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Should I leave nursing school, even if I just started?

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by willowmadrone willowmadrone (New Member) New Member

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Hey there. After a while of deciding between social work/counseling/psych related careers and nursing, I settled on nursing as a career with reliable income and job security that would satisfy the science-y, hands-on, and people-oriented aspects of my personality and mind. I loved, loved, loved all of my pre-reqs, and was among the highest grades in each class, and got that 4.0.

Fast forward to the start of my ABSN program not too long ago, and I'm wondering if I've denied my intuition and gut instincts. After our orientation day, I went home and cried for (and, yes, this is embarrassing to admit) 5 hours off and on. After the first day, during which I felt on the verge of tears almost the entire time, I went home and cried. 

I'm terrified that though a large part of me knows my passions lie elsewhere, I just reasoned my way over to nursing for a decent salary (I've never made more than 28K in a year) and a job that seemed like it would do the trick for me, and my body and soul are not tolerating the betrayal. I was probably foolish in not getting my CNA prior to the ABSN to test the waters, but I heard of plenty of folks jumping in and doing fine.

I'm curious what folks' and friends' and coworkers' experiences have been. Anyone have that awful feeling at the start—that questioning—and wish they'd listened? Anyone work through it and were stoked they did? And, having just started, with no dependents, should I leave now?

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279 Posts; 1,690 Profile Views

This is why the local RN program here requires that applicants be CNAs.  Too many start and have no idea what they are getting into.

Crying for hours after the first day?  Sheesh.  That's horrible.  What was so upsetting? 

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not.done.yet is a MSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development.

4 Followers; 5,623 Posts; 45,070 Profile Views

It is difficult to answer this without knowing what was causing your distress.

You have a lot of options and you are NOT trapped. Yes, its okay to leave nursing school and pursue something else. However, if this is anxiety-induced, you may or may not find the "something else" just as rough on you.

I am sorry you are suffering. I hope you find a spot of peace in your mind to contemplate what you want to do. Nursing is not the only job that combined science, personal contact, job security and decent income. You have options. You are not stuck.

If your distress is being caused by uncertainty over your skills and feeling vulnerable around sick people you will get over that. If you are repulsed by what nurses actually do, that may not go away. On my first day of clinicals I struggled mightily with having to wake a sick person up at 6 AM to get vital signs. One girl in my cohort cried. Everyone in my group was uncomfortable, that's for sure. We got over it and all of us are still nurses, gainfully employed and laugh at ourselves looking back.

However, if there are components about it that you just plain don't see as "you", then sure...you can let it go. There isn't a right or wrong answer here beyond what the investment has been in terms of time and money. You can remake this decision.

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3 Posts; 169 Profile Views

Thank you for taking the time to reply, Luchador and not.done.yet.  And thank you, not.done.yet for distinguishing between the distress of being completely green to the "hard" skills of nursing and repulsion by what nurses actually do—that's really helpful, and where I need to attain some clarity. And thank you for your empathy and reassurance that I'm not stuck. I've done some self-care since to get to a place where I can sort this out with a bit more calm than in the first days and weeks. But there's definitely a thread of tension, and a pit in my stomach.

My "soft" skills—listening, communication, even boundary-setting—are pretty developed from working in the realm of social work and domestic violence/sexual assault survivor advocacy. My RN friends encouraged me toward nursing when I mentioned interest, saying that those skills are what matter the most in patient care, and that I'll learn the rest. That I'll do fine in a hospital environment, especially in the right specialty.

I honestly think a bit part of my fear stems from hearing about burn out. Not having CNA or MA experience, I'm naive to what it's like being in the hospital. I'm worried that I've taken the plunge without enough info. What if I will be one of these nurses I hear or read about who graduates, starts working, and hates it after months or even years? I know what-iffing all over myself can go from being cautious to simply paralyzing. I'm curious if you have any insight on what to do with that what-if, not.done.yet?

