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What to do when you question why you became a nurse...and you will

Nurses Article   (4,411 Views 14 Replies 858 Words)
by Deb_Aston Deb_Aston, MSN, RN (Member) Member Nurse

Deb_Aston has 30 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Peds, PICU, Peds Onc, Nursing Leadership.

4 Articles; 1,750 Profile Views; 18 Posts

We have all had moments in our career when we question why we became a nurse. This article reminds us to remember why we made the choice, and suggests ways to inspire you to persevere and stay in the nursing profession.

What to do when you question why you became a nurse...and you will

I remember the exact moment I knew that I wanted to be a nurse. It was Career Day at my High School. Junior year, 1983. I walked into the building not knowing where to start, feeling completely overwhelmed with rows and rows of tables with feathered-out brochures displaying a variety of options and fields of study. There were smiling college recruiters promising success, and colorful poster displays showing happy, culturally diverse students hanging out at the Student Center, engaged in thoughtful discussion, books in hand. Many of the parents who attended this event seemed more excited than their offspring; each believed that their child was destined for greatness, hoping that at the very least, their child would exceed their own career choices.

It was during a mad rush of well-meaning parents, teenagers in tow, proceeding with focused determination to interrogate a recruiter from a nearby IVY league university, that I was literally shoved into the corner of one table that was repeatedly being passed by, without even a second glance. (It is important to point out that back in the day, and by "day", I mean, the 1980's, there was a nursing shortage; it was not as popular of a career choice as it is now.) This table that I "found" had a sign that simply said: Be a Nurse. I remember thinking "OK, sign me up!" After all, I spent so much time in the school nurse's office, she was on a first name basis with my parents; she always came through in the clutch when I needed a break from my classes and/or wanted to go home early. Call it fate, luck, or literally being pushed into a career; it was, as Oprah would say, my "Aha! moment". I made the decision right then and there, and never looked back.

To this day it has been one of the best decisions of my life. It has been a job that has professionally sustained me for over 28 years (and counting). But to be clear, it hasn't always been smooth sailing. Yes, making the decision was easy; nursing school, not so much. The harsh reality of nursing was even harder. That first year after graduation was downright painful at times. As a new graduate nurse, you literally leave nursing school/college feeling on top of the world, thinking "I've got this!" (insert the laughing-out-loud with tears flying out of your eyes emoji here).

Then, you are "lucky" enough to get a job right out of college, working on the night shift, and your entire body, mind, and spirit are mercilessly handed to you on a silver platter (or bedpan, in this instance). You think that you are prepared to share your "gift" with those in need; heal the sick, save lives, cure cancer, maybe even meet a nice, handsome doctor (bring back that laughing emoji)...but soon, you realize that you are working with people who easily make Regina George from Mean Girls look like a Disney princess. Oh, and that handsome doctor is the one yelling, and hanging up on your for asking a "stupid" question. "Excuse me Dr. McDreamy, did you mean to order 500 mg of acetaminophen for a child that weighs 10 kgs"?

Yes, there have indeed been a few times (maybe more than a few) when I questioned "Whyyy am I doing this"? But here's the thing, nursing is one of the best jobs in the world in my humble opinion. I can't imagine doing anything else. Every time that I am asked what I "do" for a living, I am filled with complete pride when I say "I am a nurse". For every challenging and painful shift, I have received tenfold in amazing moments. I have patients and families that will forever be ingrained in my mind as my "favorite". I have learned about compassion, courage, strength, resilience, empathy, hope, faith, and love almost every single day in the patients that I care for, and in the nurses who care for them. They are my colleagues. My friends. My brothers and sisters in healthcare. Yes, there are bullies, but they are small in comparison to the amazing nurse heroes that I have come to know and love. We share similar stories, and it connects us in the same way that brings sports teams to championships, and war heroes, solidarity.

So when you consider leaving your job as a nurse, and you will, it's ok. We have all been "there". To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, "nothing worth having comes easy". Tomorrow is another day, and if you still feel that way, "If you don't like where you are, move; you're not a tree" (author unknown). Just don't give up on nursing as a profession. Nursing is the gift that keeps on giving, there are so many different career paths that you can take; try them all if you so desire! Please don't focus on the bad shifts; each shift is a lesson learned and presents you with opportunities for greatness, I promise you.

