The Effects of Nursing on Nurses

Hi, welcome to my blog post. I have never had a blog post get more than 50 comments, so I am a bit overwhelmed. After responding to many comments, here is a note:

Note: I wrote this blog entry at the end of my 3rd 12 hour shift in three days. I was tired and I was emotional. It is a blog post, not an “article.” It is not researched or sourced, it is purely opinion.

The point of this post is that nurses (and many other professions) need to take the time to practice self care and to encourage one another to practice self care.

My biggest mistake in this post (and there are many) was to use “her” or “she” when I should have used “they” or them.” I ignored my male coworkers, and I should not have. You have my apologies, and I have corrected the post. I have left “she” and “her” in place in the portion where I talk about my coworker.

I have read every comment posted and deleted some very nasty comments that were not helpful to conversation. If you feel this is the place to spew your vitriol, it is not.


August 11, 2013

This morning, while I was giving report to the day shift nurse taking over my patients, she burst into tears.

She’s going to miss her children’s hockey play offs due to our strictly enforced every other weekend schedules. You work every other weekend, no more, no less, unless you are going to college (I work every weekend because I’m in college). She’s their hockey coach, and inevitably, each year, their last game falls on a day their mother has to work. I’ve come in early for her before.

So I offered to come in on my night off for an hour and a half so she could get to the game. I’m coming in that early because I know she won’t be done charting.

She turned me down until another day RN got involved. I reminded my coworker I only live a mile from the hospital, and it really wasn’t a big sacrifice for me. She finally agreed, and calmed down. We got permission from the charge nurse.

Nursing is one of the largest professions in the world. If you don’t know a nurse, I’m really surprised. Nurses talk a lot about the rewards of nursing. Catching that vital sign, saving lives, providing comfort, but nurses, by nature, are taught to martyr themselves on the altar of nursing.

When I was a new grad, I hated coming to work so much that I would wish I’d get hit by a car on my way to work just to get out of work. One night, while checking medication sheets, I confessed this to some experienced nurses and found out some of them still felt the same way.

In nursing, it is NORMAL to have days where you wake up and just can’t mentally and emotionally face the day at work. I swear, the only other people who can understand this are nurses.

Nursing is emotionally, physically and mentally taxing, and some days you run too low on what you can give emotionally, physically and mentally. That minor back injury you don’t want to report to HR because you don’t want it on your record. Having a patient with constant diarrhea who can’t get out of bed and needs to be physically rolled and cleaned several times an hour. The cold you got from the two-year old someone brought in. The sorrow that comes from supporting someone who has just found out they were dying, holding in your own tears so you could wipe theirs. In one day, all of those patients could be yours.

I don’t know a nurse who hasn’t taken a mental health day. Some do it by requesting more vacation than others. Some do it by calling in sick, but it’s all time off because we are too drained to give anymore.

So if you know a nurse, and that nurse mentions to you that they feel like calling in because they just can’t take it another day, don’t give them a hard time. Especially if you have an 8-5 job with weekends off or some other really great schedule. The 12 hour shifts nurses work mean we miss the entire holiday we work with our families. Night shift nurses have to choose between holiday dinners or sleep. Often, if a nurse chooses to sleep rather than go to the holiday dinner, guilt ensues. Even though I’ve told my mother-in-law repeatedly that every nurse has to work holidays, she makes a point to say how horrible it is my husband has to be alone for a few hours. What about me? Working my ass off while everyone else celebrates?

We work hard. We are intentionally understaffed by our hospitals to improve profit, even if the hospital is a non-profit. We help people at the worst times of their lives, and often have no way to debrief, to get it off our chests. We don’t just bring warm blankets and pills. We are college educated, degreed professionals who are often treated like uneducated, lazy servants. We get sexually harassed by our patients. We get groped, punched, cut, I even know of a nurse on my floor being strangled (she survived).

Nursing can be rewarding. But nursing is a fucking hard job. If you are afraid of healthcare rationing, you should know it is already happening. Nurses are unable to give everyone the care they need, so patients with smaller problems may not get the same level of care. A nurse may be pressed to only give the minimum amount of care to a patient if they have 5 or more very sick patients. If you don’t want healthcare rationing, talk to your local hospitals about their nurse to patient ratios. Talk to your doctors. If you hear of legislation to support nurse to patient ratios, vote for it. Support it.

