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

  1. 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
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    Joined: Aug '13; Posts: 12; Likes: 43


  3. by   24gaDalek
    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.
  4. by   HouTx
    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.
  5. by   skbgirl
    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.
  6. by   TeleRN2010
    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.
  7. by   RNperdiem
    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.
  8. by   Barnstormin' PMHNP
    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.
  9. by   kenglandrn
    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. by   Marshall1
    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.
  11. by   BSNbeDONE
    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!
  12. by   lisajtrn
    It is back=breaking work most definitely. I hurt my back at work over a year ago, I am about the same age as the OP, I was given such a hard time by the hospital. I found it rather ironic that when they filled out their part of the worker's compensation paperwork they pretty much called me a liar. They wanted to teach me how to safely lift and transfer people, what a joke. If there had been enough staff on the unit to assist me in trying to keep a confused, agitated patient from falling to the floor, I would never have been hurt.
    They expect far too much from us no matter the age.
  13. by   24gaDalek
    Quote from Marshall1
    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?
    I was trying to say this but you put it much more eloquently.
  14. by   mmccluskey
    So, like to OP, I chose nursing as a second career, as well. I became an LPN at the age of 31, and completed my RN two years ago. As an LPN, I worked on a telemetry floor for a few years as my first position in nursing. After that, I left the hospital to work in an office during the week, and worked agency doubles every weekend to help my husband finish his RN. Once he was done, I spent more time at home with my kids, and left the bedside for a bit. What I found was that I missed bedside nursing a whole lot.

    Once I was out of the hospital, it proved very difficult to return, as well. After finishing my RN, I worked full-time as an RN Case Manager in a Certified Home Care agency for a year, as it was the only job I could get. I finally got a position as a float nurse in a critical access hospital this past summer. I work per-diem there and doing the home care, and I find that I really do want to be back in the hospital more. Once this semester is over, I should be better-credentialed to find a position in a larger, better hospital. By December, I will have taken Advanced EKG interpretation, ACLS, PALS, TNCC, and finished my BSN. It amazes me that this is what it takes now to get into a hospital, but I know that I will be well-prepared.

    The physical aspect of bedside care is certainly demanding, there is no argument there. What I guess I am saying is that I feel like there is something about most nursing positions that is demanding. In home care, I would routinely work an 8-10 hour day, (slurping down liquid lunch in my car between visits), and then get home, have dinner, shuttle the kids to their activities, get them in bed and then sit down to get my documentation done. This would take 2-3 hours most nights, and only then, did I start my homework! This last year was crazy-busy!!! I can say with complete certainty that my family was thrilled when I said I was leaving the home care job. While the job could be physically demanding at times, (nobody to help with positioning or transfers in someone's house, or trying to cath someone on their own bed.....what do you mean there is no ability to raise the darn bed?!?!?!?!?!?) Home care was much more demanding in a time sense than anything else. In the hospital, you leave the work there. There is another nurse who is going to follow you and the day/night goes on. In home care, the job comes home with you.

    I anticipate that as I get older, I will no longer be as physically able to do as much bedside care, as well. I plan to work part time, and am thinking about pursuing a masters in something law-related, to bridge my love for written thought and nursing.