I apologize in advance for the long post, but I am devastated right now and need some guidance. While I have never been a big poster here, I have been an avid reader of this forum for over 5 years. Those who know me will appreciate the irony of my story.
I am a new grad (May, 2004). Nursing was a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. When my children were old enough, I started to consider nursing school
. I read everything I could, made a web site to share the information I found and sought to encourage others. I even wrote a book and was hired to write a weekly advice column for nursing students and potential nursing students (very ironic...). Once in nursing school, I set up a mentoring program, pairing alumni with interested students. I organized a peer tutoring program. I held game show challenges to help junior students through the bewildering first semester. I coordinated the junior-senior "buddy" program. I was passionate about nursing and wanted to support others on the same journey however I could.
I did very well in school, but knew that the real learning was to be had after I graduated. Great grades do not automatically equal "great nurse." Great nurses become so only with experience. Knew all about the stages of reality shock, nurses eating their young, yadda, yadda, yadda. But the idealist in me held out hope that a positive attitude, a willingness to ask questions, a willingness to jump in and try, and a desire to learn would be...well...helpful at least.
First job out of school: I went to a large metropolitan teaching hospital and worked on the pediatrics unit weekend nights. Horrid. While I was blessed to have a great mentor/preceptor, I dreaded going in every shift. I spent most of the week recovering physically and emotionally before heading back in again. It was so stressful, I had six MS attacks in 6 months. Never called in sick until the end...just carried on as best as I could.
My second day off orientation, I was floated to the NICU - the NICU! "Oh, they'll only give you feeders and growers - you'll be fine." Yeah...no orientation to the unit AT ALL - we did computer charting, they did paper charting. Their equipment was different. Their protocols were different. Their patient acuity was higher (obviously). I asked the charge nurse for a brief tour of the unit at least before diving in...but she was busy. I was stuck in a side section separated by a WALL from the rest of the unit by myself - no other staff there - with 3 NICU babies getting complicated (to me) drips. Again I asked for help - charge nurse said she would be over in a minute. She came over 6 HOURS later, and of course I had done everything wrong, not having the first clue about NICU. I just thank God the babies didn't suffer any harm. Scared the crap out of me.
Anyway, the rest of my stay at that hospital was horrible. More floating to NICU, with a devastating near-miss. I did not have the option to NOT float, so I started calling in sick on nights when I was going to be floated. On my own unit, I was given patients whose care needs were way above what I felt comfortable or even remotely competent with (i.e., chemo patients without having had any chemo classes, etc.). My self-confidence dropped and dropped and dropped. Each week was worse than the last and every day my license was on the line.
Then, out of the blue in December, I received an e-mail from the manager of a hospice where I had done a clinical rotation. Hospice has always been my nursing dream - I love everything about it. She wanted to hire me on, said they loved me during my rotation and that I had a great future there. I was so excited - here was a way out of the hospital and into a job where I could be the nurse I had always hoped to be. I called my preceptor from that rotation to tell her the great news. She told me that she no longer worked there, and said, "Don't do it...That hospice will use you, burn you out and drop you." Did I listen to my mentor? No...
So, I quit my hospital job - didn't even work out my notice, which I have never done before - but I was terrified that I would lose my license - so unsafe there! On I went to hospice, heart filled with joy and elation. I should have listened.
I received all of 2 days of orientation, riding around with another nurse, and then was handed my caseload and sent out on my own. On my own, out in the field, with just 6 months of nursing experience under my belt. Can you see the disaster waiting to happen? I asked for support, help, guidance - anything - but my supervisor, manager and peers were all perpetually swamped and not available. I tried my very best, worked as hard as I could, researched every diagnosis, all the appropriate interventions and tried to expand my knowledge fast enough to be able to meet the needs of my families. It just wasn't enough.
Friday, my supervisor called me in for an afternoon meeting. I asked what was up - she said, "I would rather talk to you in person." Not good...not good at all. As I feared, I was being asked to voluntarily resign. She said she knew I had tried really hard, but I didn't yet have the confidence or strong personality needed for being out alone on home visits with no support. She felt bad that I hadn't received a decent orientation, but they just didn't have the time to do that. They needed experienced nurses who could hit the ground running. Of course this makes sense - obviously! But then why did they seek me out and hire me in the first place? I should have seen the red flags, but I was so excited about hospice...
I am devastated. What do I do now? Where do I go? I shudder at the thought of going back to a hospital setting - I am still traumatized from my first job. In fact, my confidence in my nursing abilities is so low right now, I am terrified to start again. I cannot get a reference from my first nursing job, and I am not so sure on the second, either. Any guidance or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I just don't know what to do, and I am broken-hearted.
Apr 10, '05
Thank you for your warm response and helpful advice - it is greatly appreciated. I am also encouraged to hear that you were able to move beyond your initial negative experience and on to something better. Thank you for sharing that with me *hugs*
Last edit by kcsun3 on Apr 10, '05
Apr 10, '05
Many, many of us have been through similar situations. I hate to say it, but what you describe is pretty much how nursing today is.
This is why the California Nurses' Assoc is so active in trying to change things. This is why there is a nursing "shortage".
When I read posts from some of the many people on this site who have good careers in business, computer science etc., who are planning to leave those fields to go into nursing, I groan. I feel that many of them will be where you are now, and will really regret giving up their current jobs for nursing.
I've been a nurse for 12 years. If you really want to stay in nursing, my advice is to be really tough. Do not let any employer or manager push you around. If you are promised an orientation, insist on getting the full orientation. Absolutely refuse to work otherwise. This business does and will continue to chew up and spit out nurses.
IMO, the only way to make it is to be very assertive, and stand up for yourself at all times and in all situations.
Good luck to you.
Last edit by Hellllllo Nurse on Apr 10, '05