Young and jaded.

  1. 15
    Hi all.

    I got my RN license at about this time last year, right after I started working as a GN at a downtown San Antonio ICU. It's a SICU but we see a wide variety of medical/surgical/cardiothoracic patients. We generally have very high patient acuity. Lots of drug abuse, non-compliance in the face of multiple comorbidities, repeat offenders leaving AMA and coming back a day or two later, etc.

    In some ways and on some days, I love working as an ICU nurse. I'm finally able to more or less independently care for the sickest patients that we get. Vented patients, balloon pumps, septic shock pts, CABGs, managing multiple drips, CRRT, RRTs and code blues, I do it all and the rush keeps me going.

    But although I do my best when it comes to particular patients, I feel like I generally just don't care anymore. Without even going into the issue of how hospital administration and doctors' attitudes get me WAY down... patient-wise, I see the same things day after day after day. People who don't want to learn, don't care about their health, don't care that our team snatched them from the jaws of death. And then I read about the pertussis outbreak way over there in California. And then I think about my dad, who has years of untreated HTN and refuses to see a doctor and is probably gonna end up as a STEMI on a balloon pump.

    And then I think, why do I bother? Why am I busting my ass and breaking my back for you, mister 34 year old, 800 pound, 6 cigarette pack a day CABGx5, when you're gonna go to the nearest McDonald's immediately upon discharge and eat 8 big macs? Or you, the violent, intubated 22 year old heroin overdose with seizures and anoxic brain damage, with a history of being intubated following heroin overdose and hemodialysis since the age of 15, whose insane mom is sneaking in opiates behind my back and screaming that the benzos we're giving him for sedation are killing him.

    I feel like I used to care about my patients. Sometimes I still feel like I do. No matter my attitude on any given day, the job always gets done. Some days I go home and I'm proud of my work. I said goodbye to my alert/oriented patients in the morning and wished them well, and I really meant it.

    But then there are the bad days where I go home, have a beer, put my head in my hands. And I feel like an empty human being because I don't care about people anymore, entirely dread having to go back to work tomorrow, and wonder what the point of all this crap is.

    Sorry, I just had to vent. Thanks for reading.
    Yosemite, RN, maria28, nickos, and 12 others like this.
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  3. 19 Comments so far...

  4. 11
    Wow... that sounds like a really intense introduction into the world of RN nursing. I hate to say it, but with some of the demographic you are receiving, not caring too much is the best way to go for your sanity. There will be frequent flyers and they will not learn and they will not change. Oh and I may get flamed for that (p.s. don't care), but I speak from bitter experience. As Ron White would say, "You can't fix stupid".
  5. 9
    I'm an ER nurse, and I feel you.

    No matter how much I teach, no matter how many frequent flyers come through my ER, no matter how many times they sign out AMA, or leave before being triage (after raising hell for waiting 30 minutes), I sometimes wonder why I do this.

    The GSW's damn near every night, the 21 year old single mother who is in an abusive relationship with the "baby's daddy", who I spent 2 hours with, getting social work involved, getting the SANE nurse involved, getting this woman a safe haven in the battered women's shelter, only to have her LEAVE with the abusive boyfriend who picked her up at the door. Not to mention, the next week she is back by MAST, this time fracture jaw by the abusive boyfriend.

    I wonder sometimes. I really do. All I can do is stay up in prayer and realize it's my job to keep them alive on my shift. Maybe, I may have made a positive impact on somebody's life along the way.
  6. 1
    Big hug to ya. I love to visit San Antonio (grew up in Chicago) but could never work in a big city. Sure we get the occasional frequent flyers but not to the extent you describe. Do you have a smaller facilty you can look into?

    Again, good luck....
    apocatastasis likes this.
  7. 4
    apocatastasis, just wanted to give you a
  8. 25
    I'm not Mother Theresa (now that is a laugh) but when I have a string of what the heck kinda days I like to read this quote. I don't see it as a give until you burn out thing, more that the giving is the gift and what people do with it is what they do. Sometimes it's easy to overlook the many good things we have done because the bad things stand out so much more.

    If there's even one life you saved, and that person went on to see their kids grow up, how many people can say they had a hand like that in another's destiny? ICU can be a hard place where the lows are low, but the highs are high too. Take care and don't forget to let your compassion extend to yourself.

