New Grad/Hate My Job/Life is Miserable!

  1. After nearly four decades, I still remember my miserable, awful, no good first year of nursing vividly. It was my first full time job, the most responsibility I'd ever had and the achievement of a goal I had been working toward for years. The first year of nursing is miserable, it really is. Sometimes you are so miserable, you find yourself alienating your co-workers without realizing it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there, and it will get better.

    New Grad/Hate My Job/Life is Miserable!

    The first year of nursing is miserable. Everyone is miserable during the first year of nursing. You go from being a college student to being responsible for a full load of patients, and you aren't sure you're up to it and you're worried about what would happen if you made a mistake. Not IF you made a mistake, but when you make one because you just know that you can't do this and you're going to kill someone. You go home worried about whether you did enough, noticed any potential harbingers of a decline in your patient status or passed on everything you needed to pass on to the next shift. Sometimes you stay awake all night worrying about it. Or you fall asleep only to wake in a panic, sure you've forgotten the one crucial detail that could have prevented someone's demise.

    The first year of nursing is miserable. I'll say it again. The first year of nursing is miserable. Even after 38 years, I remember vividly just how miserable the first year of nursing can be. I worried that I had missed an order or an important lab value. I worried that I had signed off an order but had forgotten to actually DO what was ordered. On one occasion, I actually got up in the middle of the night and drove to the hospital, sneaked up the back stairway to my floor and ducked into the end room to make sure I really HAD decreased the Heparin drip as I was supposed to have. (Someone had -- I'm still hoping it was me and not the night nurse who found the order when she went through doing 24 hour chart checks.) I was so afraid I'd do an IM injection wrong and injure someone's sciatic nerve, dooming them to a lifetime of pain and suffering that I'd have to go into the bathroom and vomit before giving an injection.

    The first year of nursing was miserable. I felt as though I was overworked, that no one appreciated me and that I was an inch away from making a potentially fatal mistake at any moment. I worked as hard as I could, but my time management skills weren't fully developed and I didn't have the experience to detect trouble on the way as the more experienced nurses could. Instead, I detected trouble right about the time the feces hit the fan . . . far too late to head it off at the pass and just in time for one of my more experienced co-workers to save my (my patient's) bacon.

    Truly, I WAS unappreciated -- which had a lot more to do with my own attitude and my inability to get along with my co-workers than it had to do with my co-workers, who probably would have liked and appreciated me had I been a bit more likable. But I was too stressed, too convinced of my own incompetence to be able to spend the energy on the social niceties that would have helped me to fit in to the team.

    I didn't have the option of quitting my job and moving on. I was supporting a husband who was going to school full time, and health insurance at that time was not portable. I had to make my job work. And as time went on, I had a few scattered moments when I felt as though I could handle it. And then a few more moments. And then most of a day went by, and I handled what came my way, noticed signs and symptoms ahead of time and was able to head off potential badness before it became a full-fledged code. There were times when I was able to lift my nose from the grindstone long enough to notice that a co-worker was in trouble and needed help.

    As I developed time management skills, assessment skills and interpersonal skills, my job got easier. I was able to interact more positively with my colleagues. I got to know the people on my shift, and we went out together. Some of them became friends. As I became more competent, my co-workers became nicer. (I know it was ME, not them. I became more likable and they responded positively.) Somewhere around the two year mark, I realized that I liked my job, my colleagues and myself. I had become competent.

    Had I changed jobs, it wouldn't have happened, or it wouldn't have happened as soon. I was lucky, in a way, that I was forced to stay at my first job.

    The first year of nursing sucks, but it does get easier, trust me. And one day you'll look back over the years and remember how lost and scared and incompetent you felt . . . and know that it was all worth it.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 17, '18
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    94 Comments

  3. by   butter&jelly
    Truly inspiring! I will remember your words when I get hired that eventually things get better in time.
  4. by   anon456
    This is great stuff!
  5. by   not.done.yet
    I can attest to the truth of this myself. I am about to enter year 4 and I am actually getting personal fulfillment from nursing these days and leave on some days feeling really good about myself. I have traveled with nurse friends, gone out for drinks with them and hosted them in my home. We laugh together. A lot. I had a patient tanking the other day and not only was I able to stabilize him, talk to the doctor and run interventions off the top of my head, I was able to do it with a second semester student hot on my heels and talk to her about what I was doing and why.

