The Truth About Nursing
January 23, 2017
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Robin Cofer of Ocean Township, New Jersey, has been a Registered Nurse for nearly thirty years. She has worked in a variety of environments ranging from the Intensive Care Unit to the delivery room. Conveniently enough, she also happens to be my dad’s younger sister. I knew that with her many accomplishments and years of experience, she would be able to give me some sound advice with that special familiar touch only an aunt can provide. Robin truly exceeded my expectations with her meaningful and in-depth responses. Picking her brain was a pleasure.
Why did you choose to become a nurse?
I was a real people person, I found it fulfilling to help people.
I know that you have been a nurse for many years and you seem to enjoy it. What are the most rewarding things about being a nurse? Are there any perks?
Yes, I have been a nurse since 1988. First, I worked as a home health aid, then as a hospital nurse’s aid while studying. I now hold a Master’s degree in nursing focus. There are perks to this profession, a nice salary. The rates really depend on the part of the country you practice, years of practice and education level, and where you work. There’s even travel nursing if you want to explore the country… I actually had to turn down a Hawaii travel assignment last year when Grandpa got sick.
My goal is to specialize in cosmetic nursing and work in the operating room. Are you specialized?
I am specialized. The great thing is that there are many, many specialties to explore if one area does not suit you. I have worked several specialties during my career; Urology, Surgical, Critical Care, Post Anesthesia Care, and my current Labor and Delivery. That’s an interesting one because most people, even some colleagues, like to believe we do nothing but “hold babies,” however it has been the most critical care area I have worked in. The nice part is that 99% of the time you get a beautiful, healthy baby, but other times it can be heartbreaking.
What are the most challenging things about being a nurse? How do you stay inspired/overcome these difficulties? Do you feel that the pros outweigh the cons?
This is a tough question for me to answer because I don’t like to discourage anyone considering this career choice. Just know it is not easy. The study to become a nurse is not easy, you have to stay focused and work very hard. You need a strong backbone, coupled with compassion and finesse to deal with people who may be experiencing the worst time of their lives, and to deal with doctors and other nurses. Some nurses can be very tough on each other, that’s the truth! It is a tough career. Keep in mind that television really glamorizes it, it is very, very stressful and you will never understand the magnitude of that until you do become a working RN. Mind you, the pros outweigh the cons as long as you practice professionally and remain focused. Be sure to keep yourself healthy and remember to care for yourself to avoid burnout.
Do you have any tips for someone studying to become a nurse and for new nurses?
When you start your new nursing job, show interest! Be willing to take instruction, ask lots of questions. Always ask if you are not sure, we all have something to learn, whether it’s day 1, or year 1, or year 30.
What characteristics make a good nurse? Can these qualities be developed, or are they a more of a prerequisite.
This is an interesting question. I have heard and read stories about people who had the toughest time getting into nursing school, being told they would never make it, having to take state boards more than once. Still, they’ve gone into awesome, distinguished careers. I have also personally known people who are super book smart, but for whatever reason just could not put the book part in action to successfully function at the bedside, as we call it. In that particular situation, I’ve seen that sometimes the area they were working in wasn’t the right fit and they were able to find success in another area.
We are all human. We all have bad days, we all have different personalities and temperaments. I think what is important is being kind, respectful, able to communicate, and always willing and receptive to lifetime learning.
Knowing yourself is important so that you can be honest with yourself. For instance, you might think “I love kids, I want to be a pediatric nurse!” Yes, you may love kids, but loving a healthy child is not the same as caring for sick children and their families.
Academically, you have to be strong in math and science. Even good research, writing, and presentation skills are helpful on the job.
Can you share a strange or interesting experience that has happened to you while on the job?
For confidentiality reasons, I can’t really share specific experiences regarding my patients, but what I will say is that most everyday is unique. It’s super special when patients come back with pictures of the baby. Depending on why they were admitted, they could be with us for days or even weeks before having a baby (or two, or three!) After all the fears and anxieties, it is such an awesome feeling to see them happy and with a healthy child.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Nursing is a great career choice, it’s definitely a fun job. It takes a lot of hard work and commitment getting there, and that commitment should continue even after you get there. In the end, it is worth it!