Is it age, or is it overwhelming to be a nurse?

  1. 22
    I became an RN three years ago at age 44. Let me start out by saying that I am proud of my accomplishment and proud for any person who survives and graduates from nursing school. Most people have no idea how challenging nursing school is or what the duties and responsibilities of a nurse encompass.

    My first job was at my local large medical center/teaching hospital on a trauma unit, which was a great place to learn but completely overwhelming for so many reasons. As so many have shared, the sheer magnitude of responsibilities and learning was overwhelming. Laundry list of meds, diabetes, pumps, labs, wounds, tubes in any and every orifice including man-made holes, burn patients and care, back breaking boosts, washing and cleaning only to have a fresh mess, start an IV/draw blood, depressed/elderly/bariatric patients medicated to stupor and dependency, bariatric patients sick because they weigh 300 lbs., broken bones, chest tubes, poor/city/ghetto population, sad cases, working the system cases, nowhere-to-go-so-stuck-on-the-unit cases, the stench of so many gross bodily things, DOCUMENT it all, admit them, discharge them, need pain meds, wait for a doctor/resident, AND, add a topping of ever changing shifts, 12 hour night shifts, some very wonderful and friendly but many very nasty, mean co-workers (and arrogant doctors) who make you want to cry out of sheer frustration, parking and walking a 20 minute walk away, sometimes in the rain and snow, and then go home to your family and try and have some energy left for husband/kids/aging parents.

    I stayed there almost a year until I found a day/ambulatory position. For which I am sincerely grateful.

    I am not fishing for sympathy; I am trying to ask, do you feel like sometimes how can it possibly be worth this horrible job? Dealing with gross things, depressed/sick/sick because of their lifestyle/flat out crazy patients, their families, and on top of it, some horrible co-workers? (and I do need to say, I have had absolutely WONDERFUL, caring, helpful, kind coworkers whom any patient would be lucky to have). But nasty people can ruin your whole already sucky day.

    So, I became a nurse because at age 40, I had a degree in something else but wanted a career where I could make a difference in peoples' lives daily. Sounds corny but absolutely true. Is it age? Do others of you my age (now 48) feel like to work on a floor is just physically and mentally impossible? I can't help but think that this type of nursing is for the young.

    And I must reiterate, the average person has no idea what a nurse does or needs to know to take care of patients. A good, experienced nurse is worth their weight in gold.
    Last edit by Joe V on Sep 18, '13 : Reason: spacing
  2. 55 Comments so far...

  3. 8
    Well, I am not exactly your age but I am older than most of my co-workers by 10 or so years. And yes, I agree that bedside nursing is not something I am going to be able to do until I am of retirement age. 12 hour shifts are hard on the body, especially night shift. My perspective on what is important may also be different from my younger co-workers. Family and home are of the utmost importance to me and spending 3 nights away from them and three days sleeping, while on my off days feeling like a zombie are not how I want to spend the next 20 or so years. I see my children growing day by day and feel like I am missing it. This is a second life career for me as well, and while I love being a nurse I do understand that this profession is going to suck the life out of my body. Is the sacrifice worth it? I haven't made up my mind yet. But I cannot do anything else until I pay off my student loans. Until then, I will give it my all.
    canoehead, TXRN2, brandy1017, and 5 others like this.
  4. 10
    I completely agree. In most organizations, the ability to perform the labor involved in direct care nursing is a limiting factor for most of us after we hit that 'certain age'. This is the elephant in the living room.... it doesn't have to be so physically taxing, but employers are not motivated to make changes. For instance, many LTC organizations adopted NO LIFT policies 20 years ago, but hospitals have not done so. Other ergonomic adaptations to reduce bending, squatting, etc - are not difficult.... so why in the world are they missing?? At the very least, why are there no alternatives to 12-hour shifts in many hospitals?

