This blog has been updated on March 22, 2023.
Learn more about Carson-Newman's online FNP nursing programs.
Nursing is one of the most professionally, personally, and spiritually rewarding careers there is.
People are driven to a career in nursing for a variety of reasons. Carson-Newman wanted to better understand and document some of these reasons, which is why we reached out to 15 registered nurses, including three of our own FNP students, to get their perspectives on a simple question: What do you find most rewarding about a career in nursing?
Read on to discover some of the responses we received and compare these answers to your own experience.
'One of the most rewarding aspects of a career in nursing is the ability to connect with our patients on such an intimate level. While we often meet under very difficult circumstances—being present as people face serious health challenges or injuries, witnessing the moment of birth or the end of life—we get to know our patients very quickly and have the opportunity to play an important role in their lives.
"I became a nurse so that I could have an impact on the lives of others and have a career that felt very meaningful. After 25 years of helping patients and their families navigate cancer and mentoring new nurses, I believe that at the end of the day, no matter how challenging, I have impacted someone’s life for the better."
"What I find to be the most rewarding about being a nurse is the numerous career paths that are available within the profession. For example, in my nearly 30-year career I have been blessed to work in labor and delivery, the Intensive Care Unit, home health, informatics, leadership, clinical practice, and ambulatory care. As a contributing writer for registerednursing.org, I now get to educate my colleagues and future nurses on current events and issues.
"I initially chose a nursing career just out of high school as I wanted to work in the field of medicine, and I knew I could complete the degree within two years. After many years and many advanced degrees, I still love being of help to people at all stages of life. I am very proud of my nursing profession and I love that nurses are still the most trusted profession to the public: a responsibility we should never take for granted."
Elizabeth Mason, RN, MSN - Carson-Newman FNP Student
"I was not the person that grew up always wanting to be a nurse, I always wanted to be a teacher; however, when I found out I was eligible for the nursing program at the college I was attending, I decided to pursue it as a possibility. I never imagined how that spur-of-the-moment decision would change my life. Once I started classes, I fell in love with every aspect of nursing.
"After working for a while, I went back to school and became a nursing instructor in the classroom and clinical. It is the perfect balance of hands-on patient care and teaching the next generation of nurses. I love [when] my students have that “ah-ha” moment as they put together the big picture of the patient, their diagnosis, medications, and treatment plans. I love seeing the growth of new nursing students to their preceptorship. It is always a blessing to see them in the hospital later as nurses succeeding at their calling."
"I really love going to bed knowing I made a difference. As an LPN at a hospice, that difference is usually making sure our patients are as comfortable as possible, but we often have the opportunity to help the patients’ families too. It’s satisfying to know they feel more at ease after they see the care we provide.
"I chose a nursing career partially because I loved biology and anatomy and partially to have a career with which I could support myself and be independent. The further I got into my nursing education, I realized how rewarding it was to be able to make people who are sick and uncomfortable feel better, even if it’s just a little. Treating people with kindness and respect goes a long way. I found my nursing career home in hospice. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been worth it.
"I have loved empowering and supporting patients and families to know that they are able to get through anything. Working for a hospice agency, I have been able to help patients have dignity at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives. Being with patients and their families at the end of life is a privilege. It has been an honor to have been with so many at that time.
"I also love the pride I feel in my work. Being a nurse is one of the most challenging jobs someone could do. It’s physically and mentally demanding at times. However, at the end of the day, you feel amazing satisfaction and pride. Being able to help those in need for a living is unlike any other profession."
"The most rewarding thing about being a nurse is making a difference in the lives of others. It may be your patients, their families, or your students. Nursing offers us so many arenas to practice in. As an RN, I have worked in the delivery room, in home care, in a prison, as a high school nurse, and as the director of nurses in assisted living facilities. Now, I am the owner of a few businesses.
"What motivated me to be an RN? My dad chose my profession for me. I was studying business in college and he thought that I should become an RN. So, like any good daughter, I dropped my business studies and became an RN; however, I did go back to complete two business degrees.
"What do I love about nursing? I love that this profession allows us the opportunity to work in so many diverse areas. We are not pigeonholed into just the hospital—the sky's the limit in this profession.
"In nursing, you just have to follow your passion and purpose and stay true to yourself. Always remember to have empathy and to give the best care possible."
