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Nostalgia: The Aches and Pains of the Real Nursing World

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Specializes in Med/Surg, Onc., Palliative/Hospice, CPU. Has 3 years experience.

I remember growing up with my Playskool medicine kit and later on watching shows like ER and the like, romanticizing what nursing was “truly” like. Nursing school was no different for me. I saw the nursing World with rose colored glasses. It wasn’t until my first year as a hospital nurse that reality reeled me back in, and that nostalgia started to fade. The funny thing is, I found it again. But it was somewhere else.

Nostalgia: The Aches and Pains of the Real Nursing World

Real world nursing...

Without having experience in nursing and knowledge of all the things that school doesn't provide, I jumped head first into our beloved profession with an idea of what it was supposed to be. This was what kept me grounded in school and this is what I relished in when things got tough. I used to tell myself that it would be okay, because once I got into the "Real World" of nursing, I would find my place, my footing, and it would be the best thing ever.

It has been a wonderful thing and at times the best thing ever. It has also been the hardest thing I've ever done, the biggest learning curve I've ever known and the most physically and emotionally trying job I've ever held. My World since school has always been bedside care in the hospital. What a rude awakening. For some reason, while I was in school, it was easy to separate myself from the politics of our profession, the death, the hurt, the disappointment and more. All of the ugly things were kept at bay while I was surrounded by a safety blanket of my professors and tutors.

But first...nursing school...

I was subjected to many things while in school clinicals, but I also could see it as something different compared to now. I can't figure out what it is, but it's just different. Once that first job became a very real thing for me, and I was "on my own", I realized that there was so much more to nursing that I didn't understand. The past few years have been a journey into this phase of knowing and understanding my role and my place in this profession. I've also come to the understanding that roles change as does one's place, so I need not hold too tightly to expectations. Nursing is ever-changing. It is a living, breathing thing that needs to be fostered and cared for in so many ways.

At certain points in my career, I've become bogged down by the very intense and real aspects that is nursing. It is hard to work with difficult cases, families, policies and politics, legalities and sadness. On the flip side, there is joy, triumph, healing and power. It's like a conundrum that keeps giving and taking, and we are all along for the wacky ride. I appreciate this very much about being a nurse, it keeps me on my toes and it makes me want to learn more, strive for more and keep pushing forward.

I was worried that the young lady with stars in her eyes was losing herself in the more difficult aspects of our profession. The thing is though that I've not lost anything at all. I've been gaining and learning and growing. We are constantly being taught and often times being encouraged to teach. My joy not only comes of working with patients and a fantastically talented team, but also in encouraging and educating young nurses about what we do.

I can see myself in the students that are rising to roles in hospitals, clinics, long term care settings, rehab and more. We are all trying to find our place, find what we are capable of and encourage positive change in a profession that is weighted so heavily in this day and age.

My career is evolving...

The nostalgia isn't gone, my friends. It has shifted. It has been morphing since the days you left school and it's encouraging you to find your power in this ever-changing profession. It is easy to get lost and burnt out by the very difficult paths we have to walk each day. But in light of recent events, if we stand together, positive change can and will happen. We just have to be willing to let our feet hit the floor each work day with the knowledge that we have the capabilities to be an influence in ways that are unfathomable. Our power is limitless. If that isn't enough to remember and invoke the feelings you once had about nursing in the beginning-think back on all the positive things you have accomplished, the obstacles you've surpassed and the mentors who have helped you get to where you are.

Exercising taking the good in with the bad and not giving up hope will outlast the battles that attempt to bring you down. Nostalgia will not leave you, nor will hope and strength.

Jacquie loves writing about experiences of her own (as well as stories belonging to fellow nurses) with a dose of artistic flair and hyperbole. Happy reading!

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4 Comment(s)

Nurse Malone

Specializes in Ambulatory and Emergency medicine. Has 12 years experience.

Thank you for your honesty and encouragement! I remember my first LPN job, I had purchased a brand new set of scrubs and shoes for my first day. I checked in at my assigned clinic and as my guide walked me around the building I reminisced on how much I had longed for this day. It was a dream come true. I was so anxious to try everything I wanted to check in every new patient that arrived. Reality set in when I had to do my first IV stick and I missed. I was so scared and seriously began doubting myself, especially once I'd learned that my patient was an Army Field Medic and an OR tech! He had me stick him again - needless to say, I missed again. I left and went to find another nurse, and then left to cry myself a puddle of tears. I'm so thankful for the older seasoned nurses for they encouraged & comforted me at the same time. They wouldn't let me quit and they constantly kept telling me to press on. I eventually became good at "sticking" patients, so much so that they'd come find me when they couldn't get it.

I'm finishing my BSN now and can't wait to set foot on the floor. I know it'll be nothing like school or clinicals, but I know (at least I'm hoping) to pair up with some more great and seasoned nurses again!

Nostalgia this is normal. Which says to us-set bounds for the intervening period of life.


Has 25 years experience.


i felt very similar to you when I first started out! I had preconceived ideas of what nursing was supposed to be about. I soon forget them when I actually started working.

I ended up leaving Australia and after five years of intense work at a London teaching hospital,

i certainly discovered what nursing was really about, I.e. team work, perseverance, empathy, a thick skin, a strong gut, foresight, compassion, a thirst for knowledge, self-awareness, inner-strength, and selflessness!!

When I look back, I am glad it happened the way it did. Not only did I learn what it felt like to be a nurse (I can't describe it), and what attributes were needed TO BE a nurse, I also learnt a lot about me as a person.

No Stars In My Eyes

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

I didn't have too many preconceived notions about nursing, as my Mom was an RN and I worked as a nurse's aide in a Nursing Home for a while, before I ever thought about thinking about going to school to become a nurse.

I do remember feeling tentative, wide eyed, having the roller-coaster stomach, holding my breath....during many times at my first several jobs. But I was fairly well driven to put myself in 'scary' (ie, new) situations at work, simply trying to chase away that feeling of fear/dread r/t my lack of knowledge and experience. It wasn't a feeling of me putting myself down, but rather that the 'lack' I perceived in myself was the impelling fire under my butt, and I thank God for it.