Burned Out & Bummed Out - Can't find my nursing "niche"

  1. Hi Nurse Beth,

    I've been a nurse for a little over five years now. I am bummed out because I can not seem to find my "niche" in nursing. I have worked in SNF/subacute rehab, OR, and now I am employed in a step-down unit with frequent floats to the ICU and med-surg. However, I have never been particularly happy in any of these positions. I am worried that I have spent so much time in a career that I just don't like.

    The source of my unhappiness stems from feeling unable to truly impact patients. In all the areas that I have worked, I mostly feel as though I simply patch the patient up or control symptoms. I don't feel as though I am actually making an impact in their care.

    Should I continue to look into other specialties? Or, am I a total lost cause in nursing?

    I do have my BSN, but I don't know how utilize it in trying to find a new position. I also feel as though I have "job hopped" too often and look like a risk to employers.
    Your input would be much appreciated.

    Bummed out-

    Dear Burned Out and Bummed Out,

    You are making an impact but it's important for you to know it and believe it.

    What would make you feel you have made an impact? Think back to a time when you felt you helped someone else. Is it more time with your patients, more connection? Do you enjoy talking with them but don't have the time?

    Maybe acute care is not the right setting. Have you considered home health? How about cardiac rehab, where you work with patients and actually see their progress towards their goals? It could be that seeing patients over a longer span of time would be more ratifying for you.

    Are you a teacher? With 5 years of nursing experience, you could be a clinical instructor. Have you considered behavioral health nursing? There are so, so many things you could do and it's not necessary for you to feel ungratified. Without knowing you, it's a shot in the dark making suggestions but I do believe there is a niche where you can shine and feel that you are making a difference.

    I wouldn’t worry about job-hopping. You have tried a few different settings, but you have 5 years of experience (great!) and your BSN. Many employers would be more than happy to receive your resume. Keep us posted, friend.

    Best wishes,

    Nurse Beth

    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Aug 13, '16
  2. Visit Nurse Beth profile page

    About Nurse Beth, MSN, RN

    Joined: Mar '07; Posts: 1,540; Likes: 4,557
    Nursing Professional Development Specialist; from CA , US
    Specialty: Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho


  3. by   crok63
    Burnt out and bummed out;
    plz man up and smell the roses...
    that is why nursing is a four letter word, like ****,****; etc...
    Nursing is WORK, that is why WORK is a four letter word.

    It is damn hard, it is demanding, it hits your beliefs, ethics and stamina right in the gut...

    Why not run away; go shuffle money in a bank or count paperclips in some office somewhere???

    At least in Nursing you can make a small difference, instead of no difference at all...

    So man up and put your apron on and get back to the kitchen or stop your whining and drop out.

    Your so lucky; your glass is half full (of opportunities); travel, meet different people in different places...

    Put some money aside and go rent a shack in Puerto Rico or Fiji for two weeks and sit with your toes in the Atlantic or Pacific...

    Cannot afford to do things like that then work to modify your finances so you can work hard and then time out to relax and recharge your batteries...

    Whatever you can now re-invent yourself every year or two and work in any one of a hundred different nursing fields, but regardless just remember there are literally thousands of people standing behind you with a big knife just itching for the opportunity to stick you in the kidney to take and use the luck and opportunities you have right in your hand already...

    Now man up and stop your sniveling; have a mental health break and recharge your batteries and get back into life...

    Good Luck and thank you for being a part of the worlds most trusted and loved profession...
    Last edit by dianah on Aug 13, '16 : Reason: Terms of Service
  4. by   rn_patrick
    Your reply is inappropriate and toxic.
  5. by   lorichka6
    Ouch. I guess that was the tough love.

    I was going to suggest peds I know it isn't for everyone but I work in NICU, PICU, general peds and think it is so rewarding. Sure there are days with unappreciative families, but they are the exception in my hospital. I find families are usually quite open and receptive to teaching. Personally, I think I would find myself in your shoes working with adults (based on what my friends in adult med surg say). But with kids... you are just happy most days.

    I think that the peds nurses I work with are the happiest group of nurses in general that I know and while all of us complain at work (because like the other poster said - we wouldn't be paid if there were no downsides!) its about management, patient load, etc - never really about the patients or the actual *nursing* that we do. Its the bull$hit that comes along with hospital nursing these days.

    Anyway, good luck!
  6. by   FNP2bMRL3
    Three words for you........family nurse practitioner.
  7. by   rN4healn
    As tempting as it is to say, come work in my area, it is great 80% of the time, it is probably best to ask a few questions to see what works for you. When you say "feeling unable to truly impact patients" what does that mean to you? Before you started nursing, what were your expectations on the impact you would have on patients? Did you expect to see the lame walk, the blind see and the deaf hear? I've seen all of these but not necessarily because I cared for them as a nurse. Are you looking for earlier interventions to prevent patients from an actual medical crisis? Then, maybe you need to look at ambulatory care. Are you missing seeing significant progress of healing? Someone mentioned cardiac rehab, which may be worth looking into. Are you looking for physical impact, emotional impact, family or community impact? Psychiatric nursing, community/public health, research, oncology, diagnostic specialties, and case management are just some areas to look at beyond what you have done.

