Jump to content

A Not-Love Letter for Nursing

Published

Specializes in ED, ICU, Public/Community Health. Has 19 years experience.

Not sure about nursing? You're not alone.

Reflections from a seasoned nurse who doesn't love nursing but would do it all over again.

A Not-Love Letter for Nursing

Dear Past Self,

You don’t love nursing, and that’s okay.

I recall the excitement when you made the decision to pursue nursing. It never occurred to you that you couldn’t do it. Some people might label that determination, and although you have a healthy dose of that as part of your personality, it may be that you were just inexperienced at life. In that context, it served you well. You didn’t think about what would happen if you couldn't step up or if you weren’t cut out for the job. You didn’t think twice about the requirements to get into the program or the fact that the deadline was two weeks away. You didn’t even blink an eye when you weren’t accepted that first go around. You were undaunted, but in a very simple, matter-of-fact way. You decided to become a nurse, and that’s what was going to happen, no matter what.

Two reasons why knowing what you know now, you still would go into nursing.

#1 You dare to potentially fail. And, you dare to keep learning.

Nursing school is a bit of a blur. I know you loved learning and challenges. I know clinicals made you nervous, being a more reserved person that sometimes had a hard time knowing what questions to ask, or daring to ask them. But I guess your love of learning plus that mindset of just getting it done must have been enough to shake off your insecurities. You went on to preceptorship in the emergency department with the dream of one day working there.

The start of your nursing career coincided with a move and a new baby, so it was a bit rocky. But you had just conquered nursing school and thus had that little jolt of confidence from earning a degree. You experienced that same feeling all new nurses experience—Whoa, did school really prepare me for this? It’s humbling and disheartening to feel incompetent. But you were a fast learner and had the energy and eagerness of a new nurse. You were wise to start out on med/surg, get some good critical thinking and time management skills, and observe seasoned nurses who could handle old school doctors. The mistakes you made were not the monumental, career-crushing mistakes you thought they were at the time. 

Three years in was the first big change when the crowded ED needed extra help. When the house supervisor asked for a volunteer, you didn’t even hesitate. Your first task was an IV and blood draw, and the delegating nurse was Queen Nurse Ratched of the department. Later, that battleaxe nurse said what impressed her was how you were bold in showing up and asking how you could help. Sometimes I marvel at that, because you are not that person. Not really. You hid your insecurities because you recognized the opportunity, tapped into that deep-down confidence, and bottom-line, you were there to help. If you had learned anything, it was that nurses had each other’s backs, and you were going to at least try.

That started a 14 year career as an ED nurse. You had a great team of nurses and doctors, and for a long time, you thought that’s what you would do until you retired. I sometimes miss those days.

During your time in the ED, when your youngest child entered kindergarten, you decided to go back to school and finally accomplish your goal of getting your bachelor’s degree. You had a few reservations about going back to school, especially online, but found that writing a paper wasn’t really a big deal, and you now had life experience to draw from. It led you to consider other areas of nursing with the cliche “broaden your horizons.” But that’s just what you did, and aren't you glad? You met wonderful public health nurses with amazing experience and advice. It led to a flex position at the health department where you learned about immunizations, women’s health, and even got to help out with a tuberculosis outbreak in the community. It felt so good to learn new things. And, admittedly, the ED was starting to wear on you.

Then came the big move across the country, and subsequent life changes. That was rough. And you questioned your choice of career more than ever. You were tired, stressed, and life had become complicated. You told others to avoid going into nursing. It wasn’t worth it. The healthcare system was broken. You had five jobs in five years: travel ED nurse, free-standing ED nurse, community health nurse, neuro-trauma ICU nurse, and resource nurse. These were obviously your searching years. You were always excited to start the job, and then when the novelty wore off, well . . . you were like the kid a month after Christmas, the new toys shoved into the corner and looking for something else. 

Those were hard years, but looking back, I’m glad for the struggle. You gained invaluable insight. It was good to go outside your wheelhouse of the ED, venture into new areas. You are a stronger, better nurse for it. I mean, good for all the nurses who do that one thing for their entire careers, and do it exceedingly well, but that’s not you. Even though you had some growing pains, including feelings of incompetence all over again, I’m proud of the way you decided to try new things, keep searching, and continue discovering.

Now you’re here in the pandemic. You’re doing the work of a nurse when the world needs you. Needs more like you. Because (gulp) you are a good nurse. You work hard, even on your off days. You still make mistakes, but you’re experienced and confident enough to ignore and let go of unhelpful criticisms (or say screw you with your eyes). You’re smart enough and caring enough to try to work with others, not blame them. And you’ve always done your best for your patients. You don’t need a new program or a survey to tell you that people are people and they deserve to be treated well, especially on their worst days. 

I think back to that day when you first floated to the ED, quick to volunteer, offering to help even though you weren’t sure you were equal to the task, jumping in with both feet not knowing how to swim. You surprised yourself that day. You weren’t that kind of a person. Bold and competent. But maybe now you are. Before, you had the benefit of not knowing how hard nursing is. You were blissfully unaware and youthfully enthusiastic. Perhaps your ignorance was mislabeled as bold. But now you know of the madness that is healthcare, how it functions, its many, many flaws and unfairness. You even have your share of jadedness. But you don’t let it get the better of you. You take that determination from your youth, that confidence from experience, and that perseverance from difficult times and you dare to try. You dare to potentially fail. And, you dare to keep learning.

#2 You have fulfilled a calling in life.

Nursing is not a career for everybody. Right now there are a lot of nurses, seasoned and newbies, questioning their choice of career. You’ve been in that boat too, more than once. It’s a boat that definitely rocks.  And morale in many places is at an all time low. I’m a big believer that transient doubts are just that—transient. And it is much easier to entertain those doubts during times of crises, either personally or collectively. Sometimes all a person needs to do is ride out those doubts, make some changes, or rekindle a bit of passion or inspiration. But sometimes a person needs to be true to themselves about their level of doubt and burnout or about how nursing simply isn’t for them. It takes courage for a person to acknowledge that. It takes wisdom to know if and when to leave.

You pretty much know you’re not in love with nursing. But I don’t regret your choice to become a nurse. Even though someday you may leave the profession, I feel strongly that you have fulfilled a calling in life. When it’s time to go, it doesn’t have to be a bitter departure or filled with regret or guilt. I’m glad for the years you spent learning and growing as a nurse. You helped a lot of people, including family and friends. Life allows for people to change their minds and close a chapter of their lives. If you need to close this chapter of your life, find a way to do it with as little resentment and as much positivity as you can, finding the good things. Because even if you don’t always love it, nursing teaches some great lessons. Especially the ones you didn’t want to learn. 

If you let it, nursing makes you a better person.

ED, Public/Community Health, ICU

3 Articles   6 Posts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

6 Comment(s)

Julie

Specializes in Sm Bus Mgmt, Operations, Planning, HR, Coaching. Has 39 years experience.

Great perspective, written from a healthy inner voice, what a great way to look back and reflect.  Thanks @nikkulele77

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 20 years experience.

Beautiful. I can recognize some of myself in this post, too, which serves to remind me I'm not the only person who questioned her sanity in becoming a nurse, and then left the profession early. (I retired for medical reasons when I was 55.) Nursing was not always kind to me, especially the last couple of years, but I loved it and would have continued till I was 70 if my body and mind had cooperated. Granted, there are some aspects of nursing that I don't miss, like poor management, gossipy co-workers and being given too much to do with too little time and too few resources; I thought it was bad when I was working, but it doesn't hold a candle to what nurses are going through now. I read these forums every day and am horrified at the use and abuse of nurses in hospitals (and other settings too). But I'll never regret having been an RN. Thank you for reminding me why. 

brandy1017, ASN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care.

11 hours ago, VivaLasViejas said:

Beautiful. I can recognize some of myself in this post, too, which serves to remind me I'm not the only person who questioned her sanity in becoming a nurse, and then left the profession early. (I retired for medical reasons when I was 55.) Nursing was not always kind to me, especially the last couple of years, but I loved it and would have continued till I was 70 if my body and mind had cooperated. Granted, there are some aspects of nursing that I don't miss, like poor management, gossipy co-workers and being given too much to do with too little time and too few resources; I thought it was bad when I was working, but it doesn't hold a candle to what nurses are going through now. I read these forums every day and am horrified at the use and abuse of nurses in hospitals (and other settings too). But I'll never regret having been an RN. Thank you for reminding me why. 

So I'm curious to you and any other retired nurses out there.  Do you feel your life and health improved after leaving nursing due to the lack of stress? 

I'm hoping my health will improve when I take early retirement.  Curious about others' experiences in this regard. 

I've never been a workaholic, far from it, but never imagined I would be considering early retirement yet.  But between the corporate lean and mean mantra and corona I feel I can't continue to do this anymore.

Just wondering what the future might hold.  I do feel hopeful that my health and quality of life will improve once I quit nursing.  I guess time will tell.

Any retirees out there please share your experience in this regard.

Thanks!

Penandpaper, BSN

Has 5 years experience.

"Before, you had the benefit of not knowing how hard nursing is. You were blissfully unaware and youthfully enthusiastic. Perhaps your ignorance was mislabeled as bold. But now you know of the madness that is healthcare, how it functions, its many, many flaws and unfairness. You even have your share of jadedness. But you don’t let it get the better of you."

So true!~

Ioreth, ADN, RN

Specializes in Ortho-Neuro. Has 2 years experience.

Thank you for this!
I am not an ED nurse, and I'm still early in my career, but I could be writing this myself. I started nursing just 6 months before Covid and it has been rough. To be honest I have not been loving my job and I've written quite a few posts here about that. But I would do it all again. Just knowing that I can do it makes it worth it. I just hope that eventually I won't dread going to work.

Twenty years I will have been a nurse come July. I have a Masters degree but I still work direct bedside ICU. I am in a Doctorate program for when my body gives out but Bedside is was and always will be my passion. I would do it again a 100 times and each time a little  better. It is who I am and how I serve. I work in a covid infested unit with only 1 negative airflow room. Haha I go each day knowing I will likely have lost or will lose a patient that day. I will keep going each day for as long as I can be a bedside nurse. I was put on earth to do this. I live it, I love it, I am humbled to serve.