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New Grad feeling depressed, anxious and hopeless


Specializes in Registered Nurse. Has 2 years experience.

Hi everyone,

I still consider myself to be a new grad - I've been working in med/surg and orthopaedics since March 2014. All throughout nursing school, I always felt like I didn't deserve to be there; that I wasn't smart enough, hard-working enough or talented enough. Even though I passed all my clinicals and graduated with distinction, I still felt like I fell short of my classmates. Throughout nursing school and the past year as a new grad, it has both astounded and scared me how little I know and how much I have to learn - how can I feel competent to care for patients feeling this way?

My work related anxiety over the past year has been high and low at times - however, recently it has become almost paralyzing. Last month, I called in sick four times due to anxiety and stress related headaches. I've also developed terrible insomnia - I used to be able to fall asleep within minutes, if not seconds. I've just all of a sudden become terrified of the possibility that I could cause harm to a patient, either through something I've done (i.e. a med error) or something I haven't done (i.e. failing to assess a patient properly).

Any time I think about going into work I start to cry and my mind starts racing with all of the "what ifs" that could happen on a shift. I find the thought of day shifts especially anxiety provoking, as I usually have a team of 5 patients, which means 5 sets of assessments, vitals, meds, labs to check, doctors to deal with, etc. And the patients are so sick and dependent I never feel that I'm giving them the care they deserve, which makes me even more anxious and depressed.

I know that everything I've described is the bread and butter of bedside nursing - however, I know in my heart that med/surg nursing is not for me. It's my dream to work on a postpartum ward, and eventually in public health nursing. I am so, so passionate about health promotion and prevention but it seems so hard to get into public health without killing myself at the bedside for years...I just don't know what to do. I feel helpless, sad and anxious all the time. I've stopped exercising and seeing my friends because I have no desire to. I feel like I should be getting more confident as time goes on, but I feel the opposite...I feel like my fellow new grads are getting more confident, and I'm becoming more and more fearful and anxious :( I never, ever felt depressed or hopeless before nursing and it makes me feel like a failure. I feel like I wasted my three years in nursing school to become an RN...even though I do love being able to help patients, I don't know how much longer I can do this for...I just feel like I'll never know what I'm doing because I'm crippled with anxiety. Is is really worth it to suffer this way?

Edited by MedSurgRN193


Specializes in nurseline,med surg, PD. Has 50+ years experience.

Make an appt with your physician. There's no need to suffer. Things WILL get better.

Yes, seek medical (mental health, really) assistance. Best wishes for your journey!

maybe you should take a break from working for awhile

MedSurgRN193, BSN, RN

Specializes in Registered Nurse. Has 2 years experience.

Thanks for your replies, everyone. I did just take a few weeks off of work, but I don't think it helped too much. I've also been to see a therapist several times, but that also provided minimal assistance. I really want to avoid the medication route if I can...not that I pass judgment on anyone who utilizes medication to assist with mental health issues. It's just that I don't want to become reliant on anything in order to get me through every single shift.

I guess I have some thinking to do :unsure:

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 20 years experience.

Don't be too quick to dismiss medications. They can help you get through the current crisis until you're on firmer footing. It doesn't mean you'll have to stay on meds for the rest of your life; many people use them for a short time to help them through a bad patch and then never need them again.

Please see your health care provider, and keep going to therapy even though you don't think it's helping. Could be you just need a different therapist.

Best of luck to you. I've been where you are and you have my sympathies.

MedSurgRN193, BSN, RN

Specializes in Registered Nurse. Has 2 years experience.

Thank you so much for your post. Not that I am ever glad to hear that others have gone through what I'm going through, but it does help to know that I'm not alone in having these issues. I think I might try your idea of going to a different therapist, and maybe consider the medication route if things continue on this way...again, thanks everyone for the support and well wishes - they mean a lot, especially considering most of us are complete strangers on this site

hppygr8ful, ASN, RN, EMT-I

Specializes in Psych, Addictions, SOL (Student of Life). Has 19 years experience.

What scares you so much about medication? I have been taking low dose anti-depressants for years and I function so much better. I am the charge nurse for a 37 patient LTC. So I know what you mean about never feeling like you get a full assessment. Maybe you could dial back to to part-time. If you want to do Postpartum go for it but you'll still have 4 to patients (really 8-10 when you figure in the babies). Anxiety disorders can be debilitating but they can be treated. Start exercising again and please see a doctor - there is no shame in asking for help you need to put your Oxygen mask on first before you can save anyone else

You also need to go to your physician and get a complete physical work-up You may just have a crazy thyroid that needs minor adjustment with hormone replacement.

Peace and Namaste


I guess I have some thinking to do :unsure:


Specializes in nurseline,med surg, PD. Has 50+ years experience.

Many nurses take anti depressants.. Depression and anxiety are part of nursing. I couldn't function without prozac.

MedSurgRN193, BSN, RN

Specializes in Registered Nurse. Has 2 years experience.

