Being a Nurse is NOT Easy

I have only been an RN for a year, in a department I am NOT crazy about at all. Staffing is awful, I’ve experienced a true workplace bully, and because our patients are relatively healthy, they treat us like their personal assistants. An example to illustrate this point: a patient once told one of our best CNAs that she is “at [his] beck and call.” I have PLENTY to complain about. However, I would be unrealistic in saying that any workplace is free from its flaws. To write off an entire profession based on my view fails to truly tell the whole story.

I digress, however, as I was saying, the staffing is awful; the patients are nasty, families are worse. Surgeons often think they are God’s gift to this planet and God forbid you go against their orders despite the patient’s status. Despite all of that, I can’t think of any other profession that I can think of doing. Is it glamorous? Nope. Is it always fun? Nope. Is it like any show on TV? NOT AT ALL. But for all the literal and figurative poo RNs must sift through, there are moments that are like diamonds in the rough that make all those other times worth pushing through.

First off, I must address administration and staffing. Guess what buttercups? Administration is working within a broken system. If it were just the “evil money makers,” complaints about bad staffing wouldn’t be as widespread. Health care in the US is broken. If you TRULY want better staffing, go to D.C., get politically active, fight for your patients. When you are overworked, that endangers your patients along with testing your last nerve. Yes, you might feel that this is futile, that your voice doesn’t matter. Well if your voice doesn’t matter, stop using it to complain. If it bothers you like it does me DO SOMETHING. As a student I attended a health care rally in D.C. Did I do anything to make everything better? No, but even becoming informed is a step in the right direction. It’s better than complaining, wasting air waiting for a change to happen, without attempting to make it happen.

It is true; RNs tend to receive the brunt of all the frustration in healthcare. Patients, their families, and other health professionals count on you to keep it all together. Guess what? That’s what you signed up for, to take care of the whole patient. Yes, it is frustrating when you have to sit on pharmacy for a med, or explain to dietary you really DO want a tray of clears for a post-op patient to prevent cleaning up half digested cheeseburger chunks later. However, you are the patient’s last line of defense. Take that position with dignity. Vent to your coworkers when things don’t go right, it’s understandable. But you’re in a powerful position. You have to know how everyone else does their job almost as well as they do. That’s some big shoes to fill, fill them with pride.

As for patients and families, they’re SCARED. They have no control over the situation that they’re in for the most part. By being abusive they are trying to regain that control. If you understand that, that screaming match won’t be as awful. Another piece of advice, DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY! There have been multiple times that one day a patient will be telling me how awful I am, and a day later apologize for their behavior. This isn’t the norm, but if you remember to take a moment to put yourself in your patient’s shoes, and take a moment to breathe, its amazing how you find that extra little bit of patience to get through your day.

The rest of the complaints seem to follow the theme of issues with co-workers. At this time one phrase comes to mind. Life is not fair. You aren’t going to love all of your co-workers. Some people are so unhappy that they need to eat their own young. But that’s life. It really is something that is common in all careers no matter what. One day, you will have that boss that treats you like garbage. You’ll work with people who sell you down the river. It may be finding a new place to work that will make it better. Or, maybe there is a lesson to be learned by handling that workplace bully. What’s more important is how you handle issues with coworkers in the workplace. There really is something to be said about handling it in a professional manner, and if it’s all sunshine and rainbows you can’t learn anything.

So I guess the moral of my story is, nursing isn’t for everyone. That being said, by taking out these frustrations on the career in general, it’s a red flag to me. It signals an immature view of the world that wouldn’t be changed by a different career path. It reminds me of a quote from George Carlin, “Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.” Work is just that. Work. It’s not always a place where you will be happy and stress free 95% of the time. But if you choose to be a nurse, know why. For me, I pride myself on fighting for my patients, teaching my patients in my own creative way, and trying to put a smile on a patient’s or family members face, despite the situation. There are days I don’t know how I will go back. But then I get a phone call from a grateful family member, or I make a patient smile who was having an awful day. That recharges my batteries for at least one more shift. If that doesn’t work, then a prescription for a night out with coworkers usually does the trick.