Debbie_Aston_ what to do when.pdf

I have been a nurse for 28 years in various pediatric specialties and sub-specialties. I have been a nursing manager/leader for 17 years, and I am a strong nurse advocate.

4 Articles; 1,750 Profile Views; 18 Posts

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xoemmylouox has 13 years experience as a ASN, RN.

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I am seriously considering going back for my masters in nursing with a focus on healthcare admin. I just feel burnt out with patient care. I'm just so torn. I love educating my patients and working with them to come up with real life strategies that can improve their lives, but I feel that it just isn't practical anymore at the bedside. Lately I'm getting up to 6 very sick patients and having to do primary care because we have no techs/assistants (they are all quitting due to being overworked). I was also recently assaulted by a patient and the bruises are still there weeks later. I think I need a new challenge, I just worry I will miss patient care in the end... I'm definitely in a why am I doing this phase. I know I'll never completely give up Nursing, but I do know I need a change.

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Deb_Aston has 30 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Peds, PICU, Peds Onc, Nursing Leadership.

4 Articles; 18 Posts; 1,750 Profile Views

I hear you, it's not for everybody! Night shift definitely has it's pros & cons. I know many night shift nurses who love the camaraderie and low key workflow (compared to days, that is). It is hard on the body though, you really have to take care of yourself physically and mentally. Good luck!

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Deb_Aston has 30 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Peds, PICU, Peds Onc, Nursing Leadership.

4 Articles; 18 Posts; 1,750 Profile Views

I would highly recommend going back for your graduate degree...it provides you with many new opportunities for clinical practice. My Master's degree is in Administration also, however you can take an Education track if you love teaching.

I'm sorry to hear that you were assaulted by a patient; unfortunately, that is happening much too often now, even in the pediatric world where I work. If you are unhappy, consider other available positions; maybe transferring to another speciality or unit (or organization) is just what you need to be inspired. I have worked in many different areas and each has taught me so much about the different roles of nursing in healthcare. Good luck!

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I'm at this point right now...sorry for the vent :(

Today marked 6 months at my current position (Med-Surg) and 11 1/2 months of working as a nurse. It started off with one of my patients deciding that I wasn't paying enough attention to his needs. He told me he was paying for me to do whatever he said to do when he said to do it, despite the fact that most of what he wanted required doctor's orders that I didn't have at that time (I got them, but not fast enough). So he complained about me to the charge nurse and DON and fired me. Then as if that didn't make the day suck enough I was given another patient (to trade the one that fired me) and I went and made my first med error and it was one that could have killed or seriously harmed my patient. I was lucky that he was okay and I'll never make that mistake again. I MIDAS reported myself and then several hours later the DON wrote me up for the error. So much for MIDAS reports being "teaching tools for how to prevent errors not reports used to punish" as we were told repeatedly in orientation.

I tried asking the DON how to put in my resignation even though I have a new grad contract and would have to pay back a bunch of money but he told me no I couldn't quit and that he wanted to work to see if I had potential. That sounds like he needs a warm body on the floor whether I'm safe or not. Sorry you are short handed but at this point I am no longer safe to work as a nurse and as it was never a calling for me but just a job (one that I've really hated for most of the year I've done it), it doesn't seem fair to co-workers or patients to keep trying to force myself to be a nurse. I don't trust myself anymore so how can anyone else trust me? Not sure how to get out of this except by turning in my license to the BON as being unsafe, but that seems a little extreme just to leave a job that I can't and don't want to do anymore.

Sorry for the long rant, I just don't know what to do. My mom is so excited that I'm a nurse but doesn't understand that I'm miserable. I cry at least once a week and I'm tired of it. Wal-Mart at $10 an hour looks so much better right now.

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Deb_Aston has 30 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Peds, PICU, Peds Onc, Nursing Leadership.

4 Articles; 18 Posts; 1,750 Profile Views

Oh no, I am so sorry. It sounds as if you lost all of your confidence, which is probably why you are feeling so bad right now. We have all made mistakes, especially as a new nurse. The important thing is to try to find a mentor or "buddy" at work who can be your resource person during your shift if you have a question, or need support, or a 2nd opinion/another set of "eyes". Never forget that you are a part of a team. Trust me, teamwork can help lighten the load; it will also help you feel more sure of yourself through this learning period. To avoid other med errors, always make sure that you are checking and rechecking orders, patient, doses, etc. Ask another nurse to verify. None of us are above asking for help. Even the most senior nurse doesn't know everything and has to look things up or ask a friend.

