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FLmama FLmama (New Member) New Member

New grad at 44. I'm overwhelmed and ready to quit.

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Hello, everyone. As the title of my post states, I'm a new grad at 44. This is my second career.  I'm in my 10th week of orientation at a small community hospital on a very busy med/surg floor. We specialize in dialysis patients and the acuity level is high; lots of transfers to ICU. In the beginning of my orientation, I was with a preceptor who didn't really want to precept. I spoke up and was switched immediately. My preceptor since that time has been wonderful and very supportive. She says I'm ready to be on my own. However, as I'm nearing the end of my 12 week orientation, I'm panicking. I don't feel ready to be on my own with 5-6 patients. I'm struggling to manage it all. Between assessments, passing meds on time, charting, and constant interruptions, I'm operating at a high level of stress and I'm going out of my head. I cry all of the time (at work, at home, in my car, you name it.). The stress of the job follows me home at night and I can't seem to "leave it at work." I have heart palpitations, anxiety attacks, my family life is suffering. The high acuity of these patients scares me. Every single day I fantasize about quitting and doing something less stressful. However, from what I've read and what people tell me, I HAVE to do a year of med/surg in order to go anywhere else. Is this really true? Is that naive to ask? I don't know what to do or where to go, but bedside nursing is killin' me. Can anyone give some words of wisdom or maybe share their story? I'm a mess.

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Should you quit this job it is highly likely that your next job would be at a long term care facility, if they are hurting for employees.  I can assure you that the stress level will be as high, if not higher (they might hire you only for night shift and you might be the "ranking" nurse in the building, making you responsible for a lot more than you are now).  This is a good time to think constructively about ways to cope.  Develop stress relief strategies.  Learn how to ask for help.  When you get home, yeah, go ahead and cry, but limit the time you are miserable.  Progressively decrease that 'miserable' time.  Take care of your health.  Enjoy your family.  Pick one item at a time from a list that you make, of ways to make your shift go easier.  Work on that item until you have gained some confidence.  Then go on to the next item.  If you are proactive about improving on your prioritization and job performance in general, you will find that this makes you feel that you are your own agent of change and not just a "victim" with no say in the matter. 

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The one year in med-surg is a great way to develop and master your nursing skills. Does everyone do their one year before doing something else? No, they don't. Some get other positions right away. The thing is, no matter where they go, they are still new and that first year is still tough. You are finding your way now (instead of the nursing instructors or preceptors way). It gets better. 

That being said, do you already have ideas of what you think you want to do aside from bedside nursing? Is it all bedside nursing that you think is too much or just specifically your current unit? All areas of nursing have their pros and cons. I would highly recommend trying to stick this out and give it a chance. If you can't do that, then try to shadow areas you think you are interested in. If you do that, be sure to ask the nurses about their worst days and how often those days occur. Ask about their staffing, patient acuity, and how often they get lunch or get out on time. You might be surprised by how many other areas don't have it better than your current area. 

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On 1/16/2019 at 9:30 PM, FLmama said:

I'm a new grad.  I'm in my 10th week of orientation at a small community hospital on a very busy med/surg floor.  My preceptor since that time has been wonderful and very supportive. She says I'm ready to be on my own. However, as I'm nearing the end of my 12 week orientation, I'm panicking. I don't feel ready to be on my own with 5-6 patients. I'm struggling to manage it all. Between assessments, passing meds on time, charting, and constant interruptions, I'm operating at a high level of stress and I'm going out of my head. I cry all of the time (at work, at home, in my car, you name it.). The stress of the job follows me home at night and I can't seem to "leave it at work." I have heart palpitations, anxiety attacks, my family life is suffering. The high acuity of these patients scares me. Every single day I fantasize about quitting and doing something less stressful.

What you are experiencing is identical to what every other new grad coming off orientation feels. What you are feeling is a lack of self-confidence and organizational skills. Both takes time to develop. It takes 12-18 months before you feel competent (not to the level of your co-workers) and the work anxiety to decrease to a manageable level.

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I was also a new grad at 44!  And, I also thought I was going to lose my mind.

Did you have a different career before?  I did - two, actually - and in both careers I finished school pretty much competent as an entry-level practitioner.  Unfortunately in nursing that's not the case (WHY is that not the case?  Post for another day).  Don't compare your new-nurse self to your newbie experience in other jobs.    

The worst part is the first 2-4 months off orientation.  I wanted to stay on orientation forever!  Being on your own at the beginning is godawful.  I had anxiety attacks too.  I woke up from dreams about forgetting to do stuff.  For the first time in my life I sometimes stayed awake freaked out for the entire night, and then had to go back to work with no sleep.  I was a little nauseated all the time.  I'd never had problems like that before, and I was in a very high-stress career previously.  

It does slowly start getting better.  The getting better surprises you -  suddenly you realize you had one day that wasn't completely horrible, or that someone asked you a question and you knew the answer, or that you didn't have to ask for help with any IV's this week.  Then it sucks again, then it gets a little better - rinse and repeat until the whole thing is more or less manageable. 

A big part of your learning is pattern recognition ("OK, this person looks setpic, doc is going to order x y and z, so I need to get a, b and c ready").  It's not rocket science, but you have to live it in order to know it.   It's why you feel dumb now, you just don't have access to what your experienced coworkers can see.  You will see it too, even though you feel like the most useless idiot in the world right now.  

In terms of coping - as ridiculous as this sounds, I started meditating.  I hate that woo-woo stuff, but I was desperate enough to try it, and surprisingly it helped.  I hid in the parking lot before work and used a meditation app for a few minutes, and when I had a chance I'd sneak out during my break to do it again.  I felt like a nut job, but it was better than crying in a closet  :)

Ultimately the hospital was not for me. I  went on to public health and now am a school nurse.  I like being out in the real world, more of a free-range animal.  But believe me, I was a complete lunatic....if I got through that year, so can you.  

