Cry for help: I don't think I can do this.

  1. 11
    Let me put this into context. Maybe this belongs in the general student discussion because I am a BSN student approaching my final semester of nursing school, but I'm seeking out perspective from individuals who are already working in the field and have experience.

    I don't think I can do this.

    I don't know what I am supposed to do.

    I alternately feel like the biggest jerk and the biggest failure on the face of the earth - dramatic I know, but really. I'm a great student! I have fabulous grades, I'm always on time at the hospital, I -care- about the people I take care of during my clinical hours and I treat them with compassion and dignity, I'm not -glaringly- incompetent and I usually get along well with the staff.

    And I hate, hate, HATE every single minute of it. In fact, I fantasize every day about blowing off my last three months and not even finishing my degree. I already have one 4 year degree in the burn pile - what's one more!? This is the big failure/big jerk part: I know there are so many people who try and fail at even becoming nurses in the first place, or they work and they scrape and they struggle because it doesn't come easily. I'm not having that problem. So what's the big deal?

    I cry, almost every single day, at least every week, I cry and I cry. I cry when I come home. I cry when I try to sleep and I can't. I cry when I think about having to go back to the hospital. I cry when I think about the impenetrably disapproving look on my clinical instructor's face as I weigh whether or not I should even ask her the question brewing in my head, or the next time an honest entreaty for help gets shot down with "you ought to know this already." I cry when I think about getting my license, I cry when I think about getting a job. I feel so miserable and I ask myself every day why I did this to myself.

    Oh. And my blood pressure? Hello clinical hypertension! It was perfectly fine before nursing school. Yeah, I've done the stressful college dance before: driving all over the darn place, transcribing interview tapes 40 hours a week, 15+ hours of class, finishing my undergrad thesis - I was running ragged, sleeping <30 hours a week, working one or two part-time jobs and on antidepressants for part of that. It was STILL better than this!

    I see the cutthroat and hostile unit cultures, burnt out, overwhelmed nurses cutting corners, I've been laughed at for following orders, yelled at by angry unit managers for doing what I was told to do, I feel like I have absolutely no idea what the HECK I am doing and I think to myself, oh my goodness, if my first job is anything like this, I'm going to end up killing someone and losing my license.

    I'm amazed at the minimal authority nurses seem to wield over of their own work environment and their status as first sacrificial lamb up for the slaughter from a legal perspective if something goes awry. I don't see how new nurses ever make the cut as most of them appear to lack support. I have heard so many horror stories from experienced nurses who were humble and transparent enough to be honest with me about what they encountered when they first entered into the field. Obviously they went on to overcome the difficulties they faced, but...

    ... holy crap! Is this field as terrible as I think it is? How does anyone ever manage to do this? Do the chest-rending anxiety and terror eventually go away, do things begin to fall into place one you get out of school, get your license and find a job - you know, when you have to slog through all the things you've come to hate for even more hours every week - or am I going to be Googling "I hate nursing", "non-nursing jobs with BSN degree" and "getting out of nursing" until 3am every night through all of it?

    I know that no one can answer these questions for me - they are, in essence, rhetorical. But I wonder - is what I'm experiencing normal? Am I going to pieces for no reason, or am I just not cut out to do this?

    I've worked with the disenfranchised, people in crisis; heavy, taxing mental and emotional work. But this is a new kind. I don't really mind how I feel when I am taking care of patients. It's the way I feel when I'm away from all that. I feel such a profound sense of pressure, especially from instructors giving us their "pearls of wisdom" - what I'm hearing is that we're all going to screw up, we're all in immediate danger at all times of losing our licenses, and we all HAVE to work at hospitals on adult med-surg floors if we ever want to have job options or a suitably diverse skill set no matter how ill-suited or opposed we are to so doing. Reality? Myth?

    Do I suck it up, shut it down, or just find a way to work with it? I think I'd love to work in community health as I have some experience working with mums utilizing public health initiative services and I served as a an assistant community resource advisor to financially disadvantaged families. I love providing education, I enjoy working with people individually, conducting research and developing solutions, but I feel like the fast-paced and hospital-based acute care model is being crammed down my throat every hour of every day and I'm drowning in it.

    ... is that all nursing is? That's how I feel right now. And every time I think about how much I don't like where I am right now, I try to tell myself that it will get better, I imagine the faces of everyone who has supported me and made it possible for me to finish this degree, I think about all the time, the effort, the money, the difficulties, and the total lack of realistic job prospects I'll face if I fail to deliver. Fear. Guilt. Faint, faint glimmer of hope.

    Short story: it does -not- make me feel better.

    The best part is not knowing which to worry about most: finishing my (second) degree and not being able to find a job, or being super successful in finding a soul-crushing job that I hate with every fiber of my being.

    Thanks for reading my totally long and whiny (yet much needed and cathartic!) post that is probably posted in the wrong forum,

    MissTake

    (P.S. "quit complaining", "u should b so greatful (can't you spell?) to even b in nursing school!!!!!", "DIDN'T YOU KNOW NURSING IS HARD WORK??", etc., need not apply; I'm not stupid, I'm just really upset, I feel like there's no one to talk to and I don't need any more negativity - thanks!)
    Savvy20RN, iPink RN, jtmarcy12, and 8 others like this.
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  4. 65 Comments so far...

