Is bedside nursing still a lifelong career option?

  1. In an environment of increasing pressure to pursue BSN degrees, many forums and threads seem to include comments regarding the increased aspirations of younger nurses entering the field. There seems to be a perception that bedside nursing is being used as a "stepping stool" to management or leadership, or advanced practice nursing. In some of the comments, there is a sense of condemnation and wonder about why this change seems to be occurring, with many nurses somewhat put off by a perception that younger nurses don't value the bedside anymore. Just a pondering, but could it also be that an increase in pursuit of degrees above an ADN is also relative to a perception that bedside work is not realistic as a lifetime career choice? When considering the vast changes in nursing care, is it possible that increasing acuities, comorbidities, larger body habitus of the population, and increased violence against health care workers contribute to a conclusion that the physical ability to perform the work will be limited over time? When I personally consider how many coworkers have been injured moving patients, or as a result of patient violence/behaviors, it seems fairly reasonable to believe that sustaining a career at the bedside for 30 years in today's environment may be very difficult. That's not to say it was ever easy, but certainly things have, and will continue to change.
    Last edit by Brian S. on Oct 16
    •  
  2. 33 Comments

  3. by   oceangirl1234
    I am about two years into bedside nursing. I work twelve hour shifts. And I bust my a** during every single shift. I get home sweaty, hungry, exhausted, etc. This is unfortunately not something I want to do for the next 38 years, even though I love interacting and taking care of patients when they are so sick. It is just too much. But right now, I need my skills. I am learning how to become a good nurse. I applaud those who have done bedside nursing for their entire careers! I don't know where I will end up....more school, or an office job...but I don't see myself being a bedside nurse when I am 58 years old.
  4. by   prnqday
    I could see myself at the bedside until i die or retire . I love it that much.
  5. by   Ruby Vee
    Yes, bedside nursing is still a lifelong career option.

    Society in general is becoming less polite and more entitled. That's not confined to nursing. There is increased violence in society as a whole. Increased violence against law enforcement, convenience store clerks, fast food workers who don't serve chicken hot enough . . . no one is completely immune. Yes, there are more patients and visitors assaulting nurses now than there were in the past, but fewer physicians and surgeons can get away with it.

    There have indeed been vast changes in nursing care -- that's part of what keeps the job interesting.

    I have noticed over the years that fewer nurses are seeking adequate help in turning/lifting/ambulating patients, especially large patients. They aren't using good body mechanics, aren't protecting their backs in other ways. This is probably a contributive factor to an increase in caregiver injuries.

    If you want to sustain a career at the bedside for forty years, it is possible. I've sustained a serious back injury and was able to rehabilitate and return to work. I work smarter now. I see the problem as being more that younger nurses don't want to be at the bedside and are condescending to work only the length of time required to get into anesthesia school, become an NP, or get one of those lovely "No Patient Care" positions with banker's hours. THAT isn't sustainable.

    There are fewer and fewer competent nurses at the bedside so more and more of these new nurses are being trained by nurses with scarcely a year or two of experience. Nuances of patient care, critical thinking and time management are being lost because the older nurses are retiring and leaving the field and there aren't enough experienced nurses left to train the newbies. We are rapidly approaching a time when the only nurses at the bedside will be the new grads who have been trained by other barely (or not even) competent newbies who then leave the bedside as soon as possible.
  6. by   WestCoastSunRN
    Yes, bedside nursing is absolutely a life long career aspiration for many nurses. That said, it can take a physical toll that may not allow for continued full time practice at the bedside til retirement. A coworker and I were discussing this the other day -- bedside nursing is full of challenges and changes and REQUIRES a career-long commitment to learning. This is the reality for those who are serious about growing in the role at the bedside. Because nursing is a team sport, it is also necessary for the bedside nurse to become an intergral contributer to their respective unit by engaging in policy and QI development , unit education and eventually precepting and mentoring newer nurses. It takes years to develop into an expert at the bedside.
    Do not listen to anyone who tries to tell you bedside nursing isn't cognitively challenging (which is often one aspect of a career most folks want to have). Anyone who believes that isn't doing the job right.

    With the abundance of new nurses coming through the gates with eyes fixed on the goal of some sort of APRN role, the idea of aspiring to be a bedside nurse has too often gotten thrown under the bus.
    I'm in favor of the ANA or perhaps certifying bodies to cooperatively launch a PR campaign to elevate the reputation of RN clinical practice.
  7. by   NurseCard
    I for one plan to stay at my current job until I retire. I love it.
    I only pray that I will be physically able to do so. I have a couple
    of coworkers who have had to go PRN due to being unable
    to do this full time anymore.
  8. by   MunoRN
    I work with MSN nurses who are about to retire at the bedside. The increased pressure on BSN doesn't really change the proportion of nursing jobs that are at the bedside vs other types of positions.
  9. by   adventure_rn
    In the NICU, we see an incredible degree of nursing longevity and low turnover at the bedside.

    I'd venture to say that at least 20% of the nurses I work with have several decades of NICU experience. Many of them are in their 60s, and a couple even work full time in their 70s (out of enjoyment of the job, not even because they have to)! I aspire to be one of those nurses--continuing to work as a NICU nurse into retirement age because I love what I do.

    Granted we don't break our backs, our families are generally appreciative, and in our down time we get paid to snuggle.
  10. by   LadysSolo
    I became an NP partially because in my 40s (after 23 years at the bedside) I decided I physically could not lift and turn people for 20 more years. There was never enough staff to get help with moving larger people. I now plan to return to the bedside in another few years, I have discovered a proliferation of better Hoyer lifts, sit-to-stands, etc. and I believe it is possible again.
  11. by   elkpark
    I work with lots of older nurses who have spent their careers at the bedside. It is certainly a viable option.
  12. by   SummitRN
    Sure there are some increases in those with aspirations... but the biggest difference between now and 10 or 20 years ago is that we all get to hear about it on the internet, so there is biased perception.

    It is just like how RNs and NP students hear about every other potential future NP's aspirations online and conclude that "literally everyone is going back to school!!11!"

    The truth is milder than the wilder perceptions of the internet.
  13. by   rnbabyzoo
    I don't see me being a bedside nurse forever. The work load and acuity level has increased since I started nursing. The stress level is increasing and I don't see punishing myself for another 15 years until retirement. My next goal is being a NP in a specialty field after being a bedside nurse for 10 years
  14. by   FolksBtrippin
    I will not be at the bedside for my whole career. I work with many nurses who are in their sixties and still at the bedside (in psych) and I respect them.

close