Recently, the words, “I don’t want to be a nurse anymore” came flying out of my mouth, barely above a whisper. There is too much negativity behind all of the life-saving badassery that was promised to me when I began my healthcare journey. I was burnt out, exhausted and looking for any excuse to leave the field I had once thought I would retire from. I didn’t want to stay in nursing.
I’ve been a nurse for years. 8 of them at the time of this story, to be exact. In those 8 years, I have gone from loving my job to hating it to just doing what I can to pay the mortgage.
Before I get into that though, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way.
I have been an ER nurse for the majority of my nursing life. I worked the ER as an aide/secretary and then was hired into the same ER as a brand new baby nurse. I had some amazing mentors that helped mold me into a great nurse over the course of about 6 years.
In those 6 years, however, I witnessed the gradual decline of healthcare all together. Insurance got more expensive. Hospital stays got more expensive. Medications got more expensive. Patients became insubordinate because they couldn’t pay for their medications or supplies. Patients began using the ER as a doctor’s office, either because of sheer stupidity, being uninsured or a lack of resources.
Nurses got burnt out and left for greener pastures, leaving the rest of us behind with huge, unsafe workloads. We worked in hazardous conditions with administrators who didn’t care about anything but numbers. We were always being yelled at about something we weren’t doing well enough. Wait times got longer, patients complained and it all fell back on the floor staff.
We got more and more understaffed while being handed more and more responsibilities. The experienced nurses no longer stayed in nursing because of the danger.
All these things made me a bitter, angry nurse. The nurse I swore I would never be. The nurse that rolled her eyes and made comments under her breath but within patient earshot.
So after 6 years of ER nursing, I quit doing it full time. I stayed on 1 day a week in the ER and went elsewhere looking for work. That didn’t last long, then I quit the hospital I’d been at for almost 15 years and landed a full-time, Monday-Friday 8am-430pm job in an oncology office.
At first, it was an amazing change. The patients were kind, the work was challenging but not dangerous (I didn’t think in the beginning anyways), and the environment was calm, not chaotic and tumultuous like the ER. We even got lunch catered almost every day and got into “trouble” if we didn’t take our entire 30 minute much break. Staying in nursing was starting to look up.
The happiness lasted almost a year. No one yelled at me (patients or administration), my patients were thankful and amazing and the job was a breeze.
Then, as it always does, things started to change. Or maybe I just started to see what was already there.
I noticed the same things happening in my little oncology bubble that are happening everywhere. There were too many patients. There were unsafe working conditions. There were days I was sure I was going to lose my license. And of course, there were administrators who didn’t care.
It wasn’t every day, it wasn’t every condition, and it wasn’t every administrator. But it was enough to make me realize it wasn’t the conditions. It was the career. It was the field of healthcare, dying a slow and agonizing death.
While talking to a friend (a fellow ER nurse that had worked beside me in my old ER job but now had a new ER job), we began comparing jobs, workloads, fellow employees, and several other aspects of nursing.
That’s when I came to an EARTH-SHATTERING realization. Actually, she did it for me. She told me that healthcare sucked everywhere. She said we both knew that that wasn’t going to get any better.
Then she asked me a question.
“The job is going to suck wherever you go. Why don’t you just stay in nursing and do what you love?”
Just like that, she opened my eyes to a discovery that I hadn’t seen on my own.
It was the day I realized what I had to do to stay in nursing. I had to make the best of a very bad situation.
I needed to get over the understaffing and work as hard as I could to care for the patients in my charge. I had to look past the overcrowding and realize that people come to nurses to feel better, not to feel worse.
I needed to look inside myself and remind myself that no matter what the outside entities asked of me (charting, pillow fluffing, updated med lists, unsafe patient:nurse ratios), that all I could do was be the best nurse to my patients.
One day, I won’t have to stay in nursing. Truthfully, I don’t even know that I will miss it when that day comes. (The nurse that opened my eyes to this post’s revelation thinks I will.) But until then, I’ll bust my ass for my patients. I’ll advocate, treat, help and heal because it’s why I became a nurse in the first place.
As always, if this article resonated with you, share it 🙂 And I love comments, so don’t hesitate to let me know your feels about healthcare, nursing or any combo of the two.