So if a nurse needs a day off, you support them. If you’re in a position to help like I was this morning, do so. If you are a nurse, go easier on yourself when you think about the things you didn’t finish, or the things you should have said. It’s a 24-hour a day job and you don’t have to do it alone.

As of January 27, 2014, this post is no longer accepting comments. I am doing this as a practice of self care. Tending to this blog post, several times a day, has become a burden. It has had over 2 million hits, and I am tired. The post has become a platform for people who want to propel their own agendas and are using my space to do so.  Thanks to all who said such nice things, and to everyone else, go write your own blog.

About Grimalkin, RN

Trying really hard to be a decent person. Registered Nurse. Intersectional Feminism. Poet. Cat. Political. Original recipes. Original Stories. Occasionally Questionable Judgement. Creator of #cookingwithjoanne and #stopcock. Soulless Unwashed Carrot. This blog is dedicated to my grandmother, my beloved cat Grimalkin, and my patients.

Posted on August 11, 2013, in Nursing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2,612 Comments.

  1. Nursing is hard and it is harder when all the hospital and it’s CEO cares about is $$. People and some nurses often times blames OBAMACARE. Funny thing is Obamacare just started this year 2014. And all these problems have been in existence when I started my nursing career back in 1991. And from the time I started nursing it HAS NOT changed. Nobody questions if a CEO gets a $10 million dollar bonus or Hospital chains rakes in Billions of dollars, nobody says anything about insurance companies denying coverage while giving their CEO’s million dollar bonuses aside from them million dollar salaries. And with all staff meetings all you hear is that the hospital is in the “RED” – which means we are not making profit. I did confront one nurse manager at some point about being in the “red” all the time when all beds were filled. I was pulled aside and she explained that we are actually making 12% profit but the company wanted a profit margin of 26% . I guess the point I’m trying to make is – unless we stand up against the greedy hospital, greedy insurance companies and it’s greedy CEO’s – IT WILL NEVER GET BETTER. How many times have we as nurses told the CNO that staffing is a problem and the answer is always “staffing is not an issue” and they throw back that we need to better organize ourselves and our schedule. And how many times have we dared them (Administration and CNO) to do what we do and they all say “done that- don’t have to prove it anymore” …. Nurses across America needs to unite as one, enough of the wall street mentality of profiteering over an individual health and well being. People aren’t like cars which you pull out a spare parts and put it back together. I totally agree there has to be a profit level where a hospital can grow and improve it’s infrastructure. But when you tell nurses that they cannot have any “pay increase” and they cannot have an extra RN to help while they (CEOs Hospital Admin and Insurance companies) are out partying and giving themselves $20 million plus bonuses – I think that is such BS.

  2. Eva heidenreich

    Well said! I’ve been a nurse for 10 years and it had taken it’s toll on me. I give so much at work that by the time I get home I don’t have much left for my family. It’s definitely a tough job! But I wouldnt change it for the world.

  3. Next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn’t fail me as much as this particular one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read through, but I really thought you’d have something interesting to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something you could possibly fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.

    • I simply cannot believe your lack of empathy. Please tell me Michael Bartels, what is it that you do for a living? Let’s talk about your life’s troubles, because it appears your life is soooo much more interesting.

    • Well, Mr. Michael L. Bartels what is it that brought you to this particular blog in the first place?

      Please enlighten us with information as to what you do for a living? It’s my guess you are not an RN or a CNA.

      Perhaps you’re one of the upper echelon as it appears you “know all, see all,” as the Great and Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

    • Obviously you are not a nurse. I am interested to know why you took the time to read the blog.
      It can be very therapeutic for people to openly discuss common emotions and stressors, hence the theory behind therapy groups.
      If it sounds like whining and complaining to you, you are allowed to just not read anymore. If you didn’t like what’s on TV you would change the channel.
      Maybe you should try having some empathy. It’s something we have to give to those in our care everyday. Even to those people who make critical, ignorant comments. It”s easier to be ignorant about something than it is to attempt to learn something about a subject you obviously know nothing about.