    Alright, here's my cheesy quote:

    People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway. The biggest person with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest person with the smallest mind. Think big anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People really need help, but may attack if you help them. Help people anyway. Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you've got anyway.

    -Mother Teresa
    apocatastasis, nickos, sclpn, and 22 others like this.
  9. 3
    Sometimes, when all I wanna do is scream "WHY?", I remind myself that I don't have to know all the reasons (I probably wouldn't understand anyway) and I don't have to be the judge. As long as I do the right thing (and that's a big enough task for me) I'll be allright. I stopped measuring my success by how many patients get well and started rewarding myself for being faithfull to the oath, even when no one else seems to care. I cannot fix all ailments, but I can do the right thing to the best of my knowledge and available resources. You have gained tremendous skills in taking exquisite care of your patients. I believe it's time to reward yourself.
  10. 2
    Quote from VivaRN
    I'm not Mother Theresa (now that is a laugh) but when I have a string of what the heck kinda days I like to read this quote. I don't see it as a give until you burn out thing, more that the giving is the gift and what people do with it is what they do. Sometimes it's easy to overlook the many good things we have done because the bad things stand out so much more.

    If there's even one life you saved, and that person went on to see their kids grow up, how many people can say they had a hand like that in another's destiny? ICU can be a hard place where the lows are low, but the highs are high too. Take care and don't forget to let your compassion extend to yourself.

    Alright, here's my cheesy quote:

    People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway. The biggest person with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest person with the smallest mind. Think big anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People really need help, but may attack if you help them. Help people anyway. Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you've got anyway.

    -Mother Teresa
    I don't think this is cheesy. I LOVE this. I'm no Mother Teresa either but I do love some of her quotes.
    VivaRN and Doc Lori, R.N. like this.
  11. 3
    I'm just a nursing student, so I know that means I haven't yet been exposed to the type of constant interactions with patients who choose lifestyles that just exacerbate their problems. I can imagine how easy it must be to get burned out by trying to help someone if you expect that they will learn from their mistakes.

    However, I don't think many people learn easily or quickly or maybe ever from the kind of mistakes that cause them to have health problems. The people who are so overweight that they develop type 2 diabetes, the drug addicts, the women who stay with men who physically abuse them, it doesn't surprise me that these people are repeat offenders. I also don't think these people should be considered stupid just because of their behavior, even though their behavior is stupid in that it causes them to harm themselves.

    People who have lifestyles that adversly affects their health are probably most of the people in the United States, at least, and it is just a matter of degree as to how much that lifestyle hurts that person's health. The real sickness as I see it is not the lifestyle, which I interpret as a symptom, but the reasons for that particular lifestyle.

    People who overeat, abuse drugs, or any of those other issues, are suffering, and as humans who are suffering, they are deserving of respect and a caring attitude. I'm not saying that the OP doesn't care, I'm just saying that I think it is possible to care and still not get burned out, but it seems to me that would have to involve believing that many people are not capable of changing their bad habits very easily. I think people can change, but it isn't easy, and lifestyle issues in particular may be the hardest habits to change.

    The psychological reasons why people have lifestyles that hurt them need to be considered as much as the more obvious physical wounds. I believe everyone is doing the best that they can to survive and be happy, and that isn't always easy for many people, so they self-medicate with food or drugs or alcohol, and hope society won't bash them in some more as they try to get their act together and function in the world.

    To the OP, I know you posted here to vent, and so I also believe that if you didn't care you wouldn't be feeling burnt out. I think you probably know that these people are suffering psychologicaly as well as physically. I hope you can come to find a way to nurse these people without feeling so bad yourself, and maybe that means working in a different area. I wonder how much the problems you mentioned with hospital administration and doctors are affecting your overall attitude; it must be very difficult to do your already difficult job if you don't feel valued or respected. For what it's worth, I respect you for doing the kind of job you describe, and I'm sure most patients respect you for that too, whether or not they are capable of showing it when you see them. I hope you things work out for you.
    apocatastasis, TREC96, and MInurse.st like this.
  12. 0
    In brief, I understand the O.P.'s feelings. I think all of us do. My suggestion is to try a different specialty. Maybe a pediatric ED? You won't be rehydrating 7 y.o. drunks... Or, how about public health? Having served in the Peace Corps, I really feel that you will feel like you're making a difference when working abroad (CDC, Doctors Without Borders, WHO, etc.). Good luck and chin up!


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