Is there such a thing as 'low stress'???

  1. Im a new nurse working in the NICU who is totally stressed and have to move on, but I signed a 2 year contract when I took this position. I work in a large hospital and have 2 options now, pay back the money (don't even know how to start that) or transfer to another department.

    Does anyone work in the hospital system where the stress level allows you to sleep at night without worrying if you've killed someone that day???

    Any ideas gratefully received.
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    Joined: Jan '07; Posts: 19; Likes: 1


  3. by   RN1989
    That type of lower stress comes with more experience. Most new nurses have this fear. Since you are working in critical care I am sure that this fear is magnified greatly. I would suggest moving to a non-critical care area. You will still have some of that fear but it won't be as intense. Also, you won't be working with gtts, etc where one tiny insignificant thing can kill someone quite as easy.

    Everyone hates to hear this but I am going to say it anyway - you should get experience on Med-Surg before going somewhere else. Because medsurg is the basis for all nursing, you were likely given more of this in school. It should be easier to recall adult health than other studies. By going back to medsurg, you can practice on big people, who are not nearly as hard to kill as babies. You can gain confidence learning what is normal and abnormal on someone who can actually talk back to you - instead of trying to guess what a crying baby needs. You will be able to practice treatments on a larger surface area so that you will not require that super-fine eye-hand coordination needed when working on a tiny area. Once you have mastered adult health, you will find it much less stressful if you decide to go back to the NICU.

    As a new nurse you are still trying to figure out how all the puzzle pieces go together. Sometimes you get so focused on one thing that you lose perspective on something else. Until you get more experience you are always going to have those fears that as soon as you leave your shift your patient is going to go bad because of something you did. But by putting yourself in a less critical situation, that fear will be lessened. And you probably won't even notice when you don't have that fear anymore. It took me four years of being a nurse before my hands didn't shake during a code. And that was the code that I had to fry some guys chest because we ran out of gel. Don't beat yourself up. You were put into a high stress situation as a newbie - you got double the beating there. Step back and relax. As one of my old instructors said "The absence of all stress is death". Take a transfer to an adult m/s floor. Hone your skills and then decide where you want to go from there. It does get better I promise. FYI - tip I learned many moons ago about not feeling like this as an experienced nurse - even when the staffing sucks and you don't feel like you have seen your patients enough, if they are on tele, you at least know that they are still alive!
  4. by   ctyler98
    I was in you shoes not too long ago.... I was a new grad and went straight into ICU. I did not recieve good training to be in a unit like that. I did have a long orientation but was just given a stack of case studies and was told to complete before my orientation was done and was partnered with a nurse. When I came off orientation I was immediatley given 2 pts per shift and was expected to take the 1st me 3 pts every time. I went to my manager and told her I was uncomfortable with those assignments but was just told that it would get better eventually, but staffing wasn't where it needed to be. She let me go up to CCU for a few weeks to try, but it was worse. By that time I had decided that I would rather transfer to med-surg and learn the basics before going back critical care...I was tired of being stressed out and having dreams that the alarms were going off on my So off to med-surg I went.....I ran my butt off on that floor. It is very stressful trying to learn to manage 8 patients when you've been used to 2 or 3. But you don't have the high acuity stress like critical care. You just have tons of paperwork, meds and pts. Everyone in ICU kept telling me to just hang in there and it normally takes 2 years to feel like you actually know what you are's just up to you to determine if you can hang in there until you start to feel less stressed. I have just moved out of state so I am currently not working and I really don't want to go back to a hospital. I am looking into a MD's office or a :spin:
  5. by   llg
    I disagree with RN1989. Adult med/surg is NOT the basis for all of nursing. In fact, new graduates who go to med/surg often have a harder time transitioning to the NICU as do new grads who go straight to NICU. That's because the judgment that you learn to rely on in adult med/surg does not apply in the NICU -- causeing the nurse to feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under her. Some nurses can handle that and treat the whole transition process as an adventure -- but others hate the uncomfortable feeling that comes with it and rapidly flee back to where they feel safe in adult med/surg. As someone who has spent many years working in the field of NICU nursing education, I beg you not to fall into that trap. While I am sure RN1989 meant well, I doubt she is an expert on neonatal nursing.

