This post is a rambling rant. A long whiny complaint. It’s where I am. You are under no obligation to read further. All these thoughts I’ve had for so long . . . keeping them mostly to myself. It’s time to put this out there.
People often ask me how I like being a nurse and the answer is far too complicated, so I usually give the short, “oh, it’s good” reply. Do I like caring for people? Yes, I love it! If that was all there was to it, it would be great.
So this blog is the real answer, the full answer.
I hate being a nurse.
There. I said it.
I don’t hate ALL of it. Just most of it. Maybe 80%?
15 months ago I started working as a nurse. 3 years ago my life stopped as I entered a grueling nursing program.
I keep waiting for my life to start up again.
I remember back to right before nursing school, when I was a homeschooling mama. The happiest days of my life. But I felt the internal push towards nursing. Or did I? People I trusted confirmed: it was a good choice. But here I am, 15 months in, and I’m wondering if I heard from God correctly when I began this pursuit of being a nurse. Why on earth would God lead me here??? Over the last three years, I have never been so stressed, depressed, and lacking in purpose.
I have lost who I am.
Who have I become? How did I get here? Why am I doing this?
I have kept silent because so many people will not understand. You will say, ‘every job is hard, you just have to tough it out, be strong.’ But for those of you who are, or have bee, a nurse, you know. Nursing is unlike any other career – demanding so much of you emotionally, mentally, and physically. High stakes. High stress. I dread every shift. I don’t sleep the night before or the night after a shift because of the anxieties racing through my brain. Always adding new responsibilities, in the same 12.5 hours. “Customer satisfaction” means my patient gets to rate me on how fast I brought them their coffee, even if I was delayed because I was in an emergent situation down the hall. There is never enough staff. Never enough time. I have to assess my patients, give meds, chart, chart, chart, answer and make scores of phone calls, put in orders, check orders, cancel orders, hunt down meds, walk the patients, toilet the patients, chart, chart, chart . . . it just goes on and on. I imagined having time to sit at my patients’ bedside to talk with them, and hold their hands to comfort them. That is a luxury I have rarely seen.
Meanwhile my feet have developed fasciitis, heel spurs, saddle bone deformity and achilles tendinitis despite my expensive athletic shoes because I go from sitting to sprinting at the sound of an alarm, and walk an average of 8 miles a day. After one shift, it takes my body until noon the next day to feel like doing ANYthing. After two back-to-back shifts I am limping and sore from head to toe and need an entire day of nothing to recuperate. My lower back is a constant mess of pain from turning 300 pound patients in their bed so they don’t get bed sores or putting them on bed pans, and the stress knots between my shoulder blades cut like a knife.
Two work days for me looks like: waking up at 5am, leaving at 6am, home by 8pm, scarf dinner, try not to cry about my day, shower, bed. Repeat. Two full days of not really doing anything around my house, or interacting with my family in a meaningful way. Try as my family might, they cannot quite make up for mom being gone two days in a row. Inevitably, school-work or errands mean I often come home to dishes and messes that take days to fully undo – usually just in time to go back to work my next shift.
All of that stress might be worth it to some. I am left in jealous awe when I talk to a nurse who loves their career and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I wish I felt this way. Nursing has killed the life in me to such an extent that I have no energy left to pursue relationships outside my immediate family, and even that is a stretch.
It’s not worth it to me. I have lost almost all of my friendships due to my lack of investment there. I am missing out on my children’s activities and life moments. My son drove a date to his junior homecoming recently – I got a text message picture of them while I was at work. I wasn’t there to help him fix his tie or meet the lucky girl. My daughter has grown from a child to a young lady while I’ve been off in nursing land, and I have missed SO much. She tells me weekly how much she misses me.
I spent this January through May in a deep depression. Barely getting out of bed. Forgetting what joy felt like. Feeling like death must surely be better than this life. I thought I would never shake it, and the climb out of that depression was slow and hard. I faked a lot of smiles.
I am a shell of who I was.
Once, I lived with purpose.
Once, I was involved. Volunteering at the kids schools. Helping them with homework. Going to parent-teacher conferences. Meeting friends for coffee. Calling to talk with family members. Having people over for dinner. Leading small groups, volunteering at church, mentoring young people, singing, blogging, outreaches . . . .
Once, I lived.
And the money? This stress ain’t worth the pennies I make off it. I would choose living off ramen noodles and thrift store clothes-shopping over how I feel today. We survived on one income before, we can do it again. It was a blessing to save for a down payment on a house. Maybe that’s all this was for – so we could get a house, or so I can have a career in my pocket in case anything happens to Andrew . . . .
I don’t know.
Next week I will begin again on a new floor – changing from a surgical floor to postpartum care. This is a big change – and some people in the hospital world look down on mother-baby staff. They say that’s where nurses go to retire. I have seen the raised eyebrows when I said I was moving to mother-baby, but frankly, I don’t care. I am sorry I am not cut out to be a medical/surgical nurse, or critical care nurse. I truly wish I was. But at this point, I am just trying to stay in the game and not give up completely, so I have to try something. Back to midnight shift I go. Luckily, I work at a great hospital and am surrounded with awesome staff. And I love babies. So that’s something . . . a fresh start on mother-baby. I want to give it at least a full year or two. Really give it a chance. Beyond that, my future is up in the air.
Nursing school was painfully hard, but there was always an end in sight – a goal to be reached. It was temporary pain. It kills me to be at that goal and my only wish is for it to be over. Can I just retire now and be a florist?
I have 7K left in student loans. I signed a contract with my employer that I would finish my bachelors within five years of hire. Do I want to take on 20K more debt for this?
I don’t know.
This was a hard post to write. I feel quite vulnerable. It’s hard not to feel like I am letting people down. All the people who always remind me they are “so proud” of me becoming a nurse . . . .
If you stuck it out and read this far – you are a brave soul. :)
All of this negativity . . . but besides all that, I am so grateful for my life. I am grateful for my husband who has stuck by me and encouraged me over and over. Letting me cry on his shoulder after so many hard shifts. I am grateful for my beautiful home that we have now. I am grateful my children have seen what it means to work hard towards a goal and who have become so self-sufficient these past few years. I am grateful for a church where I feel the love of Christ with no pressure to perform. I am grateful for my family that loves me even when I’m absent or down.
I am so grateful.
Deep down, life is good, and there is hope. I know God will never leave me. I’m trusting Him to lead me to where I need to be.
Better Days Ahead,
If you’re bored, here’s some articles on nurse burnout: