Nursing or Biochem?

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Nursing or Biochem?

Postby Regina » Sun Nov 28, 2004 6:37 pm


Thank you for offering such an interesting and informative site.

I am currently a student at a community college and my major is in registered nursing. I am one semester away from completing the required courses in order to be accepted into the nursing program. I am an EMT and find work in the medical field at the emergency level to be noble and somewhat of a calling. Initially, I'd hoped to earn my BS in nursing and work in either trauma or as a flight nurse.

However, in fulfilling my nursing program prereqs and participating in an on-campus science group (MESA), I've come to realize I have a knack for chemistry. I am particularly interested in biochemistry.

I've spoken with the admissions counselor at UC Santa Cruz who would like me to contact her when I'm ready to transfer. Unfortunately, upon speaking to my academic couselor, I learned that any degree less than a MS would be insufficient for work in this field. The thought of pursuing a PhD is daunting since I'm already 33 years old. I have four children (my oldest will be starting college in four short years and I'd hoped to be OUT of college by then). My husband and I simply can't afford to put all four of our kids and myself through college at the same time.

I am well aware of the nursing shortage, but what are the job prospects like for a MS in biochemistry (particularly in the fields of genetics and/or the environment)? I work well under pressure but I don't deal well with routine. Is a job in research for me? I enjoy working with people and feeling as if I've made a change in someone's life. On the other hand, I tend to be very analytical and thrive on the very idea of learning. Is this the field for me? Or am I being unrealistic?


Nursing or Biochem?

Postby Dave Jensen » Sun Nov 28, 2004 7:35 pm

Hi Regina,

I'm a guy who has made a living over twenty years in the biochemistry careers area, so I would love to direct you that way as it still is a field with a lot of potential. Only there are a couple of reasons why I can't do that. For one, you mention that you aren't ready for the PhD (and I don't blame you, as you'd be in your forties when you get out . . . ). The bigger reason is that you mention that you don't like routine work. Sadly, even with a MS in Biochem, much of your work will be routine because you will be working for a PhD scientist who will save much of the interesting, independent work for himself/herself and you'll get to run some nifty assays over and over again. Of course, this is a broad generalization -- which is always dangerous on a forum read by many people. However, because you love nursing as well, and you can go so far with that degree as well (even in clinical research, a booming field of biotechnology), you may be better off taking that career counselor's advice and sticking with the nursing career. I noticed that you felt that you had a calling for this -- there is nothing better for a career than feeling this way.

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Nursing or Biochem?

Postby John Fetzer » Mon Nov 29, 2004 12:17 pm

I would agree with Dave, to do really non-routine, challenging, and creative work you most likely would need a PhD. Even a lot of ordinary PhDs do mundane work. You need the talent to be an innovator to keep in the hot areas of research. Your only chance and it is slim and very locali8zed is to become a research tevhnician for a government lab or research university, like UCSF, that has non-PhDs doing research. You'd be doing that under someone's direct orders and supervision, but there are such positions at places like Lawrence Berkeley or Livermore.

Since you feel an altruism and passion for nursing, you have a true chouce of careers in two areas that you will enjoy for a career. Think of what you like and dislike in each, what parts of your personality those connect to, and how important those might be. You might find nursing to be a great career and keep up in the science for interests sake, or vice versa you might go into the science at the great sacrifice of time and volunteer in health care.

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Nursing or Biochem?

Postby Regina » Mon Nov 29, 2004 6:03 pm

I appreciate the advice and I respect the honest opinions. I think I already knew what the answer to my question was but I needed to hear it from those already in the field who could give me an objective and fair answer. I especially like the idea of continuing with the nursing while studying science on the side. For some reason I'd not thought of that. Clinical research is something that I will ask my counselor about since it's an area that I hadn't previously considered.

Again, thank you for your help.

Nursing or Biochem?

Postby Bill L. » Tue Nov 30, 2004 1:54 pm

Hi Regina,

NurseWeek has a nice article on the subject of nurses in drug research at:

Be well,

Bill L. & Naledi S.
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Nursing or Biochem?

Postby Regina » Fri Dec 03, 2004 1:19 am

Bill and Naledi,

I read the article and found it very intriguing. I printed it out so that I can review it with my counselor. Maybe she can help me find a way to incorporate both nursing and science into my propective career.

Thank You,


Nursing or Biochem?

Postby Andy » Fri Dec 03, 2004 1:57 am


NURSING!!! My wife is a physician, so I know that good, compassionate, and organized nurses will be very much valued by the health care community for many years to come. I'm a biochemist and I love it, but if you have a chance to be a good nurse with no 7-year grad school oddysey, go for it.


Nursing or Biochem?

Postby Kim » Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:16 am

Since you are in the Bay area, you may want to study the issues that are behind the current nurse strike. The showdown between nurse union and Gov Schwarzenegger may be inevitable. You may want to know why the nurses are on strike and why the union has been spending money putting propaganda ad on TV.

California nurses must be very disgruntled.
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