Worked twenty years as a nurse and still at the bedside--

  1. We were discussing career options at work over the weekend, and one of the nurses commented that in her humble opinion, "nursing is the only career I know of that people don't "move up the ladder."

    ""Look at the number of nurses here still doing direct patient care. They are doing the same tasks today that they did in their first year out of nursing school.""
    One said it hadn't occurred to her when she was in school than in ten years she'd still "be doing the same thing."
    And she told how she had attended a ten year high school reunion and was shocked at the positions her friends held in their workplaces. How they were advancing and attaining middle management positions and she was doing "the same thing" as she had started.
    She expressed particular dismay at the thought/expectation of:
    ""I'll STILL be doing this in twenty years."" She said I love nursing, but it hadn't occurred to me that from the first year to my twentieth or thirtieth year, I would not advance from nursing basics.""

    Any opinions?
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  2. 27 Comments

  3. by   P_RN
    That's unfortunate "no advance from nursing basics." Basics is a foundation for growth, and by 20 years you have built a superstructure that is hard to beat. Basic bedside stuff should be coming easier, almost 2nd nature. That's what we're there for...the patient....whatever they need, WE have it.

    Twenty years is a long time not to learn ANYthing. At my 20th HS reunion, there were friends who were teachers, lawyers, an ambassador to South American country, a couple of doctors, an Army Colonel all expressed how far WE had grown since HS. I heard a couple of "I'm just a........" No, they WERE a.....and I'm proud of them.

    BTW last year was the 40th reunion.
  4. by   PennyLane
    That is a good point. I'm just starting to enter the nursing arena, as a student, but I'm fully aware that once a nurse, always a nurse. True, there are various positions available to an experienced RN, such as home health, sales, outpatient clinics, etc. But from one who currently works in an office--in the computer/technology sector--I can tell you that I'm so ready to get OUT of here and start making a difference in the world.

    P_RN mentioned teachers. My mom was a music teacher (still is), and my sister is a special ed teacher. Both have a master's degree, and they're still doing the same thing. My mom now has a private studio, but she's still teaching. And as a school teacher I think the only position you can aspire to is Principal.
  5. by   KnitRN
    My mother is a second career nurse and she spent seventeen years at the bedside by choice. The highest position she ever held was charge nurse. She opted not to go into administration because she found that direct patient care was the most rewarding part of her work.

    She has been a true inspiration to me and a tough act to follow. She's now retired from nursing and farmiing apples in Vermont. She says its less work then floor nursing! I spent five years in med-surg and medical oncology before starting a long mommy sabbatical from floor nursing.

    Perhaps the thing that saddens me most about the current nursing shortage is that there are so few really experienced floor nurses left. Who is going to mentor all the graduate and re-entry nurses when the most experienced nurse on night shift has only been on the job for a year?
  6. by   -jt
    <""Look at the number of nurses here still doing direct patient care. They are doing the same tasks today that they did in their first year out of nursing school.""
    One said it hadn't occurred to her when she was in school than in ten years she'd still "be doing the same thing." >


    Thats an unfortunate way of looking at it and its really sad how those nurses see themselves. Bedside nursing is not an entry level position. Its a career choice - just like nursing ed, nursing management, and nursing research are. And experience makes a difference. If they arent happy in the path they chose, they should explore other paths - nursing has such a wide range of opportunities that there is no reason they should be in a job they dont find fulfilling.
  7. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I agree w/Jt. Who SAYS bedside care is not something we can "move beyond", if we choose to? There are myriad opportunities for nurses in many areas: management, pharmaceuticals, sales, self-employment, research, congress, (we just had a nurse elected here in WA State ,one of several)---- gee, the list goes on and on.

    If someone chooses NOT to "advance"--- by increasing his/her education or taking a different path, I believe that is a CHOICE, not being "stuck". Nursing is a BIG field with many outlets, opportunities, and paths.

    And just a little side-point : Many of us LOVE bedside nursing and do not SEE it something to "aspire" beyond. I don't think nursing is limiting at all to folks with ambition. The sky is the limit if you are willing not to wallow, but rather, to work hard to achieve goals. If one does, It is up to each individual to make it happen; no one is gonna hand it to her. This is true in life in general and I believe nursing is no different.
    Last edit by SmilingBluEyes on Apr 7, '03
  8. by   llg
    I agree with some of the previous posters who say that remaining a bedside nurse is a viable choice -- and a choice that should be respected. However, new nurses entering the profession need to consider ALL of their choices so that they can make knowledgable career decisions with their eyes open. I know too many people who, after being a staff nurse for 10-20 years, suddenly realize that they would like other options and regret not having explored them earlier in their careers. Those are the nurses that sometimes become bitter about their careers and who are miserable on the job and make work miserable for those around them.

