Meltdown at Work and Feel like a Failure

by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist)

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

How can I get past this embarrassing incident at work? Is it not too late for a career change? What where can I fit and work happily? Am I even employable? You are reading page 2 of Meltdown at Work and Feel like a Failure. If you want to start from the beginning Go to First Page.


88 Posts

*Long post caution! NM just got their lock down extended today for the next...who knows how many weeks. Gonna be a whole lotta time spare time and I'm pretty talkative LOL

I once had a teacher question me for 45 minutes on a presentation she described as a, '2-3 minute summary of a part of the chapter," before assigning it. The presentation was basically a punishment for the class doing poorly on the mock final...I spent about 10 minutes putting it together. Lots of eye rolling, sighing, 'how do you have a bachelor's degree?" Yes, she did say that with me in front of 100+ classmates.

I actually consider myself a crier too, but I didn't thankfully. I did end up going back to my apartment, curling up in bed and crying the rest of the night once it kind of hit me. A couple of my classmates also lived at my complex and knocked on my door to if I was OK and were the only ones that saw I had been crying. I didn't even realize some of the other students actually walked out during and reported it to the dean while I was up there. I was so embarrassed to show up the next day. Apparently everyone felt bad for me and couldn't believe I handled myself so well when someone was being so rude to me. I just didn't perceive my response that way at all, like in any way. Self perception is extremely subjective in high stress situations.

I found out later that this was the only teacher at the school that had not been able to pass the USMLE exam and did not have a medical license for that reason. I'm sure she felt inferior and that it probably contributed to how she treated me.

I also had a little bit of a nervous breakdown on a plane to my small NM town (it runs 2 days a week, my town population is 25,000 and I recognized like half the people on the plane) They overbooked the flight and stopped my sister as we were walking into that retractable hallway to the plane, with me continuing forward with all of her stuff (ID, credit card, everything) unbeknownst to me that she wasn't boarding the flight as the flight is leaving the gate. You know what? eff you too phoenix airport united employees! Sometimes outrageous actions solicit outrageous responses.

If your coworkers are doing that to you/getting a laugh at your expense (whatsapp group...seriously?!) it kind of speaks more about them than you. I've been a patient in a couple of waiting rooms overhearing pretty deprecating talk of patients coming in/leaving (by doctors and nurses, male and female and def not the stereotype of the secretary doing her nails on the phone!) and I didn't go back/reveal anything that could stigmatize me in the future for that reason.

Whatever you did, your response was probably appropriate or you're misperceiving it all together (both your coworkers thoughts about you and how you reacted). TBH it sounds like you are pretty self conscious and I have a feeling it wasn't as bad as you thought it was.


6,090 Posts

On 11/25/2020 at 6:45 AM, Nurse Beth said:

There is help for every one of your symptoms, and it can be as simple as a doctor visit, diagnosis, and treatment. So in addition to talk therapy, make an appointment to see your doctor.

I typed this and then was scrolling back through to see if anyone mentioned it. 🙂

First step in my book.


Specializes in Medical-Surgical Nurse, Community Health Nurse. Has 39 years experience. 101 Posts

Be strong and brave. Don't pray for easy lives!

You care too much about what people think. You can be a nurse but you lack confidence. Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself. It's a saying I have, sometimes you have to do whst you don't want to do till you can do what you want to do. Is that the case for you? Be the best you and your best friend to yourself. Don't kick yourself down. Start getting some help or atleast read some therapy type books. Tell yourself that you are able to overcome things. Everyone gets scared or lacks confidence at some point but some  don't show it. You showed it so cry if you want but know when and where to do it. People want to work with someone that appears to have it together in case they need help or just so things go smooth. You will be fine. You can be a nurse if you want but you can't keep running when things get tough. Nursing will kick your butt at times but you will gain confidence as you go through it. I saved a ladies life at work with my hands an an ambu bag. No other equipment. Everyone except the co-worker with the ambu bag froze up. At 1 point I was nervous about if I would do all things right and I did better than I could ever imagined because I had confidence that grew over the years of experience.



Specializes in Medical-Surgical Nurse, Community Health Nurse. Has 39 years experience. 101 Posts

Hi Workitimurfava,

I don't clearly get what you mean!

I am trying to learn something from you but somehow get confused. You imply that confidence gained through many years of nursing experiences makes someone become a better nurse and save many lives or perform some special skills in special occasions?

Are you trying to  to digest on "Meltdown at Work and Feel like a Failure"? In other words? What makes you a good nurse and how do you measure your nursing achievements? Please, help me understand what you are implying!


What I mean is as time goes by and you actively engage yourself in the process of working as a nurse your confidence should increase as you have gained time and experience working as a nurse. You must really want to learn to be a good nurse a d learn from your mistakes to become a better nurse. 


Specializes in Medical-Surgical Nurse, Community Health Nurse. Has 39 years experience. 101 Posts

Hi Workitinurfava,

Thank you very much for much for your reply.  Confidence is one of the 4Cs of nursing profession.  Those 4Cs are:

1.  Nursing Is Caring

2. Nursing is Compassion

3.  Nursing is Confidence

4.  and Nursing is Confidentiality

Thank you very much for hitting one key component of the 4Cs of nursing profession.

I totally agree with you. Normally, a longer period of nursing experiences leads to greater nursing confidence.

Good luck in your daily activities.  You have a noble profession!


Specializes in emergency. Has 1 years experience. 13 Posts

Such a compassionate response from Nurse Beth.

And sending a big hug to Meltdown.

Meltdown, take some time to do some self care. You did not fail! You had a bad day (or two). Big deal! I have face-planted very publicly many times (and I imagine it will happen again). Hang in there, Meltdown!


157 Posts

Being a Nurse is at times a hard, emotional, draining experience.  All of us at one point in our Nursing Career have a time when given the circumstances we could lose it, cry, cuss, hit, walk out, or pass out.  Like some have mentioned.  Try to see about talking with a counselor or pastor.  You have done the hard work of school, passing the NCLEX and are a Nurse.  Like some have mentioned you may find you do better in Home Care or Long Term Care.  We all have to find our niche where we feel we supported and can preform our job.  I myself have worked with some wonderful Nurses and co-workers as well as the back biting, cruel ones.  I didn't cry in front of them, I on the other hand vent loudly what I want to say.  Which also does not look good.  I had no problem working with them after that, just kept my distance and kept increasing my skills knowing that would get me out of that toxic place.  I took Professional Development classes outside of work, paid for them myself.  Good Luck and Best Wishes for your future.  Talking with a Professional may be a good starting point for you.