Male nurse in blue scrubs smiling and standing by window on high floor

Unexpected Pandemic Takeaways for Aspiring Nurses

The COVID-19 pandemic may have sent nursing to the bottom of your dream career list, but before you rule it out, consider all these positives.

Happy International Nurses Day and National Nurses Week! Nursing has always been a noble profession, but we’re all extra appreciative of the sacrifices that nurses and other medical professionals made on the front lines during the pandemic. If you were considering majoring in Nursing and pursuing it as a profession, you may feel more passionate about it than ever—or perhaps COVID-19 deterred you from this potential career path. I can’t blame you for that.

I may not be a nurse, but I do live with one, so I see secondhand both the hardships and the rewards that come with being a nurse. No job worth doing is ever going to be easy, but some can certainly be far less rewarding if you choose the safer route. So before you count out nursing as a potential career field, consider these surprising takeaways of being a nurse during a global pandemic.

In any crisis, you’re essential

There are a lot of people who lost their jobs when the pandemic went into full swing. Whether the job loss is temporary or permanent, a lot of people were (and still are) struggling to pay their bills. As a nurse, you’d have more job security with a stable profession; nurses will always be essential, whether it’s a global pandemic or any other kind of emergency. While many nurses conducting nonessential care were furloughed for the duration of the pandemic, hospital nurses were in such short supply that those furloughed nurses temporarily transferred to working as travel nurses, being sent all over the country to aid hospitals in need—with increased pay. “The patients we had before the travel nurses came were no less sick,” said Connor C., RN, an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse from Massachusetts who worked on a COVID-only floor. “Having these nurses being sent from all over the country has been a huge relief as they gave us the ability to give the best care to people in need. Our staff nearly tripled since the travel nurses were sent to us.”

While you may have to deal with the stress of returning to work every day on the front lines, you’ll always go home with the relief that there’s still a paycheck in your bank account—and a good one at that, as the state with the lowest pay for nurses ($64,500 per year) is still higher than the national average salary ($61,900 per year) for any other job, according to 2023 data. Money may not be everything, but if you’re passionate enough about nursing to consider making it your career and brave enough to face it knowing the potential for emergencies, then the larger paycheck for your hard work is worth it.

Related: Possible Majors for Students Who Want to Become Essential Workers

Once-in-a-lifetime experiences

Pandemics don’t happen every day (thank goodness), but when they do, we have to find the silver linings. Nurses have unmatched professional experience they likely won’t have gained elsewhere. No one wanted the pandemic, of course, but as a result of this situation, nurses are far more equipped to handle anything thrown at them with the knowledge and experience they’ve gained—all of which can be passed on to future nurses of health care.

Elizabeth C., RN has been a pediatric nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital for 33 years. Having never cared for adults in her entire career, the pandemic changed the way she looked at nursing and expanded her skill set. “My mind is being stretched in ways it hasn’t been for a long time,” she said. “As scary as it is, I don’t have any anxiety when I’m taking care of patients. There’s a wonderful switch that turns on when you’re a nurse. Your focus is on caring and having compassion for your fellow human being. When you keep busy helping others, you feel more in control of the unknown.” Nursing requires you to be adaptable, which may not always be required in professions where the day-to-day work doesn’t change as fluidly. This adaptability allowed nurses who never would have thought they’d find themselves in a pandemic to care for patients in a new, career-evolving way.

A team that always has your back

Let’s not pretend that nurses fighting the good fight as individuals. A nurse’s true success comes when they also have the support of a great team to provide the best possible care for patients. When you’re working long, grueling hours, your colleagues on the floor with you truly become like a second family. Catherine F., an ICU nurse from New York, felt that special bond and saw the value in her fellow nurses at a time when it felt like they were all she had. “Nothing brings you closer to your peers like having them be the only thing you’ve got,” she said. “We are all scared and worried, but we’re in it together, and that’s really something special.” 

Sydney F., RN, an ER nurse in Massachusetts, also maintained a positive attitude through her appreciation of her team. “Comradery and teamwork are the two words I would use to describe the changes among our team since the outbreak of the pandemic,” she explained. “Rather than collapsing under the strain, our team at Holy Family has rallied together, working to support one another. We laugh when we can, offer a shoulder to one another when things get tough, and make it through each shift knowing that the people sitting next to us have our backs.” 

And not every nurse who’s essential faced COVID-19 in the same way; Ashley F., RN worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at a hospital in Nevada. While she didn't personally care for adult COVID-19 patients, the pandemic still affected her day-to-day care of the infants on her floor, and she saw the impact the pandemic had on her hospital as a whole. “While this whole thing has definitely been scary, and it’s such a change, and every day is an unknown for us, all the nurses I work with have come together,” she said. “We’ve always been like a family in my unit, but it’s just really showing now. Everyone is there for each other—even hospital-wide—which is pretty amazing to see!” 

Related: A Day in the Life of a Health Care Team

A testament to your character

Have you ever been in a situation where you haven’t been seen in the best light? Having someone question your character and your goodness as a human being isn’t an easy thing to swallow. As a nurse, you’d be working to care for others, you’re often putting your own health at risk in emergencies, and you’d be toughing it out through long hours—who could question the character of a person doing all that?