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Hope you are still sticking it out.  I graduated at 42 (I am now 72 and still working on medicine).  You have described, as noted by other writers, the panic of being on your own.  In order to get work at a time when there was very little hiring in Canada and more so locally I picked up shifts everywhere I could.  There were times that I allowed myself to stay for 5 more minutes and if it didn't get better I would have to leave.  Well 30 years later I'm still here.  Don't let the whole shift scare you.  Take it in increments, ask for help, there are some nice people out there.  (Yes there were a few that weren't very helpful), but overall be part of your team.  Help where you can and there will be people to help you when you can.  Good luck to you.  You can do this!   

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I'm older than you. Second career. I am off orientation 6 or 7 weeks and feel I can't do anything right.  I've missed this site because it was down when I started feeling this way and is just getting worse.  My job has been super nice with coaching,  I  just can't get out of my own head. You are not alone. Right now I'm wondering if I should go back to the original career. It's not looking so stressful anymore.

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You don't HAVE TO do med-surg for a year before going into a specialty. I started off in the ER, and I'm 10 weeks in. I give props to all med-surg nurses because I couldn't do it. The ER is hectic but I couldn't fathom doing head-to-toe assessments for 4-5 patients and do all that you guys do. I prefer focused assessment over head-to-toe. 

Many of my classmates started out in the ER, ICU, OR, Mother-Baby, OB-GYN, etc...I only know of 1-2 that started in LTAC or med-surg.

Like you tho, I feel like I'm drowning in the ER but that's expected. All new grads struggle with time management and completing tasks in an efficient manner. My preceptor told me it's going to take 1-2 years to feel somewhat comfortable.

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On 1/16/2019 at 8:30 PM, FLmama said:

Hello, everyone. As the title of my post states, I'm a new grad at 44. This is my second career.  I'm in my 10th week of orientation at a small community hospital on a very busy med/surg floor. We specialize in dialysis patients and the acuity level is high; lots of transfers to ICU. In the beginning of my orientation, I was with a preceptor who didn't really want to precept. I spoke up and was switched immediately. My preceptor since that time has been wonderful and very supportive. She says I'm ready to be on my own. However, as I'm nearing the end of my 12 week orientation, I'm panicking. I don't feel ready to be on my own with 5-6 patients. I'm struggling to manage it all. Between assessments, passing meds on time, charting, and constant interruptions, I'm operating at a high level of stress and I'm going out of my head. I cry all of the time (at work, at home, in my car, you name it.). The stress of the job follows me home at night and I can't seem to "leave it at work." I have heart palpitations, anxiety attacks, my family life is suffering. The high acuity of these patients scares me. Every single day I fantasize about quitting and doing something less stressful. However, from what I've read and what people tell me, I HAVE to do a year of med/surg in order to go anywhere else. Is this really true? Is that naive to ask? I don't know what to do or where to go, but bedside nursing is killin' me. Can anyone give some words of wisdom or maybe share their story? I'm a mess.

The wisdom is this.  You are a new nurse, experiencing what we used to call "reality shock."  The transition from student to nurse is a rough one, and we all had to go through it.  The only way to GET through it is to GO through it.

We all struggled to maintain.  I remember crying on the way to work, on the way home from work and sometimes AT work in the employee bathroom.  I couldn't sleep, and the stress of the job followed me around all of the time.  The patients scared me -- even the stable ones, because I worked on the telemetry unit and sometimes the "stable ones" were the ones that went bad.  My relationships suffered, I suffered.  The difference is, I was supporting my family and I didn't have the option of quitting.  I stuck it out, and I found that after I year in or so, something "clicked."  My job got incredibly easier and less stressful, and my colleagues were nicer and less critical.  (Of course that was me, being less of a screw-up.). 

Switching jobs isn't going to accomplish anything except making your journey from student to competent nurse take a little longer.  Stick with it.  You will be glad that you did.

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So, in your post you really highlight your age. I don't think your age has much to do with things and don't feel it's fair to other women entering this profession as a second career for you to suggest it is. Not only could the reference to age put doubt in someone's mind about themselves, it also serve to perpetuate a unflattering stereo type of women who are actually in their prime of life.  Not wanting to be harsh, just needed to point it out.

With that said, stick with it! I saw someone said mediate, which is a great suggestion! Slow your breathing and breath deeply when you're feeling anxious. There are tons of guided mediation stuff online and apps.  Limit yourself to one good cry a day (it's okay!), but not at work.  Be as organized as you can going into your shifts and make checklists for tasks especially those that make you anxious. This is a trick my preceptor showed me and it helps immensely. When you need to do this complicated thing that stresses you out, whip out your checklist and (another tip) go slow to go fast, meaning breath deeply, use your checklists and focus on what you are doing when you are doing it. If there are things you are having problems remembering, record reminders to play during your commute. Think positive thoughts and speak confidently and supportively to yourself and about yourself. Give yourself credit when you do things well and a break when you don't. Don't compare yourself to others and DON'T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY. Let that negative energy roll off your back and don't worry about impressing anyone or changing opinions -not your problem. Stand up nice and tall. Put a smile on your face even if you're faking it and give everyone a cheery hello.  Give people sincere compliments. They will appreciate it and it will make you feel good as well. And number one: keep yourself in a state of gratitude and appreciation for all the blessings in your life. Look for and expect good things to happen and thank the universe/God/whatever your deal is for these little things that make your day a little easier. You worked hard to get where you are, and YOU GOT THIS, GIRL!!!  

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