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The ICU sucks sometimes

Nurses   (944 Views | 18 Replies)

SquatsNScrubs is a BSN, RN and specializes in Med-Surg, CVICU.

925 Profile Views; 32 Posts

For lack of a more eloquent title,

I’ve worked in the cardiac ICU x1 year. I love it for the most part. A few things I LOVE: my coworkers/bosses, my unit’s teamwork approach, the flexibility of 3 12-hour shifts, learning something new every day, watching once critically ill patients get better, and staffing ratios (almost always 1:1 or 1:2).

A few things I HATE: rotating shifts and death. I HATE working night shift and constantly feeling exhausted whether I sleep for 4 hours or 12 hours, and being expected to provide excellent care to very sick patients. I HATE when patients die. I am very much aware that this is “part of the job,” but it is very emotionally taxing on me and, as of lately, I am having a difficult time processing how I am expected to clean the body of someone who has just expired, then eat my lunch 5 minutes later like nothing happened. 

I have been in therapy for a little over a month for this and other issues, and I feel like it is helping. However, I’m not sure how long I can work in this specialty without it taking a toll on my emotional health or if I’m cut out for critical care nursing.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. 

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1 Post; 18 Profile Views

Am so sorry that you are feeling this way, I personally hate death and the after math, especially poor families crying. I cry with them all the time. I was a float pool RN for 6 years then CCU for 1.5. Then my worst yet Neuro ICU for over 1 year now.When I started out in the Neuro especially right after my orientation, everyday I went home feeling defeated. In my head am thinking what on earth did I put myself into. Emotionally am better now but I still feel like it is difficult. I don’t know why you chose ICU in the first place, because that is usually what gives you the strength to keep going. If not a strong reason I would choose a unit that is less acute somewhere where the morality is low.  For now you can ask someone to help you through postmortem care. It gets better.

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Rionoir is a ADN, RN and specializes in Neuro ICU.

593 Posts; 3,336 Profile Views

There’s no shame in moving out of the ICU if it’s not a good emotional fit, especially if you aren’t there for a prerequisite to CRNA or something?

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1,100 Posts; 7,655 Profile Views

I’d say no to rotating shifts.  That’s not good for a person mentally.  It either needs to be straight nights or straight days.

Yes, icu can suck.  Especially Neuro.  These people often have tragic, sudden deaths.  I find it to be especially difficult at times.  
 

I make sure I make time for me and my family.  I don’t pick up a ton and I make sure I take my PTO.  It’s how I deal with all the tragedy.  

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ArmyRntoMD is a BSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care.

314 Posts; 583 Profile Views

Night shift is horrible for you. It wasn’t worth the generous diff for me, I value my health much more.

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AceOfHearts<3 specializes in Critical care.

891 Posts; 14,508 Profile Views

Yes, the ICU certainly does suck at times and drains a person. Yes, death is not always an easy thing to deal with, especially the ones left behind. For the most part I try to focus on the fact that the deceased is at peace and no longer in pain. Way too often I feel like we are torturing a soul just because the family can’t let go- I find that the hardest thing about the icu (futility of care).

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18 Posts; 121 Profile Views

I guess this is one of those things you might not be able to learn to do, and some of us just do it naturally, but I've always been able to compartmentalize very easily. It's not that I don't see my patients as people or that I don't care, of course, but they are my patient first and foremost. I don't get attached to people very easily in general, and when I leave work I leave it all there, then take it all on full force when I come back.
It's possible that if you can't learn to manage that aspect of the job then you might need to find a less emotionally draining area of nursing before you cause some kind of permanent damage to yourself.

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AlwaysLearning247 has 4 years experience as a BSN.

1 Follower; 372 Posts; 6,498 Profile Views

I’m in the same boat. The rotating shifts can be tough and the death in the ICU can be very sad. I try to look at it as the patient’s next stage of life and their quality of life if they were to survive. Sometimes it’s really depressing. Make sure to take care of yourself on your days off and do what makes you happy. I find having close nurse friends that I can vent to helps tremendously. Our non nursing friends and family don’t understand sometimes. If you feel like it’s really not a good fit and it makes you sad for a while you could always go for outpatient surgery, PACU, etc! Just know you’re not alone. Good luck!

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NickiLaughs has 11 years experience as a ADN, BSN, RN and specializes in Emergency, Trauma, Critical Care.

2,370 Posts; 34,634 Profile Views

I did ICU for 5 years and don’t know why it took me so long to realize it wasn’t the right fit for me.  I was good at it but emotionally drained.  I switched to ER and was much happier.  People still died but you didn’t get to bond with them or know families and you were so busy trying to either save them or deal with everything you didn’t have time to thing about it.  Night shift can make your emotions even harder especially if you are rotating.  I don’t know why some hospitals still try to do that.  It isn’t healthy.  I’d look for a different department and a consistent shift.

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ArmyRntoMD is a BSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care.

314 Posts; 583 Profile Views

Any area sucks sometimes, I like ICU because it’s not just task oriented like the floor, requires more critical thinking in general, and I don’t understand why anyone likes caring for 6-8 patients at a time. Many of the floor nurses say it’s hard to even keep their patients straight. That seems awful to me. Much rather get to know 1-2 patients care much more closely. 

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myoglobin has 12 years experience as a ASN, BSN, MSN and specializes in ICU, trauma, neuro.

661 Posts; 4,556 Profile Views

I live in one of the worst markets for nurses (Florida) and even here you can find ICU jobs that don't require rotating shifts.  If you are going to work nights "live nights".  That means even when you are not working you stick to roughly the same schedule (never going to bed before around 0500 and getting up in the afternoon).  Even when I go on vacation I "live nights".  Also, it is better to work every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, than have to "rotate".  Variety, may be the spice of life, but variety in work hours is the death of your physical body and mental clarity.  Also, I believe that dealing with death is easier (although certainly not easy) if you truly believe that we are essentially "spiritual" beings and that this body we inhabit is simply a shell (without regard to whatever spiritual practice or religion to which you may subscribe). 

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ArmyRntoMD is a BSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care.

314 Posts; 583 Profile Views

I don’t think anything happens when we die, and it just makes me want to live life to the fullest. YOLO! Just kidding. Kind of. 

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