"I have been a registered nurse for the past 19 years. I chose nursing as my career path because I have always enjoyed helping people. Nursing is one of the most respected professions. What I love about nursing is that it is constantly evolving; there are so many things that you can do in the profession, so you don't have to stick to one specialty. If there is an area of interest that is not yet created, you can create it.
"Knowing that my care, touch, voice, and time can help a patient make it through the night is one of the most rewarding feelings. Sometimes, it's the little things that you do for your patient that make a difference. The nursing profession has opened so many doors for me. It has allowed me to become an author and run a successful non-profit organization that addresses the needs in my community. My specialty is orthopedics and trauma, and I love working in this area."
"What I find most rewarding about my career as a nurse is that I have the opportunity to help people in their most vulnerable, and unexpected, moments. For some, coming to the emergency department can be one of the worst days of their lives. As their nurse, my job is to make them feel safe, comfortable, and cared for.
"There are many things that motivated me to choose nursing as a career. First, I love people. I love chatting with them, being around them, and taking care of them—it is very fulfilling to my soul. The second reason is that the schedule is wonderful for being a mother. I now have the opportunity to work per diem and work around my husband's schedule so I can spend lots of time with our children.
"Lastly, I love that it provides great compensation so that I can contribute to my family financially. Five years ago, my husband and I paid off $266,000 of debt, and I am so thankful for my various nursing jobs that allowed me to work to reach this goal. I also love the culture of nursing in my emergency department. It feels like we understand each other, like we can look at each other in a certain way and know what we are thinking. We can sense when something is wrong in each other or celebrate our personal victories. I have the privilege to work among great nurses and that makes the entire shift more enjoyable."
Cynthia Attaway, RN, MSN - Carson-Newman FNP Student
"Nursing has allowed me to work in various departments based on the needs of my family. I have worked in different nursing roles and love the caring science of nursing.
"I am a part time nursing instructor for a community college, and the first to be allowed in the acute hospital setting. The human connection cannot be experienced in simulation and observing the science of human caring was emotional during the pandemic.
"Nursing is the best—high technology, and high touch."
"As a nurse, I have a flexible career that allows me to pursue my passions while also having a significant positive impact on patients at need. I was initially attracted to the nursing profession as I loved working with the elderly and had a strong interest in human physiology. There were flexible nursing programs in my local area that were affordably priced, so it was easy for me to start my RN program. I was also very excited by the opportunities to obtain advanced practice certifications and licenses through distanced-based programs that were flexible and could work around my personal commitments.
"Throughout my nursing career, I’ve had the great opportunity to work in many different fields including long-term care, psychiatric nursing, urgent care, labor relations, and nursing informatics. As you work in different specialties, your knowledge continues to grow and your ability to think outside the box increases. As an advanced practice nurse (FNP-C), I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the health care system, which had a significant contribution in leading me to success in my most recent venture-backed technology startup. I’ve been able to take this knowledge and create a system that focuses on allowing nurses to work a flexible schedule via their mobile app, while also helping to address the staffing shortage crises experienced in long-term care facilities.
"Over the past three years, I’ve had over 10,000 nursing professionals join my organization to pick up shifts on the side. With almost unlimited opportunities, I continue to recommend the nursing profession to countless numbers of family members, friends, and acquaintances. I’ve yet to find another career choice that allows the flexibility and options that nursing does."
"As a nurse, I have the privilege of helping others when they are the most vulnerable. I witness some of their greatest triumphs and their greatest defeats. There is nothing better than attending a birth, holding the hand of someone who is dying, or helping someone achieve a better life through improving their health. It is a legacy that will live on long after you are gone. The patients and families will remember your warm smile, your gentle touch, the knowledge you shared, and the fact that you cared for them.
"As a student in health care, I realized I was more concerned about how a person got ill and how to prevent it, rather than just how to treat it. I wanted to understand how I could help a person not only get healthy but stay healthy. That’s what nurses do. We teach our patients to take care of themselves and to optimize their health.
"One of the things I love about being a nurse is that this career is flexible. I have been a bedside nurse, a nursing professor, a mentor, a supervisor/manager/charge nurse, an entrepreneur, a nurse scientist, a nurse educator, a legal nurse consultant, a wellness practitioner, a nurse practitioner, and coming soon, a nurse author with my first book. I would say that being a nurse is pretty fabulous."