  4. I am a health care aid and can really attest to you post.Nothing to add but to thank God for all the successes you have and will continue to have in this life.The Universe is with you.Pierre Trudel

  5. Young lady, I was directed her by a RN friend from a face book post. I was not a nurse ; I was a Respiratory Therapist. WAS because to me it became less and less about the patients and more about revenue generation. I had every credential offered and 22 hrs of post graduate study in Cardio-Pulmonary studies. I loved what I did but despised the persons or institutions because it was all about the money. Twenty years; they were not wasted. As you stated ,you cry, you smile, you get bloody working a trauma in the ER.
    I specialized in pediatrics, and pediatric critical care. All professionals who choose a career in medicine will work holidays. I haven’t heard of a single hospital that closes on Christmas.
    My best friend wanted to go into nursing. I tried to talk him out of that profession. I wrote his letter of recommendation. I told he give it 3 years and you will become burned out. It happened, but he became a damn good nurse, and left the profession only because of chronic renal failure and the complications associated with dialysis 3 days a week. .
    If you think it is bad now…wait for O-Boo-Boo care to take effect. Then it will take true dedication to drag your self to work with the patient to care worked ratio needed to see a profit.

  6. As an ER nurse, I totally agree! As I write this, I am finishing my fourth 12 hr. shift with one more to go for this week due to being “under-staffed”. Today, I feel especially drained emotionally, mentally, and physically. Not only was today extremely busy but we saw a lot of very sick patients, we held ICU patients due to no available beds, transferred others for higher level of care, flew super critical patients out, attempted to please and calm the upset patient for not getting pain relief in time from a 2 week old toothache and apologize to another for taking too long in bringing them warm blankets, prepared a heart attack patient to urgently go to the Cath lab to save him, and attempted to explain, apologize, and justify to a full waiting room why they cannot be seen right away, only to once again prepare for a CPR in progress on their way to our ER. All while still under-staffed, have a full bladder, no water break, no time for food, no excuses to give for NOT providing “excellent” customer service and to top it off, finding out my son’s school is being evacuated for a “Bomb threat” yet I am not able to leave to take care of my own son because again “we’re under-staffed”!!!!
    I still say today was a “good day” because at the end of it all, NOBODY died, I kept my composure and a smile, I charted like a mad woman, I managed to take a sip of water on my way to my One and Only “pee” break as I attempt to call my son to see if he was OK. As my shift comes to an end, I praise God for finally ending it and pray that on my 5th day it’s a little better, then sit in my car, take a deep breath, exhale, call my son to hear his voice only to get a voicemail again, then call my house and feel relieved to hear his voice and tell him I’m on my way to cook him dinner and that I love him. As I hang up the phone, all I can do is let out a sigh of relief and immediately begin to sob like a lost child!
    So YES! Nursing can be rewarding, but for those that may never walk in a nurse’s shoe, you will NEVER know the heart, soul, strength, and physicality that EVERY nurse puts into it. And for those colleagues that do, my sincere love goes out to you. This was just a description of MY 4th day! How was your day? Yet I still have to look forward to waking up tomorrow only to do it all over again after taking a much needed shower and some Ibuprofen tonight! Thank you all in advance for reading about my whiney day and for allowing me to vent!

    • That many shifts in a week can leave you too emotionally exhausted to enjoy the paycheck that comes along. I really hope you are able to find some time for yourself to rest and recharge. It sounds like everything in life is coming at you at once.

      My day – I came in on my day off to participate in the pressure ulcer prevalence. So my day had a lot of butts. A LOT OF BUTTS. But as a team, we have greatly decreased our numbers of pressure ulcers in my hospital, so while I know the work is pretty thankless, we’re helping our patients. And I happened to see my favorite patient I’ve had in a while before he discharged, and I was able to give him a big hug. Today was a good day.

