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Regret after starting ICU?

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by basic_b_pancakes basic_b_pancakes (New Member) New Member Nurse

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Hi, there! Did any of you immediately regret getting into the ICU after you started working there? If so, did you stay or get out as fast as possible? I've only been on this unit for a couple months but I honestly don't know if I can handle it. The emotional and physical stress, the families, all the moving parts with meds/labs/time management/patient prioritization...it's just so much that I pretty much come home crying after every shift. And that's not good. I'm also not the type of person that thrives off of being in an intense, high-stress environment. It makes me feel panicky and claustrophobic. Thank you for any advice! ūüôā

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JBMmom has 6 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Long term care; med-surg; critical care.

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I have stayed in my critical care position about a year and a half now, but there have been five nurses hired after me that are already gone. Two of them cited experiences much like yours. They found dealing with the patient population/acuity/family situations very stressful and it was impacting their own health and well being outside of work. They both left within a six months and they are much happier in their new roles.

On the other hand, the learning curve in critical care is huge, and once you feel more confident, maybe the stress will lessen for you. Only you know what will truly be right for you. Do you feel like you like it but you're just unsure of yourself? It sounds like maybe you don't find the work environment to be one that suits your personality or career goals. Good luck deciding what will work best for you. I do wonder, though, if you know that you don't thrive in high stress environments, what made you choose this position?

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etienhh has 4 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Surgical/Trauma ICU.

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The ICU is a stressful environment! And like JBMmom said, there is a HUGE learning curve, and yes, lots of moving parts! It can take about a year on average before you start feeling like you've got a good handle on things, but you will be learning something new every shift regardless of how long you've been there. 

I've worked in a surgical/trauma ICU for 3.5 years now, and while I'm sure it doesn't help for me to tell you that I LOVE the ICU and knew I would from the start, I can definitely see how it can take an emotional toll, even when you take the constant stress of learning a very intense specialty out of it. There are some days where I go and feel depressed. You see some really tragic stuff, and you're encountering people who are potentially dealing with the worst point in their lives. How they convey that to you can vary from being incredibly grateful for your care or questioning every move you make. 

That being said, I know quite a few EXCELLENT ICU nurses who after a year or two decided that it just wasn't for them. They didn't enjoy the constant stress that comes with the area. They moved to areas where they're still using those critical thinking skills but in environments where it's a little more routine and less stressful, and that's okay!

I'd ask yourself this:

  • Do you feel like your preceptor(s) has given you the tools to succeed in this new area?¬†
  • Why did you go into ICU?¬†
  • What other areas of nursing do you feel you would thrive in better?

At the end of the day, if you're not feeling it, you're not feeling it, but there's going to be some growing pains in an area like this. I say utilize some trusty resources-- whether it's an ICU Nursing book or it's a fellow nurse who's also fairly new to the unit that you can commiserate with, dig deep, and give it a good six months before making the decision to move units.

Best of luck!

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You did not say you were a new nurse but my advice would be basically the same. If you are coming home crying pretty much after every shift, then I'd say it's not for you. It will make you sick in more ways than one, who needs that kind of stress where you end up in tears for heavens sake!   I would definitely not stay if it made me feel like that.  Good luck finding a new work home.

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emmjayy is a ASN, RN and specializes in ICU.

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I went in as a new grad, am almost a year and a half in, realized about six months ago that this is not for me. I am sticking it out a few months longer because I want to get my CCRN (scheduled in less than a month!!) and I want the pay raise my facility offers that comes with a certification. I am not the type of person who makes quick moves, though. I've always been more comfortable staying in the misery that I'm familiar with rather than moving into a situation that holds unknowns until I'm 100% ready. I have been looking around at other jobs for awhile, but am definitely going to stay put until I have my next step figured out. 

The one thing that has helped me feel less miserable is that I'm formulating a plan for getting out rather than just trying to push on. 

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On 8/29/2019 at 11:00 AM, emmjayy said:

I went in as a new grad, am almost a year and a half in, realized about six months ago that this is not for me. I am sticking it out a few months longer because I want to get my CCRN (scheduled in less than a month!!) and I want the pay raise my facility offers that comes with a certification. I am not the type of person who makes quick moves, though. I've always been more comfortable staying in the misery that I'm familiar with rather than moving into a situation that holds unknowns until I'm 100% ready. I have been looking around at other jobs for awhile, but am definitely going to stay put until I have my next step figured out. 

The one thing that has helped me feel less miserable is that I'm formulating a plan for getting out rather than just trying to push on. 

I guess I am similar and wish you the best of luck and glad you are working on a plan.  

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Phew. I thought I was the only one that felt lost. I really wish I woulda went straight to the ER. I thought I wouldn't mind handling 2 patients and three at the most. That was 6 drips and 3 pressors ago lol. Im getting better but every time I think I'm starting to get the hang of it, something new pops up.

On the bright side if you can work in the ICU you can work anywhere. Is that actually true?

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