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Life as a Nurse

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This article presents what nurses have to endure on a daily basis. I just want people to understand that it takes a lot of heart to do our job. Honestly, nurses are a special breed of people.

Life as a Nurse

I never thought that I would become a nurse. I never intended to. But, God has a funny sense of humor, and I wasn't laughing all the time.

There are days that you have to literally grind your teeth, to keep your composure. Sometimes being a nurse means knowing when to duck. You know, when irritable patient starts throwing things at you. Especially when you tell them they are on a strict bedrest, and that climbing out of bed means the exact opposite.

I have a colleague that while feeding his patient via nasogastric tube, the patient was punching his abdomen. Others would try to sink their teeth on you. Some are able to kick the nurses while letting out some curses. Mind you, these were all done by an 87yo female patient. Surely, she was an instant hit in the area. We would then ask her if she was a former ninja.

I couldn't possibly tell how much sacrifices we nurses have to endure. So, it is true, not all jobs are created equal.

It starts with working on a rotating schedule. Just when you thought you have finally got the hang of it, it's time to start a different one. It's worst for those who are on a floating schedule, today you're 6-2, tomorrow 10-6, the next day off, then 6a-6p.

Next, our break time is undefined. For example, it doesn't mean that when the clock strikes 12 we can take our lunch. Nope. Twelve noon means feeding the patients and not the nurses. Break time is when you are able to find one.

I just don't know how many times my colleagues and I have thought of drinking the osteorized food of our patients out of hunger. I'm a small person and my husband is thrice my size, but I can beat him anytime of who can eat the fastest contest. That's one trait you develop as a nurse, along with the ability to hold your bladder for more than 8 hours.

On my first two months as a nurse, I lost 10 pounds. Not only that, I had urinary tract infection (UTI) for months. I was losing weight because I wasn't eating enough and the work was too much. I had UTI because I don't empty my bladder, and I am not taking enough fluids. It's not that I'm ignoring it. I found out that if you are too busy, you would feel no hunger nor urge to relieve yourself.

In the area where I work, it's not easy to leave your patients unattended. You don't know what could and might happen, for that split second you take your eyes off your patient. A confused person can easily remove vital contraptions that he has, like endotracheal tube or nasogastric tube, foley catheter, IV tubings etc. Some patients are really gifted, you can restraint every limb in their body, yet, like Houdini, can remove them with ease. You'll be amazed of what an 87yo woman can do, just to remove her contraptions (yep, it's the ninja octagenerian).

If you are a nurse, say goodbye to holidays. Gone are the days when I leaped with joy every time a holiday is being announced on television. I also stopped looking at the red marks on the calendar, as they don't serve me any purpose (except double pay). Last year, I have experienced my first new year in the hospital. While everyone else was busy celebrating the year end, I was busy talking to our resident doctor, discussing what to do to our patients, in order for them to see another year.

It is not easy calling in sick if your company runs a hospital. Your employer have bunch of doctors and diagnostic equipment ready to verify your excuse. The good thing is, if you really are sick, they don't want you anywhere within 5 feet of the hospital walls. Again, if you are really sick.

In a normal job, you can hit the door at the end of your shift. In the hospital, you need to be sure that you have someone to endorse your patient to. If not, you cannot leave work, and have a very high chance of probability that you will wrestle another 8 hours of shift. Last year, when a super typhoon hit Manila, quite a number of nurses had to work 24 hours straight because their reliever cannot go to the hospital due to flood.

Health hazard is an understatement. Unlike doctors who spend time with their patients for good 5-10 minutes a day, we nurses devote our entire shift to our patients. When doctors needed specimen, you can count on nurses to get it for them, be it blood, saliva, urine or feces. I swear, I'm just 5 suction catheters away to tell what kind of bacteria the patient has, just by looking at the color of their phlegm.

At first, I thought that only winged-living creatures can fly. But the same, is also true for blood, feces, urine and sadly, phlegm.

Ever since I became a nurse, my social life becomes non-existence. After work, the second my back touches my bed, I'm in lala land. Even the nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima won't be able to wake me up. In a good way, it helped me and husband save money. I don't have to buy new clothes, or buy food, since I don't go out that much and I eat very little. I also consider my scrub suits now as a formal wear, ready to use at any fine dining restaurant.

My love and hate relationship with nursing may still go on a daily basis. But, at the end of the day, when you know that somehow I contributed in piecing together the life of a person....being a nurse isn't that bad at all.

An ICU nurse in Manila for over a year. There are days I just love being a nurse. Other days, I would like to strangle myself.

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25 Comment(s)

your article makes me feel sad. it seems that you describe classic burn-out. we all feel this way sometimes, i believe. too me this is a strong indicator that you might benefit from a change in specialties.

i hope that our profession becomes more gratifying to you in the near future!

cherryames1949

Specializes in Oncology&Homecare. Has 27 years experience.

