Your limits are going to be pushed beyond any other job will everyday if you're doing it right. That's why emotional, physical, and intellectual exhaustion are common place. Not everybody can rise to this standard everyday
While it can be mentally/emotionally exhausting (I had a sudden onset of sobs last night, thinking about the pt I cared for a few days ago)... I'm pretty sure there are a few firefighters and military personnel who would beg to differ with the above quote.
I think part of it is some employers are truly dirtbags. When you require a nurse to stay an extra shift -- with no thought of her children or pets or elderly parents or her own well-being -- because YOU failed to plan for sick calls, on threat of abandonment... when you don't plan accordingly for a nurse's legally entitled breaks AND refuse to pay for that 1/2 hr because the nurse "failed to manage her time".... when you deny PTO for not putting the request in a whole YEAR in advance... You are a dirtbag!!
Part of it is in general, we tend to be more vocal about our gripes than our joys. That's not unique to nursing. My teenaged daughter is a rower during summer and fall, and most days practice was "Fine." or "Good." On days where their practice resembles boot camp? "Aaah we had to do 2x6K on the ergs and a 2K really FAST!! Can we get some Epsom salt on the way home?? Aaahhh my muscles are on FIRE and I had to use my albuterol TWICE!!! Can you bring my dinner to the bathroom?
I'm staying in the tub until bedtime!!"
My husband and parents don't typically talk about work at all unless it's to vent.
Nursing definitely has it's must-vent moments, even for those of us who DO like our work. Throw in a site like AN where there's almost a million people who get it? See where I'm going?