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Why can't I leave work at work?

Specializes in ICU, Med/Surg.

I work in the ICU. And I love what I do, as stressful as it is. On my days off though I worry about my patients. I wonder what is happening in the unit. I wonder who died, who transferred out, who is getting sicker, better... ect.... What is wrong with me?? Why can't I leave it all there and be free and clear on my days off????




Specializes in Emergency.

What do you do on your days off? do you have any hobbies or activities that you do? I found that doing things I really enjoy helped me to leave work at work when I was doing my senior practicum in the ER.

NurseLoveJoy88, ASN, RN

Specializes in LTC. Has 6 years experience.

I have the same problem at times. Sometimes it helps to do things you really enjoy at times on your days off. Its hard especially when you deeply care about what you do and how you impact others. Often they impact us too.

Forever Sunshine, ASN, RN

Specializes in LTC. Has 7 years experience.

I have the same thing. . Even when I was laying at the beach drinking a margarita, I was thinking about work. More along the lines of "Instead of going back to the cruise ship.. I'd be going to work right about now.. ugh.. work.. I wonder whats going on there. I wonder who is stuck in the dining room tonight. I wonder if anyone passed while I was gone(I do check the obituaries if I'm off for several days.)

But after I get home from work my mind is racing. I can't relax and go to sleep until about 2am.

To be honest going on a cruise really did help me with the stress I had in the winter of working 2 part time jobs and going to school. I feel I can handle it all better and even though I didn't crack open a single A&P book over the spring break.. I still got a decent grade on the test. So maybe you just need a good vacation. Even if the thoughts of work are still there.. at least you are relaxing and getting away from it all.

Chin up

Specializes in Med surg, LTC, Administration. Has 26 years experience.

You must be new. In time, you will forget as soon as you leave the parking lot. I think it took me 5 years, to get to that point. Peace!

Orange Tree

Specializes in Medical Surgical Orthopedic.

Hmm, I've been having the opposite problem lately. If I'm off for more than a day, I sometimes can't remember how to navigate the halls back to my unit. It's like time stops when I leave and restarts when I come back. Would you like to borrow my brain? :D

I have no troubles leaving the ICU inside the doors of the ICU. It's a job and not a lifestyle unless you allow it to turn into that. I don't call up there to check on patients. I don't call up there to chit chat or text chat. I have other things that I occupy my time with.

The nurses in my unit are good friends though. We meet up 1-2 times per week for cocktails after the 7a-7p people get off.

TigerGalLE, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU, Med/Surg.

I've been a nurse for 4 years. Been in ICU for 1 year. When I worked on the floor before moving to ICU it was easier to leave everything at work. I think because I didn't really get to know my patients like I do now.

I think y'all are right.... I need a hobby

canesdukegirl, BSN, RN

Specializes in Trauma Surgery, Nursing Management. Has 14 years experience.

It is normal to feel the way you are feeling when you have been there for the short time that you have. When you are at work, you are CONSTANTLY vigilant, even hyper vigilant at times. It takes a while to leave that behind and wind down.

Hobbies help immensely! What do you like to do on your off time? Let me rephrase...before you became a nurse, what were some of the things you enjoyed doing?

TigerGalLE, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU, Med/Surg.

I love to read... which I don't do anymore.

I'm sure a good book will get my mind off of work!! You guys are so smart. Between working overtime and getting caught up on housework it is hard to sit down and find time for yourself. Obviously I need to do that though. Because it is wearing me down.

joanna73, BSN, RN

Specializes in geriatrics.

I am a new nurse, but I've worked for a very long time already in my previous career. Over the years, I've learned to separate work and home. If you don't, you burn out. Sure, I think about my patients from time to time, and I hope I've finished everything I needed to. However, it IS still a job, and we are all more than just a nurse. I really have no problem leaving work at work. Remember, it is 24 hour care.

canesdukegirl, BSN, RN

Specializes in Trauma Surgery, Nursing Management. Has 14 years experience.

I love to read... which I don't do anymore.

I'm sure a good book will get my mind off of work!! You guys are so smart. Between working overtime and getting caught up on housework it is hard to sit down and find time for yourself. Obviously I need to do that though. Because it is wearing me down.

Oh yeah, you MUST have some time to yourself! My rule of thumb is to have ONE day that I do nothing but indulge myself in sheer nothingness. I don't book appointments, I don't run errands, and I don't do housework. The only way I can accomplish this "Must Have Mental Day" is to do daily tasks around the house that will enable me to keep up with the housework. For example, when I come home from work, I throw a load of laundry in immediately. Then when I wake up at 0400, I put it in the dryer. Before dinner, I do ONE household task per day-whether it is washing the kitchen down, vacuuming a room, mopping the floors, cleaning a bathroom, dusting a room or ironing clothes-I choose ONE. This way, my housework does not pile up on me and I can start my mental health day without the guilt and anxiety of having to catch up on tasks.

I find that when I work OT or have a very bad few days at work, I just want to hit the bed. I allow myself to do this, but what I DON'T allow myself to do is to ignore my mental health day. I have done this before (jammed everything that I need to do into my blessed day off) and then I am just all **** and vinegar the rest of the week. Not cool for anyone!

We all need downtime, ESPECIALLY in the demanding profession we are in. This is so essential in keeping a balance in your life. Pick up a book honey! What kind of books do you typically like?

my prescription for you is ....



when you are thinking about choreography that moves your feet, it's not safe to be multitasking!!!!!!!!!

(or any exercise you enjoy and challenges you!)

i also work in an icu with about a year experience and i feel the same way. if there is a pt who has an issue or something that i am not completely comfortable with caring for i spend time thinking about it when i get home.... what if, did i do everything, did i miss anything...... all those types of thoughts. I think in time we will gain confidence in ourselves and our assessments, and with experience we will have less stress overall and maybe we will leave work at work. i am glad to know I'm not the only one who feels this way from time to time

carolmaccas66, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg, DSU, Ortho, Onc, Psych.

You're suffering from a form of PTSD. I cared for a doctor in a mental health unit that had this. He cared too much, as strange as it sounds.

Please go get a formal diagnosis. If you don't want to do that, try some new things like writing a journal to get all ur feelings out, do art work, or yoga or pilates. You must do other activities so you don't get so focused on work.

You cannot save everybody - that's not to say you shouldn't care. But you must put your own health first, by realising that you can only do so much for patients. If people die, it was probably their time anyway. The ICU is stressful because you have a high acuity of extremely ill and needy people, so you come to be more protective of them.

I myself found journal writing great, and pilates - whether done at home or in a class - is good. I also do weights on the weekend, yoga/stretching at the gym and treadmill walking and/or bike riding. That gets my stress out as well.

These things might help you.


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