July 25, 2019  |  Purdue Global  |  Updated January 15, 2021

Nursing may be one of the oldest and most well-known professions, but public knowledge of this growing field still holds some misunderstandings. Below are 9 common misconceptions about the nursing profession—and the truths behind them.

Myth #1: Only Females Choose the Nursing Profession

Since the start of the nursing profession, there have been significantly more women than men in the field, and this remains true today. However, studies show that more men are entering the nursing profession. According to a 2017 report from the Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies, the number of men in nursing increased from less than 200,000 in 2006 to more than 350,000 in 2016. As more men continue to join the profession, many institutions are proactively recruiting qualified male students who are well suited to both the excitement and the occasional physical demands of the nursing profession.

Myth #2: Advancing Your Nursing Career Means You Must Go Back to School Full-Time

Many mistakenly believe that to advance in their nursing career, they must leave the profession entirely to go back to school full-time.* This is simply not true. Although some may choose this route, there are countless paths you can take for a successful nursing career. 

Once you earn your registered nurse license (RN), you may choose to complete a bachelor of science degree in nursing or pursue an advanced degree to become a nurse practitioner. Additionally, plenty of specialty degree and certificate programs exist, providing the opportunity to focus on your passion while increasing your income potential and upward mobility.

In many instances, degree and certificate programs (such as those at Purdue Global) offer options for part-time or online nursing classes, so if you are currently in the nursing profession, you can enhance your education and skill set while keeping your job.

Myth #3: Nurses Are Only Found in Hospitals

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 60% of registered nurses work in state, local, or private hospitals. Registered nurses may also work in physicians' offices, home health care services, nursing and residential care facilities, and government organizations.

Further, not all nurses treat patients. Some may manage a facility and oversee the nursing staff, while others may work in a customer service role at a health care corporation, and many enter the teaching profession. There are many career possibilities for a nurse.

Myth #4: Nurses Work Crazy Hours

Without a doubt, a career in nursing can be demanding. However, this growing field also offers great flexibility. For as many nursing career options that are available, there are nearly as many variations in work schedules. While those in private practice will work typical office hours, others may work shifts of 10–12 hours for 3 to 4 days, with the following 3 to 4 days off. A working parent may choose to work nights to be home with children after school, while a colleague may prefer weekends.

Myth #5: It Doesn't Matter Where You Go for Your Nursing Education

There are many universities and colleges offering certificates and undergraduate and advanced degrees. However, not all universities are alike. You want to make sure that the school is accredited, and that the nursing professors are experts in their specific areas of instruction. Ideally, the professors, such as those at Purdue Global, will have vast experience in the field; they may even still work in the field while they teach.

When looking at nursing schools to determine where to begin or advance your nursing education, you'll also want to consider things such as:

  • Does the college or university offer online nursing programs
  • Is the program flexible or part-time so you can continue working while pursuing your degree
  • Does the program align with your career goals

Myth #6: Nurses Want to Be Doctors

Nurses are incredibly passionate about their careers. Whereas doctors are trained to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness, nurses focus on providing patients with a holistic approach to health care. Part of what determines a nurse's success is his or her ability to empathize and relate to patients on a level that differs from doctors. Nurses choose the profession for a variety of reasons, but the close interaction and bonding with patients allows them to make a difference in patients' lives.

Myth #7: A Nurse, Is a Nurse, Is a Nurse

This nursing myth couldn't be further from the truth. Differences in education alone are vast. An associate's degree is the entry-level education for a registered nurse, but a nurse may also have a bachelor's, master's, or a doctorate degree. According to a 2015 survey by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), about 65% of respondents reported holding a bachelor’s or higher degree. As the career and health care field itself continues to evolve, the role of a nurse and the various segments within the profession continue to change and grow.

In fact, two of today's growing areas are the role of nurse practitioner and advanced practice nurse. A nurse practitioner is an independent, advanced health care provider offering advanced practice, treatment, and diagnosis of patient diseases. An advanced practice nurse with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) may practice at the highest levels of the profession.

Beyond varying educational levels, nurses may also choose to focus on a specialty—such as pediatrics, oncology, dermatology, or cardiovascular, to name a few—or pursue a certification, which further differentiates them and can provide enhanced earning potential.

Myth #8: Nursing Is a Dirty Job

While nurses often perform work in what some would consider messy scenarios such as drawing blood, cleaning bandages, and changing bedpans, their jobs comprise so much more. The main role of a nurse is to provide patient care, whether messy or not. In truth, nurses often witness or contribute to medical marvels. Many nurses consider themselves public servants and believe that nursing is a calling in addition to a well-paying and flexible career.

Myth #9: Due to a Nursing Shortage, It's Easy to Get a Job

Although it's true that a nursing shortage offers a great deal of potential for those looking to start a career or make a change, this doesn't mean that facilities are any less prudent in their hiring practices. Hiring managers still look for a strong educational background from an accredited school such as Purdue Global. The more experience you have, including unpaid experience like internships, the more appealing a candidate you will be. In addition, skills such as compassion and the ability to work well with others can help you land a great job.

Nursing Truth, Not Misconception

Choosing a career in nursing is an excellent option for both men and women. It’s ideal for those just graduating from high school as well as those looking to make a career change later in life. The field of nursing is growing and the need for nurses is increasing, so now is a good time to investigate this challenging and rewarding career. Purdue Global offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing. To learn more, request more information.

About the Author

Purdue Global

Earn a degree you're proud of and employers respect at Purdue Global, Purdue's online university for working adults. Accredited and online, Purdue Global gives you the flexibility and support you need to come back and move your career forward. Choose from 175+ programs, all backed by the power of Purdue.

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*Employment and Career Advancement: Purdue Global does not guarantee employment or career advancement. Actual outcomes vary by geographic area, previous work experience and opportunities for employment. Additional certification or licensing may be required to work in certain fields.

Certification Exams: Students are responsible for understanding the requirements of optional certification exams. The University cannot guarantee students will be eligible to sit for or pass exams. In some cases, work experience, additional coursework beyond the Purdue Global program, fieldwork, and/or background checks may be necessary to be eligible to take or to successfully pass the exams.

Please note that most states require nurses to be nationally certified and to have completed an accredited graduate nursing program in order to obtain licensure as an advanced practice registered nurse. Each national certification provider and state Board of Nursing will have eligibility requirements in addition to these educational requirements, such as passing a criminal background check. Students are responsible for determining whether they are eligible for state Board of Nursing approval and certification as an advanced practice registered nurse in their state. Students can obtain additional information from their state's Board of Nursing, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).