Fear ruined my first nursing career. Help!

  1. I graduated from nursing school 12 years ago and went straight to a busy med-surg floor. I was 40 at the time.

    My life outside the hospital was in chaos (a new marriage and a couple of teenagers and more...), and I took the midnight shift because the pace seemed a little less hectic. No sleep, stress at work and at home, and new nurse jitters.

    Maybe it's just my imagination, but it seemed that some of the senior nurses (not necessarily older) picked up on my fear and paranoia. The would say things like , "You should get paid by the mile" because I checked my patient each hour and sometimes more. One nurse told me that I made them all angry because I would ask one nurse for an opinion regarding a matter then turn around and ask another. That's true. I was trying to learn and garner information, and, not surprisingly, if I asked three different nurses about a procedure, I often got 2 or three different answers. I ran into a nurse from my floor after I left and he confirmed that the staff did seem to enjoy picking on me - eating their young, as he put it.

    I gave it up after two years. It got so I felt sick at my stomach as I approached the hospital. My nerves got the best of me. I gave my notice after two years and walked away from nursing with a fairly bitter taste in my mouth.

    Now, I'm ticked. I know I can be a good nurse, and I want to go back and do labor and delivery, my first love. I've bought several new texts and book on maternal child and nursing basics, and I've given myself a time frame of 6 months to a year to prepare for a return.

    I need help. How do I overcome the fear? How do you manage the anxiety about screwing up a med or a procedure and really hurting someone?

    I'm open to any and all suggestions and I'll thank you in advance for taking time out of your busy lives to respond.
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  2. 12 Comments

  3. by   MuddaMia
    What about a nursing refresher course? Good luck to you! I KNOW you can do this!
  4. by   rn/writer
    Look in your area for nursing refresher courses. Try vocational/technical colleges first as their programs are usually the most reasonably priced. Some four-year colleges also offer refresher programs. And there are a number of larger hospitals or LTC facilities that offer courses or extended orientation opportunites as a way to recruit nurses.

    I took an eight-week course two years ago and it was just what I needed to update my skills, and, more important, to restore my confidence after years away from bedside nursing.

    It's unfortunate that you weren't able to find a better job way back when, but what's done is done and you still have your license and your knowledge.

    I hope you can find a good course and a great job.
  5. by   Elisheva
    Thanks for your replies. The last time I check on refresher courses, they were only available in another state and pretty expensive.

    However, I took your advice to heart and got on our state board of nursing website. Lo and behold, our local community college is starting a brand new refresher course in the next 3-4 weeks. I think I may have been to first to request an application! It's pricey, but I don't care. I really believe that I am a nurse; just can't get away from it.

    Keep the advice coming. I know I have a severe confidence problem at this time. This forum is really helpful, and I appreciate the fact that it's here.
  6. by   RN-Diane
    I know exactly how you feel. I am starting my first nursing job. I am also newly married, will be working nights, and have always been an overly cautious person. I think everyone is right, refresher courses or the Suanders NCLEX book comes with a CD where you can choose particular areas to study will help. I also would say that I am very new at this, but I did learn one thing. Ask questions while at your interview. I asked what the relationships were like between the experienced and younger nurses. I asked how they resolved issues on their floor. The nurses interviewing me told me that they never wanted anyone to dread coming to work, and if that was the case then some kind of intervention was needed. It was very reassuring. My professor had told me about nurses eating their young, so I was terrifeid until my interview. I also was lucky enough to wait for my interview right next to the nurses station. When the call light rang, whoever answered it usually went to care for the patient after telling the patient's nurse if she was busy. In clinicals I had always seen nurses answer the call light and write notes for nurses or wait 10 minutes to see them before telling them. I saw the nurses interacting with a new orientee. I observed a lot of team work while I waited. I think it gave me confidence in that floor to see these things. You can slways ask to speak to nurses on your floor. It is your interview too. Anyway, I am not sure how often other nurses think you should care for your patients, but I think you were on the right track. It sounds like critical care or mother-baby would be great for you because those patients need a lot of attention and teaching. Good Luck!!!!!!!!
  7. by   Elisheva
    Diane,

    Thanks for your reply and I wish you all the best. Hope I didn't scare you.

    I am overcautious, almost to the point of being obsessive. I'm not sure which came first - obsessiveness or nursing school.

    I don't understand the whole "eat their young" concept. Is that supposed to be some sort of test, the equivilent of a nursing obstacle course? If so, how sad. I can tell you for a fact that patient care suffers as a result, as do many good RNs.