    What are areas you enjoyed? What skills do you have? What experiences? Did something click with you during nursing school? Or maybe it is something you read about? Find this.

    We all know nursing is hard. Taking breaks are critical. But I still believe nursing helps me more than I help it most day. Plus, my colleagues impress the heck out of me with their selfless acts, intellect or humor. Nursing saves me in some ways by enabling me everyday to attempt to recover from my previous self-centered life and if nothing else, entertains the heck out of me with patient questions. ("If I took my evening dose at 6 pm before the time change, when do I take it now?" Yes, you cannot make this up.)

    My first 3 years as a nurse, I had 3 jobs. I would not worry about the variety of jobs. Maybe your ultimate position will need all these experiences. Who knows? Your BSN will help but most of us in the field will be equally impressed with your resilence to keep looking for the right fit for you.

    Hang in there. Best of luck.
  8. by   ms.shellie
    Dear bummed out. . . You can totally ignore Crok63.
    So, here's the point: EVERYBODY DIES, BUT NOT EVERYBODY LIVES. Sometimes we do have to suck up unpleasant parts of life (which help us to grow) but it is spelled right out in the constitution that you have a right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. . . So, you have ppl who suck it up, and you have people who go on to be happy; thats when you truly make a difference in others. Nursing is a hard profession bc of the "system", it is broken . . . Keep on searching for that right place bc we are meant to search, grow, make a difference in the lives of others around us. I'm a psych nurse and have met a LOT of border bullies in my life. Don't let life drain you so you can't give!! Minimize your potholes, spend your life energies wisely. . .
  9. by   rubynrse
    I had 3 jobs my first 3 years after school. I found what I was good at and learned to love it as I had success after success and took lots of classes, seminars, in-services to hone my skills. Then, after having 31 years of nursing under my belt, I found my niche. Been in my niche ever since. I can't tell you each of those specialties because my likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses won't be the same for you. It's a very personal choice for each person. Just plug in your career/ideas/loves/etc. At the end of the day it's ok to say nursing isn't for you.
  10. by   RadiantLynneBSN
    Wow. I was with you 'Crok63' for a minute thinking you were motivating with "tough-love" until I got to: " literally thousands of people standing behind you with a big knife just itching for the opportunity to stick you in the kidney" AND then I realized that is EXACTLY why our Profession is not respected. Something is enormously wrong when a kidneystick with knife is appropriate to use in regards to those awaiting a nursing opportunity she has. Possibly because it's true? Possibly because the women and men in this field are in tune with that frequency as acceptable and the norm. Ever hear of receiving just what we ask for not in terms of karma but in reaping what we actually sow. Bad fruit is a major issue in bullying, lateral violence but MOST of all a true lack of understanding that we're not foot soldiers ready to shoot one another (or knife) at command.

    It seems Nursing Administrators do feel this way (hence lateral violence as acceptable in secret, age discrimination, racism, hazing, etc.). I won’t give a speech next on how we must come together in unity in a positive way for genuine professionalism to take place; it's a broken record so it seems. You can't produce courage where it doesn't exist. Those with it however, please continue to stand. What I will end with to the original poster [Nurse Beth] is this advice: You do make a difference upon your client as a nurse. Alleviating symptoms is huge to quality of life. Imagine no antibiotics for an infection that is not life threatening but extremely uncomfortable, or no NSAID for a migraine? Nurses are not here to heal (unless we can) but to help the community exist physically and mentally in as high of state of existence wherever they are on the health and wellness continuum of no sickness to death. I encourage all to remember this; we truly do (or at least can) make a difference. I would even say HUGE. May God bless you all.
    Last edit by RadiantLynneBSN on Aug 13, '16 : Reason: Spelling
  11. by   Jduffy1392
    Common rule of thumb is care for yourself before you care for others. Honestly you are not a good nurse if you do not reflect and question your abilities, because then you don't open yourself to improve, so kudos for seeing that you could offer more. That not all patients need a patch up, some need forms of touch, being and meditation. I appreciate your post. If I have advice, it is to take your own. Nursing is wonderful, I can see it in the interaction with patients and the jokes between coworkers.
  12. by   Caroline123
    I know! What's up with the man up? Let's try to have some tact here. Jeezz
  13. by   Guttercat
    Welcome to nursing. Cue the monkeys.

    Circus - Theme Song - YouTube
  14. by   Namaste79
    I went to nursing school in my late 30s after being a field biologist for a decade. I started out as on Oncology nurse and was miserable; thought I'd made a mistake spending all that money and 3 years to become an RN. I decided to try hospice nursing and fell in love. I became a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care RN - learning everything I could about EOL (end of life) care and symptom management. I helped people to die well and their loved ones to care for them though that process.
    Because of health issues I had to leave hospice nursing - there was nothing else I wanted to do! I eventually ended up being hired to do case management for a health plan. I didn't care for the job initially but now I am working with members who need palliative care and am once again loving what I do and knowing I make a difference.
    I would recommend giving hospice a try - or anything related to palliative care.
    Best of luck!