    The first year is rough. The second is less so and picks up steam into the third, when suddenly you start to utilize all the knowledge you have been storing up over that time. I am still growing. But I enjoy my job a lot more now than I did then. I too stayed on the same unit since graduation.
  6. by   OCNRN63
    ​Excellent advice for new nurses, even for experienced nurses who change specialties.
  7. by   rubato
    Thank you. I am a new grad and feel pretty useless most days. Glad to know it will get better.
  8. by   Hygiene Queen
    Oh, that first year is brutal for most.
    You have to tough it out.
    That's the only way it gets easier.
    It's "trial-by-fire"... your abilities are being pushed to the extreme limit during new and stressful situations.
    The question is: are you able to tough it through and come back for more and do better next time.
    Every time you come back, the easier it is to handle.

    When new nurses want to give up right away, I think:
    1) They just need a boot in their butt to get back in there (and show 'em!) and they're tough enough to do it.
    2) They need to get out because they don't have the endurance and patience to chug through.

    I think most fall under #1.
    I would encourage shoving steel down your spine and facing it... again and again until you've got it!

    Personally, I had an episode, within my first few months, wherein I was so beyond stressed and humiliated by my incompetence that it took every fiber of my being to march my butt back to work.
    I almost walked out.
    While my incompetence certainly didn't win me any awards, I did earn a wee bit of respect by my willingness to toughen up and endure the situation in order to learn and move on.
    If I had quit, I would never have reached the point to where I'm comfortable.
    I never would have earned any degree of respect by my peers.
    I would have been remembered as a "quitter".

    I handle things now that hardly cause me to sweat...
    But back in my first year, I was certain I was going to go to an early grave from a mighty MI or a stroke... and it was going to happen before my shift was over... I was going to die

    Well, I'm still here and so is each and every nurse.
    If it were so impossible, there would be no nurses.

    Please, before you quit:
    DON'T DO IT!!!
    I think you'll find a degree of pride in just how tough you can be and amazed by how much you learn.
  9. by   HikingEDRN
    Quote from OCNRN63
    ​Excellent advice for new nurses, even for experienced nurses who change specialties.
    Definitely. I feel like I had two separate first years. One as a new grad in the NICU and one in the ED two years after that. What I love about nursing is how you learn something new every day no matter how long you've been doing it
  10. by   elkpark
    The first year (or so) is brutal and miserable. The main difference seems to be that, back in the day, nursing schools told people about this, and we graduated expecting this to be our experience (I know that was true for me). Apparently, students now graduate and enter practice with no expectation of this, and a lot of new grads seem to think a) they are the only ones going through this, and b) this means there is something wrong with their job and the answer is to jump ship and look for greener pastures.
  11. by   RunBabyRN
    I'm grateful my program was pretty honest with us about the first year, the job market in CA, etc. No big surprises with any of those things. I think the hardest thing so far about my first year (granted I am ONE MONTH in) is the job search. I'm grateful to have found some random PRN agency work, but trying to crack hospital jobs as a new grad in CA is TOUGH, and not for the faint of heart. I'm soaking up the experience I can where I can, and forging ahead.

    This post is a good reminder that this is commonplace in that first year! I think really having the responsibilities that go with nursing for the first time can be shocking, and having to think on your feet when so much is new is tough, especially for those who don't operate that way naturally.
  12. by   BSNbeauty
    Very True!!! I remember my first year as a nurse and like you, I had to stick it out to support my husband and I. I didn't have a choice to quit. I made through it though, ahhhhhh, what a year that was!!!
  13. by   DatMurse
    I am 4 months into nursing and I love it. I feel appreciated everyday and feel like I can keep up with my workload. I know time management is still an issue, but it is awesome to me. I guess I am just having a great experience with my hospital.
  14. by   Ruby Vee
    Quote from elkpark
    The first year (or so) is brutal and miserable. The main difference seems to be that, back in the day, nursing schools told people about this, and we graduated expecting this to be our experience (I know that was true for me). Apparently, students now graduate and enter practice with no expectation of this, and a lot of new grads seem to think a) they are the only ones going through this, and b) this means there is something wrong with their job and the answer is to jump ship and look for greener pastures.
    Now the new grads can read all about it on AN and realize they're not the only ones going through it. In the old days, we went through it all by ourselves! (But I don't remember nursing school telling me about how tough the first year was going to be.)

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