    If I go back, I will make it my goal to be as helpful and supportive to others as possible.
  8. by   RN-Diane
    I think that is a great attitude. You did not scare me. I have worked 4 different jobs since I was 15 and have learned that there really are the same type of people everywhere. Some whiny, some gripy, some down right mean. But there is usually either someone else in your shoes, or someone nice enough to remember when they were in your shoes. I just moved and do not know where my CD for Saunders is, otherwise I would be happy to send it to you.
  9. by   MrsMommaRN
    it sounds like you have the motivation. you will be great!!! i wish you the best.
  10. by   04/04/1950's
    Elsheva,
    Thanks for writing. Just like you I left nursing a long while ago but I am returning. I spent 14 years as an LPN in special care units and ICU's. When I graduated from an RN program I had too much fear and too little confindance.
    My home life was chaos no matter what I did to make it better including therapy. It brought me down by making me more vulnerable. Just like you I've made substantial changes. This partner and I have a good marriage.
    I don't know if you might benifit from talking to a professional about your anxiety, but I did. Caring for my mental health is very important to me. I taught diabetics the need for insulin, exercise and good diet and I must abide by the same rules. Just like you when I return to nursing I have every intention of projecting the confidance, wisdom and courage that I have. We all know how important it is. There are many nurses who are wonderfully supportive but I've not always had an opportunity to work with them. Just as we have to take good care of the patients assigned to us, we must work well with those who are part of the team, even when the team is feeling mean.
    There were times in report (I worked ICU as an RN) that I thought "oh no" but as soon as I walked into room and saw the person who was my patient I was always glad to be there in that room as a nurse. Always.
    Keep us posted. You will do well.
    04/04/1950's
  11. by   moongirl
    Quote from Elisheva
    Thanks for your replies. The last time I check on refresher courses, they were only available in another state and pretty expensive.

    However, I took your advice to heart and got on our state board of nursing website. Lo and behold, our local community college is starting a brand new refresher course in the next 3-4 weeks. I think I may have been to first to request an application! It's pricey, but I don't care. I really believe that I am a nurse; just can't get away from it.

    Keep the advice coming. I know I have a severe confidence problem at this time. This forum is really helpful, and I appreciate the fact that it's here.
    when its meant to be, doors open. You found a program just when you needed it. Take that as positive affirmation!
  12. by   NJNursing
    Congrats on having the courage to want to go back into it! That's a great first step past the fear! I really commend you on that. Also congrats on taking the refresher course.

    I don't like the whole 'eating their young' thing. Drives me nuts. I was on a telemetry floor last fall (in school) and the nurses were SO nasty to us (and we were getting close to graduating - you'd think they'd want to recruit instead of push away) but alas not one of us went to work at that hospital system. Word of mouth is a really good reference in itself. Perhaps start off with an internship? Then you're getting a really extended orientation?

    With meds, technology has come so far in the last several years with Pyxis and such. A lot of things are computerized and have built-in check systems.

    Good luck with it all!
  13. by   tamari07
    I'm in a similar situation as well. I actually just graduated nursing school in May and passed boards and got a job on a busy renal/pulmonary/urology unit. Fortunately I have a great team of nurses who are more than willing to help. For me at least, I would look for a floor where the nurses are SUPPORTIVE. I don't know about all this eating your young concept. New nurses (more than anyone) need so much support and encouragement. Upon your return to work my one piece of advice is really really really look at the orientation program and look at the nurses on the floor. When I interviewed with my nurse manager I was floored at the professionalism of each nurse. No back biting, talking behind backs, gossip. Their number one concern is patient safety and satisfaction. That is probably what went wrong with your first job. You got such a bad taste in your mouth because the nurses were nasty and unsupportive. How unprofessional! That's not what nursing is all about. I may be a new nurse and not know the ropes, but I do know that it is so important to choose a floor where you are encouraged and supported, not picked on and condemned. That's the total opposite of nursing.
  14. by   midwife2b
    Once you are in your refresher course, start looking at potential hospitals with L&D units.

    Often when units are recruiting they invite a prospective eimployee to "shadow" for a shift. You get to see the workings of the unit and some of the job expectations. They, in turn, get to meet you, and get a sense whether or not you will work well with them.

    I'd call the nurse manager or recruiter and ask if "shadowing" is possible. A day on a nursing unit is a thousand times more valuable than reading a job description.

    I've oriented/precepted dozens of nurses in my nearly 30 year career. I hate how some nurses thrive on eating their young. I want people I will be comfortable with taking care of my family members, and I tell them that at the outset.

    Good luck!

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