  5. 3
    I can only talk about my experience. I was hired right out of nursing school into the ER, my first choice for jobs. No Med-Surg. I had a former military as my preceptor (really!) and work was intense. I learned to tweak my caffeine/exercise/sleep balance, and one day realized driving into work that I wasn't feeling nausea or fear. I was ready to take on my job and learn, utilize my resources, and problem-solve.

    In my state (CA), the BON posts all of the court documents of nurses who have lost their license or had it suspended. Mostly it is drunk driving, nurses completely bombed on meds trying to do patient care, sexual harassment cases. Heavy stuff. Things the average nurse will never need to worry about.

    I think leaving the "safe place" of nursing school can be scary. But look at it this way. When you graduate, you are prepared at the minimum standards for a nurse. You will not know everything. No one should make you feel you should know everything. Also, your professors are basically signing off on you saying "Yes, this one will be able to be a nurse". They saw your aptitude and they see your potential.

    I hope that somewhere in the negative talk you can find a way to recognize the positive things you have accomplished and be able to empower yourself! Good luck.
    jtmarcy12, Red35, and Tina, RN like this.
  6. 5
    First thing, take a breath

    Don't let the student environment turn you off from nursing. It sounds like you are more frustrated with the people you can run into than the work itself. Remember your role on those units, as a student, you are not an integrated member of the team. You haven't had time to learn the ins and outs of the people on the unit, and to them you are yet another transient soul who gets in their way more than doesn't. You can be the best student out there and you will still be an outsider. Key point? It isn't your fault, personality, or responsibility to make these people see you. So you move on.

    When you do get hired onto a floor I promise it will be different. I will even give you my email address and you can write and holler at me if it isn't. When you become part of a floor there will still be people who are rude, belittling, stupid, and elusive. But that is ANYWHERE. From waitressing, to retail, to entrepreneur there are always these people. However once you settle into a floor you also gain all the wonderful, supportive, and motivated people that are there. You become part of the team. They know your story. If you invest in them, they will invest in you because inherently most of us are looking to belong to a small community, and nursing offers that.

    Do you know what area of nursing you are interested in working? Personnel issues aside, what interests you?
    canoehead, nursemike, -MissTake-, and 2 others like this.
  7. 8
    Side-note: Since having my two children (one is 22 months, the other 9 days old), my husband and I have had many many conversations about how to teach them to be careful and cognizant of their surroundings. We both agree that explaining risk vs. benefits, and trying to really have them understand the reason for the caution is best. However, a lot of times it is easier just to scare the pants off them to get them to stop a behavior. I believe this permeates nursing school as well. I too remember the "if you do this you will lose your license" etc etc conversations. In my experience it is not that easy. If you understand the rationales for why you do what you do, how you do it, if you aren't afraid to ask for help, and you aren't afraid to admit you don't know something it really all does work out in the end. This is another benefit to creating camraderie on your unit. Nursing is about experience, and if you don't personally have experience with something, chances are a senior nurse on your unit does.

    I remember the first time I saw a patient seize. He was a detox in restraints. I was talking to him when all of a sudden he pulled up against his restraints and looked like he was trying to lunge at me. I walked out angry and frustrated because I didn't realize he was seizing, I thought he was being a jerk. I mentioned it to another nurse and she said that I had just witnessed a seizure. I felt like a complete tool for being angry at him and quickly called his MD to get orders for his medications. From then on I knew that scenario and the possibility of seizure in my detox patients. It all builds upon itself. The first two years require an open mind, an open mouth (aka ask questions, ask for help), and respectful patience. You will see, like many things in life, even nursing has a pattern to it. For the most part you see the same scenario CHF/DM/HTN patients over and over. While right now it feels every situation is new and random, there more often than not are common patients that occur over and over. The problem is when you get two that are so similar you forget who is who! (Two post-op whipple males in their 40's on all the same meds...now who asked for pain meds?)
  8. 1
    Thanks, Tait, for all your advice! I'm a new grad and only been off orientation for 2 months. Your words are very encouraging.
    Tait likes this.
  9. 1
    ((((HUGS)))) I'm sorry you are going through this. I don't have many words of wisdom other than to encourage you to finish your program since you are so close. Also, you DO NOT have to work med/surg after graduation. That is its own specialty area and is not for everyone. I understanding the job market is tight, especially in certain areas of the country, but there are many areas of nursing out there.

    I remember going up to my first clinical unit to look up my first patient. I was huddled in the corner of the break room with the chart and a group of nurses came in. They were cursing loudly, saying horrible things about patients and co-workers who weren't there, and were generally obnoxious I went home and told my husband I could not work with people like that (my previous career was in a professional, highly compensated field and I am a generally quiet person). Now I'm an ED nurse and can pretty much take anything and nothing fazes me Stick it out honey. I think you'll find something you like. If community health is what you want, go for it.
    3aremyjoy likes this.
  10. 2
    Hi. I don't know if nursing is for you. I do know nursing is very different from nursing school. So, I would be willing to bet that you don't know either yet. Nursing is hard. I could not imagine doing it if I didn't love it. If you were just starting out I would suggest you take a break and rethink your decision.


