I was a new RN in 1989! There were no jobs!

Prior to the 1980's in the UK a lot of RN's once they got married or had babies they would leave nursing and stay at home! This meant that no matter how many RN's were churned out there were always jobs. After the 80's recession, RN's returned to work after marriage, and maternity leave, now it took 2 people working in a family to make ends meet. There was no longer a sigma if you were not a stay at home mum! Nurses General Nursing Article

I was a new RN in 1989! There were no jobs!

Job hunting in the healthcare profession appears to be a nightmare these days and if you believe the media there are tens of thousands of newly qualified RN's actively searching for employment.

The media also continue to state that there is a nursing shortage which is only going to get worse as the aging nursing population increases.

Most of the aging nursing population (me included) are part of the 60's generation who were fortunate to grow up when food was abundance, food was highly processed, additives were included in all foods and we were not educated on healthy eating as young people on the dangers of some of the foods we were eating-so we are probably part of the most unhealthy generation ever.

We are also the generation who has to work until we are 100 to make ends meet! Even if it means going to work in a wheelchair with O2 attached to our nose. We are also going to be the biggest drain on healthcare funds as there are a lot of us around.

So I digress I am here to tell my story of how I worked as an agency nurse prior to securing a permenant job, some tips if you like, because like the current generation of nurses who are looking for jobs post qualifying. I was also part of the late 80's in the UK when there would be 100's of nurses applying for each job advertised.

22 years ago sounds a long time ago but in reality I cannot believe I was a youngish nurse looking for employment in a world where there were too many nurses and not a lot of jobs. A little background history which helps new grads understand the difference between now and then.

Prior to the 1980's in the UK a lot of RN's once they got married or had babies they would leave nursing and stay at home! This meant that no matter how many RN's were churned out there were always jobs.

After the 80's recession, RN's returned to work after marriage, and maternity leave, now it took 2 people working in a family to make ends meet. There was no longer a sigma if you were not a stay at home mum!

This in turn meant that the available nursing jobs were less. It also meant that promotion was scarcer because the RN's who were in the senior roles returned to work post baby and did not lose their seniority.

So here I was ' a new jobless Grad' I was also a single parent and I was petrified that I wouldn't find a job! I applied for every job that was advertised even if I wanted it or not.

I went for lots of interviews where I would line up with the other applicants outside a room to be called in for my turn to explain why I was suitable for the job.

Each and every rejection was like a knife to my heart but I never gave up! I loved nursing and I was determined to be employed.

I joined an agency who sent me on various assignments which were all like a comedy of errors.

I was sent to a nursing home, I had no transport so I had to use Taxi's and buses to get to work. My one and only night ever in a nursing home was a disaster that forever reverberates in my mind. I was given report on 36 residents and I had one nursing aid to help me. The nursing home was in a large Victorian house which was 3 stories high

I gave out the med's according to the room number which to this day I will never know if the right patients received the correct medications-nobody and i mean nobody had a wrist band on!

A phone call came in for one of the residents I called him to the phone to speak with his daughter. Later on that night the same daughter phoned me in tears because her father was so disorientated, confused and was talking about her mother who had been dead for years! I soothed her down and I went to find her father to check out his vital signs, blood sugar and assess for confusion.

He appeared pleasantly confused but otherwise stable until I realized the man I had called to the phone was actually not the correct person and the correct person was asleep in his bed. As I didn't know the patients when I shouted out phone call for Mr X the pleasantly confused gentleman thought it was for him!!! So you can imagine how I first stressed for years and how laughed for years later after I recovered from imagining I was going to be struck off!

I can only imagine what the conversation was between a confused man and the daughter who thought she was speaking with her father!

After that the night deteriorated to cleaning the house, peeling the veg, laying the table for breakfast, doing the laundry and chasing naked residents through the house, trying to work out which room they were from and where their clothes were!

I was so relieved to leave in the morning, take the bus the 1 hour journey to get home to bed!

Only to be woken at 11am to tell me I had taken the drug keys home with me. So I have never again ever worked in a nursing home/ extended care facility!

My next venture out with the agency was to a GI floor in a hospital. There were 30 beds 1 RN (me), 1 student nurse and an aid. So 3 weeks after being a new nurse I was also the charge nurse on a floor I had never ever been on in my life!

The drug round was a large locked cupboard on wheels which you wheeled to each patient bedside and gave med's out of the pots which were organised in alphabetical order if you were lucky! The drug chart was either hand written by the doctor in the generic name or the drug name!

