Guilty for pursuing a nursing career

  1. 2
    Hello nurse community,

    It is with some embarrassment that I share this but I was wondering if anybody else has experienced this as a student nurse.

    I have always struggled with insecurity and a lack of confidence in my abilities. Most people do not see this but I know it's there. It's not that I'm hiding it. It is just that I see no benefit in advertising this quality, even though eventually people will be able to figure it out. Despite the fact that I am a somewhat intelligent person and do well in school and learn well from others, somehow I carry with me a nagging belief that I possess some kind of fatal flaw that will surface under the stress of the exact situations where such a flaw could be the most detrimental or dangerous.

    I became interested in nursing school for the same reasons that most other people are: to help people and to understand the science of the body in a practical way. However, when I enrolled in nursing school I needed to go against my irrational belief system that I will somehow find a way to fail or cause harm. At first, as I learned and gained more experience on the nursing floor, my confidence did grow somewhat and I started to feel better about my future. Maybe I could conquer these negative attitudes.

    After completing most of my bachelor in nursing program (<6 months), it seems that my confidence level is disintegrating. This downward slide is accelerated every time I make any kind of mistake or somehow fail to live up to acceptable standards. My teacher or nurse preceptors always try to encourage me and minimize any failure on my part, however it doesn't take long before I generate a wave of negativity that overrides whatever they may have said. It's not that I believe I've made any more mistakes than anybody else or that mine have been worse than anyone else's, it's just that I have this amazing ability to use these instances as evidence of the "fatal flaw" that ethically should preclude my entry into the profession.

    {What kind of mistakes am I talking about? Putting a wrong answer on a test when I know better, failing to anticipate a problem in a class case study assignment, forgetting that a medication is due at 10 AM and having be reminded by my preceptor, forgetting to use a sterile procedure when changing the dressing on a wound on a diabeticís foot, failing to check the exact dosage on a blister pack because it looks exactly the same as every other medication in the same drawer Ö..)

    I feel so guilty for thinking I should ever bear the title of an RN. It is as if my conscience is telling me that for the good of sick people everywhere I should ensure they never run across my path.

    On a rational level this seems ludicrous. I have a chance to use all my education for the good of my community and my world. Does it make sense to just throw all that away and serve french fries? Does it make sense to just throw away the incredible amount of money and time that I have invested in this? I would end up in debtor's prison. But then I think I'd rather be in debtor's prison than in criminalís prison for killing someone. I'd also rather be there than be free and have to bear this load of guilt for continuing to pursue a career that should have been short-circuited a long time ago.

    Itís getting to the point where I have almost completely lost my motivation to continue on and complete my degree. It's to the point where I think it would be a crime to accept a bachelor's degree from the school or even take the NCLEX. It's getting to the point where my greatest goal in life is to get a decent paying nursing job, and avoid accidentally or negligently killing somebody, long enough to pay off my debts. It is scary, but I feel as if I have already subconsciously resigned myself to the idea that eventually I will cause serious harm. I'm just hoping it will be later rather than sooner.

    Is this any kind of attitude to have as a nurse? Can there possibly be a future that is a little better than daily misery and trepidation?
    BelleMorteRN and greenfiremajick like this.

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  2. 20 Comments...

  3. 0
    you will be under the supervision of someone who IS qualified and confident in their abilities until the feeling that you're "going to kill someone" passes. trust me - nobody is going to let you cause harm to a patient on their watch, under their license. WHEN you do get out on your own - if you don't feel 100% comfortable doing something - ask for help! that's what charge nurses are there for. it's hard when you're a student and you don't have much experience. it's harder when you have someone standing over you and you're terrified, but you can't let the patient see you sweat. the first time i stuck someone with a needle, i was sooo nervous having someone watch me (and never having even touched a needle) i totally forgot to put alcohol on the site. somehow, my preceptor didn't even notice. my hands were shaking. i was thinking, "if i can't even do THIS right, how can i do more advanced things?" it's a normal feeling. i'd be more worried about you if you DIDN'T have any reservations about your capabilities. just remember to NEVER be afraid to admit that you don't know something or to ask for help. when you get out into the "real world" and get more practice, you will get more confidence. it takes time.
  4. 1
    All new nurses start somewhere. School is just preparing you to pass the NCLEX and the real learning starts after that. Find a good new graduate residency program and you will feel much more confident afterward! Nurses that have years of experience will still bounce ideas off each other if they are unsure.

    Also remember that there are many different types of nursing and if you feel uncomfortable in acute care after gaining some experience you can always try another area.
    canoehead likes this.
  5. 0
    Don't quit now, whatever you do! At the very least you could decide not to do bedside. Otherwise, you may be able to find your confidence again....You sound like an earth sign (maybe Virgo) that is harder on themselves than others are on them! I wish you the best.....


