Lost, Afraid and feeling like a failure...now what?

Nurses New Nurse


I am hoping to find some good advice and maybe some insight. I graduated in May 2008, passed boards in June 08 and then took the summer off to spend with my kids and take care of my mother after her foot surgery. I finally took a position in one of the 2 hospitals withing 60 miles of my home. It was agreed that I would not have to take charge until I had been there atleast 6 months and I was told I would not have to work every other Sat and Sun as we would be changing to 1 wkend/month.

My first day of orientation on the floor my preceptor got sick and began vomiting in the cafateria where she remained (not the bathroom) until we went to the floor again. She eventually went home and I finished the day with someone else. That should have been my first clue. The next few weeks were all about the same awful. First of all we only had one CNA and she was only there for about 4 hours in the morning. If you were lucky she may take 1 or 2 pts and do baths, beds etc. Once she left it was all on the nurses which was never more than 3/shift. Most of the time each nurse had atleast 5-6 pts and it could go to 7 or 8 depending on adm. Additional help never. There was a unit sec to take orders and put them in the computer such as for labs, menu, x-ray etc but she too was only there for part of the time (never on Sun nights) and she usually left around 4pm. This meant the nurse was also responsible for order entry and putting new charts together for admitts if she was not there. The RN (only one per shift) was also responsible for reviewing and sighning off all new orders on charts, reviewing admit papers for all pts, of course RN was automatically charge for the shift, administering all IV push pain meds and starting all PCA pumps and changing med in pumps. All of this while still having her own pt load. They made pt assignments based on location so regardless of what was in the rooms you were assigned a group of rooms such as 110-115 because they felt it was easier to not have to run across the hall or whatever.

My preceptor was very nice however she spent most of the time just laughing and using good ol southern charm instead of really getting things done. Don't get me wrong she did take care of her pts we just had a different view of what that meant. If I am going to take a brief half way off to take a photo of a decub and I discover my pt is wet and needs changing then I am going to go ahead and do it but her favorite saying was "don't you worry honey we will get it all done, but that's just going to have to wait till later".

When I had been there 6 wks (still on orientation) the RN on shift (I didn't count yet since still orienting) decided I would be charge. At 8wks when she tried it again I refused. When I said no she asked why and I explained the agreement of 6 months due to being a new grad, she responded with "WHAT... must be nice, when I graduated I had to take charge my second wk". From that point on she was not very helpful.

Once I was off of orientation (the end of 8wks), NO one had time to help. Sink or Swim was the name of the game and I was definently sinking or so I felt. I was always scared. I never had time for a meal again because I always wanted to make sure all of my pts were clean, dry, fed and meds were given before I would go eat and by the time I would get to that point I would be told I had and adm coming or I had missed my time to go (everyone chose when they wanted to go to lunch first thing in the morning and if yours passed and you didn't oh well). I wasn't sure of meds so I would have to look them up, and I wasnt sure of some administrations (dilute or not etc), I was scared to death of the thought of a code. I always second guess myself so jump and run and be positive you know what you are doing is NOT me.

I finally just gave up, I couldn't take the stress anymore. I felt ill knowing I had to go to work, I cried almost everyday and I hated feeling so incompetent I mean all the other nurses there were doing fine and they all took lunch etc. Even the other new RN did great she was always calm, seemed to know her stuff and took charge after working 3 wks no problem.

Anyway I quit back in Dec and have been out of work since. I hated having to work every other wkend. My days off were usually in the middle of the wk when my husband was working and kids (now 14 and 10) were at school. I just don't know what to do. I loved making people feel better, showing them I cared. At the end of my shifts many of my pts asked if I would be there the next day and expressed what a good nurse they thought I was because I was so caring and took the time with them. I guess if caring and patience was enough I would be great but its not. I am not very good at starting IV's and no one wants a nurse who needs someone else to start her IV's half the time and there is so much I either didn't learn or have forgotten.

