Why bedside nursing didn't work for me....

Nurses General Nursing


Why does everyone in the profession of nursing tell you it is a MUST you start your career at the bedside in med-surg? This is a well-spoken rule in nursing. From the professors that teach you to the many nurses you encounter during your clinical rotations. BE a bedside nurse they say. Bedside nursing will increase and strengthening your critical thinking. You aren’t a” true nurse” if you haven’t worked at the bedside. All statements I’ve heard along my journey from LPN to finally an associate degree RN. Engraved in my head I accepted my first RN job on what…...yes you guessed it a med-surg floor. Thirty plus years old working alongside the BSN 20 somethings of the world that apparently had it all figured out already. Spending a grand total of 2.5 years at the bedside I did not love it! One of those years spent I worked as an LPN in inpatient rehab, so I only worked 1.5 years at the beside as an RN. Yes, I liked it and learned a tremendous amount in that short period of time, but I didn’t get that wonderful sensation of loving what I did. Sure, I enjoyed the patient care aspect and making people feel better, but something was missing. I looked to my left and then my right and the 20 somethings of the world were thriving. Loving what they were doing, happy and smiling from ear to ear. I felt inadequate. Am I a failure? Why did I dread going to work? Let’s not get into the rotating shifts we were made to do, they were horrible! I missed my family and felt like my work life was taking over my world. I only worked 3 days a week, but they felt like the longest days of my life. Was there something different in the BSN prepared education that I missed? Why was bedside nursing coming so much easier for the 20 somethings? I was an LPN for 8 years prior doesn’t that count for something!! I was perplexed and didn’t understand. Did my nursing degree set me up for failure? Is BSN nurses better than ADN nurses? Why did I feel mediocre compared to the BSN 20 somethings of the world?

Truth is I did great work. I climbed the professional clinical latter just as they did. My skills were just as good. I just needed a better balance. A place where I wasn’t missing my family life and my children’s activities. I came to realize maybe bedside nursing was not for me. It wasn’t the patient care, it was simply the hours of operation. Working 12+ hours either day or night shift was slowly chipping away my love for the profession. In that short period of time I managed to miss several of kid’s activities. I missed sitting down at the diner table to discuss how everybody’s day was and tucking my kids into bed at night. At the facility I worked bedside nursing only offers one shift and that’s 12 hours, day or night! I loved the facility so leaving was not an option. Understanding that I needed structure and balance in my work and personal life was the turning point. Knowing that bedside nursing does not define my profession as a nurse. Learning to trust my path and doing what was best for my life. I had to be selfish for once and not listen to what others say about being a “true nurse.”

Fast forward to today, where I now work as an RN in the diagnostic radiology department. Working four 10-hour shifts, no weekends and no holidays. I am off everyday by 5:30pm. I no longer miss sport practices, extra-curricular activities, dinner at night and tucking my kids into bed. I still care for inpatients and now outpatients. I found my happy place in procedural nursing! The hours of operation worked best for my life and I loved it. I added to my current skill set, sedation certification, ACLS and PALs certification. I learned a different side of nursing, but yes still nursing! Those two initials are still behind my name and I am still caring for people. I even made my way back to school and have two classes left to finish my BSN degree. I now have a better balance and I’m still a “true nurse.” Chose your path and don’t let others force you into doing what they say is right. Bedside nursing is right for some but not all people and that's OK. I guess it depends on what stage of life you’re in. We all have one life to live and I chose to live it my way!

Specializes in Retired.

"Everyone" in the profession does not insist that a med surgery year is a must. There are multiple threads here on AN on the subject. However, you got the experience which probably helped you get the position in radiology so I dont know why you are griping about the job you left. You are lucky you got something that suits you better so quickly. Enjoy it .

Not griping about it. This post was an assignment for one of my BSN classes. This was merely my opinion. Yes I am very fortunate to have found a great fit in the radiology department and yes I am very much enjoying it!

I just have to say thank you for this post I am a new grad and starting on a med surg unit...most ppl on here are bullies behind a screen and this thank you is for the new grads that are told they have to start med surg even tho it may not be where we initially want to be but if we hang in there everything works out!

I personally did not start in Med Surg but I do acknowledge that there is some wisdom to the advice:

1) Med Surg generally offers a wide variety of lower-level clinical challenges that provides a broad insight into the entire healthcare organization. This provides the opportunity for young nurses to determine what specialties they like so that they can make an informed decision.

2) The generally lower-level clinical challenges will often offer a somewhat softer clinical transition period for newer nurses to hone their skills.

Is starting in Med Surg a requirement? Absolutely not but it is not terrible advice.

25 minutes ago, Nurse1999 said:

most ppl on here are bullies behind a screen

This is patently not true. Just because you don't like something someone says does not make them a bully. You have the option to block posters you don't like or you may deactivate your account but it is entirely unfair of you to come on this site call people names and talk about the membership, that you hardly know, in such a negative way. That is bullying behavior. Most of us very much enjoy students and new nurses and will help as much as possible but we also don't sugarcoat things.

To the OP, perhaps in academia they are telling you that starting in med-surg is a must but for nurses in the real world that just isn't so. However, those of us who have experience in the job recognize the value that a year or so in that specialty (and it is a specialty) can provide to some new grads. It definitely opens doors.

Specializes in Critical Care.

Your title and article are a bit confusing because you seem to be saying you no longer work at the bedside because you still do direct patient care in another department, which is still "bedside nursing".

I agree that bedside nursing isn't for everyone, and that the 'one year of med-surg' isn't necessarily the best case for all people in all situations.

However, I do think it's important for new grads to be informed about how starting their career 'non-bedside' role can seriously limit their future job opportunities should they ever decide that they want to try acute care. It's incredibly difficult for people with no 'bedside' experience to get acute care jobs later on since they no longer qualify for new grad residency programs. There are people on this site every day venting about how they started their nursing careers outside of the hospital, and now they can't find a way in.

The truth is, nursing is a vast field, and you probably won't know what you want when you start (or you may think you know what you want and discover that you're completely wrong). The 'one year of acute care' rule doesn't necessarily make you a stronger nurse, and it isn't necessarily the right fit for everyone, but it does open a lot of doors down the road.

I'd still recommend that new grads consider completing at least a year of acute care right out of school if for no other reason than it will give them the most options as they discern their interests and career goals.

I am pretty sure that most folks accept "bedside nursing" to mean direct patient care. At least most nurses.

Do others really thing of a procedural nurse as not being a "true nurse"? I have never heard that.

But, nice that you found a cool job. I am sure your med-surg start helped with that. Probably not a whole lot of your peers moved into it with no bedside nursing experience.

As far as whether it is "needed" or not- I think it depends on your goals. A new grad recently posted that she would be starting an oc health department for a company with no nursing experience. This might work out great, but if she ever wants to change fields, it will be a challenge.

16 hours ago, Nurse1999 said:

I just have to say thank you for this post I am a new grad and starting on a med surg unit...most ppl on here are bullies behind a screen and this thank you is for the new grads that are told they have to start med surg even tho it may not be where we initially want to be but if we hang in there everything works out!

Hi- welcome to AN.

I read your first couple posts. This is going to be interesting.

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