You’re Not a Good Nurse

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I’ve wanted to be a nurse all my life.  I have lived and breathed nursing since I was old enough to understand what my mother and aunt were doing.  They birthed babies and saved lives. I wanted in on that.

In my 8 years as a nurse, I have grown so much and learned more than I ever thought possible.  I’ve learned how to perform CPR. I’ve learned more medications and their effects than I ever thought I’d know.  I know where to look to start your IV when you’re a self-proclaimed “hard stick”.  

I have also learned that nursing isn’t for everyone.  Sure, you can call yourself an RN or LPN because you passed nursing school and then passed boards.  You can make the money and do the job (most of you, anyways).

If you’re not in it 100% though, your nursing colleagues and your patients will know it.  They will see it in the way you conduct yourself, and they will feel it. Your patients will suffer and your colleagues will grow to despise working with you if you don’t give 100%.

be all in

My number one biggest pet peeve in all my years of nursing is NOT BEING THERE for your coworkers.  If you actively choose not to help your coworkers when you’re caught up on your work, hang up your stethoscope.  When you’re not a good team member because all you do is add a body to staffing with your non existent initiative to co-work, take off the name badge.  If all you’re concerned about is yourself, you may as well take off the scrubs and get into a t-shirt and sweatpants. You’re not a good nurse.

If you see your coworkers busting their butts, taking care of patients or stocking or getting the dirty linen and taking in to the dirty linen room while you sit on your butt and look at your phone, you’re NOT a good nurse.

Working on your nurse practitioner program homework instead of getting vital signs for your coworkers patient because she’s in the middle of a 10 minute drug push means you’re NOT a good nurse.

If you’re searching Amazon for “puppy firefighter outfits” instead of answering the phone or the call light or the pump alarm on “not my patient” when you’re the only person not actively being a nurse, YOU’RE NOT A GOOD NURSE. 

don’t ever think you KNOW IT ALL. BECAUSE YOU DON’T.

Let me say that louder for people in the back.


This is especially true if you’re a new nurse.  If you’ve been a nurse for less than a year and you’ve ever interrupted a more experienced nurse with the phrase, “Yeah, I know”, you’re digging yourself into a hole you may never get out of.

Because you don’t know everything fresh out of school.  That I can promise you.

The truth is, nursing school gets you ready to learn HOW to be a nurse.  It gives you the background and some book sense, but it rarely gives you common sense and critical thinking skills.  

Those you get on the floor.  Those you get when you ask questions.  I cannot stress this enough. The nurses that survive, that become good nurses, are the ones that ask the questions.

questions can save your life

I’ve been doing this for 8 years and I still ask questions.  Even if I’m 99% sure of the answer. If I’m not 100% sure, I ask.  It’s better to ask and know than to give that slightly milky looking substance you’re not sure is Versed.  (It’s not.)

I have seen drug errors made.  Drug errors kill patients.  I have seen drug errors leave CRATERS in people’s limbs because a nurse gave a medication by the wrong route and caused huge, necrotic ulcerations.

I’ve seen nurses lose their licenses for errors that simple question asking could have answered.  If you don’t know, ask. If you’re not sure, find someone who is.

you’re a bad nurse if you’re horrible to your coworkers or your patients

Even to those that, in your opinion, don’t deserve your respect.

I had a nurse when I was freshly graduated who was HORRIBLE to work with.  She was disrespectful to patients, fellow staff members, and the MDs/NPs/PAs that she worked with.  Provider orders were questioned, VERY LOUDLY, within earshot of said provider, followed by stating all the reasons why said MD was an idiot.  

She would talk down to everyone, including the nurses that worked the floor with her, and would explain, also VERY LOUDLY, why she was right about whatever particular way thing (even when she was very wrong).

New nurses were belittled for asking questions (you’ll know really soon who you can ask your questions to and who to avoid).  She bullied the veteran nurses for being slow, and the moderately knowledgeable nurses (me, the second time I worked with her, 4 years into nursing) for anything and everything she could think of.

