There was an old post with this title that I wrote in 2008. For some reason google loves to serve it up when people type in “quit nursing.” That’s always weighed on me a little bit. As if people are looking for career advice and they could find it here on this blog. Read more
Posts from the ‘Hate Nursing’ Category
This summer, I came away from my MICU contract with a renewed understanding of why I have this love-hate relationship with nursing. And I’ve summed it up in 6 simple points so when I’m ready to pick up another contract I can remember what to expect, even if months and months of super intense child rearing washes it all out of my head.
So here goes. The love part…
- It’s the feeling you get after the shift that is so great. You made it. You got through this grueling, back breaking, nerve wracking day. It’s a feeling of accomplishment.
- It’s the social interaction. The camaraderie. There is definitely a bond there among nurses. No matter how different a fellow nurse is from you they know exactly what it is that you go through. And for many of us, you can’t say the same thing about your family, your spouse, or your best friend.
- Then there’s just the joy of knowing a difficult job really, really well. Being able to field any curve ball that comes your way in an extremely fast paced environment. Not to mention the fact that people could die if you don’t do the right thing. While that may sound like an enormous amount of pressure, it’s also a great source of pride to know that you can handle that.
And the hate part…
- Night shift – Love, love, love the people who work night shift. But I hate the fact that switching from days to nights makes me feel like a human slug.
- Lower back pain. No need to elaborate here.
- Cleaning up stool. Sorry. it sucks no matter how you slice it. Some will say “Oh it doesn’t bother me at all! You get used to it.” Bullshit. You have 2 ICU patients, each stooling 3-4 times during the night in a 12 hour shift. You do the math. That means you are potentially up to your elbows in shit Q 2 hrs. AND trying to get the rest of your work done.
Here’s how she felt about nursing:
…I pretty much thought I would be a nurse until the day I retire…Nursing was one of those ok jobs. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. It was . . . fine. I was good at it – - excelled in it, really – and took pride in that fact. But I wasn’t doing what I loved… nor was I loving what I did.
I feel like the future “me” could have written this. In the post I was working on, I was going to spell out why I was so lukewarm on nursing, but you know what? I don’t want to waste your time with that. And I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from entering the field. There are many ways in which being a nurse is satisfying and meaningful, and the sky’s the limit as far as opportunities go.
But for me being a nurse has sort of been a cop out. It’s like the childish “me” has always wanted to do something creative but then my childish side kind of ran out of time. So I grew up and found a profession. When I first became an RN, I thought. “Finally. I have found a respectable and stable way to earn money. Now I can start painting again in my free time.” Ha. Flash forward to being a full time mom and a part time nurse and suddenly there is no free time. Fortunately I have this blog to fuel my creative side and keep it somewhat balanced for now.
I got this comment the other day from Trish, and I really have mixed feelings about it:
I just wanted to let you know I like your blog and you have impacted someone’s life (mine), in an unexpected way.
I’m starting college this fall after being out of school many years. I was planning on going into nursing. Deep down I suspected I would suck at being a nurse, especially when I found myself gagging while washing out my pottytraining toddler’s poopy underpants. Your blog, and this post, has pretty much confirmed my suspicions and I’m planning on doing something else now. Thanks for opening my eyes!
On the one hand, I feel bad. We need nurses and I hate to think that I’ve influenced someone to not be a nurse.
On the other hand, everything I write here is my honest and open opinion about the profession, and I write about what being a nurse really entails. And unfortunately, the further I get in this profession, the more I want out of it.
Despite that, I have no regrets as far as choosing this path, and spending the last three years (5 if you include school) being a nurse. It’s been a mind-blowing experience, one in which I’ve learned a lot about life and a lot about my self, and what I’m capable of doing.
To Trish I would say this: Do a little more thinking about what drove you to consider nursing in the first place, because there are many types of nurses that rarely come into contact with poop. (Isn’t it crazy that I’m writing a serious post about poop?) Psych nurses, community health nurses, and case managers are a few types that come to mind. And you can always try being a NICU nurse, because as @thatguynamedtom said, “the poop is so much smaller there.”
One final thought: I used to be a person who was afraid of blood, and for years I wouldn’t even dream of becoming a nurse, for fear of having to actually draw someone’s blood. I later came to find out, however, that this was simply a matter of my own vasovagal response to giving blood. Years later I found myself up to my elbows in blood amongst the GI bleeders in the MICU, and I was as far from syncope as you can get. Instead I found myself pumped up with adrenaline and exhilaration at the chance to be saving someone’s life.
Now there’s a good reason to become a nurse.
So this MICU shift was very difficult after all, and it wasn’t for the reasons that I suspected. I thought it would be the tasks that got me down, i.e. not enough time to get things done. Surprise, surprise, turns out it was the patients.
Imagine a patient with End Stage Live Disease. She currently has hepatic encephalopathy and suspected GI bleeding. She was recently extubated. They usually put an oral gastric tube in and then yank it out at the same time when the patient is extubated. But then the patient continues to have this hepatic encephalopathy, which is a Catch-22 because then she is unable to swallow her lactulose, (which would help to restore her mental status.)
You attempt placing a nasogastric tube, twice, both times unsuccessfully, both times with the patient screaming at the top of her lungs. So at the end of the day, her baseline mental status hasn’t returned, and you have no way of giving her nutrition or lactulose. But she isn’t sick enough to stay in the ICU so you transfer her to the floor.
Typical situation for this disease, I tell myself, and that’s just the way it is. But I feel so frustrated, and so helpless for two reasons. (1) I CAN’T GIVE THIS PATIENT HER LACTULOSE AND THAT IS THE ONE THING THAT WOULD MAKE HER BETTER and (2) Trying to place this NG tube when she is not mentally stable enough to cooperate is very traumatic to her. And inevitably, the docs will always order a lactulose enema out of desperation. GUESS WHAT? If your patient can’t swallow a cupful of medicine, you can be damn sure she won’t be able to retain a pint of lactulose IN HER BUTT. So that never works.
The weird thing is that even though I hadn’t worked since last August, I had the exact same patient scenario: Liver Failure, recently extubated, mentally, in liver land, and unable to swallow lactulose.
Is it a failure of our healthcare system?
Is it a failure of my nursing skills to place an NG tube?
Is it a failure of our normal routine to yank out the OG tube when extubating?
Is it a failure of medicine in that we have failed to discover a better way of reducing a patient’s ammonia level (which is what lactulose does)?
In the end it doesn’t really matter because it was a failure, and I left that day feeling like I had done nothing for my patient except cause discomfort, and transfer her to lower level of care.
One thing is for sure, I vow never to complain again about working at Chez Recovery. It took a shift back in the MICU to make me realize just how good I had it there.