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Ummm ... is this normal?

Specializes in OB Nursing.

Hi everyone! Im a new grad and about Month n a half ago, landed my first job in Cardiac Intensive Care @ one of the most prestigious hospitals in the country. Though I've only been on the job for a small amount of time, Im afraid this isn't a good job for me as a brand new nurse. I like the staff, the hours, and the fact that we can self schedule, but the job is so stressful that I've developed a panic disorder! Every day/night before my shift, i get short of breath, my heart races, and I cry.uncontrollably allllll the way to work! I DREAD going there! Idk why I get so anxious and stressed out! I've already had 3 patients code so you think I'd be used to it, but I get sooooo nervous that it hinders my learning during the code.

I'm currently working under a "coach" (aka preceptor ) so Im not alone yet I feel like Im drowning @ times. Pace Makers, Femoral sites, and drips scare the living crap out of me and I hate bathing n turning heavy, sedated patients @ 3am while making sure i dont rip out an Art Line or Swan by accident.

I spoke with several nurses who've told me that Im not crazy : it's really just an intense floor. I even had one tell me she got nauseated every day before her shift nonstop for 6 months! I don't want to end up burnt out n depressed before my career has even started! That's how I'm feeling though and Idk if Im in over my head n should look for a new job, or if Im simply not giving myself enough credit and time to take it all in!??

Though ppl have said I'm not crazy, I'm thinking that these feelings are abnormal. I shouldn't need a Psych consult just because of a job, right? I don't want to burn any bridges @ this great hospital, but Im thinking about quitting! :( NICU was my first love, but Im scared that I'll feel the same level of anxiety with the little ppl as well! Is NICU a little better?

HELP! Im counting on you guys to help me through! :)

HouTx, BSN, MSN, EdD

Specializes in Critical Care, Education.

I think you need to trust the people you are working with. They know you a lot better than anonymous posters on an Internet forum. From your post, it seems that you may be bullying yourself.

My clinical practice area is critical care also. It may sound peculiar since as a new nurse, I am sure your focus is on improving your technical skills, but the developmental experience that proved to be the most valuable for me was 'values clarification'. This was actually an extended nursing ethics course. It helped me to understand my underlying belief system - and provide insight about why I reacted the way that I did. For instance, I believe that quality of life is far more important than quantity.... so long, drawn out resuscitation efforts & overly 'heroic' treatment caused me a great deal of stress and anxiety. I am a real control freak - this made me feel like a failure when we couldn't 'save' every code. and so on. . .

This process included a lot of self-exploration and as a result I actually realized that I was a pretty spiritual person (NOT religious - there is a major difference). It was a wonderful thing when I finally realized that no matter what we did, or how hard we worked, the ultimate outcome would never be totally under our control. I learned to forgive myself and ease up on the self-criticism. This allowed me to begin to 'enjoy' my patients and appreciate my role in their lives and the lives of their families.

I strongly encourage you to engage in self-reflection and explore 'why' you are feeling the way you do. "Scared", "Stressed", "Angry", "Nervous" -- these are all your reactions and therefore within your own control. No one can "happy" you, it's strictly a do-it-yourself thing.


Specializes in OB Nursing.

Thank you so much for your comment. I've heard numerous times that Im being too hard on myself -even though Im not not really sure what that means. I simply want to do a good job and @ the end of every shift I want to be able to say "I did everything I could". This particular job that I have entails a lot of interventions and being so new; I don't see myself ever being good at knowing things like "Oh..

Maps are dropping. I need to do xyz". The amount of critical thinking and learning is waaayyy beyond stressful for me! I've literally shut down. I can't look up things anymore because I've hit a wall where my brain won't allow me to take in anything else! I've tried self talk, talking to others, and even praying (im spiritual and religious lol). Idk. Maybe I'm just having new job syndrome or something Hahahaha! But with every passing day, I get closer to wanting to quit n do something else with my life! This, right now, is torture!

I appreciate your post. I need to look into taking a class or even talking to a professional about career goals n motivation techniques. Thanks again!