    Since you are almost done I would strongly urge you to graduate and take NCLEX. Then decide if you want to pursue a nursing career. If not, keep your license current anyway. I know someone who graduated ADN program in 1993. She KNEW she never wanted to pursue nursing so she didn't take boards. Several years ago she changed her mind and spent over $1500 on review classes and nclex fees. After several failed attempts she gave up.


    You have worked so hard and are so close. Please consider sticking it out just a little longer. Good luck!
    GrnTea and Tina, RN like this.
  11. 2
    DON'T GIVE UP!!

    The hospital setting is not all that you can do!! Remember nursing is powerful you can do many things with a degree in nursing not just in the hospital setting. You can do schools, home health, triage, military, clinics so keep that in mind before you give up.

    Some nurses are ******* just like you have ******* in every field!!! They think that they woke up one day and they were nurses they forget that they were students at one point. Don't let them get to you show them what you know and if they are smart asses let them know you are still a student.

    Some nurses need to be put in their damn place. I speak from experience. One time I had a question and I asked cause I didn't want to mess it up, the cocky B said "figure it out, what are you going to do when you graduate?" I was ****** so I told her well as you noticed I haven't graduated but when I do I hope to come take your job. She never messed with me again. I hate ppl like that. We are there to learn and even when you do graduate you hope to get nurses with experience that will help you and remember how it was to be a NEW nurse.

    Not everyone is this way so don't discouraged!! Keep going in this economy you need all the degrees you can get plus you only have 3 months left. Stand your ground don't let them get to you!! Just remember they are no better then you are. At one point they were in your place.

    Good luck!!
    Last edit by Esme12 on May 23, '13 : Reason: TOS
  12. 1
    Take a deep breath and relax! You need some form of stress relief, if you can't afford a gym or massages, go for a walk everyday. I know how you feel, because I've been there. That first clinical degree is always the hardest, and if you had no clinical experience as a CNA or tech, it can be very discouraging to see those that "only show up for a paycheck". It's okay, you'll finish your degree, and carefully consider what areas you may be interested in. The great thing about nursing is that it's a degree with hundreds of settings to work in. Find one that works for you. Hang in there!
    NurseOnAMotorcycle likes this.
  13. 22
    Yo.

    I was you when I was in school, for sure. I drank and drugged my way through my BSN just because I was so miserable, for exactly the same reasons. I had a previous degree, I'm actually intelligent & articulate, and had this idea that one was supposed to do things right. None of that applied in the clinical setting. I was disgusted too, at the pervasive med/surg/hospital lockstep culture and myth. I was in my 30s, with a decade of work experience behind me & refused to be pushed around.

    Some things:

    1. I hate to be this guy, but.....lighten up! Seriously. I understand the load you're carrying and know that it's real, but holllllllld on, soldier. Step back a sec. None of it is as serious as you're making it out to be. Really it's not! No: really. It's not.

    2. I didn't run right out and get a med/surg job or do floor nursing right away. I got my PHN license and actually started in a community clinic job. M-F, 9-5. It was housed inside a non-profit social services center so it wasn't much money. So, after about a year, I did get a PRN weekend job in a small hospital working the Ortho floor. It was good experience, a little party money, and I only had to deal with the BS politics & backstabbing rednecks on the unit once or twice a month. Those poor suckers were stuck there full time. So pursue Public Health. Hard.

    3. Have a sit-down with your most problematic instructors. Sounds to me like you've bought right into their power differential, hook, line and sinker. You have allowed them to convince you that THEY have power over YOU. In reality, it's the other way around. You are the one with the power. You pay their salary. Your grades, retention and success are what keeps them employed. It's a game; a really low-stakes, bitter, pointless game, but be an ace at it.

    When I saw the BS in my program - the second a teacher tried to treat me like the other 22-year old half-wits - I scheduled some office time with her for a meeting. I brought a small fruit basket & a couple cups of Starbucks. I put on a nice smile. And I drew my boundaries: I will not be treated like a child. I will not tolerate condescension, manipulation, or passive-aggressive mind games. I agree to be receptive to your teaching, to study hard, to be on time and be respectful. You don't mess with me, and I won't mess with you. Let's have mutual respect, and we'll get through this just fine. I'm older and have life experience and brains. I don't need to be poked with a cattle prod or shouted at, and I'm over drama. Are we clear? Are we cool? We shook on it.

    I ended up doing this, in some form or another, with all my teachers. You can ask them, it's true! And it saved my butt. I flew under the radar, got stuff done and they left me alone.

    It won't make the whole idea of the crappy nursing industry much better, but can prevent a lot of unnecessary pain.

    4. You can always chuck it all and be a farmer.
    psullivan95, canoehead, gypsyd8, and 19 others like this.


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