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279 Posts; 1,690 Profile Views

39 minutes ago, willowmadrone said:

Thank you for taking the time to reply, Luchador and not.done.yet.  And thank you, not.done.yet for distinguishing between the distress of being completely green to the "hard" skills of nursing and repulsion by what nurses actually do—that's really helpful, and where I need to attain some clarity. And thank you for your empathy and reassurance that I'm not stuck. I've done some self-care since to get to a place where I can sort this out with a bit more calm than in the first days and weeks. But there's definitely a thread of tension, and a pit in my stomach.

My "soft" skills—listening, communication, even boundary-setting—are pretty developed from working in the realm of social work and domestic violence/sexual assault survivor advocacy. My RN friends encouraged me toward nursing when I mentioned interest, saying that those skills are what matter the most in patient care, and that I'll learn the rest. That I'll do fine in a hospital environment, especially in the right specialty.

I honestly think a bit part of my fear stems from hearing about burn out. Not having CNA or MA experience, I'm naive to what it's like being in the hospital. I'm worried that I've taken the plunge without enough info. What if I will be one of these nurses I hear or read about who graduates, starts working, and hates it after months or even years? I know what-iffing all over myself can go from being cautious to simply paralyzing. I'm curious if you have any insight on what to do with that what-if, not.done.yet?

Hell, if you read stuff here it's a wonder anyone becomes a nurse. 

There will be a lot of opportunities to interface nursing with social work if you continue.  

For example, there is community health which includes all kinds of things from Mental Health to outreach at homeless camps.

My buddy works for a State Child Welfare agency and they are looking at hiring a nurse because the case workers have screwed up so much in failing to spot things like malnutrition and medical neglect in kids.

That being said you will have to do a lot of regular nurse stuff and personal care just to get through nursing school. One of my classmates threw up on a patient when she was changing his bedpan. 😂

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103 Posts; 1,065 Profile Views

I am about to start my final year of nursing school, and holy frijoles I can absolutely relate to you! I cried for a bit my first semester, not because of content or school being "hard," but because I missed having a life and being there for my son whenever he needed me. Between mom guilt, nursing school exams (which I loathe, by the way 😉), work and trying to be a half-decent girlfriend, I definitely felt a lot of "what ifs" early on. 

That being said- IT GETS BETTER! While I still can't say I "enjoy" nursing school, I have enjoyed being on the floor for clinicals, and I know upon graduating (and passing the NCLEX) I'll have plenty of opportunities to expand my knowledge. There are so many things nurses can do! I personally would like to start in an ER to gain some experience and eventually get my PsychNP, but I also know that my current desires may change- and that's okay!

I wish you luck, whether you decide to stick it out through school or you choose to venture elsewhere.

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5 Followers; 2 Articles; 740 Posts; 7,229 Profile Views

Please don't worry so much about skills.  Anyone can learn the skills, but not everyone can develop the personal qualities of warmth, compassion, empathy.  I went to an ABSN program and struggled with skills, but I did learn them.  I had to take some of my skills exams twice, but got through them.  On the other hand, I got very high marks for my interpersonal skills, charting, and didactic academic skills, as well as my clinical reasoning.  

For the skills, I was proactive and asked for extra coaching, went to extra labs, and took some supplies home and practiced, practiced, practiced!

Hang in there and good luck.

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Thank you all for the empathy and encouragement and well wishes. I think I'm underestimating the impact of the sum of all the transitions going on, including moving away from a large community that feels like family. I'm glad to hear that it can get better.

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Hey willowmadrone. Not that I am an expert or anything, as I am finishing up my nursing pre-reqs as we speak, but there are so many varied branches of nursing you can go into that will fill that niche. Like you, I love love science and all my science classes are 4.0, and I love people. I am thinking of specializing in psych/behavioral health because I think it will allow me to use my strong people skills with some medicine and science-y stuff. Since you have a background in counseling, this might be a good route for you to consider.  Another route I am thinking about is working in the OR.  I can see myself getting amazed with surgery.

Just remember...in order to get to where you want, you do have to survive nursing school. I would try to avoid the stories about people who hate their profession because if you google ANY profession, you'll find people who complain about it and wished they chosen some other profession.

Don't let the first week disillusion you. 

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not.done.yet is a MSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development.

