Through instagram I found this website sharing nurses’ stories and I thought it was such a good idea, so I posted my thoughts. After my previous post here, I had more to share and this is what I wrote:
Nursing was not my first career choice. Since I was a little girl I wanted to be a veterinarian. Over time though, my path changed and I wound up in nursing. When deciding to change my career path I knew I wanted a career that had science as a backbone and helped others. Super specific, right? I was attracted to the patient centered care that nurses provided their patients versus the disease focused care of doctors. Therefore, after finishing my biology degree, I went on to get an accelerated nursing degree. Nursing school was rough. I had no idea how hard it could be until I was thrown into those fast-paced courses with little breaks between holidays. As I went through nursing school, I struggled to keep my sanity during the course of those 18 months. Luckily, I was part of a running group, had a good gym to let off steam at, an awesome fiancé/family and the beautiful Lake Michigan only 0.5 miles from my apartment. My nursing school provided their students with various clinical opportunities by changing clinical units every 4 weeks. We had LTC, Neuro Med-Surg, Uro/Gyne Med-Surg/Onc, Cardiac ICU, L&D, Mother/Baby, Cardiac Step Down, Psych, and a GI/Resp Pediatrics unit . With each clinical that passed, I was waiting for the spark to light and show me where my passion lied in nursing. Unfortunately, I never did receive that spark. This perplexed me, but after talking to a few classmates, I thought maybe this was not unusual. The only small spark I received was in L&D, but as I graduated, I was told it was wise to go down the Med-Surg route to gain experience.
After I graduated, I interviewed for various positions; NICU, telemetry, Med-Surg, and so forth. After a few months with no luck of finding a job, I stumbled upon this Medical float position at a well-known, magnet status hospital that offered a new graduate program. Although very intimidating, I knew it would be a good opportunity to gain a ton of experience. My orientation consisted of only 3 weeks on an oncology unit, 3 weeks on a medical unit, and 3 weeks on a respiratory unit. After week 9, I was off to the races on my own. The learning curve was tremendously steep. I struggled as a new grad to find my rhythm. I cried many days from all the pressure. I went to management to express my concerns and was left with little advice except that, after your first year, everything will get better. There were times that I did not feel well and the stress was so bad that I would get migraines constantly. At one point, my migraine was so excruciating that I had to pull over at an oasis on my way home and have my husband come to drive me home. I was at a breaking point, but did not want to give up. The one floor I had an affinity for was the oncology floor. I attempted to get a job there, but the manager ended up hire another person. After that, I felt even more discouraged. I thought maybe it was floating or the hospital system that did not gel with me. Therefore, I started looking for another nursing job. I stumbled upon a surgical position with another magnet-recognized hospital. I thought for sure things would be better from this point forward. Only downside, I was back on night again. How bad could three night shifts a week be?
After 9 months, I left my medical float job and moved into surgical nursing. Since I was recent new grad, I was given 6 weeks of orientation on this unit; 3 weeks on days and 3 weeks on nights. My orientation was stressful at times, but once I got past the orientation and had several months on my own, things got a bit better. Then I hit a low and began questioning nursing…again. I was not my self. I was tired all the time, I felt nauseous and ill on my days off, and somehow even working 3x a week, I only had about 1-3 days off in between, And even 1-3 days off was not enough to help me recovery and feel better for the next shift. Again, I found myself questioning my career and some days wanting to leave the field of nursing altogether. However, I still did not want to give up. I decided to go to part-time in hopes that I would tolerate nights better, regain my health, emotions, and spark for nursing. Going part time in the beginning helped a lot. I was able to have several days off in between to recover and even on the worst/craziest nights, I knew that I only had two shifts before I would be able to have a break. Mentally and physically, things were improving.
As I approach month 9 as a surgical nurse, I am starting to feel those old problems and doubts creep back into the picture. Recently I have had a bout of patients who are inconsiderate and have no appreciation whatsoever. I always said if I had one nice patient a shift that was all I needed to get by and feel good about my shift. Even on the craziest days. Things on nights have been busier than ever. I feel myself being stressed about work 2 days before. There is no doubt that day shift on this unit tends to be 10x busier, but recently night shift has been go, go, go and some days I cannot chart or sit down until 3am-4am. And after waking up on my first night shift of the week, I feel miserable. I am hot, nauseous, have a migraine, and can barely lift myself off the couch. I pump some medication, eat some food, and head into the next shift. Now do not get me wrong, I went into this field to help people during their time of need, show compassion/empathy, and provide the treatment they need to get better, but when I myself am struggling and feel terrible, how can I provide the best care? The responsibility of a nurse is huge. One night I was on my floor, then I floated to another floor, and then I floated back to my floor. 12 patients in one night. By round three I was drained, but pushed forward to do my last assessments, give medication, and chart. I gave every ounce left that I had to my patients. Only to find an email the next day saying that myself and another nurse charted the fall documentation wrong and to be scolded. I do not want to make excuses, but after what I was put through that night, in my mind the patient was stable and young, so I documented him as a low fall risk. When in reality, if I followed the numbers, he would not have been one. That was not a major mistake, but it could have been and then I left feeling as though, I failed that night even with all the good I did. Between the stresses/pressures of being a nurse, not feeling well on night shift, and the lack of time for self-care, I begin to question, is nursing for everyone? Is it the shift, the unit, or maybe the type of nursing that does not blend well with me? If I am not cut out for nursing, does that make me a bad person?
There is not doubt that this job is equally rewarding and challenging, and there are benefits of calling yourself a nurse. You have a respect that cannot be matched and you do a job that many say, “I could never be a nurse”, and you are there for patients at the most critical and raw time in their life. The people that say they could not do nursing are probably right. How many people do you know that for their job they could hold in their pee for 12 hours, skip their lunch break and all breaks, have to push forward even when they are not feeling well, and perform the job of not only a nurse, but sometimes so many other roles? When I am not bogged down by all the negatives that surround me in my current nursing role, I remember the moments where I made a great impact and have felt that little spark. I remember on the Oncology unit when I hugged adult children while they cried about their parent’s diagnosis and listened to their worries, or when a patient was discharging to go to a friend’s wedding and we looked up and laughed together while searching for the perfect chemo hat on Etsy. Or when I came to the unit everyday and asked a mother how her daughter was doing, hugged and provided encouragement for her mother, and checked in on her daughter even though she was not my patient. Then I remember that deep inside, I am a good nurse, I do make a difference, and I can see how people find this career to be a calling. Perfectionism runs through my bones, and I am even more attentive when it comes to my patients and their well being. Even when I am stressed to the brim, I make sure I leave my issues at the door and go above and beyond for my patients. ALWAYS. I take pride in my job. But when I am bound by heavy patient loads and a busy night, it tears me up that I can only provide the safest and basic level of care for my patients to make sure every gets what they need. In addition to, sacrificing my own well being day in and day out, where will that lead me? A hospital bed of my own? Nurse burn out? Although I am super happy for all the nurses that have found their passion and calling, I wonder if I will ever be able to find my passion in this world of nursing?
In order to cope with the days in and out of nursing, I created a small blog at https://nursingalldayeveryday.wordpress.com/ and share my outside life as an RN on my instagram @ carpe_diem_rn. I feel this blog and instagram serve a word and picture diary to rid my mind of all the noise and come out feeling freed and refreshed. Every nurse has a story. Every nurse has struggles and triumphs. I am excited about this nursespeak.com because I think it will help everyone feel heard, share some stories, and maybe even shift perspectives, and help us all understand our place in the vast world of nursing.