This woman was the prime example of a burned out nurse, the one who shouldn’t be doing it anymore because she was so damn hateful, but continued to nurse because she was complacent.

don’t be a miserable human being

Burnt out or not, it’s no one else’s fault you’re a miserable human being. 

Be respectful to everyone.  Those doctors whose orders you question?  They went to school for YEARS to learn. If you want to be a doctor, go to med school.  I’m not saying don’t ask questions. I’m saying there’s a right and a wrong way to ask. Mocking them for what you think is idiocy is the wrong way.

Those nurses you belittle?  They will be your boss one day, because they love the job and have motivation and you’re a tired old hag with no motivation to do anything other than continue to be a tired old hag.

If you’re a tired, haggy, belittling, burnt out nurse, YOU’RE NOT A GOOD NURSE.

you’re a bad nurse if you don’t listen to your patients

We’ve all had them.  The self-proclaiming patient.  They “have no veins” or “am a hard stick”.  They “are sure they have appendicitis” while sitting there eating their Flaming Hot Cheetos, washed down with Mountain Dew.  The entire 2 liters of it.

They are “allergic to Tylenol but can take Dilaudid just fine.”

They are exhausting sometimes.  Patients can work every nerve you have and some you didn’t even know you had.

It goes back to point #3.  Respect your patient.

Don’t just respect them.  Listen to them. Maybe they had one bad experience where they were stuck 6 times and they have a complex about it now.

Maybe a nurse, on the second IV attempt, told the patient they had bad veins when that nurse knew they were having an off IV day.  (If you’re a nurse, you’ve blamed your patient for your off IV day before. Don’t say you haven’t.)

Maybe the patient was told by another doctor that they took too much Tylenol once and they should switch to Ibuprofen and the patient took that information and made it into an allergy.

Maybe they don’t understand and you’re too much of a hateful, burnt out, intimidating jerkwad for the patient to confide in you and admit they don’t understand.

There are a million reasons why patients are the way they are.  It’s not our role to judge or to disrespect. It’s our role as healthcare providers to educate, advocate and help.

Don’t be a jerk to your patient.  I’m not saying let them trample you. Don’t let they verbally, emotionally or physically abuse you.  I’m saying listen to what they are saying. Don’t interrupt them because you think you know what they are going to say.

If you treat your patients like trash when they don’t deserve it, you’re NOT a good nurse.

if you’re a nurse in administration and i don’t know who you are, you’re a bad nurse

I’ve worked in places where administration was invisible.  No one ever saw them. No one had ever met them. They would come into the department and no one would know who they were.

We all thought they were an invisible force in an ivory tower somewhere, handing down rules that made no sense because the people that handed them down had never been floor workers or had forgotten how to be.

The parts of administration that were seen were unhelpful.  They sat in their offices, dictating how departments were to be run without ever raising a hand to help when the work got dicey.  At least, that’s how we saw them.

I’m not saying I know anything about administration.  I don’t. There’s a reason I’ve never been a director.  It’s the same reason I don’t want to ever go to NP school. I don’t want it.

Administration needs to know about all of the things that floor nurses see wrong with healthcare and the way places are run.

We are understaffed and overworked, while being given directives that make no sense without any explanation.

It’s not enough just to walk through every few weeks.  TALK to your staff. Find out what they need and the concerns they have.

If you’re a nurse with an administration position and you don’t talk to your floor nurses and implement changes based on how they feel about their work environment, YOU’RE A BAD NURSE.  If you don’t advocate for your staff, the FRONT LINES of your organization, you’re a bad nurse and a bad member of administration.

Being a nurse is a calling. 

We are overworked and understaffed.  Our licenses are constantly in jeopardy.  We have no one advocating for us yet we are expected to advocate for others.  

All we have is each other.  If we don’t help each other, if we aren’t good nurses, everyone will suffer.  In a healthcare system that is already brittle, being a bad nurse can break down everything and everyone around you.

Be a good nurse.

Be sure to check out the day I decided I didn’t want to be a nurse anymore.

You're not a good nurse

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