The Challenges of Being a Nurse

What challenges have you faced as a nurse?

There are many challenges nurses must face during their career in addition to caring for patients. Despite having the best intentions, and the most compassionate heart, there are many factors outside of your control that can impact your career. A few things include physical and mental health, changes in work environment and dealing with new technology.


What challenges have you faced as a nurse?

At the beginning of our nursing career, we might’ve thought the biggest challenge to overcome was passing the NCLEX. We may have envisioned passing this test as if it were the biggest, and last, obstacle standing between us and caring for our patients the way we want to. When in reality, it was just the beginning.

Much of the time the issues that challenge nursing career plans are out of our control, and the NCLEX is just the first of many tests nurses face most days. Even if challenges are out of our control, building an awareness of the source of frustration, and focusing on ways to address it, are the first steps to feeling more in control to overcome career challenges.

Time Isn’t On Our Side

Nurses generally go into the profession because they want to care for people, but often much of their time is spent doing paperwork. Patients may not always understand that these additional tasks are a necessity, and it can result in frustration for them, and also for nurses. This, and ongoing staffing shortages can limit the hands-on time nurses get to spend with their patients. The struggles for nurses to accomplish all that they’d like in a workday that might include frequent overtime can lead to a work-life imbalance, stress, and potentially burnout.

When time challenges your best intentions for managing all your tasks so that you still have adequate time for your patients, try to organize and prioritize time commitments as well as you’re able to. Understand that some things may be out of your control. Explain to patients that the paperwork is part of your job, and inform them of when you plan to return when you’re leaving their room. Sometimes a little transparency, and helping patients understand what to expect when they’re feeling vulnerable or at a loss of control, may help reduce their frustration. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, and like you’re running yourself thin with no reprieve, be sure to look for, and address, any signs of burnout.

Unexpected Injuries and Health Issues

Despite the best intentions for a long career on the floor, nurses often suffer from back or other physical injuries. This can result from long hours standing, lifting and transferring patients, and the overall physical nature of providing nursing care. This may be combined with working with staff shortages, which can result in inadequate assistance that may result in an injury. Nurses may also be exposed to violence in the workplace due to working with angry patients, or if illness contributes to violent behaviors. Always keep safety in the forefront of your mind when caring for patients.

If your body is starting to protest about long hours working on the floor, consider continuing your education to increase career options, or look into other opportunities to utilize your nursing degree without as much physical strain. Don’t forget to practice self-care. Taking the time to care for yourself and get adequate rest is not an indulgence, but a necessity. You can’t care for others if you don’t take care of yourself.

Continuous Changes in Healthcare

Striving to never stop learning is especially important for a career in healthcare. With rapid, ongoing changes, working in healthcare is continuously presenting us with new technology. This can affect the way care is provided, improve documentation methods, and offer varied options for scheduling. Some of these changes are beneficial and can make the job easier, but often the trial and error of learning new technology can be difficult or frustrating.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) brought changes to healthcare delivery, including offering more patients access to healthcare than before, an increased focus on preventative care and chronic conditions, and the need to improve cultural awareness. Even if a change is for the better, it can still be stressful when you’re trying to keep up with the new while continuing to provide the personalized patient care that is at the heart of nursing.

Nursing usually isn’t a career that allows you to bask in keeping things the same way that we’ve always done for very long. Try to stay relevant by reading healthcare journals, reviewing online educational material, network with peers, and explore other methods to keep your mind sharp.

Rise to the Challenge

Most of this information isn’t new to us, and there are probably many more nursing challenges that you can identify. We may have been dealing with some of these issues, or have been aware of them for some time, but nurses are known for their resiliency and resourcefulness. The test is determining how we will rise to face these challenges to make the most of our nursing career.

Have You Overcome Any Challenges in Your Nursing Career?

Maureen Bonatch MSN, RN draws from years of experience in nursing administration, leadership and psychiatric nursing to write healthcare content. Her work has appeared in numerous health system websites and healthcare journals. Her experience as a fiction author helps her craft engaging and creative content. Learn more about her freelance writing at and her fiction books at

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