The Most Difficult Nursing Job to Be: An Inpatient Hospice Nurse

Choose the nursing job you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Feb 14, 2024 05:39
Are you ready to dive into the world of nursing and uncover the most challenging roles in this crucial profession? Welcome to StrawPoll's ultimate ranking of "What is the most difficult nursing job to be?"! Here, you have the power to vote for your top pick or suggest a missing option that deserves recognition. From the high-stakes world of emergency nursing to the intricate care of pediatric nursing, we've gathered a diverse range of options that showcase the depth and dedication of this field. So, are you eager to explore the diverse challenges and rewards that nursing has to offer? Join thousands of others and cast your vote now, as we embark on a thrilling journey to uncover the toughest, most demanding, and ultimately, most rewarding nursing jobs out there!

What Is the Most Difficult Nursing Job to Be?

  1. 1
    These nurses work in intensive care units (ICUs) and deal with critically ill patients who require constant monitoring and advanced life support measures. They must be skilled in managing complex medical conditions, administering medications, and responding quickly to emergencies.
    A Critical Care Nurse is a highly specialized and skilled nurse who provides intensive care to critically ill patients. They work in the critical care unit of hospitals, where they handle patients who require constant monitoring and specialized treatment due to life-threatening conditions or injuries. Critical Care Nurses are responsible for assessing patients, administering medications, monitoring vital signs, managing life support equipment, and providing emotional support to patients and their families during difficult times.
    • Education: Bachelor's degree in Nursing (BSN) is preferred, while an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is the minimum requirement
    • Certification: Certified Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification is highly recommended
    • Experience: Typically requires a minimum of 2 years of experience in an intensive care unit (ICU)
    • Critical Thinking: Ability to quickly assess and analyze complex and evolving patient conditions
    • Attention to Detail: Keen focus on monitoring and interpreting subtle changes in patient status
  2. 2
    ER nurses work in high-stress environments and deal with patients who have acute and life-threatening medical conditions. They must be able to triage patients quickly, prioritize care, and make rapid decisions in critical situations.
    The Emergency Room Nurse is a challenging nursing job that requires specialized skills and knowledge to handle critical and time-sensitive situations in the emergency department. These nurses work alongside healthcare teams to provide immediate care to patients in various emergency situations.
    • High Stress Environment: Emergency Room Nurses must thrive in high-pressure situations and remain calm under stress.
    • Adaptability: They need to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and be able to prioritize and make decisions on the spot.
    • Emergency Care Skills: Emergency Room Nurses should possess advanced skills in assessing, diagnosing, and managing emergency medical conditions.
    • Advanced Life Support: They must be trained in advanced life support techniques such as CPR, airway management, and emergency medication administration.
    • Critical Thinking: These nurses must have excellent critical thinking and problem-solving abilities to assess and address complex situations.
  3. 3

    Oncology Nurse

    Nursing profession
    These nurses work with cancer patients and must be knowledgeable about the disease process, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and managing side effects of treatment. They also provide emotional support and help patients and families cope with the challenges of cancer.
    An oncology nurse is a specialized healthcare professional who provides nursing care to patients with cancer. They work closely with oncologists and other healthcare professionals to assist in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of cancer patients. Oncology nursing requires a high level of knowledge and expertise in cancer care, as well as strong communication and compassionate skills to support patients and their families throughout their cancer journey.
    • Education and Certification: Requires a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Registered Nurse (RN) license. Additional certification in oncology nursing is highly recommended.
    • In-depth Knowledge: Possesses a deep understanding of different types of cancer, their treatments, and associated side effects.
    • Patience and Empathy: Demonstrates patience and empathy to help patients cope with the physical and emotional challenges of cancer.
    • Pain Management: Skilled in pain assessment and management for cancer patients.
    • Chemotherapy Administration: Capable of safely administering chemotherapy drugs and managing their potential side effects.
  4. 4
    Pediatric nurses care for children from infants to teenagers and must be skilled in managing a wide range of medical conditions and developmental stages. They also work closely with families and provide education on child development, health, and safety.
    A Pediatric Nurse is a healthcare professional who specializes in providing medical care for children from infancy through adolescence. They play a crucial role in helping children achieve optimum health and well-being. Pediatric Nurses work closely with pediatricians and other healthcare professionals to deliver comprehensive and specialized care to young patients.
    • Education: Completion of a nursing program (Associate or Bachelor's Degree)
    • Licensure: Obtain and maintain a valid nursing license
    • Certifications: Specialized certifications such as Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN)
    • Clinical Skills: Expertise in administering medication, IV therapy, wound care, and pediatric-specific treatments
    • Knowledge: In-depth understanding of child development, growth milestones, and pediatric illnesses
  5. 5

