Updated: Jan 28
Published Jan 5, 2022
Hello. I have been in nursing for a little over two years and I'm going to be honest... it has been a truly terrible experience. So much so that I'm reconsidering the profession. To be fair, some if not most of this is definitely on COVID. But everyone keeps saying that things will get better for nurses while things get worse and worse.
About two years ago I started on an inpatient medicine unit and it was honestly the worst year of my life including a year in high school when I had major depression. I gained 30 pounds that year, had severe severe anxiety and was so miserable that I honestly wished that I could be seriously injured just so I didn't have to work anymore. I literally hated my job. About a year and a half later I was finally able to get out to what seemed like a dream job in a hospital clinic. I promised to myself that I would never work inpatient again it was so awful.
I have been at my new job for 8 months and things have definitely been better for the most part. I don't love the job but it's tolerable. The one thing that always shocked me is that we never get breaks. Ever. The other nurses in the clinic have accepted that and told me that it just "isn't possible and part of the job". Since we do 12 hour days, that means I can go 12-13 hours without eating but they all do it. I was actually relatively okay with all this until things recently took a bad turn with Omicron. Several of the staff nurses in my clinic only have one or two vaccines. I have all three vaccines.
Two days ago I wasn't feeling well. I had a headache, sore throat and diarrhoea. At this job, I have never called in sick for all 8 months. The charge nurse called me back when I left a message and told me that 5 staff members had been tested positive for COVID. I was shocked as no one had said anything to me up till that point and that it isn't considered an outbreak considering how small the clinic is. They asked me to come in immediately to get tested then call them once the result was back. I did get tested and it came back negative within 6 hours.
Once it came back negative I called them back and work immediately told me to come back in. The clinic that I work in needs a specific course and very few nurses have it sadly so the usual nursing emergency sick call team can't cover it. They weren't able to get anyone else and were "extremely short-staffed". I was annoyed as I still felt like crap but came in anyway. Since then it has been, to be frank, a *** show since we are so short-staffed. We have been working 14 hour days, only being able to eat once in that period after the patients leave. Patients have been extremely upset since we are keeping them waiting 2-3 hours on average past their appointment time. Several have yelled at us. Management had no solutions since the nurses need that course to work there. There isn't anyone else to cover.
What annoys me more than anything is that the person who first got sick was someone who only had one vaccine then went to a big party on New Year's eve. It almost feels like us triple vaccination nurses are being punished for getting the vaccine as the others have time off to recover.
I am trying to be reasonable but between my time in inpatient and now all the risks to my safety and health again here, I have just had enough. I am tired of feeling like a human punching bag and holding up the crumbling health care system. I am being told over and over that things will get better but nothing has really changed in the 2 years and I don't know how much more of this I can take. The issue is, of course, I am not sure what else to do. I am 27 so starting a new degree would be catastrophic for my long term financial success. I am considering applying to other jobs outside of my degree but really don't know how that would work especially with the way the economy is now.
Any solutions, stories about what you are going through or advice would be much appreciated.
Sorry to hear about your difficult nursing experience. Nursing can be a highly stressful occupation therefore I would not recommend Nursing for anyone suffering from depression and/or anxiety. Especially, Nursing in a high stress environments e.g.( ER, med/surg.,TELE.ICU) could be a trigger a mental health crisis ( e.g. panic attack, severe depression). Just remember ones health(mental/physical) is the greatest asset.
JBMmom, MSN, NP
I remember when you posted with excitement about your clinic opportunity, I'm sorry it hasn't worked out as you had hoped. I don't think that anyone else can truly answer this question for you, though. If you're looking for confirmation that things are awful in nursing, you've got it. Sounds like you're in a very tough situation and if it's not worth it to you then 50 people on the internet telling you to stay won't make it any better. However, if 50 people on the internet tell you to quit, none of them are going to be able to pay or your bills or help you determine the next best steps. I'm not trying to be unhelpful or rude, it's just a very personal decision and you're the only one who truly knows what's best for you.