So you had to know both and you had to be able to read the doctors handwriting-remember I am a new RN so giving out drugs was like a hike up a huge hill. Plus it took forever and involved a lot of looking up drugs in a handbook!

After the drug round and the patients had received their nighttime drink the lights on the ward were switched off and the pts are now expected to sleep LOL.

As an RN you did your work in virtual darkness with only small office time lamps to see by, of course by each pt's bed there is a light which worked if you were lucky!

In those days we made up the IV medications ourselves before we gave them, can you imagine 30 patients all on something IV! I wont even tell you the tears in the med room because I really hadn't a clue! Remember the floor is now in virtual darkness as you administer the IV's

One pt was on a multi vitamin infusion which needed mixing in a large bag of saline only it should have been dextrose, I just about got back to the patient to stop the infusion before he received any of it! I convinced myself that I was defiantly going to be struck off this time, especially as the Student was most upset-I informed the bleep holder of the hospital who was unconcerned and I remade the infusion for the pt!

During this evening I had one patient who decorated his entire bed and bed area with feces and it took an hour to clean up.

2 pts needed suctioning and 2 pts who were expected to pass away did! (nothing to do with me I may add, although the rest of the patients were fortunate I must admit!)

So in the UK we at that time, and things may have changed, leave the pt to rest after the dr has pronounced death for one hour. This is to allow the 'soul' to leave the body and out of respect! Some nurses even opened a window to allow the 'soul' to float away.

It also meant that the family can visit at this time.

The RN with the Aid will wash the body from head to toe, removed IV's and catheters, lines and drains if there are any.

The body is wrapped from head to toe in a sheet, tape is used to close the sheet on the patient so it doesnt open and the transporters will take the pt to 'Rose Cottage' which was the name for the morgue.

The gurney was a metal box with a lid and made a very strange squeaky rattling sound as it left the ward to 'rose cottage'

Most of the wards/floors in those days were Nightingale wards and for those who have never heard of them they are long rooms with 30 beds in a line, each bed separated by curtains and usually a couple of side rooms.

Every patient on the Nightingale wards knew when there was a death because as the 'porters' came to take the patient away all the curtains which were open would be closed prior to removing the patient. There would be a thud as the pt was lowered into the metal box, then the squeaky rattling of the box being wheeled away.

Once the pt had left the floor then all the curtains would be opened again.

My night again was never ending, but this time I did manage to work there for 2 whole weeks of nights without a night off because I was frightened if I refused the work I wouldn't get work and I would be in deep desperate trouble financially.

I was young and I honestly thought that I wouldn't ever get a full time position, and I thought the more I work the more chance I would have to get a job because surely somebody along the way would see how 'good' I was!

RN with 26 years of experience many of those years spent in dialysis. I have worked in acute care, home, ICHD as a CN, FA, and currently a director.

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Specializes in ER.

interesting! thanks for sharing!

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

And I thought some of the conditions I've worked under were gnarly.......thank you for a glimpse at a dimension of nursing I've never had to experience (thank GOD)!

I have been through several no job cycles. I was a new RN in 1970's, I worked a surgical unit, 27 patients, often myself ( 1 year experience), LPN, and an aide. We had patient status post AAA repair, one or two days post CABG, and other very intense GU surgery.

My only saving grace was if someone too ill, many patients would hire a private duty nurse. Sometimes we would have a couple on the floor. Nothing was computerized, cardiac monitors did not have any recall, no pulse ox is was pretty scary.

Specializes in ICU/CCU.

This was a great article...I loved it....

my little dog is trying to jump up on me to

figure out why

I am doubled over laughing....-:)

I loved your story. I don't know how you made it through that time in your career, it sounds nightmarish.

Specializes in Med Surg - Renal.

I was a new grad engineer in 1990...there weren't very many jobs for me either!

I am a new Grad RN with a BSN, who cant get an interview. Thank you for sharing your story, its encouraging.

I've learned on my skin that "beggars can't be choosers..." My first job was in correctional facility, I hated it but did what I had to do and even saved one inmate from dying d/t DKA. When an opportunity came I took a job on psych floor, while working part time with kids on ventilators in home care with one agency and hospice with another. After a job for a PICU nurse was posted I had experience in all of the above and was given an opportunity over many other new grads with 1 year or less of experience. My nurse manager told me that when I said "I've learned from each and any one of the opportunities" is what landed me the job I was the happiest nurse in the world. I love nursing and the variety of opportunities it has and ways it provides us with knowledge. There is a saying in Hebrew "from all of those who taught me I have become wiser..."