    Geriatric Nurse

    Healthcare profession
    These nurses work with elderly patients who often have complex medical conditions and multiple chronic illnesses. They must be skilled in managing medications, preventing falls, and providing end-of-life care.
    A Geriatric Nurse specializes in providing care to elderly and aging patients who often have complex medical conditions, limited mobility, and various cognitive impairments. This nursing job requires a strong understanding of age-related changes, chronic illnesses, and the unique needs and challenges faced by older adults.
    • Education: A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is the minimum requirement, but a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a specialization in Gerontology is highly recommended.
    • Licensure: Geriatric Nurses need to be licensed Registered Nurses (RNs), which involves passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
    • Experience: Prior experience in nursing, particularly in geriatric care, is valuable. Practical experience in hospitals, nursing homes, or rehabilitation centers is beneficial.
    • Compassion: Geriatric Nurses must have a high level of empathy and compassion to understand and assist elderly patients who may be dealing with physical and emotional challenges.
    • Communication Skills: Effective communication skills are crucial to establish rapport, provide clear instructions, and liaise with families, physicians, and other members of the healthcare team.
  6. 6

    Operating Room Nurse

    Nursing profession
    OR nurses assist surgeons during surgeries and must have extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and surgical procedures. They also monitor patients during and after surgery and manage complex medical equipment.
    An Operating Room Nurse is a specialized nurse who works alongside surgeons and other medical professionals in the operating room. They play a critical role in ensuring patient safety and providing optimal care during surgical procedures.
    • Physical and emotional resilience: Operating Room Nurses need to handle high-stress situations, manage heavy workloads, and stay calm in emergency situations.
    • Surgical knowledge and technical skills: They must possess a deep understanding of surgical procedures, instruments, and equipment and be adept at assisting surgeons.
    • Attention to detail: Operating Room Nurses must have excellent attention to detail to ensure all instruments, supplies, and medications are properly prepared and used.
    • Critical thinking and decision making: They must be able to think quickly and make sound decisions in complex and rapidly changing situations.
    • Knowledge of infection control protocols: Operating Room Nurses must have a strong understanding of infection control measures to minimize the risk of surgical site infections.
  7. 7
    Psychiatric nurses work with patients who have mental health issues and must be skilled in assessing and managing psychiatric disorders. They also provide counseling and support to patients and families.
    A psychiatric nurse is a specialized healthcare professional who provides care and support to individuals affected by mental health disorders. These professionals work in psychiatric hospitals, mental health clinics, and other healthcare settings that cater to individuals who require psychiatric treatment. They collaborate with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other healthcare team members to develop and administer appropriate treatment plans for their patients.
    • Education: Psychiatric nurses typically hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and are required to be licensed as registered nurses (RNs). Some pursue advanced degrees such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a specialty in psychiatric nursing.
    • Specialized Training: Psychiatric nurses undergo specialized training to understand the complexities of mental health disorders, their diagnosis, and evidence-based treatment approaches.
    • Therapeutic Communication: Psychiatric nurses possess strong communication skills to establish rapport with patients and effectively communicate with individuals experiencing mental health crises.
    • Assessment and Evaluation: They conduct comprehensive mental health assessments, evaluate patients' symptoms and mental status, and contribute to developing individualized care plans.
    • Medication Administration: Psychiatric nurses are trained to safely administer and monitor psychotropic medications that help manage mental health symptoms.
  8. 8
    These nurses work in various locations and must be adaptable to different environments and patient populations. They often work in rural or underserved areas and provide care to patients with limited access to healthcare.
    A travel nurse is a healthcare professional who works on a temporary basis, typically on short-term contracts in different healthcare facilities across various locations. They are highly skilled and adaptable nurses who can quickly integrate into new environments and provide nursing care to patients in a wide range of settings and specialties.
    • Mobility: Ability to travel and work in different locations
    • Flexibility: Adaptable to new settings and patient populations
    • Independence: Ability to work autonomously in unfamiliar environments
    • Multitasking: Capable of handling multiple assignments and tasks simultaneously
    • Clinical expertise: Possesses advanced clinical skills in a variety of specialties
  9. 9
    These nurses administer anesthesia during surgeries and medical procedures and must be skilled in managing the patient's airway, vital signs, and pain management. They also monitor patients during and after anesthesia and manage potential complications.
    A Nurse Anesthetist is a highly skilled and specialized advanced practice nurse who administers anesthesia to patients before, during, and after medical procedures. They work closely with anesthesiologists, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals to ensure safe and effective anesthesia care. Nurse Anesthetists play a crucial role in surgical and medical interventions, as they monitor patient vital signs, adjust anesthesia levels, manage pain, and provide critical support during emergency situations.
    • Education: Master's degree in Nursing with a specialization in Nurse Anesthesia
    • Certification: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) credential
    • Scope of Practice: Administering various types of anesthesia, evaluating patient conditions, creating anesthesia plans, monitoring patients during procedures, managing anesthesia-related complications
    • Advanced Skills: Advanced pharmacology knowledge, airway management expertise, ability to interpret complex medical data, critical thinking and decision-making abilities
    • High Level of Responsibility: Working with high-risk patients, ensuring patient safety, handling emergencies, managing and titrating anesthesia medications
  10. 10

