Need Feedback and Perspective

  1. I'm a nurse with several years of experience and entered the ICU nearly a year ago. I'm a good nurse and every day I give it my best shot. I participate in CE, I follow hospital policies and I take care of myself so that I am on my toes when I have to work (exercise, sleep, etc). I will admit that I can be a bit intense and become spastic if I feel that the care of my patients is being compromised or that I have been overwhelmed for too long and unable to get help.

    I work at a large teaching hospital with a good reputation on a 24 bed MS ICU. I have a union job, good pay and I suppose it could be a lot worse. I'm just not happy and I haven't been since I started. I feel that I have legitimate concerns, but nobody cares and I'm just tired of it. First of all, I know this sounds like every hospital in the country; that's not my point. I need to work this out and get past it...

    The other day a very obnoxious and loud-mouthed nurse told me I was crabby all the time and that people didn't want to talk to me because of it. Most of my coworkers enjoy working with me because I am fun and helpful; they have told me this. I do, however, have a very cynical attitude and do tend to be very expressive... I tend to voice my frustration rather than stuffing it; however, I never convey my personal feeling to patients or there families (ie, we're short-staffed, we have no supplies, my coworkers are lazy, pharmacy is incompetent, the place is a pigsty, you are driving me crazy,etc). I am a professional and when I'm with a patient, it isn't about me.

    The aforementioned nurse is popular, well-liked and among the suck ups who tend to excel on my unit. She is lazy, mean to her patients, sloppy and an infectious nightmare. She will sit on her butt or roam around talking to her friends when her pod mates are drowning. Unfortunately, there are a great many nurses like her on my unit. New people come and go so quickly because they are overwhelmed, under-supported and frustrated by a very obvious caste system. The unit is run on negative feedback and governed by a clinical ladder system; new people get no opportunity to give input and are treated like peons (one of these nurses saw me in a pt's room about to insert a foley and she had the odacity to ask me if I knew the female urethra was above the vagina -- I have been a med nurse for several years and she knows it) by a group of about 15 nurses who have no idea what it's like at the bottom of the ladder.

    I'm leaving this job and have informed my boss (who is a very nice woman) that I will do so next year. When I came to the unit I made a 1-year commitment and I intend on keeping it; however, she has known from the beginning that I haven't been very happy. Yesterday, while preparing to process some paper work for my status change to casual, she very nicely told me that if I was miserable on the unit that I could leave and she wouldn't hold it against me. She said that being miserable isn't good for me or for the patients -- obviously being happy isn't either. I assured her that if I were miserable that I wouldn't hesitate to leave, but that I wanted to leave next year as planned. I held my tongue and did not offer any unsolicitated opinions (I have, at least, learned that much), but really wanted to ask her if she didn't think that the fact that the institution is recruiting nurses from 10,000 miles away might be a clue that there's a problem. I know that things are getting progressively worse and that change will come once things become absolutely chaotic; but not a second before.

    My point is that I know that I am a good person and a good nurse, but I feel like nobody around me notices anything I do or cares that I really give it my all every time I work. I need to have value and to feel that I am contributing and I just don't seem to get that in nursing. There is the occasional patient or family member who is truly grateful, but they are few and far between. I have already left nursing once and I am just tired of constantly looking for something that doewn't seem to exist. If I quit nursing, I will be forced to file bankruptcy or default on my student loans (then I'll loose my license).

    Your experiences, strength and hope please!
    Last edit by ANnot4me on Aug 30, '02
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    About ANnot4me, BSN

    Joined: Oct '00; Posts: 452; Likes: 628


  3. by   Genista
    Much of what you had to say resonated with me. Although, I work med/tele now, not ICU.

    The upside of nursing is that you do have options. You could essentially change your career while still staying in nursing. Have you worked on any other floors in your facility? Maybe you should look at non traditional nursing positions. I know acute care tends to pay better, but it is also very stressful. Maybe a non hospital based position would be more to your liking? While you have the security of your current job, now would be a perfect time to job shadow and interview nurses in other areas.

    I am in a similar problem with burnout. The difference is, my coworkers are supportive, hardworking & great! The problem: they are all leaving in droves due to inadequate staffing, high turnover, overtime, etc. I've only been an RN 4 years. Already I am so crispy. And like you, I am a hard working, professional and caring person. I so wanted to help people (still do), but nursing is eating me alive. I have nightmares, insomnia, periods of depression, stomach aches. I am lucky enough to have floated to other floors and sample different units. But I am feeling bitter right now and I feel like (at least where I work) the same BS problems are on every unit.

