Kind of an odd question, guilt at work..I hope Im not alone.


OK, this is really gonna sound weird but I've been making myself sick all night worrying about going in to work tomorrow (my 2nd shift on my own off orientation) I work NICU.

I am a very anxious person in general, I take Xanax (prescribed) a lot before work which I do find to be helpful. I have HUGE issues with guilt, and feeling like I am a bad nurse. (I had a lot of guilt in nursing school as well)

I know I am inexperienced and that has a lot to do with my performance if I believe it to be sub-par, but sometimes I feel guilty about things.

For example, I do a lot of sterile gloving at work, a lot of the times the procedures aren't even actually sterile, but we try to just keep it as clean as we can. Most times it goes fine, but sometimes I will glove, and feel as if maybe a bit of the glove grazed my hand or something and thus got contaminated. I've had times when I've regloved because I worry but then other times when I second guess myself or worry about time and think "its not truly sterile anyway and I don't even know if it touched me", if it was blatantly obvious I touched the glove I would re-glove but these are iffy times. Ugh, wow I really sound crazy right now :uhoh3: I guess another example would be patient admissions, when I even just think of them I get queezy, im terrified of them because I haven't really done many and now on my own I feel I wouldn't remember what to do. Because of this feeling I find myself not wanting to do them at all, thus I feel like I am a lazy nurse and here comes the guilt again. :crying2:

I guess its just when there are times at work when I feel rushed and like I'm not doing things as well as I know I can, I feel very guilty about it later, like I dont deserve to be a Nurse. I know I care and that I do good things too, and I love my patients and familys, but I am consumed by regret and self-loathing when I do things in haste.

.....has anyone every felt anything similar?...and yes, I need to go to therapy :( I already have an appointment.


5 Articles; 404 Posts

Specializes in Hem/Onc/BMT. Has 11 years experience.

Have I felt anything similar? Yes. When I was struggling with major depression years ago.

I'm glad you have an appointment. You've already taken the big step -- recognizing that you have a problem and need a professional help. I wish you only the best. :hug:


160 Posts

Specializes in Neonatal ICU. Has 5 years experience.

First off..I'm going to give you one of these..:hug:

I kind of know how you feel. I am a new grad that just started in the NICU in January and I have cried after a shift because I felt like I didn't give my patients the best care possible. Well, I felt ok until I gave report and the oncoming nurse made me feel that way. :crying2:

I think a big part of it, at least for me, is the fact that my patients are these tiny, innocent humans that have no control over what we are doing to them. They depend on us for absolutely everything and it breaks my heart when I think that I have given them sub par care. Sometimes I feel like they deserve a better nurse than me, and that is because I am so new that I don't quite know what I am doing yet. We all have to start somewhere!

I think the worrying and guilt is just a part of being a new grad? I have only worked 1 shift on my own with level 2 babies and I was a nervous wreck the whole time. Hopefully those feelings will decrease with the more time we spend working on our own? I don't know, but I hope so! I am also ready to not feel like a complete moron on a daily basis.

I definitely can relate with you on the sterility thing, we use sterile gloves for changing tubing and stuff like that, but it's not technically a sterile procedure. Admissions scare the crap out of me too. I have only assisted with 1 and it took over 3 hours. It was nuts! I hope that when you do get them, that you have lots of support and help surrounding you. The NICU world is so different than the adult world. I hope that aside from the feelings you are experiencing, you are enjoying your job! I love it and cannot imagine working anywhere else. I wish you the best of luck.

allnurses Guide


7,058 Posts

Specializes in Peds/outpatient FP,derm,allergy/private duty. Has 47 years experience.

Yeah, I've had anxiety issues in varying degrees throughout the years and a tendency to obsess about things. For me, anxiety and OCD feelings (ie being preoccupied with the thought of glove contamination) were often intertwined. It's very common, more so in high acuity units and more so when you are new. I've had to figure out various strategies depending on the situation. That just means, to me, that working in a hospital has a different set of anxiety producing stimuli than working in outpatient surgery or a clinic, for example.

Feeling like you don't deserve to be a nurse? lol, yeah- like pretty much for 2 years, and still sometimes now. Ironically, it's often us perfectionists who feel that way most often. For two years if I saw the Head Honcho nurse waayyy down the hall, I would hyperventilate because I was just sure she was on her way over to fire me!:lol2: Why? Didn't know. She was just going to fire me! Now in hindsight I realize she very likely didn't know my name and only came around to ask people to work doubles.

There are lots of strategies to deal with anxiety. Counseling, as you mentioned, cognitive therapy, relaxation techniques, drug therapy. Usually the degree to which these things help is very individualized. There are a few books that have helped me cope. I've got a handle on it now, probably just from repeating the same action thousands of times without a negative outcome- maybe that will help you stop worrying about all the calamities and "what ifs". My brain is just wired like that, though. I did, I confess, return to my job tonight a couple minutes after I left to make sure I put a vent circuit together securely, because-what-if-the-tubing-broke-from-the-humidifier-and-the-alarms-malfunctioned-the-patient-would-die-and-it-would-be-all-my-fault. So, you are not alone. Best wishes. :)


21 Posts

+111111 for the :hug:above.

Specializes in CPAN. Has 25 years experience. that's alot...but yes..any nurse who says she has never been nervous is lying...we all questions our selves at some are a very conciencious nurse. Slow down....when you rush you can make a mistake...slow down...your alright!! (Huggs)