When it comes to workplace settings, RNs have a lot of options. You could care for patients in a hospital, private practice, skilled nursing home, school, correctional facility, and more. With locations practically everywhere in the US and the capacity to employ a large number of staff, hospitals are a popular choice for new graduates or seasoned nurses seeking their next role. However, as with any major life choice, there are positives and negatives to consider about the hospital work environment before deciding where to take your career.
While not all hospital settings are the same (small vs. large, public vs. private, rural vs. urban) and nurses’ experiences will vary, a careful review of these widely applicable pros and cons could help you take the right steps toward a rewarding occupation.
- Dynamic, exciting work environment: There is always work to be done in a hospital, and as a nurse, you will see the impact of your efforts every day on patients, families, and the community at large. Depending on the facility, you may also work with top medical professionals as well as the latest and greatest technologies, equipment, and systems.
- Better salary and job stability: Hospital nurses generally make about 15% more than private practice, home health, and residential care nurses. Historically, hospitals are one of the few organizations that hire more employees during a recession. Nationally, as of December 2014, hospitals added jobs for the fifth consecutive month (47K total for the year).
- Great place to expand nursing skills: Hospital nurses have the opportunity to care for a wide variety of patients with diverse illnesses/injuries and discover where their strengths and interests lie.
- High-pressure and emotionally demanding setting: Depending on your preferences, a constantly busy and hectic environment could be a drawback (especially if you desire routine and predictability). Hospital nurses find themselves caring for severely ill patients who may never recover, and death is far more likely to occur than in other patient care settings.
- Unconventional hours: Hospitals are open 24-7, 365. If you value your weekends and holidays (or a standard, 9–5 workday), hospital nursing may not be your best option. 12-hour shifts (or longer) could be a requirement as well.
- Higher risk of illness and danger: As a hospital nurse, you will be exposed to germs every day (patients don’t visit a hospital when they’re feeling “just a little off”). Furthermore, you may find yourself dealing with persons unwilling to receive care or dangerous individuals such as intoxicated or clinically psychotic patients.
As an RN, you are fortunate to be among a group of professionals with a job outlook that is expected to grow 19% by 2022, faster than the average of all other occupations in the US. With in-demand skills, your opportunities are vast; do your research and choose wisely when pursuing a career in a hospital or elsewhere.