    There are many ways to advance in nursing -- advance to positions with more responsibility, better pay, more flexibility in working hours, etc. But you don't achieve these positions by accident: they don't just fall on top of you one day out of the blue. As with other careers, nurses need to think about career planning throughout their careers. They should always be asking questions such as: "Where do I want to be in 5 years?" "What type of work do I want to be doing?" "What should I be now to prepare for that desired future?" etc. etc.

    Sometimes, it means going back to school. Other times, it means volunteering for professional projects/committees that will give you valuable experience, help you make professional contacts, and look good on your resume. Sometimes it means supporting your managers/administration so that you will be chosen for the next desired job opening that comes up. etc. etc.

    As I said before, too many nurses don't think about it until it is too late.

    Good thread,
    llg
  9. by   Jenny P
    I wear a button on my jacket each day that says "STAFF NURSE BY CHOICE!" People in the public often comment on it; I wear it as a badge of honor because I do something I love after doing it "every day" for almost 35 years.

    My job has changed remarkably in those years, even in the 30+ years that I've been in ICU I still see new changes in what I do every week it seems (okay, so they aren't always changes I like, but that's how life is). I am still learning every day; as I see it; I have the most exciting job and PROFESSION in the world!

    When I first graduated from nursing school, the only stethescope on the floor was on a shelf with the fold up mercury BP machine at the end of the hall, all nurses HAD to have bandage scissors and a tri-colored ink pen, we assessed a patient's learning and home needs, never their hearts and lungs (that was the doctors' domain!); and I could go on and on.

    At my last class reunion, I had many former classmates come and tell me what their experiences were in hospitals and with doctors and nurses. People talk to me about their most intimate problems without fear of my blabbing to others or laughing at them.

    As a nurse, I am viewed with respect and trust. Why should I feel stuck in a rut?
  10. by   Jenny P
    BTW, I just read llg's comments and I agree whole-heartedly with him/her.

    I didn't mention that I'm active in my professional organization and also a CCRN and member of my specialty organization also.

    I am working towards my next nursing career; I figure that the way my body is wearing out I may need a less physical position within the next 5 years and hope to transition to a nurse educator postion by then. Until I leave bedside nursing, I plan to continue to wear my button with pride.
  11. by   Q.
    Originally posted by llg

    There are many ways to advance in nursing -- advance to positions with more responsibility, better pay, more flexibility in working hours, etc. But you don't achieve these positions by accident: they don't just fall on top of you one day out of the blue. As with other careers, nurses need to think about career planning throughout their careers. They should always be asking questions such as: "Where do I want to be in 5 years?" "What type of work do I want to be doing?" "What should I be now to prepare for that desired future?" etc. etc.

    Sometimes, it means going back to school. Other times, it means volunteering for professional projects/committees that will give you valuable experience, help you make professional contacts, and look good on your resume. Sometimes it means supporting your managers/administration so that you will be chosen for the next desired job opening that comes up. etc. etc.

    As I said before, too many nurses don't think about it until it is too late.

    Not surprisingly, I agree entirely with Linda's comments above.

    One of the major benefits I see with nursing is it's flexibility and vast career options. In my short 5 years, I've worked at the bedside, in insurance, in triage, and in research and now either education or infection control/health and safety, depending on which I choose. There are options out there if one wants to move around. But as Linda pointed out, these positions don't just fall into your lap. You either need to gain exposure, gain experience, return to school or acquire additional training somehow. As with any profession, it takes a certain amount of initiative to move around.

    Also, remaining at the bedside is a career choice, just as much as the IS professional who wishes to remain in Help Desk or programming. It's unfortunate some nurses view it as bottom of the barrel, but I think it's partly because they realized too late they wanted to do something else.
  12. by   BABNRS
    I am a brand new member to this board and have not been able to post anything yet. I get so caught up in reading everyone else's posts - I haven't had time! Great forum!!

    My first thought when I starting reading this thread is...Isn't that why so many of us go into nursing? To provide direct patient care?? I believe part of the problem is that veteran nurses grow tired of new nurses coming in making the same or near the same that they make after 20+ years of experience. They "cap out" on their pay. The only way to make more money in some situations is to go into management - which some people don't care for.
  13. by   Jenny P
    Originally posted by Susy K
    .... It's unfortunate some nurses view it as bottom of the barrel, but I think it's partly because they realized too late they wanted to do something else.
    And I believe that if a person views his job as being the bottom of the barrel, that person will always be unhappy.

    The old saying about "go where your heart is, the money will follow" is so true. If you do what you love, then you will be happy and won't have to worry about money, status, etc.

    This is my advice to my kids too: if they are happy at their jobs, I wouldn't care if they are garbage collectors or anything else; just be happy at what you do!

    Do the "something else" you want to do now!
  14. by   Q.
    Exactly Jenny.

    Even with my own career, I can take option A which is more of a "career" move, or option B, which would still be fun and challenging, but more of a role which allows me to live life. I've learned early on to make career choices to fit my life, not fit my life around my career.

    Again, that's what I love most about nursing. The ability to do that.

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