I read a book to review over the weekend, and one of the nurses in it has a career crisis and has to get down to the basics: why she became a nurse to begin with.
It sounds like a simple question, but when you get down to it, hardly anyone knows. My first day of nursing school, a teacher had everyone stand up and say why they wanted to be a nurse. Almost everyone said, "I want to help people." Halfway through, my teacher said, "That's sweet. Do you want world peace, too?" (She was one of my favorite teachers.)
You can help people in a million ways other than being a nurse. Many do not involve bodily fluids and daily verbal abuse.
Another popular answer is something like "my mom and sisters are all nurses." Um, OK. Good self-analysis.
The most honest answer I've ever heard came from a nurse I really, really dislike. In my disgust, I once asked him why he became a nurse to begin with. He readily answered, "My parents were on my ass, and nursing was the fastest way to get out of school in 2 years and start making a lot of money." You have to respect that one.
My answer has always been that I honest to God don't know. I wanted to be a nurse when I was a kid, and the desire got lost in a greater desire to sit around reading poetry in college rather than sitting in chemistry lab. But really, one day I literally sat up and said, "Gee, I think I want to be a nurse." And here I am.
My career has certainly gone through peaks and valleys, and it is fair to say that like many others in the field I've come close to just quitting the whole thing. I can deal with being shit on by patients, but by the healthcare institution in general? It gets pretty old. But I can't quiiiiite bring myself to do it.
Why? I don't know!
There is just something about being a nurse that sucks you in. It is an addiction. For every patient who pulls out his central line and Foley, for every physician who blames his mistakes on you, there is the THING you caught that saved someone a lot of time and money chasing the wrong diagnosis, that parent you said the right things to, somehow, while you busted your hump trying to save her child's life, the high that comes after your team saves a life. YOU HAVE TO HAVE IT AGAIN.
I'll come up with a better answer for interviews, but the real answer to why I became a nurse is...I have no idea.