You're so young that a career change might seem like an awful thing right now from a financial and life standpoint. But you've got MANY years left in whatever career you choose so if you want to move on now's a great time to do so. I changed careers at 38 and that worked out fine for me. There are inexpensive schooling options in community colleges that could open new doors for you.
On the other hand, if there's anything you've found about nursing that you enjoy you could try to stay in the field and either tough it out in your current clinic, or try to find someone else. Are you responsible for the staffing shortages? No, and it's unfortunate that you're feeling the brunt of those shortages. You can demand a break. Legally you are entitled to one and you can dig your heels in and take it, no questions asked. But is it worth the negative feedback you might get from coworkers? Only you could answer that. And no, you're not responsible for the fact that the facility can't hire properly trained people, but it's trickling down and impacting your life, so if it's not worth it you can leave.
Good luck with your decisions, I hope that you find that either a spot in nursing is worth it to you, or that you're ready to move on. Take care of yourself, no one else will put you first so you have to do it.
RatherBHiking, BSN, RN
No don't quit. First you've began your nursing career during a pandemic which has been extremely hard on everyone but I can't even imagine being a new nurse and doing it. Secondly just look at all the things you've learned and the experience you've gained. It wasn't all for nothing. You've found what you don't like but keep searching for something you do like! I don't know of any other profession where you can try so many different types of jobs, specialties and work schedules as a nurse.
My first job out of school was a general med surg floor that I absolutely hated. I questioned why I became a nurse. It was a very toxic unit with cliques and bullying the new nurses. They thought it was funny to test the new nurses, lie to us so we'd mess up then laugh when we got in trouble,… this was before they had ways to anonymously report things like this. I lasted 4 months. I went to HR and said I can't work on this unit anymore. They had a policy you can't leave a unit for 6 months. So they gave me a weekend only position on the same unit. I took it and during the week I tried a home health job PRN and acted as a float nurse filling in where they needed me at the hospital. I learned I don't like home health at all. All the old people lonely and complaining how awful it was to be old and stuck at home depressed me. I only did that 2 months. I also learned not every unit in the hospital was horrible. Some were actually enjoyable with supportive friendly nurses. The best units I went to were OB, ICU, and another general med floor. When 6 months hit to the day I saw they had an OB opening and jumped on it. I was interviewed and took the position. I loved it. After a year I gave that up because I was pregnant and wanted a normal schedule. I went into school nursing. Didn't love it but it was way less stress and doable. I eventually became a SAHM for a few years and worked PRN as a school nurse. When the kids all got in school I tried being a substitute teacher for a year. Didn't love that. I tried the OR. Another toxic unit in that particular hospital. I was beyond stressed, anxious, and depressed again. Lasted 4 months. Then I tried oncology which I never dreamed I'd like but thought why not because we needed money and I loved it! That's been my second favorite job after OB. I did that a year and a half and then due to the schedule and my kids not coping well with both parents doing shift work I went back to school nursing. Now all my kids are graduated and I'm seriously looking at what I can do next. I love learning and being challenged.
I did job hop quite a bit but when I know something is not a good fit for my sanity or safety I do my best to get out fast. I never had one manager give me a hard time about changing positions or jobs. They were all very understanding. The home health was a trial basis PRN anyway so I didn't feel bad about leaving that one. The first one and the OR one I was verbally abused, put down, not supported so I didn't feel bad leaving esp when the managers were aware and didn't do anything about it. They both said they hated to see me go and offered to be a reference so never burn bridges.
This is actually a good time for you to find a new job because nurses are in great demand. I've known a lot of nurses that thought clinic nursing was going to be a great change and end up hating it for a lot of the same reasons you do. I know I couldn't work 12 hours without eating, I'd pass out. Think about other areas that interested you in school. If you aren't sure maybe try being a float nurse and then you can see which units you like.