From your description it is hard to see what is good about your job. Sounds like it is time for a change. Maybe a different role or specialty. It doesn't sound worth it the way it is now. Take care of yourself and good luck in the future.:hug:

For someone who is on a path to enter the nursing field, this is a discouraging post. I hope this is the exception, and not the norm. I'm very excited about my future in this field, feeling I could do a lot of good - I hope I'm not writing a similar post a few years from now.

Unlike others, I will not poo-poo your heartfelt realities. I will embrace them, as they are nursing. Nurses are a special breed. Not everyone can be a nurse and nursing is not for everyone. You have to really love taking care of others to be successful in nursing. What is successful? Feeling as though you've made a difference in a pt's or pt's family's life. No matter how big or small.

You keep nursing. Keep loving your career, not just your job, or your paycheck. May the joy of the season show through in all you do!

GApsychNurse

Specializes in Psychiatric.

For someone who is on a path to enter the nursing field, this is a discouraging post. I hope this is the exception, and not the norm. I'm very excited about my future in this field, feeling I could do a lot of good - I hope I'm not writing a similar post a few years from now.

Well for your sake be prepared to meet the NORM. This is nursing! However, as the op said, at the end of the day it is quite rewarding. Every job has its specifics and this is it. The key is that you must LOVE what you do and gain enjoyment from seeing a job well done and people well cared for otherwise burnout IS the end result.

The op also left out the toll that comes from working with others who are not as thorough or compassionate, dealing with management who could care less what your needs are because they don't "realize" your value, even as you sacrifice day in and day out to insure the health of your patients. Did I mention the backbiting and the C-Y-A attitude that pervades the atmosphere. YUP that's nursing! Gotta love what you do or you WON"T survive that first year.

Good Luck!

This is a nicely written post that acknowledges the writer's love for nursing by pointing out how hard the work is and how the demands it makes on our lives are paid back by one small reward at the end of the day. If the truth of this post is discouraging to you, it is not the writer who should be considering a change of profession. After 34 years in nursing I still find it to be incredibly satisfying and an honor to care for the people of my community. Nursing is hard work and this post just points that out.

I am happy you posted this. I am a future nurse, and will be starting my formal nursing program in fall 2011. I know it is a long road to go, and I am excited to be beginning this journey.

It is good to hear the realities of the job and know that, even with all that you posted, I am still excited to become a nurse. I am changing careers, and believe me, every job has its ups and downs. I know that nursing will not be a cake-walk, but I know that I will be in a rewarding job, and at the end of the day when I come home exhausted and covered in who-knows-what that I made a difference that day.

Thanks, mushymash, for putting into print what many, many of us think every day. This is the reality of being a hospital staff nurse.

dbscandy

Specializes in Renal; NICU. Has 37 years experience.

Mushymash, you have written a very good article which hits home with many nurses who, rather than being 'burned out' as suggested by Heartnursern, are simply working to be the best they can be.

Yes, bedside nursing is labor intensive, heart-wrenching and sometimes dangerous (elderly people are often powerful). Families are occasionally a little psychotic & dangerous, also. Reading this made me realize how some days are when I come home and feel I have been left in high gear. I'm just grateful I 'kept 'em alive 'til night shift got there'.

However, this is not every day. And happily, more days are ones of feeling I really made a difference in that patient's eventual healthy outcome. Or, if too critical, perhaps I helped the patient in some small way in the passing of life.

I don't know how it is in Manila, or in other US settings, but nurses everywhere have to learn to take care of themselves and watch each other's backs. I am 57yrs old and used to be the owner of an 8-12hr bladder. I could hold it with the best of them. I realize now just how stupid it was and not something of which to be proud. There are no awards nor thanks for this except pee pads later in life. You are of no use to your team if you are suffering and not up to full health. Not peeing, eating, or sitting down for five minutes is ridiculous.

You have to make it happen.

Talk to the nurses working with you and be a team. Watch out for each other's patients for the few minutes it takes to take care of yourselves. Refuse to risk your health for your patients. There will be many more days of going home feeling better about your work when you do.

Mushymash, thank you for your dedication. Take care of yourself, though. We need nurses like you.

rndenise1959

Specializes in PHN, NSG Supervisor.

I can identify with this heartfelt post. It is this way on, I would think, a lot of floors that have critical patients. I worked on a telemetry floor my first year out of nursing school and it was the way this nurse described a lot of the time. Some day I would get home and go to the potty and think I didn't pee today! I guess I maybe paying for this now. LOL. You do have to watch the little old ladies that weigh 80 pounds. They are usually the ones that can be so strong. We had one on our floor that it took usually 4 of us to put her back to bed. One on each extremity. I also could not believe how some patients could get out of restraints and some could just break the straps at times of the Posey vests... I learned a lot on that floor and did feel a sense of pride most days when I left that I had made it through the shift. I had the oppurtunity to leave after the first year and go to my true love in nursing and that was public health nursing. I was so glad to be in a job that I had time to teach my patients and feel like maybe I was making a difference at times. Also, we had so much follow up because we saw the families month after month and year after year.