Now I am just lost. I feel like a complete idiot. I always felt stupid for asking questions especially more than once like how to set up an IV for an infant. I feel like I didn't actually learn anything in school. I graduated with honors, passed board on my first try with 75 questions and feel like a failure as a nurse. Now what? There is the hospital 10 min from my home but I don't know if they will even consider me since I quit my 1st job after only 2 and 1/2 months and without giving notice (I was not scheduled for 2 more days and I did offer to come back and work that Sat to finish that pay period but was told not to worry about it they were covered). Even if I did get the job I don't know if I can do it after all I couldn't the first time and now its been just over a year since I graduated and 7 months since I have worked at all. NOW WHAT???????????:bugeyes::cry::cry: Sorry Sooooo Long!

Specializes in Med-Tele, Internal Med PCU.

As I see it you had a great experience of what you don't want, or want to be. But put all of your negative experiences aside, and you will find that you did learn alot of good useful information.

I commend you on having the strength of character and courage to not allow yourself to get "adjusted" to their routine.

As was said, I'd list the position on my resume put on the happy face and say that you moved on due to the drive and personal issues going on at the time. Chances are others know what's going on there.

Specializes in PerioOperative Nursing & Psych.

WOw.... that experience was horrendous... and right now I am almost in the same position , except I got lucky and got a PRN job in Psych, which is helping to keep our lives afloat for now... but all I can tell you is pray... pray pray... Becuase that is what I have to be doing to hope to find a job. ANd I will pray for you as well!!!

Specializes in med surg.

Thank you Celia214 for your prayers. I hope you enjoy Psych and hopefully you will find exactly what you are looking for. Lucky for me my husband makes enough to keep us afloat so I don't have to work right now. I say that's lucky, it is in a way because it helps to relieve some of the stress but at the same time it also alows me a way out of facing my fears and weaknesses. I am continuing to search my soul for what I truly feel I am supposed to be doing.

Good luck in your future as a nurse!

Specializes in med surg.

Over the past few wks I have spent a lot of time on this site reading all kinds of posts from new grads that are afraid, feel like they didn't learn anything in school or have forgotten every thing already etc. As I have read these I have also spent time thinking about my first job and how I gave up on myself after only a few wks and really taking a hard look at myself. I am still scared to death of trying again and failing. I know there is alot I have forgotten since its been 8 months since I have doon anything in the field but I think I am going to give it a try. I may not even get an interview but its worth a try I think.

I pulled out a book a purchased in school called "How to Get Straight A's in Med/Surg" and some other reference materials I have and started reviewing the info. I thought if I atleast read over the material it will help to refresh my mind on the basic patho, diseases and the nursing care for them and I thought I would begin reviewing my pharmacology book from nursing school.

Right now my plan is to spend the next couple of wks reviewing and trying to get back in "nurse" mode and making sure my resume is straight. I think I will apply for a position on the med/surg/peds/telem unit at the hosp that is 10 min from home. I am hoping I can get a part time position working 16-24hrs/wk. I think part time will be better because I have to spend so much time in other responsibilities such as my kids, church, taking my grandmother to appts and running all of her errands not to mention my husband travels a fair amt for his job. I am hoping working fewer hrs and not spending so much time commuting will help to take some of the pressure off. As I have reviewed the events of the first job I realized a portion of the problem was getting up @ 5am to be at work by 6:30 and even when I worked 8hr shift I had to wait for my husband to get off @5pm and sometimes as late as 7pm to pick me up and then the 1hr drive home and this was 4x/wk.

Having said all of that I have a few questions...

1) Would it be better to try for a night shift position? I have heard things usually slow down around 11pm leaving the rest of the shift calmer to review p&p manual and talk with other nurses about how they do things etc and to get charting done without the phone ringing 50million times etc.

2) If asked in interview about my previous job, reason for leaving, and why I have been out of work since then how should I respond? Especially since I technically did not give any notice. I simply spoke to the NM at the end of my shift and explained how I felt. She said she thought it was coming and understood but hated to see me go. I offered to come back on Sat which was my last scheduled day for that pay period but she said there was no need that she had overstaffed for that day anyway and she would have had to call someone off anyway. I know it was stupid but I did not give a written notice nor did I come back after that day. I had worked approx. 70 days total. Should I explain during interview or say as little as possible and hope they don't call for a ref from that hospital or that they won't say I just left?

Thank you all for listening and for the advice.:confused::confused::confused:

3) What would be some good questions to ask them in interview?

4) Does anyone have any other suggestion for me to prepare after being out of work for so long?