    • I am in my 24th year of ER Nursing and I can relate to you 110%.
      I have posted before and received some comments that I am totally burned out and that I need another job but, until you have walked a mile in my shoes…etc. It just feels good to vent to someone who knows exactly what I live every day.
      I am on a very long stretch of 12 hour nights due to under staffing and a few nurses that are out on FMLA.
      I am a Nurse, but I am also human.
      Our acuity and patient loads just keep getting higher. Management feels that two Registered Nurses and one physician is adequate staff for our 12 bed ER. We have no CNA’s, no techs, no LPN’s. We are it. If you get a few triages, that leaves 1 nurse to carry out orders, run specimens to the lab, transport admissions to the floor, and run patients to X-ray.
      And I mean run! Top all that off with the patients who are screaming at you because you can’t get their needs met quick enough, and you feel like your head is going to explode.
      Sometimes it takes every ounce of patience to do it ALL with a smile and be professional.
      Some days I do leave thinking that I am never going back, but when I do get that one patient that is acutely ill and starts to turn the corner because of the care I gave, I can go another round. Or when I get that one patient that tells me that I gave them or their family member excellent care, I feel that I have made a difference.
      Sometimes it just feels good to get it off your chest to someone who actually has been there and done that!!!

  7. Well said, I think you are getting such a large response because many of us feel the way you do. Thanks for giving us a voice.

  8. I’ve been a male nurse for 14 years and it gets harder and harder every year! People do t understand what we go through the physical and emotional stress we endure! I herniated my disk and have been in constant pain for years because I caught a patient to keep him from falling! I have suffered from PTSD and had to be off work and go through counseling because I helped care for a little girl that was burned and died from a house fire! People have no idea and those who say if you can’t handle the pressure get out just don’t get it! I love being a nurse and take great pride in it! I know I make a difference and have helped save countless lives. I have seen hindered of people die and helped families through the dying process. People don’t get the regulations that keep getting added making it nearly impossible to do our job. Nurses deserve a lot of credit! We work sick, exhausted, and hurt.

  9. God Bless all nurses! (and patients….)

  10. Bless you and all nurses. I know several personally and like and respect them all, and it pains me to see other vocations and professions get so much praise while nurses go quietly unappreciated in this society. The nurses that have cared for our disabled daughter in her several hospitalizations and some very tough medical situations have all been wonderful and we always thank them, help them physically when we can and NEVER give them a hard time. They have been merciful, dedicated, compassionate, conscientious, kind, thoughtful and very competent, even to the point of catching mistakes made by physicians. And due to our observations and our experiences with nurses and our daughter, I took great pains to make myself as easy and pleasant of a patient as possible when I was hospitalized for a surgical procedure. Thank you!

  11. I have nothing but respect for all nurses out there. Years ago I was hospitalized for a month. Was touch and go for 2 weeks. I never knew at the time, but my mother told me later that one of my nurses had the caring and compassion to take time to read to me on her breaks.

    She worked 12 hour shifts. Spent most off those hours caring for me. I never knew any of this till about a year after while talking to mom. That was 20 years ago. To this day that nurses name floats through my head every once in a while. I smile and am thankful for her to this day. I never got to thank her. But have never forgotten what she did for me.

    Thank you to all of you nurse’s out there. You are all beautiful and to be respected by all.

  12. Well said fellow nurse! I’ve been in this profession for 34 years now and boy have things changed (and I might add NOT for the better)! I’ve worked as a staff nurse and charge nurse both days and nights. While I was a hospital nurse, we still had our nurses aides and LPN’s. I couldn’t have done it without them! Some of the best and hardest working people I knew. We worked well together as a team! They were my right arm and I was their left. Then things slowly changed. The aides were taken away from us. Next to go were our LPN’s. We became an all RN unit. Primary care. The RN had to do everything for their patients. No more meaningful conversations or backrubs to help ease what was ailing the patient. It was time to mop floors, fix broken toilets, pass linens, etc. NO TIME FOR NURSING as I was taught! I still remember vividly the day when I had a housekeeper come and interrupt me while I was trying to help a post partum patient (who, at the time, was hemorrhaging) that the patient in the next bed had dropped a glass baby bottle and I needed to clean it up RIGHT now so no one would get cut!!! She said that they were no longer to clean up messes where they could hurt themselves!
    I stayed on for a while longer in the hospital, but eventually left to get a change of pace. I went to work in a doctor’s office as an oncology nurse. Nice change of pace. We actually got to know our patients! They were like family. I couldn’t have been happire! Then the bubble burst when I learned that our beloved doctor had passed away from a massive MI. I found another wonderful office to work in for another 8 years until that doctor decided to retire. It went downhill from there. I am still currently working in a group practice ( Internal medicine/pediactrics). This ‘Obamacare has taken it’s toll on this place too. Everyone is on edge: from the doctors to the NP’s to me (the only staff RN) and the MA’s. Everyone seems to be at each others throats. Hope I can survive it. I still love the patients and my job, but all these new mandates are making it much harder to enjoy what I went into nursing for: helping those who were suffering! Hope I (and my fellow nurses) can survive it!