    You don't have to be a genius to realize that changes will only be made when they MUST - when the cost of remaining the same outweighs the cost of change. In the business world, these are known as "burning deck" decisions.... hello, our deck is on fire.
    canoehead, jadelpn, VivaLasViejas, and 7 others like this.
  5. 5
    I have always said that age is just a number, but since I became a nurse as a second career, many of my coworkers have found it necessary to inquire about my age. My answer the NCLEX speaks for itself does not always satisfy their curiosity. Don't sweat the small stuff it will work out. Keep your eyes open for another opportunity, PRAY before your shift and after your shift it works.
    Munimula, CountyRat, all4neuro, and 2 others like this.
  6. 3
    It is a demanding profession, regardless of age. I am 11 years younger than you and this is also my second career. I like the flexibility of 12 hour shifts at times, but I would also like to be able to get my kids to their extracurricular activities and not have to work on weekends (their game days) or on holidays. I also believe that I am becoming burnt out on bedside nursing and I've only been at it 3 years! I'm just thankful for all of the other opportunities nurses have, so getting the degree and license was worth it.
    TXRN2, mrsmamabear2002, and lindarn like this.
  7. 6
    Bedside nursing is demanding no matter what your age.
    People have varying energy levels, but youth is where it peaks. When I was in my twenties I could work lots of back-to-back 12 hour shifts. I could handle nights and function with less sleep.
    The longer I work in nursing, the more survival techniques I have learned. I learned to say no to overtime, I learned to always take lunch even when finding the time seems impossible.
    No, it is not just age. We all feel the strain sometimes.
    TXRN2, jojo111, brandy1017, and 3 others like this.
  8. 4
    Wow.....that is pretty much my feeling put into words. I am 48 and and a new nurse (one year under my belt). I am choosing to continue my education to take a more administrative role in nursing, bedside is insane where I live. Ratios in ICU are three to one, medsurg 7-9 to one, and it's not a small hospital.
    jadelpn, dmariemac, TXRN2, and 1 other like this.
  9. 8
    Nursing has become extremely difficult. I became a nurse at the age of 34 and have been on a busy neurology floor for 20 years. I am completely burned out on bedside care and am applying to positions that take me away from the bedside. I think the age and generation differences do make it much harder as we get older. I wish I had gone on for my NP years ago! Healthcare is not an easy profession, and I think it will only get worse with the changes that are coming as a result of Obamacare.
  10. 8
    Age may play a part but I would think the overall health of the nurse would play more of a role - someone who is not physically fit (and this does not mean thin necessarily as there are plenty of out of shape thin people) but someone who is out of shape, smokes, parties to excess, etc. would find bedside nursing exhausting and while a lot of nurses like the 12 hr shifts, I am not so sure that part of why is exhausting to nurses is the 12 hr shifts - most are longer than 12 when you add in drive time/reporting - not to mention frequently there are little to no real breaks - so in some cases a nurse is "going" 12 + hours - no one can sustain that w/o feeling overwhelmed/tired etc.
    Nursing HAS changed - a LOT - and not to get into politics but I agree w/some other posters that the new Obama care is going to make things worse - mainly because no one from the top down seems to know exactly what will happen AND those who made the decisions are not "in the trenches" so to speak and will NEVER have to be concerned about how their healthcare will be paid for or where they will obtain it. Because of this coupled with the lousy economy, hospitals/LTC's and other places are asking more and more of the staff while offering less. Patients are coming in sicker, more stressed for various reasons and patients are more educated now on their illnesses and some are just demanding. Older nurses are sick of the crap and younger nurses are burning out faster...for me personally, I would not work FT on the floor again unless I had absolutely NO other choice. Right now I am returning PRN to a hospital setting and am already having 2nd thoughts..Yes, it's 12 hr shifts and yes, more time off but what is the quality of the time off if one is tired and worried about returning to work? As much as a M-F job doesn't appeal to me because of the time, the way hospital nursing is now - at least the area I live in - is even less appealing. Age may be an issue, but it's a small one from my view.
    IowaKaren, VivaLasViejas, TXRN2, and 5 others like this.
  11. 13
    Well now..... I became an RN 3 years ago; I'm the same age as the OP; I became an LPN many, many, MANY years ago; and anyone who may have read some of my posts know that I work 2 days a week and I space those days out. Today was supposed to be one of those two days. Notice I said "was". For the past 3 weeks, I've scheduled myself to work 3 in a row, just to make sure I had enough time in a row to get a good system going with my 4 BSN courses. And for the past 3 weeks, each time I go to work, I've gotten the same jacked-up assignment! How is it that I'm off for a week and still return to the exact same patients, 3 weeks in a row, on the same med/surg unit....(UNLESS!!!) this crap is done on purpose???? This facility has 6 floors with 3 subunits on each floor. What are the chances of that happening each time a person shows his/her face? Nursing is not overwhelming; the people in it ARE!!! Yet, they have the audacity to say, "thank you for helping us out"??? Be honest here and say, "thank you for coming to take the crap so the rest of us can have a great night". So, I decided that I would NOT call and place myself at the mercy of the ruthless...not today. Besides, it's Friday the 13th!! I'm not budging from my chaise!
    canoehead, jadelpn, FredaRN, and 10 others like this.


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