    Also ... a lot of new grads find adult med/surg nursing to be even more stressful than some of the specialty units. The patient ratios are often atrocious and the orientation periods are shorter. Just read the posts from new grads on this website. It's not always "easier" on adult med/surg units. In fact, I'd say it's often more difficult and more stressful.

    Now ... what should you really do? That depends on a lot on the particular units in your hospital and your particular likes and dislikes. First of all ... are you really sure that NICU is not for you? Why did you choose it in the first place? Are those reasons still valid? Would you like to stay there if you could get the help and support your feel you need. Is there someone in the unit (educator, mentor, senior staff nurse, etc.) that you could talk to about your anxiety? As they know you and your unit, they would be in a position to give you some good feedback as to whether or not you are learning at an appropriate pace. They may also be able to give you some extra support to help you get through this difficult patch.

    Keep in mind that most new nurses feel the same way that you do at some point, and that it is usually a temporary problem. If you are still interested in being a NICU nurse, I wouldn't recommend giving up on it until you have given it a little time and tried all I could to gather some resources to help me.

    If you have already done that and feel you MUST transfer to another unit ... what other areas excite your interest? What were your 2nd and 3rd choices as a new grad? If you go somewhere that you don't "like," you will be miserable -- and believe me, being miserable is REALLY stressful. So, investigate those areas that appeal to you because you are interested in the type of work they do and the type of patients they have.

    Might you be interested in another Maternal-Child area -- such as the mother-baby unit or intermediate care nursery? If your hospital has an NICU, they probably have a lower level nursery for the recovering babies. Those units tend to be less stressful, and would keep you with the infant population. What about peds? ... or an antepartum unit? Your NICU experience would be useful in those areas and you might have an edge in getting one of those positions.

    Good luck to you with whatever you decide.
  6. by   ElvishDNP
    I see myself as a new grad in your post, so I know that feeling and have a few questions/pointers/tidbits of advice. They say free advice is usually worth what you pay for it, so please feel free to pick & choose what might be useful to you out of any of these ramblings.

    1) How long have you been working? It is perfectly normal those first few months -- sometimes up to a couple years -- to have some trepidation, anxiety and yes, fear that you are going to do something wrong. That is healthy. It keeps you on your toes, and makes you check and recheck to make sure you DON'T do something to harm someone. You are not alone in that feeling.

    2) That said, if this is something that is debilitating, you might be looking at some deeper mental health issues. You might want to get checked out by an MD to make sure. Have you done that? If you are worrying day and night about making a mistake, you might want to at least consider this, if you haven't already.

    3) Accept the fact that you WILL make mistakes. You are human. We all do, we all have, and if you meet someone who says they haven't, they are lying or delusional. We all miss meds. Years ago I hung the wrong post-op abx on someone. Thank God they weren't allergic, because they did have another antibiotic allergy. I felt about as low as whale poop. But they survived, the doc was cool about it, and I moved on. That's just one of MANY mistakes I've made.

    I work OB/nursery, so I understand how you feel about your babies. (I'm guessing NICU is neonatal, not neuro.) I'd rather cut my arms off than hurt one of them. And parents can deal with you screwing something up on them, but don't mess with their babies. I know that is something always on my mind at work. Believe me, I know.

    4) If NICU is something you really enjoy doing, you might want to stick with it. It's not for everyone but if you like the actual patient care part of it, you might try and stick it out. If you're not sure, maybe something working with babies but not critical care is an option until you have a little more experience.

    My own story: I too had a contract that went with my $2000 sign-on bonus. I hated where I was, and after 9 months, paid them back what I owed and moved on. I knew it wasn't for me. I switched to a job that I loved and woke up every morning rejoicing that I got to go to work every day.

    Whatever you decide, I do wish you the best.
    Last edit by ElvishDNP on Sep 27, '07