Nurse SMS, MSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development.

Are you unwinding on your days off? Are you giving yourself permission to NOT think about work when you are not at work and then actively keeping yourself busy so that you interrupt the natural thought process that makes you relive and reevaluate your shifts over and over? I am a new grad in a critical care area too and know just what you are talking about. After my first patient death, which was very emotionally traumatic for me, I gave myself permission to take three days and not even think about nursing or work in any capacity. I even stayed away from this site. It helped.

Finding a way to unwind and debrief after a rough shift is crucial. I am an older new nurse and was very good at what I did before I became a nurse. Not knowing all the answers and not be efficient and having to ask for help and worrying what my coworkers think of me etc etc etc becomes a negative maelstrom that I find hard to divest myself from when I let it really get going. I suspect you are the same. Do you have anyone who is a nurse (and thus can understand) who will be a sounding board/decompression person for you?

Lastly, my signature has become a mantra that calms me many times. I am not a great nurse yet. I am too new. But I am a good nurse. I just still have a lot to learn and remind myself consistently that it is okay.

I hope you feel better.

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

Give it a little more time and take some of the suggestions that others have offered and will offer here.

However ... after you have done that ... don't be afraid to admit that this job is not a good fit for you, if that is truly the case. Give yourself permission to quit, if that is what you need to do. I don't recommend doing that as a first step -- or even a second step -- but if you have tried several approaches to solving your problem and still struggle as you are now, then quitting my be in your best interest. Not every job is a good fit for every person. By quitting on your own accord early in the process, you can honestly say that you thought you would like ICU nursing, but realized once you were there that it was not right for you at this time. Few hiring managers would hold that against you. But if you stay too long and get all burned out ... or get fired ... or develop a reputation for being unsafe, etc. etc., that "bad mark on your resume" could stay with you for a while.

If you decide to leave that unit, look to see if you can transfer to another unit in the same hospital. That might be easier as your current manager and educator could vouch for your personality and character more easily. They might be able to help you "land on your feet" on another unit. I've done that for people who had similar issues. But that process is easier when it is done early, while they still see you in a positive light -- and not after things have totally fallen apart and spiraled out of control.

Good luck to you, whatever you decide.


Specializes in Trauma, Critical Care.

I commented on a similar post recently...new grad in an intense trauma ICU. I'll sum up my thoughts: I've been a nurse for 3 years, first year was floor nursing and now I do trauma ICU. My first year, although not in ICU, was filled with anxiety. I was scared all the time! It's normal for your first job and I think it takes a little over a year to get comfortable. Here I what I did to get comfortable and confident: ask a ton of questions, never be afraid to admit when you don't know something, your patient will be ok as long as you know something is wrong even if you don't know what to do about it (that's what the help is for), ad STUDY! Nope, just cause you graduated doesn't mean learning is over. When I started in ICU, I would take home the general nursing report sheets (which including summary info, procedures, and drips for all pts on our team) and look up the stuff I wasn't familiar with. It helped. Best wishes. Stick with it for at least 6 months and then reevaluate. You are so beyond normal.

I can tell you that I felt the exact same way as you. I did one year in the CVICU and when I realized that I was always going to dread going to work everyday I transferred back to an outpatient cardiac unit. In my opinion if this doesn't get better for you and you don't feel that it is something you want then don't torture yourself. Take it as a great learning experience and move on. Good luck to you!


Specializes in OB Nursing.

Thanks everyone! I truly appreciate the comments and suggestions that everyone offered. I had a decent week @ work and I learned a few more things about myself, my job, and my career as a whole. Im taking these things and putting them together to come to a conclusion. Im thinking about requesting a transfer -as a position recently became available in a High Risk OB unit, which is a MAJOR interest of mine. It's not critical care,but it's still a more critical area that'll allow me to use critical thinking skills (which I like doing as long as I understand the big picture ). Im not 100% yet if this is what I'm gonna do, but it's a step in a better direction for me:)


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