    Quote from outonalimb
    Hello nurse community,

    It is with some embarrassment that I share this but I was wondering if anybody else has experienced this as a student nurse.

    I have always struggled with insecurity and a lack of confidence in my abilities. Most people do not see this but I know it's there. It's not that I'm hiding it. It is just that I see no benefit in advertising this quality, even though eventually people will be able to figure it out. Despite the fact that I am a somewhat intelligent person and do well in school and learn well from others, somehow I carry with me a nagging belief that I possess some kind of fatal flaw that will surface under the stress of the exact situations where such a flaw could be the most detrimental or dangerous.

    I became interested in nursing school for the same reasons that most other people are: to help people and to understand the science of the body in a practical way. However, when I enrolled in nursing school I needed to go against my irrational belief system that I will somehow find a way to fail or cause harm. At first, as I learned and gained more experience on the nursing floor, my confidence did grow somewhat and I started to feel better about my future. Maybe I could conquer these negative attitudes.

    After completing most of my bachelor in nursing program (<6 months), it seems that my confidence level is disintegrating. This downward slide is accelerated every time I make any kind of mistake or somehow fail to live up to acceptable standards. My teacher or nurse preceptors always try to encourage me and minimize any failure on my part, however it doesn't take long before I generate a wave of negativity that overrides whatever they may have said. It's not that I believe I've made any more mistakes than anybody else or that mine have been worse than anyone else's, it's just that I have this amazing ability to use these instances as evidence of the "fatal flaw" that ethically should preclude my entry into the profession.

    {What kind of mistakes am I talking about? Putting a wrong answer on a test when I know better, failing to anticipate a problem in a class case study assignment, forgetting that a medication is due at 10 AM and having be reminded by my preceptor, forgetting to use a sterile procedure when changing the dressing on a wound on a diabeticís foot, failing to check the exact dosage on a blister pack because it looks exactly the same as every other medication in the same drawer Ö..)

    I feel so guilty for thinking I should ever bear the title of an RN. It is as if my conscience is telling me that for the good of sick people everywhere I should ensure they never run across my path.

    On a rational level this seems ludicrous. I have a chance to use all my education for the good of my community and my world. Does it make sense to just throw all that away and serve french fries? Does it make sense to just throw away the incredible amount of money and time that I have invested in this? I would end up in debtor's prison. But then I think I'd rather be in debtor's prison than in criminalís prison for killing someone. I'd also rather be there than be free and have to bear this load of guilt for continuing to pursue a career that should have been short-circuited a long time ago.

    Itís getting to the point where I have almost completely lost my motivation to continue on and complete my degree. It's to the point where I think it would be a crime to accept a bachelor's degree from the school or even take the NCLEX. It's getting to the point where my greatest goal in life is to get a decent paying nursing job, and avoid accidentally or negligently killing somebody, long enough to pay off my debts. It is scary, but I feel as if I have already subconsciously resigned myself to the idea that eventually I will cause serious harm. I'm just hoping it will be later rather than sooner.

    Is this any kind of attitude to have as a nurse? Can there possibly be a future that is a little better than daily misery and trepidation?
  6. 5
    I have not personally had your experiences, however I hear a very familiar tone in your emotional reaction to them. I am very close to a person who suffers from chronic depression that has occasional flare-ups (usually coinciding when this person decides they don't need their anti-depressants anymore). I would suggest a screening for depression, I say this because some of the things you said were so eerily similar to things I heard often from this person.

    Stressful life situations (and I considered nursing school one of my most stressful experiences) can exacerbate depression.

    Just a thought.

    Best of luck.
    llg, canoehead, canigraduate, and 2 others like this.
  7. 0
    tiffy beat me to it......please seek professional assistance.....good luck
  8. 0
    You're being too hard on yourself. We all had doubts in the beginning, that's understandable. You need to work through those fears and remember what you did all the hard work of nursing school for. You are your own worst enemy. Don't let the negative thoughts consume you. with <6 months to go, you are almost there.
  9. 0
    Wow, you think the exact same way I do. Except.....i go to student orientation today.
  10. 4
    Find a good therapist and work through your self-esteem issues. I bet you'll be a great nurse
    llg, WIN007, merlee, and 1 other like this.
  11. 1
    Anxiety over doing right by your patients makes you a better nurse. Remember that once you begin your career you will not be alone. There will be other seasoned nurses on the floor to bounce your questions on. Many facilities offer up to six weeks of training before you even get on the floor. My experience is that working as a nurse is much easier emotionally than getting through nursing school.
    FLArn likes this.


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