really sick. And as her condition continued to worsen, she finally decided to seek out some help. “It wasn’t until I broke into drenching sweat and started vomiting that I called 911,” the Twitter user recalled.
Then gwheezie explained why she thought her upper body pain was down to muscle strain. As the woman revealed, she had previously exerted her body before the incident, leading her to assume that her aches were merely the result of strenuous physical activity.
“I’m a nurse,” gwheezie wrote on Twitter. “I’m an older woman. I had been spending the week helping my neighbor clean out her barn, [so] I thought I strained some muscles. I took [ibuprofen] and put a warm pack on my shoulders, [and] I almost died because I didn’t call it chest pain.”
From there, gwheezie reflected upon what she had done in the hours before calling an ambulance. According to the nurse, she’d spent a significant period in her car traveling to see one of her parents. And at that stage, she had also toyed with the idea of getting some help for her condition.
“The day before my heart attack, I drove six hours to help my mother who lives in another state,” gwheezie continued. “I thought I should go to a doctor, but I had to help my mom, who is 90. And I’d just tough it out because it wasn’t real bad.”
However, as gwheezie had previously revealed, her condition ultimately reached a point where she needed to call 911. And the nurse still didn’t know what the problem was at that time; fortunately, though, the paramedics knew just where to take her.
“I was lucky, I had no idea what hospital to go to,” gwheezie added. “The female medics who picked me up took me to a hospital that does cardiac caths. I had four stents placed an hour after I got to the ER. That was Sunday. I was discharged Thursday, and [I’m] at my daughter’s house and back to tweeting.”
But while gwheezie was able to receive assistance in time, others may not be as fortunate. It’s important, then, for women to understand when they may be having a heart attack – not least because the symptoms may differ to those commonly experienced by men going through the same medical event.
For instance, Dr. Nieca Goldberg told the website heart.org, “Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure. Instead, they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen.”
Goldberg added, “[Women may also experience] dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.” There’s a good chance, then, that some women may not know the potential severity of those particular symptoms. But the signs of a heart attack don’t end there.
You see, as gwheezie suggested in her Twitter post, aches and pains relating to a heart attack aren’t always constant. And this was backed up by a physician named Jennifer Haythe, who works at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
“[Inconsistent aches and pains are] common for coronary artery disease and should be taken seriously,” Haythe told Yahoo!’s lifestyle website in 2018. “Chest pain is still the number one symptom for men and women. And any symptoms of chest pain should prompt a visit to the emergency room.”
However, according to California Heart Associates cardiologist Dr. Sanjiv Patel, there are differences between harmless aches and those that may turn out to be more serious. And in explaining the distinctions, he used a straightforward example.
“If you have pain and it gets worse when you exert yourself, that’s more likely to be a sign of a cardiac issue,” Patel told Yahoo! “If you have pain and difficulty breathing when you’re sitting and watching TV, [and] you get up and walk around and it goes away, the pain is probably not related to your heart.”
Patel added, “But if you do something and [the pain] gets worse, and it comes back the next day for a longer period of time, you’ll want to see a doctor.” But why do men and women appear to experience different symptoms when suffering heart attacks? Well, according to Dr. Jennifer Wider, there are a couple of theories as to why this may be.
“It could have to do with a difference in pain thresholds between men and women,” Wider suggested to Yahoo! “Women often blow off the symptoms [of a heart attack] because they are more subtle and less recognizable. It may also have to do with hormones. The right ventricle is larger in men, which may play a role in the difference in symptoms.”
And perhaps gwheezie’s tweet will go on to save some lives. In any case, it received a lot of attention, racking up more than 36,000 retweets and more than 72,000 likes. There were in excess of 1,500 comments replying to the message, too, with several women choosing to share their own heart attack stories in response.
“I was an outlier and thought my shoulder [and] back pain was from yoga,” wrote one Twitter user in the thread. “I was [a] young non-smoker, not overweight, no family history [and had] no high cholesterol or blood pressure. [It was] totally out of the blue. [I’m a] two-year survivor.”
Another tweeter claimed that they, too, had brushed off their symptoms as being inconsequential – at least, at first. Just as had happened to gwheezie, though, the signs only got worse, and they ultimately led to a trip to the ER.
“Same!” the user wrote in response. “The shoulder blade pain absolutely did not register as a heart attack. It wasn’t until I was in so much pain that I was gasping for air that I finally went to the ER. I was rushed in for surgery ten minutes after the [electrocardiogram] was hooked up to me.”
Yet another fellow Twitter user echoed gwheezie’s initial warning about heart attack symptoms in women. And the individual in question was rather alarmingly young at the time of her heart attack, as they would go on to reveal.
“I’m 35 and suffered a heart attack eight months ago,” the poster wrote. “I did not have the signs you hear about and see on TV. I had no chest pain and no numbness in either arm or hand.” They continued, “I did feel a tad achy and flu-like. It wasn’t until I felt like I was somewhat having a panic attack. Be careful!”
As the discussion continued on social media, however, gwheezie’s tale made waves elsewhere. Yahoo! covered her story, which in turn prompted more than 170 comments from readers. And, once again, a number of women came forward to share their respective experiences of heart attacks.
Thanks to these commenters and gwheezie, then, the issue of heart attacks in women has been brought to wider attention. And in turn, more women may be aware of what to look out for now if they feel any kind of unusual pain. But there’s still some way to go yet.
You see, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women living in America. And according to Goldberg, this may be because some have tended to brush off any symptoms of the condition until it’s too late – leading them to experience lethal heart attacks.
“[Women] do this because they are scared and because they put their families first,” Goldberg told heart.org. “There are still many women who are shocked that they could be having a heart attack.” And the doctor revealed some of her experiences with female patients in the past.
“Many women I see take an aspirin if they think they are having a heart attack and never call 911,” Goldberg continued. “But if they think about taking an aspirin for their heart attack, they should also call 911.” Those thoughts were echoed by Haythe, who added to Yahoo!, “Take your body seriously. It’s usually telling you something.”