"The most rewarding thing I have found about being a nurse is the personal connection that I am able to make with patients. No matter how long it has been, a patient remembers their nurse. They may or may not remember the nurse’s name, but they remember if they were kind and compassionate. A good nurse always is.
"I became a nurse in response to nothing short of “a calling.” I was visiting my grandmother with my mother. She had gone into another room to visit with someone else she knew, and I went to get her. I noticed that the other patient in the room was in a lot of pain, and I had such a strong and deep desire to help them. I decided then and there that I would become a nurse.
"I have spent my entire career with women during the childbearing period. It is mostly wonderful, but when it is not, it is terrible.
"Getting to share in the joy of a new family creates so much happiness. Helping new parents step into their new world with education and support puts me in my happy place."
"The most rewarding thing I find about a career as a nurse is that you can change careers multiple times (so to speak) and yet still remain in the profession. During my 16 years as a nurse I've worked in NICU, ER and case management, and I've been cross-trained in several additional areas within the hospital setting. I currently work at an urgent care clinic and have been there for almost four years. If you're a nurse and get burned out in one area or just want a change of scenery, the sky's the limit!
"What initially motivated me to become a nurse was that my husband and I were sinking financially. We both worked full time, our home was small and affordable, our vehicles were not brand new, and yet we were barely making it. At a young age I found myself intrigued by the medical profession and, after discovering that I could have my associate’s degree in nursing and become an RN in approximately three years, I went for it. What started as a financial necessity has become so much more. I thoroughly enjoy caring for my patients and love mentoring new nurses.
"The things I love most about being a nurse include the variety of areas to practice in, the constant opportunities to focus on others, and those 12-hour shifts! If I had to go back to a Monday–Friday schedule, I don't know if I'd survive!"
"As an operating room nurse at a trauma center, there are times that can be pretty stressful and fast paced. Recently, a trauma was called and about six of us rushed to the OR to set up. All we typically know during these events are the very basics, and in this case, a motor vehicle accident had occurred, and we needed to do an exploratory laparotomy. Within about two minutes, we had the supplies and instruments opened, scrub techs were setting up, and anesthesia was getting ready. I looked around and was so proud to be a part of a team that could, within minutes, be ready to potentially save someone's life. Those are times when I am proud to be a perioperative nurse and I find them especially rewarding.
"What motivated me to choose this career? High demand, good pay, multiple specialties to work in, the ability to move forward with my career if I choose (i.e. nurse practitioner, administration) and the feeling of making a difference.
"I love the feeling when our team has a great surgical case, and everyone is working together like a well-oiled machine. I love knowing that many of my patients will begin their healing journey in my OR. I love the endless amount of learning and science that the health care field offers."
Maria Kindrai, RN, MSN - Carson-Newman FNP Student
"I love helping others find their full potential. I enjoy educating people on what they can do to improve their health and I am thankful anytime I can help someone with even the [simplest] nursing task. I love that nursing offers so many career options and that you can continue to advance your career.
"As a nurse, I have learned to appreciate every moment spent at the bedside of a patient. Caring for others has always been a priority but during a pandemic it has been heightened. This one on one time with someone is certainly time when both the patient and the nurse have the opportunity for growth and to learn from one another."
Donna Mathezing, RN
"30 years of being a nurse and I have never had a regret about my career choice. I knew when I was five years old that helping people and talking with them was what I was meant to do.
"I have worked in all critical care areas from emergency to the cardiovascular ICU to the general systems ICU; I now work in the post-operative care unit and have 10 years of experience flying with our air ambulance service in a helicopter. I get to make a profound difference every single day. That profound difference is different for every patient, depending on what they need from me at their time of need. That could be something simple like holding a hand, letting them cry on my shoulder, giving pain medications so their loved one is comfortable, or just reassuring them that we will take care of them!
"Being with people at what is sometimes the worst moments of their lives or the best moments (diagnosis is negative or the birth of a baby) is a privilege and one I take very seriously. Being with a family as their loved one is passing away is the ultimate compliment for a nurse. Death is a sacred and scary time for many, and to be allowed within that sacred circle to offer support and comfort is what is rewarding about nursing.
"If I can walk away after my shift knowing that I have eased a person’s worry or fear and brought some sort of peace to them, then my day is fulfilled. And the best part of that is that I get many opportunities every day that I work."
Learn more about Carson-Newman's online nursing programs for registered nurses with their bachelor's or master's.