I don't know what kind of contract you are under, but it might be helpful to make an appointment with a representative from Human Resources who can help guide you on what your options are...first and foremost, patient safety should always be a primary concern for organizations. If you are not succeeding, that means that they have failed you during your orientation. Some places have year-long nurse residency programs that meet monthly so new nurses can vent and share stories and experiences. Trust me, there are many options available as a nurse. If you don't love bedside care, you can consider working for a pharmaceutical company or patient equipment company, you can consider Quality Improvement or database coordinators (many trauma and OB registries are managed by nurses)...so many choices. I hope you find your confidence. Good luck!

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Thanks. I'm actually in a year-long residency New Grad program, hence the contract. I have my last Residency class next month with a research workshop in November to prep the "graduation" presentation that I have to do. I just don't know what the problem is but part of me (the bigger part right now) HATES pretty much everything to do with nursing. Part of me though wants it to work, I do have goals. I was just about to start working on my BSN but I think I need to let that be for awhile yet, if ever. I wanted to stick this out for the year on Med-Surg and then work on getting a job in Nursery or NICU (or anything Women's Services related) but now with a write-up I can't even apply for anything else until it goes away (1 year from now rather than in June which is 1 year from when I was on my own).

The other problem is my coworkers and clinical supervisors are getting tired of me asking them questions or for help. There is very little teamwork and I'm tired of doing everything myself, but even more tired of trying to get a CNA to do something for one of my patients. Obviously I suck at delegating or they suck at listening but I just save my energy and do total care as much as possible.

Here it is either patient care or a new line of work. I don't have the experience needed to get anything away from the bedside. Not until at least the 5 year mark.

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Deb_Aston has 30 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Peds, PICU, Peds Onc, Nursing Leadership.

4 Articles; 18 Posts; 1,750 Profile Views

Don't feel you are stuck anywhere... I went right into Pediatrics when I was a new grad and have been in the Peds world ever since in some capacity or another. Many of my friends who went the Med-Surg route got burned out quickly; it's not for everyone. I would still meet with someone from HR who might be able to help you be successful in another unit. Or start fresh in another organization that gives you the tools and resources to succeed, maybe in the Nursery to start out (very hard to hire into the NICU without nursery or meds experience in my opinion. Those babies are much too fragile!)

Don't feel trapped. That 5-year mark is not written in stone anywhere. Where there is a will, there is a way. Good luck!

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Yeah I figured that I'd have to start with Postpartum or Nursery to see what healthy is before I'd be allowed anywhere near the NICU. I think that will stay a dream though as I don't see the hospital system allowing me to change departments and I'm in the biggest hospital system in the city of Las Vegas. The other hospitals don't really hire nurses unless they have 2-5 years of experience or they know someone in HR.

I just wish there wasn't a contract so that I could have found another floor earlier than this when I still had a clear record.

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Yeah I figured that I'd have to start with Postpartum or Nursery to see what healthy is before I'd be allowed anywhere near the NICU. I think that will stay a dream though as I don't see the hospital system allowing me to change departments and I'm in the biggest hospital system in the city of Las Vegas. The other hospitals don't really hire nurses unless they have 2-5 years of experience or they know someone in HR.

I just wish there wasn't a contract so that I could have found another floor earlier than this when I still had a clear record.

2 Cents here -

Honestly, chances are they will fire you or force you to resign the moment they find a replacement.

Do you watch Game of Thrones? If so, remember the scene where Queen Cersei ripped up a will?

Don't bother asking the DON how to resign. Read your employee's handbook; it should explain how to do it. You are not obligated to stay at any job; read the contract, pay the penalty, and bounce. Ideally, you should not quit until you have another job secured BUT you are at a breaking point and you revealed to DON that you want to resign, so... The sooner, the better, before they do something to mess with your license.

Also - are you willing to relocate? There are hospitals that will take nurses with even a month of experience, though, they (at least the ones I have come across) prefer 6 months - and you got that.

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brandy1017 is a ASN, RN and specializes in Critical Care.

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As a new nurse, I really appreciate this article. That night shift though! My body is NOT a fan.

I love night shift, I would never do days it is just too busy and stressful and so many people interrupting you. I don't know how they do it!

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