    I can't seem to reconcile excellent nursing care and also taking care of myself. It is nearly impossible to complete my day and fit in a 30 min break. I take my 15 min break for lunch (sometimes not) but always am overtime because there is NEVER EVER enough staff to answer the 2,000 call lights that all seem to be blazing 24/7. We work short all the time & my assignment under protests forms (union job) don't seem to make a dent.

    What makes me so darned angry is that my hospital hires travler RNs at the rate of $40/hr, when for that price, we could hire more permanent staff and change our stupid matrix...and prevent nurses like myself from burning out. It is so plain to me that the shortage of nurses is based on the horrible working conditions. If it was halfway decent to work as an RN, we wouldn't have such high turnover.Nobody cares about RETENTION. We never staff by acuity, and we SHOULD. There just needs to be more staff, and that's what it boils down to for me.

    I pinned my hopes on AB394 (nurse patient ratio) changing things for us here in CA, but I am tired of waiting! I'm always going to be a "nurse" in my heart, but for now I am planning a career change.I'm staying in nursing for now, while I plan to go back to school next spring. I will keep my license current, though.

    You sound like a wonderful nurse, and good person. I hope you can find a place where you feel glad to go to work each day!
    Maybe someone can suggest areas of nursing that they love, that you might like as well? I know a few RNs working in clinics (less pay though) who seem pretty happy. There are some good positions out there, you just need to do a little research & investigating. Remember- keep an open mind, as nursing has many options!
    Good luck!

    Last edit by Genista on Aug 30, '02
  4. by   oramar
    From where I sit I think you should plan to move on and go ahead and do it. For heaven sakes don't keep quiet about your complaints. They will probably ignore you but so what. If you tell them they got problems and 100 others tell them maybe it will sink in someday. As for that nurse that told you something about yourself that you did not want to hear, well so what! If she is as bad as you say who cares about her opinion. I have watched lousy nurses operate, one of their ploys is to drive out people that make them look bad. Good nurses come and go but 10 years later the bad ones are still there pulling their tricks and running up big pensions.
  5. by   Stargazer
    chigap: I, too, could relate to your general feelings of misery, "not making a difference", etc. (although my feelings were due to management and staffing and NOT due to my co-workers)--because this was exactly how I felt when I left my bedside nursing job after 7 years in ICU.

    I don't think the answer is for you to leave nursing, and there's no reason you should: the best thing about our profession is that it affords such an enormous variety of specialty areas and types of jobs.

    When some of my former ICU colleagues got burned out, they transferred to different areas like GI Lab, PACU, Short-stay Recovery, cath lab, EPS lab, etc. 2 of my colleagues started participating in research studies part-time. I got out of the hospital setting and am now in a corporate position with very little patient care. I actually miss the patient care a little, but I love my job.

    I think this is a good time for you to figure out what you really like about nursing, what you're really burned out on, and how to find a practice setting and position that suits your needs right now.

    Are you burned out on patient care? Not burned out but need to work with less critical or shorter-term patients? Are you really longing to teach or be an advanced-practice nurse? Is it time to go back to school? Are your real strengths organization, budgeting, writing? Do you like the flexibility of your hours, or would you really prefer something part-time or with the stability of 9 - 45 and every weekend off?

    Think of this as a great opportunity to figure out what you really want to do and how to get there. You've already decided you're leaving your current job, so there's no conflict there. Don't leave nursing altogether, I beg you! I'm positive there's a job out there that could use your knowledge and strong work ethic.

    Good luck and keep us posted.
  6. by   BadBird
    Wow, while reading your message I immediately thought of a few nurses I worked with that could fit your example of the loudmouth, obnoxious nurse. I guess there are nurses like that everywhere, too bad they chase away the good ones. I don't think you need to feel guilty leaving, you are clearly not happy with the situation and it doesn't sound like it will change. The good news is that not all units or hospitals are alike, you will find one that you like and can feel a part of. Are their other ICU units in the hospital now that you could transfer to? Remember you are a valuable health care member with many options open to you. Good luck
  7. by   shannonRN
    chigap, i understand you wanting to keep your promise and work their for a year, but if you are truly unhappy and your manager okayed your departure...then run. it is not healthy mentally, physically, or spritually to have to deal with this. there are plenty of other nursing jobs out there.

