New Nurse Experience During Pandemic

This article highlights some of my experiences during the pandemic. It is not entirely new but echoes the experiences of many nurses here. I offer encouragement and support in that I am making it despite the challenges and will continue in my nursing journey, even if it isn't in the ICU. Nurses New Nurse Article


New Nurse Experience During Pandemic

I graduated in December 2018 from an ADN program in Virginia.  The commencement speaker said a few things that impacted me when I graduated.  She stated that there would come a time in your nursing career where you will feel like you are not learning, and there will be times you struggle and wonder why you joined this profession.  She encouraged us to keep a journal and remember why we wanted to become nurses.  She encouraged us to write our successes and failures, continue learning, and join a nursing organization.  I have come to that point in my nursing career.

As I reflect, I did not follow this advice very well in my first year of nursing.  In my first year, I completed a new graduate nurse program before ultimately beginning my career in a neuro-intensive care unit in my second year.  The neuro-ICU converted into a Covid unit shortly after I finished orientation. I completed my orientation in April 2020, around the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.  To make things more complicated, I would be going to the night shift, and my preceptor wouldn't be there to offer guidance, and I'd mostly be on my own.

Many things went wrong during my first year.  Leadership had many vacancies from top to bottom.  The unit manager announced she'd be resigning and accepting another offer at a neighboring hospital.  The director of the ICU was still on medical leave and would return only to leave indefinitely during my time in the ICU.  A night-charge nurse was fired due to a conflict with another nurse on the day shift.

Many staff members left, and there was a complete turnover on my unit on days and nights.  In a year, I stayed on the unit and became one of the most senior nurses on a team of 2-4 nurses on a 12-bed unit.  Staffing was filled in by in-house travelers from the hospital float pool.  It was enough initially, but ultimately travelers and emergency response nurses were hired at my hospital.   

Nursing school did not prepare me for all of the challenges I faced. There were nights when I had three patients.  Many times there was no patient care tech to assist on my unit.  Patients were on insulin drips that required hourly checks.  In the middle of the night, sometimes patients required scans that nurses had to provide transport to on another floor despite the patient load. There were some nights I was asked to be a charge nurse.  It was a recipe for disaster and those were only a few of the challenges.

I think a lot about the individuals that passed away. I recall giving family updates every day and sharing news that's complicated to process over the phone as family members were not allowed in the hospital at that time. I remember balancing my personal life with work and trying to return to school for my RN-BSN unsuccessfully. Being a nurse had taken a toll on me in more ways than I can fathom it would when I was in school.

As I continue my career in nursing, I remind myself of why I became a nurse and those who influenced me.  I have continued my education by pursuing my BSN, and I have joined multiple nursing organizations in the past year.  Most importantly, I have taken time off to process the past year and a half and spend time with people who mean the most to me.& I have had many failures during that time, but I have also succeeded in many ways.

Many nurses will continue to leave during the pandemic, and many will be inspired to pursue this profession.  I would encourage them to take the time for themselves as needed and always remember their WHY.

Keep a journal, reflect on your wins and losses, and make it a habit early in your career. Remember why you wanted to become a nurse when you were in school. It may or may not be the reason you return or continue. Ultimately, I'd encourage you to continue doing what makes you whole in life and seek support as nursing has provided life challenges that should not be battled alone.

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2BS Nurse, BSN

700 Posts

Nicely written OP (I feel sad after reading these new grad posts). I am happy you've found your journaling to help you cope. One day, someone will be reading these stories just as we look back on the 1918 pandemic. 

Guest 1152923

301 Posts

I'm a 1992 Diploma of Nursing grad and though my school had a significant clinical component, I felt at a loss when I began clinical practice.  Performing head to toe physical, psychosocial, and spiritual assessments, mitered bed corners, back rubs all sounds nice in theory but what nurse has the time... ever?  I feel as if a healthy dose of real world, bedside nursing needs to be introduced into nursing curricula-I.e. multitasking impossible demands, dealing with toxic coworkers, workarounds and time savers, defensive charting!  Perhaps this reality check would allow students to take off the Rose-colored glasses and decide early on if this is something they really want!

2BS Nurse, BSN

700 Posts

Morelostthanfound: Agreed. The curriculum is stuck in the era before technology became so complicated, hospitals were run like hotels and when the charge nurse had YEARS of experience and was respected (and actually in charge).

Specializes in ICU.

At some point in the last two years you had patient care techs in the ICU? Surely you are blessed. 

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