By: Nina Pelsi, DePaul University health sciences major ’19

Like most college freshmen, I initially struggled to definitively decide which career I wanted to pursue for the next few years. I think it’s important to start generating ideas based on which subjects or fields you’re most passionate about and interested in. For me, I knew I wanted to enter a career in a scientific field and always thought a hospital setting would fit my interests well. Knowing this, I decided to contact professionals from various roles in healthcare and medicine to get more information on the pros and cons of working in the industry and the type of job responsibilities I may encounter. One of my most informative and eye-opening interviews was with Certified Nursing Specialist (CNS) Alex Johnson who works in the critical care unit at Central DuPage Hospital. If you, too, find yourself exploring a career in nursing, here’s what you need to know. 

Nina: What do you like about the setting in which you work and why did you choose to work in a hospital setting?

Alex: I was initially drawn to nursing because the career was so dynamic. To me, the profession blended both science and humanity, and I believed it could help me grow not only as a professional, but as a person. When I discovered the challenge of critical care, I was hooked. To the patient and their family on that particular day, it is often the worst day of their lives, and I learned about my responsibility to protect the sanctity of life and to provide dignity in death. I aspired to be that nurse that not only exceeded as a clinician, but also as a compassionate caregiver to hopefully demonstrate to that patient and family that someone would be there to alleviate the pain and suffering of their darkest day just a little bit. What I learned is that often times it means more than just a little bit to them, it means the world to them. The “gift” that the patient and family give in return can be priceless. They never forget you. To me it makes nursing the best career in the world.

Nina: What are a few things that you like and dislike about your profession?

Alex: I like it for many of the reasons mentioned above. I also like critical care for the advancements and the technology. I like how newer research and science constantly challenges us to improve the care we give. I like how there is always something to learn.

However, the same things that you like can be the very things that lead to the things you do not like. The drawbacks can be the long hours and the stress of the fast-paced environment. Learning new things and advancing your practice can be stressful. Nurses are constantly asked to do more and more with each passing year. Expectations continue to rise, and the charting gets increasingly more labor-intensive. “Moral distress” is also much talked-about in the literature. Some articles call it, “compassion fatigue.” A nurse really must maintain a sense of perspective and work-life balance in order to avoid burnout.

Nina: What should someone know before they start on the path to becoming a nurse?

Alex: There are days when it will feel like the hardest job in the world, and there will be days that feel like you have the best job in the world (sometimes it can be both in the same day). Some of my work experiences I will never forget for the rest of my life. I have experienced a tremendous amount of growth both as a person and as a professional. If you are up to that challenge, then it may be the path for you.


Are you interested in connecting with a professional in the healthcare industry? One way to get insider perspectives on an industry that interests you is by searching for a DePaul ASK mentor on Handshake! ASK mentors are here to provide information about what it’s like to work in the role or industry that excites you.