Going into nursing proves to the world that you’re a strong individual ready to face adversity for the sake of the greater good. Morgan H., RN, who worked as a float nurse at Mercy Hospital in Maine during the pandemic, admitted that she worried for her safety but put on a brave face for her patients. “Being the only person allowed in a positive COVID patient’s room has its own challenges; despite the fear of bringing the virus home to a loved one or getting sick myself, these patients’ families are not allowed in the hospital,” she explained. “So here I am, the only person this patient will see for 12 hours. You become thankful for your health so you can be there for that scared patient. To be a nurse, you need a sense of empathy in order to be there for the patient, to understand, and to act as a proxy family member.”

You may have heard many nurses denouncing the word “hero” being thrown around to describe them. But to the family whose mother they helped through cancer or a husband whose wife’s life they saved after a horrible car accident, nurses are heroes. Not everyone may have the tough skin and compassionate soul required to hack it, but if you do, the nursing world needs you.

You’ll always be making a difference

Before you decide that nursing is too scary to pursue because of the unknown, give it some real thought. You’re likely braver than you think (there’s that good character shining through), and there’s so much to gain from nursing in the day-to-day and in a crisis. It may be one of the most rewarding fields you can get into. Nurses save people’s lives—often. Even when there isn’t a pandemic, people need care, and while hospital doctors are overseeing the overall care of patients, nurses are in hospital rooms all day or all night at their bedside.

Nurses make a difference simply by being caring humans giving patients and their families comfort and hope in the darkest of times. “If anything, this has made me fall in love with being a nurse all over again. Things are hard, and they’re so sad at times, but we’re getting so much new knowledge every day, and being a comfort to the community in these times is what we did all that hard work in nursing school for,” said Catherine F.

Related: Make a Difference by Majoring in Nursing

The world was a scary place during the pandemic, and remains so in many ways right now. Being a part of a strong community of nurses, getting firsthand experience with health care methods you wouldn’t otherwise see, and making an honest difference in people’s lives could be worth facing a potential pandemic. You just have to be brave enough to reach for it. And if we leave you with any words of wisdom, let it be this sentiment from a recent Nursing program graduate who’s about to start his career in the face of this pandemic:

“If we made it through nursing school, we can make it through anything.” — Austin C., BSN; St. Joseph’s College of Maine graduate

From the CX Team to all the hardworking nurses around the world, thank you for all that you do! Get searching for a great Nursing program now with our College Search tool.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Asia Stockdale

Asia Stockdale

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me overcome a huge hurdle. Because of the small town I live in, I felt like I would never achieve more. I felt like I could never go beyond because of costs. I feared I wouldn’t be able to find scholarships. I had no idea of where to start. With CollegeXpress, I easily found scholarships—they came to me. It was a helper, and I was instantly matched with opportunities to go above and beyond educationally.

Sadie Hartmann

Sadie Hartmann

High School Class of 2021

I'm a senior in high school, and CollegeXpress has helped me in so many ways this year in trying to navigate the process of deciding and committing to a university. The COVID-19 Student Resource Center has helped me many times with the most up-to-date and accurate information, along with financial aid and student life [advice]. During these uncertain times, CollegeXpress has been a great recourse to relieve the stress as a senior. Along with the COVID-19 Student Resource Center, I'm constantly using the extremely helpful tools off the site to aid me during this stressful process. Tools like the lists and rankings of universities have been the most beneficial. I've also used the site to receive expert advice on topics like financial aid. Finally, CollegeXpress has helped me easily apply for several scholarships. I'm thankful to be given the chance to win a scholarship to lessen the burden of my college debt.

Farrah Macci

Farrah Macci

High School Class of 2016

CollegeXpress has helped me in many ways. For one, online searches are more organized and refined by filtering scholarships through by my personal and academic interests. Due to this, it has made searching for colleges and scholarships significantly less stressful. As a student, life can already get stressful pretty quickly. For me, it’s been helpful to utilize CollegeXpress since it keeps all of my searches and likes together, so I don’t have to branch out on multiple websites just to explore scholarship options.

Heather McCarty

Heather McCarty

High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress has helped me with the college application process. The tips and tricks for important essays were so helpful. I also gained useful knowledge about college life. Even though I’m fully online, CollegeXpress has helped me develop a sense of how college is in person. The experiences from college students that were featured on their Instagram page have shown the good, the bad, and the “secret” life on campus from a reliable perspective. Not to mention, they relieved my feelings of anxiety about the workload. I can now understand how it can be stressful, but it takes self-control and willpower to get assignments completed on time and with quality.

Nazira Abdelkhalek

Nazira Abdelkhalek

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2014

I am very honored to be this year’s recipient of the Multicultural Student Community Service Scholarship! This scholarship is vital to helping me achieve and fulfill my dreams, and gives me confidence and motivation as I begin my college career. The CollegeXpress website has been invaluable over the past year as I planned my educational and professional goals. I highly recommend it to all students as they begin to focus on their college and career interests. The website is a wonderful guide to schools and scholarships.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Whitworth University

Spokane, WA