    as for the coworker thing. i think it is awful that people have nothing better to do than to sit around and pick on other staff members. and for the simple word of thanks....i totally hear you on that one. but unfortunately many people/patients feel that nurses do not need/want to hear those words. i think they have the "it's their job" mentality. who cares if it is my job. a sincere thanks from a patient makes my job even more worthwhile. but people tend to focus on the negatives and not the positives in life.

    good luck with the job and keep us posted.
  8. by   Brownms46
    Originally posted by shannonRN
    chigap, i understand you wanting to keep your promise and work their for a year, but if you are truly unhappy and your manager okayed your departure...then run. it is not healthy mentally, physically, or spritually to have to deal with this. there are plenty of other nursing jobs out there.
    i totally agree here..!
  9. by   live4today
    chigap.....(((((((((hugs)))))))))) :kiss

    Don't really have anything additional to add to the wonderful advice you've already been offered, but wanted to stop by and show my love and appreciation to you for being one great nurse! It shows in your post comments! Don't change being the great nurse that you are due to the nurses who prefer to be that "glass half empty" on the job. Chin up, stay encouraged, and I'm praying for you to stay strong! :kiss
  10. by   sjoe

    Well, your boss couldn't have put things any more plainly (in her customary "nice" way).

    She doesn't care if you leave (with the implication "the sooner the better'), will not be taking any of your past or future suggestions or feedback as anything more than coming from a "miserable" employee (in other words, you no longer have any credibility on the unit), and don't let the door hit you in the butt on your way out.

    There is no mystery or ambiguity here. Time to hit the road.

    Good luck. (And you might consider getting a charge nurse or other supervisor for whom you work to write you a letter of recommendation for future jobs, as this "boss" will not likely give you a good one.)
  11. by   Orca
    You have obviously landed on a unit with a firmly-established clique that doesn't value any input from "outsiders". I would hope that, rather than try to fit in with these so-called caregivers, you will seek something that makes you happier. Coworkers can make or break a work environment (as can management, but in a more indirect way).

    It is not a crime to have a job that isn't a good fit for you, for whatever reason. It is a crime, however, to keep a job that makes you miserable and will eventually color your attitudes about not only your job, but life in general. Get out while you still have your sanity, and while you still care.
  12. by   BBnurse34
    [QUOTE]Originally posted by sjoe

    Well, your boss couldn't have put things any more plainly (in her customary "nice" way).

    She doesn't care if you leave (with the implication "the sooner the better'), will not be taking any of your past or future suggestions or feedback as anything more than coming from a "miserable" employee (in other words, you no longer have any credibility on the unit), and don't let the door hit you in the butt on your way out.

    There is no mystery or ambiguity here. Time to hit the road.

    I think that the charge nurse is saying that also. Time to get another job, hopefully with more mature nurses.
    You might also, try to relax a bit, you can't expect everyone to share your high standards. Stop making yourself miserable. Let the charges handle sloppy, lazy nurses. Then you can relax, knowing that your patients are getting great care!

  13. by   rncountry
    Chipag, please take the time to think over what you want right now. I won't go into my whole story because it is long, but trust me I went through hell and back once in my nursing career because I stuck it out in a situation that was impossible because I was working in a LTC facility at the time, near where I grew up, and many of the residents I had known since I was a child. People who were friends with my grandparents. I felt I could not leave because I would be abandoning people who were more than just my patients. In retrospect I would have been much better off to have left the job, and then done what I knew had to be done.
    There is no job that is worth what you are experiencing. If you are anything like I think you are, then you also feel you can not leave something you made a committment to. But it is obvious that they have no same feeling for the obligation that they have towards you. What you are feeling is not just the thought that you want to leave nursing. It is depression, and it can be a killer. To not be able to experience the "colors" of life, is a slow killer of the soul, not just a nursing career.
    There is nursing that is enjoyable after an experience after this, believe me. I have found a wonderful job, with wonderful staff and a decent management team. The best job I have had in 11 years. I did leave nursing for about a year and a half, worked for a few months and then left again for a couple months when my dad passed away. When I went back after that through agency, ended up working where I am now and liking it so much I became regular staff, I can't describe how happy I was to get back to something that I loved and didn't even realize it until I found a job that didn't kill me emotionally.
    Only you know if continuing in the profession is right for you. But Lord I would hate to lose someone who brings to the career field what you do. Just take some time and think about it, and please don't stay somewhere that is so emotionally debilitating. Take care of yourself first, and then the patients.
  14. by   NurseGirlKaren
    true. your dedication to honoring your committment is commendable. have to keep searching until you find your perfect place (and it can be done).