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First year nurse, not sure if nursing is for me after the pandemic? How do I get back up on the horse?

by AnonyNurs AnonyNurs (New) New Nurse

Has 2 years experience.

I graduated last May and started soon after on a medsurg floor. I went through the typical first year jitters. But I started to get pretty good at balancing my case load come January. I was building confidence, learning time management, I stopped crying so much in the bathroom 🤣. The palpitations stopped every time I got in my vehicle to go to work. I was actually starting to enjoy it and it felt like I was actually helping, vs painful learning.

But then the Pandemic hit. My hospital didn't handle it well. One Friday night back in mid March they sent an email out notifying us that we were no longer allowed to use N95s in covid patients rooms. I immediately went to my floor manager, who assured me that was NOT the case. Saturday while I was sleeping, upper management came into the hospital and took all the N95S and locked them up. They claimed they had enough, but we couldn't use them. "WHO said it's droplet!"

Then they went home and refused to answer their phones for our union rep. We were left scrambling the entire weekend as covid cases started rolling in. I received 2 that weekend. I still don't know if they were positive, because they refused to tell us, saying that it "violated HIPAA". 🙄 I heard through the grapevine they weren't positive, but hey it's the grapevine so who knows how accurate it was.

That Sunday night I put in my notice. There was also a lot of other stuff. (Wouldn't let us wear our own masks, spread covid patients all over the hospital vs a single unit, etc, etc).

Saturday night The ED actually sent me a patient, I took report on this patient, was told he was coming in for something not even close to covid, come to find out when he gets to the floor, he's a covid rule out. I took report, so therefore I couldn't refuse care and was forced to enter this patients room with a surgical mask or risk losing my license for patient abandonment.

My second rule out that weekend, had I refused care, it would have landed on my friend, who's like a sister to me (we were friends long before working together) she was the only other RN working the floor that night and she couldn't afford to refuse, as she's the only person working in her household currently. So I took the patient.

It was honestly a very scary weekend and the weeks leading up to my resignation were very scary also. I tried downsizing as much as possible, but still eventually ended up with more rule outs. Who I don't know if they ended up positive. A lot of nurses and CNAs alike were scared, many couldn't afford to quit. Many others did quit.

I had my last shift a little over a week ago and I've been told that things have improved since I left. They're cohorting covid patients, giving those nurses N95s, and now notifying nurses if their patients were covid positive. Little late, but better then never.

But now I'm stuck. I don't want to apply anywhere. I don't want to think about nursing. I am struggling with wanting to even get out of bed some days and I am trying to keep myself busy with cooking, my hobbies and my part time school work. Maybe I just need time to process this all? I don't know. But I know every bone in my body hates nursing right now and I can't seem to make it stop. And I've worked so hard to get here.

What can I do to get the spark back? Where do I go from here? Please be gentle. I know nurses can be very "pick yourself up by your bootstraps type", and because of that it's taken me a lot of courage to type this knowing I might get answers like that.

No judgement here. I'd need anesthesiologist money to even consider working bedside in a hospital. It's just a job. Unless you feel like it's your calling or whatever but I don't get that impression from your post. Thankfully there are a lot of different career paths in nursing. Having a year in acute care under your belt will be helpful.

How about trying home care or some other kind of outpatient setting? Maybe you have a soft spot for kids and would like to work for an agency that provides care to disabled children? Maybe you like to form relationships w/ your patients and would like working as a dialysis nurse for awhile? Ambulatory centers etc won't be hiring now obviously but you could try that out later.. Anyway, my point is, if you don't love hospital nursing, that's OK. Try out some other paths to find something that fits better.

Edited by eerrmm

11blade, RN

Specializes in OR.

Sounds like you made the right move. Your hospital management ABSOLUTELY endangered your and your co-workers lives with their idiotic actions. You obviously absorbed enough of good nursing sense to understand that, otherwise you wouldn't have made the decision to do what you did. And, that was not a decision you made lightly. I applaud you. I don't know that I could have done that at my first year in. To compare: HIV was the big deal when I came out of school, but it has nothing on this bug. At least we had a chance to protect ourselves from blood and body fluids with protection provided. No one told us NOT to wear gloves when starting an IV on an unknown HIV patient...that would have been patently STUPID.

Apply for unemployment IMMEDIATELY! Your state UI office will try to deny, but your employer forced you to quit by not providing Federally mandated PPE. There will be class action lawsuits about this when the dust settles, mark my words. In the meantime, DON'T pay any school loans...just yet. If the govt comes out with a stimulus to forgive loans for a promise of service for a year or two in an underserved area, you may have some other options.

Start a job search...for any job, not just nursing, right now, and take care of yourself. You are one of the 'good' ones with a head on your shoulders, you figured it out before the rest. Don't worry about trying to convince others about your decision, you convinced yourself and that was enough to get you out of a dangerous situation. Take the time to grieve your loss (symptoms you are reporting is grieving), then thank the Universe or what ever higher power that you believe in that you were given a 'sign' that you are to take another path. You are on the road to greatness, dear!


Has 10 years experience.

@AnonyNurs I felt the same way my 2nd year into bedside nursing. Consider other options away from the bedside. Trust me, it can get better. You can do a lot with the BScN and RN license individually/combined. What are some of your interests? Once you pin-point that, it'll be easier for you to divorce yourself from the slaughterhouse that the hospital is now becoming for nurses. Eff 'em! You are a human being and deserve a lovely life too.

Personally, at this stage in my life and years of bedside, I'm turning my back on frontline hospital roles. I've had enough of "the beatings will continue until morale to improves" horse****. I would take a non-nursing job before ever accepting another bedside shift any day.