  13. Amazing, I could have written this myself! Thank you for posting this. I cried after every shift & sometimes on the way to my shift (while looking for a tree to “accidentally” hit) for the first 6 months. It did get easier but the challenges you speak of are still there, however I no longer “look for trees” 🙂

  14. I loved this! Well said! I thought I invented mental health days! Yes, nursing is one hell of a fucking hard job, after 30 years of being a nurse, I still love what I do, however no one really knows what I do. I always thought it would be an excellent idea to have an administrator, an M.D., a non medical person, anybody, to really follow an R.N., not sugar coated, a real 12 hour shift, when understaffed etc. I really think as R.N.’s we need to support each other so much more than we do, and that includes supportive staff such as our L.N.A’s. Another thing that so many people, including nurses themselves, is the way we need to disassociate ourselves in our job, I am sure you know what this means, and deserves another thousand words or so. I really appreciate your words, thanks for putting them in print, and having the balls to do so!
    Jennifer Olson R.N.

  15. Wow, just reading some of these comments! Such hostile words from others! But to the writer, this is a good thing! Makes people think, regardless of some of the ignorant and ridiculous comments. The word “fuck” is used so much behind closed doors amongst medical prof., not near patients etc. In fact swearing can be a wonderful stress reliever.

  16. Copy that, my friend! I did not have time to read all the comments, as I am simply too exhausted, hahaha. I work two RN jobs, one which I adore (my per diem) and the other (my FT) in an ER which is a department where I thrive, but can be incredibly taxing and draining to say the least (add a lot of psych pts, and you probably understand even more!). I am grateful for my jobs, but I work hard, as we all do. It is very difficult explaining this to other people, and I find myself significantly lacking a support system. I have made one of my New Year’s resolutions to take care of myself first because if I do not, no one else will. This is a very hard task – I often have to remind myself of the advice I frequently give others, including my co-workers: it is not worth your own health, and you cannot take care of others if you are not well yourself. Easier said than done 😉 Last week, we had two simultaneous codes, and two more the next two days… in addition to all the other very sick patients, and the psychiatric patients… I said to another RN in the breakroom (after shift, since I worked a 14.5 hour shift with no lunch OR rest breaks)… “Do you ever wish you just worked at Bath and Body Works?” haha – it’s nice to know I am not alone… thanks for the blog!

  17. Amy Peterson Chekas, RN

    Becoming an RN was my second career. I got my degree after marriage and children. I knew going into this job that this is what I really wanted to do. I have the rare and unique opportunity to wake up every morning and say truthfully that I love my job.

    That being said, I agree with every word of this blog. Despite loving my job as much as I do, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come at price to my health and my sanity. Not only do you have to deal with abuse from patients, family members, doctors, administration, and your OWN family being resentful of the time they lose with you, but you have to endure working in a profession that has one of the highest rates of workplace bullying hands down. The pay iisn’t that great, depending on where you live and what kind of nursing you do. Contrary to very popular belief, we DO NOT all make a killing financially. I happen to work for one of the lowest paying hospital systems in the entire USA, and unfortunately don’t have many choices to go elsewhere since this hospital system has over the years acquired a monopoly in my state (the whole state, not just my region.) I also came out of school with student loan debt.

