I trained as a Registered General Nurse once upon a time. It was a three-year course – I started in 1987 and finished in 1990.
After qualifying, I spent a year on a medical ward followed by three years on a surgical floor in Florida. The pay was never great and the work was hard – you had a lot of responsibility and staffing levels were generally below what was required.
In the UK my annual salary was about £13,000 in 1990. It wasn’t a lot – I couldn’t afford a decent flat.
I forget what I was making during my stay in the USA but it wasn’t great. With Sarasota being a moderately upscale town, I could only afford an apartment in a bad area (My first two years there), followed by one in a better area but nine miles from the hospital.
The cheap old car (A ’71 LTD) I bought when I first arrived in America leaked coolant fumes, which made me ill. I sold it and got a bicycle instead, which was my transport for the remainder of my time there.
Coming back to Scotland, I quit nursing and went into IT. At first I worked for my brother’s startup but he got sued after a few years so I had to bail out and do contract work for a spell.
I was amazed at what they were paying me for work that was not all that taxing and where no-one was going to die if you made a mistake.
The only downside was that the nature of contract work didn’t suit me. Too many desperate men (It was almost all men) scrambling to keep their well-paid job. Cooped up in airless offices with a small group of people all day. I was glad to get out of it.
It opened my eyes to the fact that remuneration is not always commensurate with effort. Nursing is still not as well-paid as it should be. Perhaps you could raise a family on a nurse’s salary (Average £23,000 in the UK today) but it wouldn’t be easy.
I think the increasing number of foreign nurses in UK hospitals suggests that Brits are less and less willing to do such hard work for so little money.
The benefits of my experience as an RGN and RN were that I learned to be more organised, more self-disciplined and a bit more confident, all of which which I badly needed.