I've learned it's not usually the specialty as much as the management that can make or break a job. I wouldn't give up yet. You have enough experience you probably wouldn't have too much trouble finding another job.
First thing I would do before deciding that your nursing career is hopeless is put your foot down a little (or even a lot, whatever is necessary).
Safe to say that all of you skipping minimal nutritional/rest breaks isn't adding any real quality to this terrible situation.
They clearly need you to fill this role--and they'll need you just as much if you let them know you're going to have a bite to eat. Have a good attitude about it and don't apologize - - just pleasantly let your coworkers (or supervisor, whomever) know you're stepping away for your break.
Also, if you're sick, you're sick. The employer is in charge of staffing the place. Don't be manipulated into only considering yourself sick if you have a positive covid test. Obviously if you're feeling well enough to work and just need the test to know whether you need to isolate, that's a different matter, but if you're sick and getting run down then you need to call in sick. They can tell you to get a covid test while you're off, but if it's negative and they demand you come to work, remind them that you've called in sick. Again, it sounds like they need you on staff. If they want to cut off their nose to spite their face by terminating you for a call-in, that's a risk you can decide to take if your other option is to quit anyway.
There are massive problems right now, but things are bound to at least feel a tiny better if you are empowered to act sensibly in your own best interest. Honestly, not acting in our own best interest when it is clear that we should is something that is a further emotional insult in and of itself. It just isn't healthy and when we persist in doing it anyway we get all the more disappointed in ourselves.
Quit if you need to, but at least try the above first.
Hang in there.
Dani_Mila, ADN, BSN, RN
Have you tried maybe case management?? This might lessen the stress. Most case management jobs at work from home as far as I know. Maybe the clinic is not your niche. Also maybe look into remote Nursing Jobs. Insurance companies are always hiring.
Been there,done that, ASN, RN
You've had a rough start for sure. Now that you have vented.. get busy finding something else to do with your degree. Two years of experience opens many doors. Best wishes.
I'd love to lend you some advice here as I worked as a nurse for 10 years before I finally made the brave decision to leave the profession. It was a scary decision at first but so many doors opened for me after I did it. I now work with clients who are looking to make similar career changes and if one of them presented me with your situation this is what I would tell them: You are worthy of finding a job that is so much more than tolerable! I know it's hard to see what life could look like outside of the hospital (because we are certainly not taught that in nursing school) but if I can impart any wisdom it's that there is a whole world of opportunity out there for us. We just have to have the courage to take the leap. If staying within nursing and exploring other 'nursing roles' is something you're interested in, I think you should pursue that. I tried to convince myself of taking that route because it felt logical (but deep down I knew it wasn't what I wanted. So my ultimate advice is if you can't see yourself being happy as a nurse for the next 30+ years of your life - make a change. I can tell you I'm so glad I did. Happy to offer some more advice if helpful. Good luck!
I guess the grass isn't always greener. On this forum I see a lot of people encourage others to work in OP clinics but this is a reminder to me that if the culture of the clinic sucks, then it might not be better than other opportunities. There are so many alternative opportunities for RNs, especially if you have a BSN. Don't abandon nursing - there has to be something out there for you.
Thank you all for such well thought out and written perspectives. I'm sorry I haven't written back in such a long time, honestly, the only way I could cope was not thinking about the future for a while. I am a huge introvert and do have social anxiety. I think that overall, nursing might not have been the best choice for me. But the reality of the situation is that no job may be that great for me due to my social anxiety. I once saw a career counsellor who was honestly a bit stumped on what I should do for a job. I have a learning disability in math which puts out quite a few careers, including most businesses. My social anxiety limits a ton of others as well. I always liked the arts but you need talent in that area to make a living which I will be honest, I don't have. Nursing was honestly more of a fallback plan as I wanted a job that I could make a living at that was possible for me to do.
I have booked a meeting with my psychologist. She may be able to open her thoughts about some other avenues or ideas for me.
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