4 Followers; 5,623 Posts; 45,070 Profile Views

23 hours ago, willowmadrone said:

Thank you for taking the time to reply, Luchador and not.done.yet.  And thank you, not.done.yet for distinguishing between the distress of being completely green to the "hard" skills of nursing and repulsion by what nurses actually do—that's really helpful, and where I need to attain some clarity. And thank you for your empathy and reassurance that I'm not stuck. I've done some self-care since to get to a place where I can sort this out with a bit more calm than in the first days and weeks. But there's definitely a thread of tension, and a pit in my stomach.

My "soft" skills—listening, communication, even boundary-setting—are pretty developed from working in the realm of social work and domestic violence/sexual assault survivor advocacy. My RN friends encouraged me toward nursing when I mentioned interest, saying that those skills are what matter the most in patient care, and that I'll learn the rest. That I'll do fine in a hospital environment, especially in the right specialty.

I honestly think a bit part of my fear stems from hearing about burn out. Not having CNA or MA experience, I'm naive to what it's like being in the hospital. I'm worried that I've taken the plunge without enough info. What if I will be one of these nurses I hear or read about who graduates, starts working, and hates it after months or even years? I know what-iffing all over myself can go from being cautious to simply paralyzing. I'm curious if you have any insight on what to do with that what-if, not.done.yet?

Burn out happens to almost everyone eventually and its definitely not unique to the hospital or even just to medical professionals. Heck, I did office work and was more burned out than I am as a nurse, mostly because the work didn't have any kind of global impact, whereas working as a nurse does. Even on my worst days I could get into a quiet state and find something I did that day which makes a difference. Anything else you pick will subject you to burnout too. You'll just be working with people with less skill at self reflection, so you may see it less visibly or less vocally. Ha!

This kind of anxiousness is SO very natural. Yes, you will get burned out. Know what though? Burn out isn't a terminal condition. It waxes and wanes and there are things you can do to get past it, including self care, changing specialties, changing employers, going to a convention, becoming politically active, and a hundred other things.

Reading here is a double edged sword. We are a very lovely community and nursing is the best club I have ever belonged to. We are also pretty guilty of BMW behavior (***ing, moaning and whining) and vocalizing deeply our malcontent but keeping all those little tidbits of joy offline.

If this truly is what you are worried about, all you really need is a mentor or two and some support.

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Zookeeper44 is a RN and specializes in Psych.

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I have always been very interested in psychology, psychiatry, mental illness, and behavior.  Long story short, I went to nursing school straight out of high school, absolutely hated it...didn't finish.  But I did fall in love with psych during my psych clinicals and knew that was what I wanted to do in some way, shape, or form.  Many years later, I was finally able to complete a psychology degree and a Master's in counseling.  THEN I ended up going back and finishing nursing school, for the same reasons you have chosen it...for job security.  I still don't love the nursing field in general...the way nurses are often treated, etc. but I have found a good balance between being a nurse and staying in psychology/counseling...psych nursing.  I have tried a few other things, but don't enjoy them as much.  Love the patients, don't mind the dirty aspects of nursing, but my interest always returns to the psych aspect.  I completely relate to the feeling that that is what you feel you are meant to do.  Feel free to PM me if you would like.  I would definitely encourage you to follow your gut 😉

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Remember, you are powerless as a nursing student which causes frustration.  Once you pass the NCLEX and own your own practice, you'll still be powerless in some areas (staffing, etc), but independent in may others.  One of the most frustrating aspects of clinicals for me was not having access to the tools I needed to take care of my patients.  We had to share computers and keys to access med drawers.  We could not access the med room or Pyxis.  We could not even give a multivitamin or colace without an instructor present.  Then the instructor would ask "why are you behind, what's taking you so long?" "You are too task oriented!" I am very efficient by nature, but I could not organize myself well during clinicals.  My point is... put your head down and get through it.  You'll have so many options available once you graduate.  If you don't like one area of nursing, move to another!

Find your "pack" among students that you can study with and provide support to one another.  I still think about what a formidable team we would have made if we could have worked together after graduation!

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