If you like active clinical roles, try Operating Room or Anaesthesiology Assist. The post-grad programs for both specialties are great! They usually have flexible enrollment/progression options, count towards your ConEd requirements, and keep you around like-minded professionals. Both pay well, and you don't have to deal with as much bullcrap as you'd encounter at the bedside. I have my OR certification. Nowadays, I only accept OR shifts when I know and like the MDs I'll be working with... I don't like the MD or they offer me a shift with an MD who is known to be abusive, I tell them to find another nurse. You work long enough and develop professional relationships you eventually can reach a point where you can cherry pick like this, but especially if you have a specialty.

Edited by CaffeinePOQ4HPRN

On 4/22/2020 at 1:30 PM, AnonyNurs said:

So sorry you had this experience early in your career . My two cents:

You would hardly be the first one to decide bedside nursing wasn't your cup of tea. As others have pointed out your education /experience is valuable in an entire host of other settings ranging from ambulatory care/clinics/private nursing to ancillary industries such as payers and pharma.

OTOH, if you decide you want to give it another shot, I'm sure you'll find a position. Practice an explanation as to why you left that is plausible and brief and does not appear to be bashing your former employer.

PS - for me at least, it wouldn't be helpful to be talking to anyone and finding out what has and hasn't changed over there.

Edited by HeartlandRN


Specializes in ICU/Burn ICU/MSICU/NeuroICU. Has 11 years experience.

You mention being scared several times in your OP. Is fear what you are fighting?

Yes. Your hospital handled things poorly, but sounds like they came around. I'd venture that story could be in Anywhere USA this year and in a lot of places too.

There are great hospitals all over America and 25 minutes down the road there are crappy ones. The people they are staffed with secondary to the culture within are what separates them.

But this is about you. I recommend focusing on you. You can focus on returning to nursing, but that is a sidebar & distracting to the *You* aspect.

You learned a lot of coping skills in nursing school. Trot some of those out.

Sit down and write about it. Consider writing without a topic and just let words flow from your pen. No Topic. No Rules. Write and write. See what you discover.

Hi AnonyNurs,

As many have already stated, it sounds like you did the best thing. You were put in a very bad situation and you did what was right for you. Having said that, I wouldn't give up on nursing yet. The beauty of nursing is that there is truly unlimited potential. You have already spent one year as a med-surg nurse which really opens up a lot of doors for you.

I am not sure what is available in your area, but I worked a long time as an OR and PACU nurse at a same day surgery center and loved it. Easy cases, always a doctor right there to consult, patients coming in were typically healthy. Most cases were ortho related...(carpal tunnel release, single level ACDFs, nerve blocks, etc). Monday through Friday job. I also had a good friend that worked in a pediatricians office doing all the newborn baby weight checks and immunization catch ups for other kids, great environment also. Honestly the options are endless.

My point is there is SO much to nursing, so don't think of this situation negatively. Maybe this will open up doors that you never thought were possible and give you a more fulfilled career long term.

Good luck :)

eggyweggy, MSN, RN

Has 8 years experience.

It sounds to me like this job wasn't the best fit for you and the way they treated you during this pandemic was your dealbreaker. There is absolutely no shame in quitting a job when you do not believe that your employer can keep you safe. I admire that you took the leap to quit this job over this - as a profession, nurses have a tendency to accept substandard working conditions because we put our patients before oursevles.

I have to admit that if my personal financial situation were different, I would quit my job too. I no longer feel that my employer is providing me with adequate protection to do my job and I am not getting evidence-backed reassurance that our current practices are safe. I had been feeling somewhat unfulfilled in my job for other unrelated reasons, this is likely going to be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back for me and I will likely move on once other non-covid nursing jobs are posted again unless things change for the better.

There are many other types of nursing jobs out there, though you may struggle to find something as the nursing job market has changed suddenly and drastically. I see nothing wrong with taking a break from it for a little bit to recover and process what happened.

speedynurse, ADN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in ER, Pre-Op, PACU.

My honest opinion? This does not sound like burnout at all. It sounds like you were put in unprotected situations with a company who failed to provide basic measures for their employees. It sounds like you left out of fear of lack of these basic protections.....just my two cents.

Every person has a hierarchy of needs. You took care of yourself first. That is logical, you can’t help anyone if you’re putting yourself in harm’s way. You aren’t required to be a martyr, and the situation was clearly not good for you or the patients. No fault on your part.

Take a deep breath. There are other jobs. You left on good terms. We aren’t responsible for all the circumstances that come our way in life, only how we respond to them. You came to a fork in the road, and made the right choice.


Then choose to path forward. Sometimes the most exciting times in our lives are when unexpected situations force us onto new pathways and we later look back and are deeply grateful for it.

Perhaps you will absolutely love your next nursing job. Better bosses, better coworkers. Perhaps this will push you to use this time to move up even further in education. The sky is the limit.

Perspective is everything. Take a positive outlook, pat yourself on the back, and make a long term plan for moving forward. Then make all the small decisions that lead up to fulfilling that new plan.

Edited by anewmanx


Has 2 years experience.

I read each comment and they were all so helpful and I appreciate the responses. It's been almost a week since I wrote this and while I'm still "recovering" a bit, I feel much better about my career choice in general. Like someone mentioned I don't think it's burn out, as much as acute stress from the situation I was placed in. I think with a little more time to process, I'll start to feel better about nursing in general. And like you all said, maybe this will open a door to a job I will ultimately love.

Nurse SMS, MSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development. Has 10 years experience.

You have been through a trauma, made worse by a world completely unprepared to handle what has happened. I think your reaction is warranted and I would wager you may find all sorts of grief-like emotions coming and going over the coming months. Take good care of yourself.