For the whole and entirety of my life, I wanted to be a nurse. I grew up around it. You may as well call me Meredith Gray. I had a million nurse moms, all my mom’s friends from where she had worked as an OB nurse at a small, rural hospital. And for years, I was a nurse. Then one day, it hit me like a piano from a 4th story window. I don’t want to be a nurse anymore.
I grew up wanting to save lives and help people. I worked my butt off for years to get the grades and be accepted into nursing school. After graduation, I worked even harder to prove that I was a good nurse. I worked hard, saved lives, and had the most amazing group of friends but also collogues a girl could ask for. Then, slowly but surely, the road got dark and the mood changed dramatically.
Growing up, I idolized my mom and my aunt, both nurses in different fields. My mom was an OB nurse. I remember her working nights when I was little, coming home when I was getting ready to go to school with breakfast from Burger King (those tiny cinnamon rolls were the best thing ever). She brought babies into the world. It was the job God Himself had chosen her for, and I could see it in how she spoke about work.
She was exhausted, but so proud to be doing what she did.
My aunt, on the other hand, was an ICU nurse. She saved the sickest of sick patients.
I would sit and listen to the stories they would tell about the joy of bringing life into the world or back into it, as well as stories about heartache and tragedy . They would talk about the patients that touched their hearts, the staff they worked with, and the hospital they were both proud to be a part of.
I wanted all of that.
So I worked and struggled (and I do mean STRUGGLED) and eventually got accepted into and subsequently graduated from the local community college with my associate’s degree in nursing. I immediately went to work in the field I had spent the last few years in as a CNA, the Emergency Department.
I was swallowed up by ER nursing from day 1. Saving lives in organized chaos consumed me. I swore I’d never find another job I loved as much as ER nursing.
That lasted 5 years.
Then the mood changed.
The patient to staff ratio began to get dangerously high.
Nursing administration, in their perfect office world with no bedside nursing, would send down orders for changes that no working nurse would ever want.
Department administration would look the other way when we asked for help, giving nothing but excuses for why they couldn’t help and blame when things went wrong in our understaffed, overloaded ER.
Experienced nurses were let go for reasons I’ll never understand or left because they could see what was happening.
I couldn’t see what was happening for the longest time. I thought, “surely it will get better” and “It’s ok. I’m ok. It’s going to be fine.”
Begrudgingly, I began to admit to myself that the Emergency Department was becoming a soul-sucking entity that threatened my license and my sanity. I finally said enough is enough and after 7 years, took 2 sabbaticals into other areas of nursing in the hospital. None of them made me any happier.
So after 12 years working in the same hospital, 7 of those years as one of its nurses, I gave my resignation and ended my employment with the establishment that I thought I’d retire from.
I left for a different job, one as an oncology nurse in a different city and state. The change was exactly what I needed.
Or so I thought.
Learning a completely new area of nursing made me fall in love with nursing again. I was helping people again.
I was responsible for giving life-saving medications to people that NEEDED IT, wouldn’t survive without it.
For a while, it was everything I wanted. It was everything I had been missing in the ER. I loved the patients and the staff I worked with was amazing.
It lasted 10 months this time.
Then one day, something happened. It wasn’t one particular thing. There wasn’t a patient or a specific circumstance. I had a realization.
It was the realization that nothing is going to change.
Healthcare is a broken system.
Patients go broke seeking treatment or die waiting for insurance to approve medications they need. Insurance companies dictate medical management instead of providers who spent years in school and more years perfecting their craft.
Charting became 14 different screens of CYA instead of one page about what the patient is actually experiencing and what I’m doing about it.
Administration became, “Why can’t you be better/take on more patients/take on more responsibility?” instead of “What can we do to make you a better nurse/how can we help you?”
Good nurses left the profession entirely, leaving it to new grads with no experience and even less common sense. (No offense, newbies, but most of you learned a lot of book stuff but have no idea how to be a nurse. It’s not your fault, but that is an entirely different subject.)
Don’t get me wrong. I still love being a nurse.
I love my patients SO MUCH. Taking care of them makes my days. Talking to them and hearing the struggles and triumphs is what I long for. Being able to help with the battle is why I became a nurse in the first place.
I became a nurse to help people.
I didn’t become a nurse to do mountains of paperwork unrelated to my patients and their care.
I didn’t become a nurse to have to answer for my appropriate actions to administration.
I didn’t become a nurse to have to defend my license every day because some doctor/ CEO/ patient decides they want something a certain way and no one will back me up when that something is dangerous or just not good common sense.
I love taking care of patients, but it’s not enough anymore.
Hard work and dedication come naturally to me, but it’s not enough anymore.
My educational requirements and every task that is handed to me are done, but it’s not enough anymore.
I’m a good nurse, but it’s not enough. I hate nursing and I don’t want to be a nurse anymore.
I have had so many people contact me with questions, comments and just to let me know that they feel the same way. It warms my heart to know that what I’m saying resonates with other nurses.
I worried when I wrote this that maybe I was crazy. Maybe it was just like that at the hospital that I was at. That is not the case.
Apparently, it’s a national crisis. Nurses EVERYWHERE are feeling it. It’s probably one of the saddest realizations I’ve had.
I have had lots of people ask if I am still in nursing. I am.
I still work as an ER nurse. And I still want out.
Yes, I still hate nursing is one way or another. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say I don’t want to ever be a nurse again.
I still love the patients and still hate the rest. There isn’t a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought about how nice it will be to not have to be a nurse, or at least be a nurse because I want to and not because I have to.
But i have found a happy medium between being a nurse and not being a nurse.
I am working 2 PRN or “as needed” jobs. The first is in the ER, but I haven’t worked in 2 months there because the country is in an uproar. The second is at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.
I am devoting my remaining time to selling real estate for the state of TN and writing blog posts like these.
Update #3: January 2021
I’m still working as a nurse.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center has shown me all the things I was missing working anywhere else. I don’t hate nursing anymore. I dislike it, and want to eventually quit doing it, but I am finally helping patients again and NOT doing mountains of paperwork. I have a supportive boss, amazing coworkers, and get to learn something new every single day.
The end goal is still to get out of nursing and help people in other ways. But for now, I have all that I need.
If you liked this article, show it some love by sharing.
If you want to read about how nursing administration can kill healthcare, give this link a click.
You can also check out a story from when I was an ER nurse.