Emotionally drained?

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So I'm finishing my first year (of 3) of the nursing program and I'm starting to wonder if everything is getting to me. I also work in the ICU and I've been seeing a lot of death, and dying, and terminal prognoses, and just plain out misfortune of innocent people. Sometimes as I sit around I feel this feeling of doom, it's hard to explain. Like I can't tell if there is something wrong with me personally or if it's deja vu from everyone else (my patients).

I don't think I'm overly stressed, because I'm doing very well in school.. but I don't know. I think that I need to talk to a psychiatrist or counselor. But I wonder if anyone else out there went through this in nursing school...



tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN

83 Articles; 5,923 Posts

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

It is not abnormal to feel a bit overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness for your patients. It is a kind of grief that you are experiencing. You might want to talk about your feelings to someone...a counselor, minister, hospital chaplain, or instructor.

You also might want to check out the thread in the AN Staff Blogs called Nurses Coping with Personal Grief. You can discuss this with others there. There are also some other threads there that deal with end of life issues.

Hang in there!

sometimes it can be over whelming, i had a bit of a rough patch when my husband's friend was admitted and his condition continues to deteriorate. the ability to seperate yourself from your patient's after you leave the hospital is very difficult, especially for those who are natural "caretakers" we also make great enablers too. if we didn't care, we'd make poor nurses. my faith helps me.


195 Posts

I had the hardest time with my own mood during my Psych rotation. You may want to talk to a counselor, pastor, or other trusted professional. Take time to do the relaxation techniques we teach patients: journaling, meditation, deep breathing, etc.


125 Posts

I graduated yesterday with my BSN!

I did my summer externship on a pediatric oncology floor. An externship is a 10week experience offered to BSN students during the summer between jr. and sr. years. You are considered a senior at that point and can do all nursing skills except chemo.

During my 10 weeks I learned that peds oncology is not for me. We lost three kids that summer. One night, I left from the hospital and we all knew that this one little boy most likely wouldn't make it through the night. I couldn't shake the terrible feeling all night. He died that night. He was 8 years old. I'd had the chance to bond with not only him but his entire family. I went to his funeral with the nurses and his family handed us each a white rose at the burial. Summer also tends to bring a lot of new diagnoses, so we had new kids including a 9 month old baby.

I finished the summer, and accepted a nurses' aide position on the same unit. By Christmas , I knew that I'd had enough and couldn't be a nurse there. It was just emotionally too much. I knew I had to put some space between myself and some of those situations, so whenever the unit wasn't busy, I'd pick up shifts on other units. I tried surgical inpatient unit, 23 hour observation unit, and ER. I fell madly in love with ER. That's where I got my first job for after graduation.

Do you have counselors at your school that you can talk to? Definitely use the people in your life (spouse? SO? parents? friends?) but recognize that they may not understand or may be overwhelmed with your experience themselves. A neutral party to talk to and perhaps a unit transfer could really help.


6 Posts

Specializes in Emergency Department.

I can relate completely, I am in nursing school and work in the emergency department full time. I got on tonight to see if there were any posts about how I am feeling and if anyone even remotely related. You completely described what I am feeling. The last two shifts I have worked someone has passed away. "The feeling of doom" you described in your post is exactly how I am feeling. I just wanted to know, does it get better? I just feel like I have been beneath a dark cloud for days now. I know that I am meant to be a nurse and there is nothing I want more, but how do you shake this sadness?


300 Posts

When someone in your life, even if only by association, passes on, you begin to think of your own mortality and the mortalilty of your own loved ones. This is natural and why you are feeling even more vulnerable to this is b/c the number of ill/dying people you are around is ten-fold. There is nothing wrong w/ you. I would think this is something a lot of "new" nurses go through. I was told that the skin thickens so much, but it does take awhile.

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