    Home Health Nurse

    Healthcare industry
    Home health nurses provide care to patients in their own homes and must be skilled in managing chronic illnesses, administering medications, and managing medical equipment. They also provide education and support to patients and families on managing their health at home.
    A Home Health Nurse is a nursing professional who provides healthcare services to patients in their own homes. This type of nursing job requires the nurse to travel to patients' homes and provide comprehensive care, often on a long-term basis. Home Health Nurses are responsible for assessing patients' health needs, developing care plans, administering medications, providing wound care, monitoring vital signs, educating patients and their families about healthcare management, and coordinating with other healthcare professionals involved in the patient's care.
    • Specialized care: Delivers specialized care tailored to individual patients' needs in their home environment.
    • Autonomy: Requires a high level of autonomy and decision-making skills as nurses work independently most of the time.
    • Travel: Involves frequent travel to patients' homes, sometimes across vast geographic areas.
    • Flexible schedule: Offers flexibility in scheduling, often accommodating patients' needs and preferences.
    • Communication skills: Requires excellent communication skills to collaborate with patients, their families, and other healthcare team members.

Missing your favorite nursing job?


Ranking factors for difficult nursing job

  1. Work environment and conditions
    The difficulty of a nursing job can be influenced by the setting in which a nurse works. Some environments, such as emergency rooms, intensive care units or psychiatric facilities, may be more physically and emotionally demanding than others.
  2. Patient population
    Some nursing specialties involve caring for patients with complex medical conditions, high acuity levels or challenging behaviors, which can be particularly challenging.
  3. Physical demands
    The physical demands of a nursing job can also vary greatly. Some roles may require significant lifting, moving and handling of patients or equipment, as well as long hours spent standing and walking.
  4. Emotional demands
    Nurses may need to provide emotional support and care for patients, families and colleagues, which can be challenging and draining. Some specialties, such as palliative care, oncology or trauma nursing, can involve higher emotional demands.
  5. Level of responsibility
    The level of responsibility and decision-making required in some nursing roles, such as nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists, can make them more challenging, as they need to manage complex patient cases and coordinate care with multiple healthcare professionals.
  6. Shift work and hours
    Working long hours, night shifts and overtime can make some nursing jobs more difficult due to the impact on personal life, sleep patterns and overall health.
  7. Skill requirements and training
    Nursing jobs with high levels of skill requirements, specialized training, and ongoing education can be more challenging due to the need to maintain expertise and keep up with advancements in the field.
  8. Stresses related to the job
    Nurses working in high-stress environments such as emergency rooms or critical care units may be more prone to burnout, making these roles more difficult.
  9. Interpersonal and communication challenges
    Some nursing roles involve managing difficult interpersonal situations or collaborating with challenging colleagues or patients, which can make the role more difficult.
  10. Job security and career advancement opportunities
    Roles with limited job security or advancement opportunities may be more difficult due to the added stress of ensuring job stability and growth in the profession.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult nursing job to be. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or nurse is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 159 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each nurse once every 24 hours. The rank of each nurse is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


Trendings topics

Don't miss out on the currently trending topics of StrawPoll Rankings!

More information on most difficult nursing job to be

Nursing is a challenging and rewarding profession that requires a wide range of skills and expertise. There are many different types of nursing jobs, each with its own unique set of responsibilities and demands. From emergency room nurses to pediatric nurses, the nursing profession offers a diverse range of opportunities for those who are passionate about providing care to others. However, some nursing jobs are known to be more difficult than others, and this can depend on a variety of factors such as the patient population, the level of care required, and the working conditions. In this article, we will explore what some of the most difficult nursing jobs are and why they require such a high level of skill and dedication from those who choose to pursue them.

Share this article