To the original poster: Sounded exactly like my first hospital job as an RN...only I basically had ONE day of orientation...yes ONE...as a fairly new grad..due to "short staffing"...so I was given 4 pts on day 2 and left to fend for myself. Also, was scheduled as CHARGE nurse like 2 weeks in...so I resigned...I also complained numerous times for more orientation (DUH!!!). I felt like it was a very unsafe environment for me to be caring for med/surg patients and not getting any guidence. I DO NOT list this job on my resume. I found a job working with developmentally disabled clients administering meds and very minor first aid in group homes. I am also now working as a case manager (YAY!!!!). I will NEVER work in a hospital again!!!!!!!!!!!!! And its true most places besides hospitals prefer LPNs but I did work in a DR's office, they just pay a LOT less, and I was also the only RN working with the DD clients.

To the last post about if night shift is easier...that's what I was counting on and why I chose it at my hospital position...but NOPE....no one seems to sleep...the call lights dont stop going off...still no one around to help...no secretary at night so you put together charts and put in orders....still get lots of admissions....and even though I'm a night owl it basically made me feel horrendous and unhealthy.

And again....it's not really a good idea if you can help it to list a job you only stayed at a few weeks. I don't, and no one has ever questioned that gap in employment. I feel like even though it was a good decision for me to leave the hospital job, it still "looks" bad on a resume.

Specializes in Emergency Department.

alrighty jvrbr6-

you sound exactly like my wife. she's finishing up her bsn, and has said repeatedly "i don't feel like i am learning anything, i'm scared, i'm worried... "

it's very understandable, because you aren't learning anything real world. you don't learn anything at all in school. in my experience, as a paramedic for 10 yrs, i absolutely didn't feel comfortable until like 2 years in. even then i would get shaken on calls. the only thing that "saved" me was repetition, repetition, repetition. i'm still green as ever in the nursing field. if i don't know how to do something? i ask.

a few things i've realized over the years of paramedicine and nursing...

-you aren't going to remember what any med is or what it does until you've looked it up a hundred times.

-you are going to be terrified... ask questions. that's what good nurses are for. i agree with what the professor stated earlier. there are no stupid questions. if someone chastises you for that... pi$$ on them. find someone else. don't let some old nurse drag you down with their negativity.

-you are going to suck at ivs... keep sticking people. until you get your technique down, it's going to be rough. there are going to be days you could hit someone blindfolded and running... and others where you couldn't hit sand if you fell off a camel. don't worry about it.

at the end of the day, all you need to look back on is how "i" did. did i help where i could, did i give someone a smile when they needed it, and did i give everything i could to make someone's chemo or dialysis or ng tube just a little easier? if you can say yes, then you succeeded?

get a job and get to work!! i'd be proud to work with you. because it sounds like to me, you're in it for the right reasons.

What a horrible experience. Life is what you make it, find another job another area of nursing and don't be too hard on yourself. We need more caring nurses like you in our profession. No one as a new grad should be expected to know it all and take charge. Bets of luck.

Specializes in med surg.

Thank you so much to everyone. You have all been a major source of encouragement. I just printed an application for the hospital near me and I spoke with a friend who works there this wk end and apparently someone just turned in their resignation. She was full time but I am hoping they will consider splitting the time between me and someone else as I need to only work part time to allow me time for the care of my grandmother, kids, church resp. etc.

I am so glad that I posted this thread. I have felt like such a failure, idiot and fraud for months now. Everyone else in my class has moved ahead in their careers with no apparent difficulty and here I sit stagnant. Your wonderful, encouraging and honest responses have given me a new sense of strength and courage to move forward. I certainly hope my future co-workers will be as wonderful as all of you have been (assuming I get hired).

Thank you again!!!!


sounds like you have all the right qualities for being a great nurse. Although you might believe what I just said. The reason I say this is because you and I sound so much alike. However, I am very encouraged by this dialogue and please take the advice given here. Talking to someone on a regular basis about your low self esteem and journally will help you in so many ways. Be encouraged and I know you will do wonderfully. God's blessings!

i feel like a failure, cannot keep a job

Why do you feel that way?

i feel like a failure, cannot keep a job

Thanks I am still making out applications. and still trying. Started to read the bible with lady in may church 3 days a week in am. is helping. I do read on my own but it is great companionship and encouragement.

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