Nothing scares me about medication...I think it's the fact that I've been previously healthy for my whole life, and have always preferred to treat any short term ailments in the most natural way possible (i.e. exercise, good nutrition). Obviously, there are some ailments that do require medication, and I will definitely consider that route if these issues go on for much longer. However, I also know that bedside nursing is not for me long term, and that it is causing much of my anxiety and depression, which is why I plan to pursue public health - it aligns much better with my personality and long term goals. Thanks for sharing your personal experience with me, hppygr8ful, as well as for the words of wisdom :)

I have had problems with depression and anxiety off and on my whole life. It doesn't get better on its own.

You said you've stopped exercising and going out with friends, which is indicative of anhedonia. This is a big warning sign that you have slipped into clinical depression and will need meds to get you out of the black hole you are in.

I have been on an antidepressant in the short term before. It will probably do you a world of good.

Try to resume your exercise and make sure you have a good diet. These will help bring back some of the enjoyment to your life and form a great basis for healing.

I am really glad you are reaching out. It sounds like you have recognized that you are in a dangerous place and are ready to get on the road to recovery. Don't be afraid to try out different avenues until you find what works for you. You may need to look for a new position that doesn't feed your symptoms. I second the idea to try a different therapist, especially if you feel you aren't progressing.

I hope you feel better soon.

MedSurgRN193, BSN, RN

Specializes in Registered Nurse. Has 2 years experience.

Thank you so, so much for the kind words, advice and encouragement, canigraduate. I think this whole experience has just thrown me for a loop because I've never had prolonged anxiety or feelings of hopelessness/depression before. This is all new to me, and I'm glad there are platforms such as this website for me to reach out for help...I have very supportive friends and family, but I often find it hard to fully express what I'm going through as none of them are in nursing. I am going to try very, very hard to get back to eating well and exercising, as well as try to move to a different area of work and a different therapist.

Thanks again everyone, your kind words, guidance and advice have filled me with hope and determination to get myself through this difficult time. xo

I believe that if you take one step at a time, you could become a great public health nurse OR med surg nurse. Give yourself as many breaks as you can right now, reach out to your family and friends, and also reflect on the reasons that you are motivated to be a nurse in general, a public health nurse, and postpartum nurse. Don't believe people who say that you need year(s) of bedside nursing to achieve the position that you want, because you never know what can happen if you explore your options, do your research, and network. :)

Why did you feel like you didn't deserve to be in nursing school, and that you weren't smart enough? You obviously were because you made it!

It sounds like you are being your own worst enemy, and being really hard on yourself. Try to make sure to love yourself and go in each day and know that you're going to do the best you can with your resources.

Also medsurg is SOO stressful and some measure of anxiety is normal. I've been doing it for 5 years and it still stressed me out . I do take an antidepressant, have been on it since nursing school (yeah...go figure) but anyway it has helped me to just calm my brain down a little so I could think clearer and not have so much anxiety .

Good luck to you. Best wishes.

No Stars In My Eyes

Specializes in Med nurse in med-surg., float, HH, and PDN. Has 43 years experience.

I, too, was very reluctant about taking medications for the depression I'd had for quite a long time without even realizing it. In fact, when my doc ventured the opinion that my problems sounded more like depression than anything else was, "I'm not depressed!" Then I saw an as on TV that listed the s/s of depression and I realized I had all of them but one.

The doc explained to me that treating depression with a med or meds was just like treating diabetes or anything else of that sort of thing, ie hypothyroidism, etc. You can try to do the diet, exercise route and it will work to a degree, but if it is an imbalance, it won't be 'cured' on its own.

Once I found the right medication, and it did take several tries, I no longer felt in the grip of something over which I had 'no control'.

I am able to function without feeling panicked in my head. Stuff previously debilitating, though I was able to 'hide it',has lost its power over my day-to-day life.

I can not tell you what a relief it is to know that I have a completely legitimate and time-tested way to bring my life back into the realm of normalcy.

Nurse Beth, MSN

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

My heart goes out to you. You are not alone! Many, many of us have experienced anxiety, depression, and self-doubt at different times. When you feel this way, you really can't trust your own negative thoughts.

This isn't about your competency as a nurse. It's about getting treatment and finding your nursing niche.You already know what that niche is :) and it's not not MedSurg!

Best of luck, nurse friend. Rooting for you!

I agree with the others that it sounds like you're depressed, which is making everything seem negative. I've been there. I can't say enough for therapy and/or medication. Also hope you'll make an appointment to see your PCP-sounds like you're a very caring nurse to your pts. but not taking such great care of yourself.

We all care about you & hope you're feeling better soon.

Throughout nursing school and the past year as a new grad, it has both astounded and scared me how little I know and how much I have to learn - how can I feel competent to care for patients feeling this way?

What has been helpful for me is to continue working on increasing my knowledge of the medical conditions, medical care, and nursing care common to med-surg patients. This takes time; it is a process. To begin with, I would be asking myself: "What do I need to know/be competent at doing, in order to provide safe, effective, nursing care to my patients?"

Edited by Susie2310