So, there I was reading other people’s success stories when I came across the story of a young Nigerian-American in the United States with her own fast food franchise. She started working at the franchise as a team member while studying nursing and was already three years into the program when she realized nursing wasn’t her dream; it was her parents. Today, she is an entrepreneur. Suddenly, I was reminded of my own experience when I first came to the States.
I moved to the States in 2004 and the first thing I heard when it came time to pick a major for university was “Go and do nursing”. When I asked why, I was told, “So you can make a lot of money. Nurses make a lot of money”. Of course my opinion for my own career did not matter.
To become a nurse, the first step would be getting a CNA(Certified Nursing Assistant)license which one could obtain in as little as two weeks. This would at least get your foot in the health field door. Certified Nursing Assistants in New York at the time started off earning $10-$12 per hour. It was one of the highest paying entry level no degree jobs. It was (and is still) a flexible field where you could work only weekends or nights and go school during the day.
The money was tempting. The problem: I know I’m not a natural care giver; a trait I believe is absolutely necessary to work in the health field. I don’t know how to take care of sick people. I’m a take-your-medication-or-you-will-continue-being-sick kind of person. I was not interested in learning how to be a care giver even for the money. As an adult, I have a hard time driving myself to a hospital as I am always looking for someone to go with me for moral support. Thankfully, I have been blessed with good health. So, unless it is a life and death situation, you will not find me in a hospital or anywhere that feels like one. The thought of working in a place where death loomed was (and is still) unappealing to me. Instead, I choose to work as a cashier at a grocery store earning $6.00 per hour while pursuing a communications degree. I have no regrets.
People migrate to the United States for many reasons; to join their siblings or parents, others get married and one spouse resides in the States. Whatever the reason, part of starting their lives over usually involves continuing their education. If you’re in the Nigerian household, be rest assured all you will hear is, “Go and do nursing”. Your ‘advisors’ will convince you that it is best for you and they are advising you for your own good. Another reason you will be given aside from “you will make alot of money”, is “job security”. If you’re brave enough to keep pressing for more reasons, strangely and mysteriously, race will play into their list of answers. I mean, I’ve heard justifications for studying nursing like, “when a person is dying and terribly ill, they have no regard for your race”. Depending on several factors like age or exposure of the advisee, they never bother to research and explore other options.
Nursing is demanding. It’s is not a degree you pursue because you want to make a lot of money. Lives are at stake. If making a lot of money is your primary goal in life and in coming to America, and you choose nursing, you’ve missed the boat. Big time! There are a million and one other ways to make a lot of money which guarantees job security as well. There is job security for doctors, accountants, bankers, and engineers among many others. The most confusing part is watching someone with say an IT degree switch to nursing because they’ve been advised to when all they need do is take a few classes, take the GRE, and apply to graduate school or take IT certification exams and look for work. If you’re a programmer a.k.a coder or web developer, front end (user experience) designer with experience in Nigeria and you happen to move to the States, your field is hot right now because the world is moving towards technology.
When I was in secondary school days, we were divided into arts and science classes. It was rare to find an arts student in a science class like physics and vice versa. With the exception of Math, English and Biology which was our commonality, all other subjects was chosen based on whether you were an arts or science student. A friend from secondary school who was never a science student and had already completed a bachelor’s degree in Banking and Finance in Nigeria, moved to the States and started all over to become a doctor. She is currently in her final year of medical school. According to her, she is studying medicine because that is what she always wanted to do even though the process is longer and more challenging. It takes courage to choose your own path and I’m super proud of her.
Maybe people who advise others to study nursing do so to live vicariously through them or so they could get help with their bills……you know, because nurses make a lot of money. I can tell you there is nothing as suffocating as working in a field you have absolutely no interest in even with the money. Whatever you decide to study, let that be your own decision. If it happens to be nursing, great! But do so because you have a genuine interest in helping people and that is the field you have chosen to be of service to humanity.
Are you a Nigerian nurse in the States? Did you choose your own field or were you coaxed into studying nursing? Are you happy with your decision or would you change it if you had to do it over? Are you home or abroad working in a field chosen by your parents? Share your experiences.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Gregd