Turning my Back on Nursing for Good

I’ve been caring for patients in one capacity or another for over 30 years. I’ve been an RN for twelve and like many others who have written on this site, I was surprised to learn that choosing this career was one of the worst things I ever did to myself.

I make much more money than many nurses report making here. I have an ASN. I live in the Northeast USA. Employment conditions are often dangerous, but they are still better than many in the profession are experiencing these days. After talking to nurses all over the world, I’ve come to the conclusion that my “nursing” situation is among one of the best, with staffing that is higher
than it is in many medical environments, but that “staffing” is still not enough to truly do the job “well” or “safely”. It’s often necessary to stay late to cover paperwork that protects me legally and provides the other team members with important information but the administration is most focused on docking me for breaks that are impossible to take and blaming  staff for high turn over rates instead of facing the music, which would mean that they’d need to hire more nurses.  If such nurses could be found.

I don’t work with lazy people. Lazy people don’t last. We’d kill them if they didn’t leave as we’re all maxed out. Somehow in the middle of all that we’re supposed to make time for team meetings and to remember that we can never be “real people” working in a “real profession” that has it’s ebb and flow of good and bad. No, we need to be smiling idiots who are never “Short staffed” only “challenged”
and need stroke administration constantly….agreeing with them when they act like they have ANY clue what sort of knowledge, experience and personal stress management skill is necessary to be effective for even one night in this profession vs years.

I am a damn good nurse when I can be a damn good nurse. Unfortunately that isn’t very often. Instead, I’m left  parroting the company line to patients which means I tell them it’s a “challenging” night, when really I mean I’m so short staffed and so stressed that there isn’t any way I can be their “real” nurse tonight.

I get absolutely nauseous every time I see that Johnson and Johnson “caring and sharing” advertisement trying to entice
innocents into the nursing profession. If nurses had time for caring and sharing, well, I don’t think there’d be a shortage. And as so many others here have mentioned, the work environment and many of the personalities in it are simply not normal, dysfunctional. People try to hurt others routinely, everyone is always battling and playing king of the hill trying to be some sort of alpha nurse. As long as there are so many individual agendas and so much internal competition (For what? What prize?) that is encouraged and nurtured by the administration itself, things will never change. Administration LOVES this sort of controversy. They think it “tunes” them in to who is skilled and who isn’t and it does but the skill assessed isn’t that of any competent clinician…it’s an assessment of who is the biggest liar, the biggest bullshit artist.

Try and “really” do the job the way it ”should” be done and see how far you get. It won’t be far. And always prepare for the monday morning quarterbacks because they crawl out of the woodwork any time something doesn’t go text book perfectly…the worst ones are the ones who aren’t nurses but think they know what it is about and how to do it and do it well. Nurse wannabees like this are everywhere in these facilities and they are all full of themselves. Some think they know what nursing is because they are married to a nurse, some are just trying to muscle a “friend” or family member in to your job.

You have to quit your job to get a decent wage. You have to absorb the anger from patients, doctors, family members, administration and the subordinates you are supposed to supervise (thank goodness when they are sharp enough that you can trust them an not need to supervise them but even they have their limits if there isn’t enough staff.)

Expect everything to “look” pretty on the surface. You should also expect to find that everything is ugly and diseased underneath. Be prepared to have management try to manipulate your life and your schedule to suit them they’ll use you til you are burned out and they they just throw you away. Even in this day and age of a global nursing shortage the mindset is that there will always be another nurse to take the empty spaces.

I watch the Johnson and Johnson ad on TV and realize it’s just a machine, and I don’t need to be part of it. I’m no martyr, no masochist and like people in general so I really hate playing backbiting games. Those three traits, tendency to favor martyrdom, enjoyment of abuse, and the ability to enjoy cruelty for entertainment are actually the three real prerequisites necessary for surviving in this profession.

And expect everyone to be annoyed and to speculate about your “dedication” or “intelligence” if you try to advocate for a patient or worse, for yourself. If you are not prepared to risk lawsuit, criminal accusation, unexpected overtime every single day you report to work, you are not prepared to be a registered nurse.

There are those who continue to advocate for the profession, who cannot admit that the profession is much less than what they “wish” it was…because that would mean they need to face reality and that reality is that these folks must LOVE nursing because they are
martyrs or martyr wannabees, masochists or masochist wannabees, and they must enjoy the entertainment of cruelty…for that is what nursing teams seem to enjoy most, ostracizing just one person…and enjoying every minute of their discomfort.

That hasn’t really happened to “me” at least not in any situation I wasn’t able to manage effectively to my advantage, but I see it happen every day and it’s happened everywhere I’ve ever worked as a nurse.

And like I said, management just loves this when it happens. It’s like it’s some sort of excitement to break up their number juggling, they can feel important, call meetings, agree with the majority because the alternative isn’t replacing one nurse, it’s replacing an entire team all at once.

I’ll never understand. In my off time now I spend a lot of time trying to educate lay people about how to advocate for themselves while they are in patients. I tell them that although the most basic definition of professional nursing is patient advocacy, there’s not much time for that and only the best and the brightest nurses will see an opportunity to advocate in the midst of the chaos and
even when that scenario is in place, only one in ten of those times will the nurse actually have time to be able to ”follow through.”

I’m tired of everyone thinking they understand the complexities of my job when they have no clue at all. Doesn’t matter if it’s administration, or patients, CNA’s or my family…none of them have a clue and often I think of my career as a temporary frustration.

Yep, I’ve been thinking that for 12 years and now I’m getting OUT. I will always be ” nurse” that will always be my identity. I will always seek to advocate for patients whether or not I’m actually getting “paid” in the relationship. But I’ll not work as a nurse to put the bread and butter on my table any more. It doesn’t matter what they pay me if they are not going to let me do the job. My conscience will not allow me to continue to collect money that is representative only of the “farce” that professional medical care has become in this day and age (at least in North America).

Yep, it’s too bad I’m exiting the profession because I really am a very competent and educated person with considerable bedside people and assessment skill. But the thousands of patients and family members who have thanked me for being a “real” nurse
over the years are now not enough. The profession and it’s stress are leaving me weak and in need of care myself and every “real” nurse knows that before we can “really” take care of patients, we do have to figure out how to take care of ourselves. If our peers and administration continue to dismiss that as a priority well, then there’s no other recourse but to just leave before it’s too late and say “thanks for the memories”.

I regret that I cannot do the job without sacrificing more of self than I have to donate but will leave thankful that I had the chance to interface with so many different people, from so many different cultures on such an intimate level. That is something I’ve considered a privilege and always will and I will continue to be thankful for the few days among thousands when I actually had the time and the resources necessary to “make a real difference”.

It happens, it does. Like once a decade. For me, that’s just not enough. I deserve more than that and so do my patients. Continuing to “play the game” will only leave me “one of the bad guys” ensuring that I loathe self which seems to be the primary goal in
any nursing career, as far as I can tell.