I am so glad that there are nurses that do work in the hospitals as floor nurses and do a good job at it. They are really needed and it does take a special person to work on the floor.

HI50

Has 6 years experience.

Thank you fMushymash for your post! I also agree with your point of view about nursing being a difficult profession that fosters the "love-hate" relationship. Most of us "REALISTIC" nurses have this feeling too. I have often wondered myself, if I wouldn't be happier, less stressed and have a better quality of life as a wallmart greeter. With that said, just when you feel like nursing isn't for you, something amazing happens where a patient, family member or boss gives you a compliment or a thank you, then it makes it all worth while!

For those of you out there suggesting a "change of profession" please be realistic! Nursing is HARD and so is life. We all have our good and bad days and sometimes we just need to vent and feel understood. Please hone into your compassionate side and be a nurse to your fellow nurses! Just listen! OR get off the thread if you dont like it! Either way, you have a choice.

Edited by HI50

SE_BSN_RN, BSN

Specializes in LTC, Agency, HHC. Has 8 years experience.

I have to disagree about the people that post about you sounding like you are burnt out. This is, indeed, the realities of nursing! No matter what specialty you work in, unless you work in a clinic 8-5, and some nurses do, you will absolutely have days like this....and not all days are like this. Although, this sounds more like nursing in LTC, rather than an ER! :D I couldn't work in the ER....never have! I have done agency nursing in sub-acute care, and that isn't as hectic. If you have good managers, they will cover you for a lunch and breaks. The sub acute care hospital I did agency for, the charge nurse assigned times for nurses lunches, and she covered your patients while you were gone....Luckily, they offered me a job as soon as I get my RN, and, man, I am sooooo there!! This shouldn't discourage new grads, but to give them some insight!

Edited by SE_BSN_RN

SE_BSN_RN, BSN

Specializes in LTC, Agency, HHC. Has 8 years experience.

Mushymash, you have written a very good article which hits home with many nurses who, rather than being 'burned out' as suggested by Heartnursern, are simply working to be the best they can be.

Yes, bedside nursing is labor intensive, heart-wrenching and sometimes dangerous (elderly people are often powerful). Families are occasionally a little psychotic & dangerous, also. Reading this made me realize how some days are when I come home and feel I have been left in high gear. I'm just grateful I 'kept 'em alive 'til night shift got there'.

However, this is not every day. And happily, more days are ones of feeling I really made a difference in that patient's eventual healthy outcome. Or, if too critical, perhaps I helped the patient in some small way in the passing of life.

I don't know how it is in Manila, or in other US settings, but nurses everywhere have to learn to take care of themselves and watch each other's backs. I am 57yrs old and used to be the owner of an 8-12hr bladder. I could hold it with the best of them. I realize now just how stupid it was and not something of which to be proud. There are no awards nor thanks for this except pee pads later in life. You are of no use to your team if you are suffering and not up to full health. Not peeing, eating, or sitting down for five minutes is ridiculous.

You have to make it happen.

Talk to the nurses working with you and be a team. Watch out for each other's patients for the few minutes it takes to take care of yourselves. Refuse to risk your health for your patients. There will be many more days of going home feeling better about your work when you do.

Mushymash, thank you for your dedication. Take care of yourself, though. We need nurses like you.

Amen!! Couldn't have said it better myself! ALWAYS take care of YOU....FIRST!

LEN-RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, LTC, Rehab, HH. Has 4 years experience.

Mushymash - thank you for your post. You described many of our days with exactness and humor. Keep up the good work and take bathroom breaks:).

I don't think nursing is for everyone!!! I have worked with some that are able to take their lunch, breaks and get off on time. And those are the ones who leave doctor orders undone, or patient treatments undone. And refuse to help others.

Meg, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, ICU.

I agree. Nursing is not for the faint of heart! This is my first year, and it has been one of the most difficult and yet rewarding experience of my life. I too have lost weight from running around on the job and have gotten UTIs from not taking pee breaks enough. But now my mentality is, that I've got to take good care of myself if I'm going to take good care of others. So now I make time for breaks, take my vitamins and know that the other nurses on my floor have my back.

For someone who is on a path to enter the nursing field, this is a discouraging post. I hope this is the exception, and not the norm. I'm very excited about my future in this field, feeling I could do a lot of good - I hope I'm not writing a similar post a few years from now.

Sorry to tell you this is quite the norm.. Floor nursing in a hospital environment is very difficult. You are it for all your pt's needs. Toileting, feeding, changing beds/bedpans. Techs are becoming extinct. Total care is becoming the norm.

Try it out. You will see. No it is not that bad, not all the time. Most days are horrible, it just makes you appreciate the good days more.

annlewis

Specializes in Long term care. Has 3 years experience.

a humorous and true post, thanks for the laugh...winged living creatures fly and so do feces, and otherwize