Nursing is among the most responsible and challenging of adult care jobs, but this is not to say that all nursing jobs are created equal. Indeed, the breadth and depth of the tasks a nurse routinely undertakes can be profoundly affected by the setting in which he or she practices. The two most common domains for nursing jobs, hospitals and residential care facilities, each offers distinct advantages and disadvantages for nursing personnel.
Working as a hospital based nurse.
Nurses who work in hospital settings may find their skills continually challenged by a constant influx of new patients, the vast majority of whom only remain in the facility over the short term. This can help them to continually develop a wide swathe of medical knowledge and keep their practical skills sharp. At the same time, it can make boredom on the job much less likely. Should a nurse feel out of his or her depth, however, a hospital setting means that expert assistance is right around the corner in the form of fellow members of the nursing team.
On the other hand, a general hospital-based nurse will only usually have an opportunity to care for a patient over the long term if he/she has a particular specialism. This means seldom having the satisfaction that comes from seeing the end results of care, and it also all but eliminates the chance that a nurse can truly get to know a patient apart from his or her specific injury or condition. For nurses who entered the profession because of their essential empathy, this can pose quite a challenge.
Nursing in a residential setting.
Nurses who work in long-term care homes are able to treat the "whole patient" instead of merely focusing on only a single ailment or set of conditions. This allows them -- indeed, it requires them -- to meet a patient's mental and social needs, not merely his or her physical ones. For many who have gravitated toward adult care jobs as their vocation, the residential care setting can be highly gratifying.
Another benefit of providing nursing services in a residential care facility is the opportunity to more easily develop high levels of competence with certain conditions. The residential care nurse who spends five years working primarily with live-in dementia patients will possess expertise that the typical hospital-based nurse will probably never develop.
The residential care setting does have its drawbacks, however. Nurses working in such an environment must be more self-sufficient, able to handle most problems -- including emergencies -- with little immediate backup from more highly trained personnel.
Another major difference between the two care settings involves the types of co-workers that nurses are likely to work closely with. While care assistants are present in both types of facilities, only in a hospital will a nurse have the opportunity to frequently discuss cases with the specialists who provide advanced types of medical services. Nurses working in a residential care home, in contrast, will more often see their patients leave the facility entirely to access such services, which can result in a more isolated nursing experience.
Both types of nursing are absolutely necessary; it would be incorrect to say that a career in one setting is better than that in another. Instead, prospective nurse candidates must examine their own personalities to determine whether they would feel more comfortable, confident, and capable in a residential care home setting or in the midst of a busy, full-service hospital.