    And now for the positive. I truly do love my job. I started out on a med surg floor that was known to be THE WORST in the entire hospital network. When people asked what unit I was on, and I replied, they would stand with gaping mouths and ask how I could stand it (the unit had quite the reputation for chewing you up ans spitting you out.) I stayed on that floor for 18 months, through bad management and co workers with bad attitudes. But as much horror and negativity I faced every day, with an assignment of 7 patients and no CNA or phelebotomy tech, I learned everything there was to know about disease processes and caring for high acuity patients and their families with barely enough time in my day to sit and chart. I now work in a much smaller unit as a procedure/prep/recovery RN, “mothers hours”(I always find this phrase amusing) and I am required to do call. The bullying hasn’t stopped because I moved on. The lack of appreciation from patients and families and doctors hasn’t resolved. BUT I WILL DO THIS TILL THE DAY I DIE! Why, you ask?

    Because I love my job. And loving something comes with the good and the bad. There is a reason I chose this career as an adult woman. I went into it with both eyes open wide to the realities of the field and the environment in which I would be working. Everyone has bad days, and everyone needs to vent. Without the misery and stress of the job, you wouldn’t be able to hack it. People really have no idea what this job is like unless they live it every day. They don’t understand our “warped” sense of humor, or our ability to care for out children or parents or friends with clinical detachment necessary to do the job. They get annoyed when we talk shop at dinner or a party. We put up with the disrespect of outsiders. We put up with doctors and management being disrespectful and placing unrealistic demands upon us. Why, you ask again?

    Because we love our job. I have been on the receiving end, being cared for by both competent and incompetent RNs. I was diagnosed with cancer six months ago. I am dealing with the struggle to stay healthy and still complete my job effectively. I am enduring my co workers thinking that I’m “faking sick” when I’m out on FMLA, my management’s lack of support, and an HR department that reminds me daily that I can be replaced. Again, why?

    Because I love my job. I love going home after a stressful day and knowing that somehow I made a difference to someone. Even if my day was filled with non compliant patients, rude family members, and doctors whose egos are so large they fill up the OR suite. When I deal with a day full of patients, I know that I made a difference to someone. And this isn’t altruism talking. I get great satisfaction from knowing this. I think everyone is here to affect the people in their lives in some way. I think we all have a “calling,” whether it be an RN or a mechanic. We are all here for a reason. We are all here to contribute somehow.

    My job is thankless and difficult. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    So if someone you know is an RN, and they vent to you about something that happened at work, just smile, listen and say thank you. Because one thing about being a nurse rings true: we do it because we love it, and we’ll do it until the day we die. Thank God for all of us!

    • Great post, Amy! For some reason, your comments brought to mind a documentary I recently watched on the internet, created by Sarah Jessica Parker to examine what it’s like to be a dancer with the New York City Ballet.

      Most of the documentary focused on dancers talking about the difficulties of their jobs: being relegated to the corps when they wanted to move up to soloist or principal; the tendency to have no life outside of the studio and stage; the hard work; the physical pain; the competition; the politics; and the injuries that could temporarily halt or kill one’s career. Yet I don’t think anyone would react to that documentary by saying, “Hey, if you don’t like it, quit and find something else to do.” It was obvious that, despite all these difficulties, these dancers were committed to their careers, and would stick with them as long as they could physically manage it.

      It’s the same with (most) nurses. Why the difference in reaction? Maybe because the public expects nurses to be angels, not human beings. But we ARE human beings, with the same needs and concerns as other human beings, and when those needs aren’t being met, we’re going to get together and vent about it occasionally. It doesn’t mean that we don’t love what we do, or that we’re contemplating leaving the profession.

  18. I’m not a nurse.I was a medic in the Army for 15 years. Several times I’ve been hospitalized over the last 8 years. I understand your plight. From a patient to a nurse,thank you for all you do.You are still very much needed and appreciated. God help us all if you were not here any more.

  19. Thank you so much. I couldn’t have said it better. I am a per diem nurse in an er and we are slammed all day. It’s all about get em in get me up and get me out philosophy. Time is money. For that I hate working there. My director is a punitive xxxxx! I wish there was a way to change all this. Hell we are dealing with lives not widgets.

  20. I have 2 kids who r nurses in, one in ccu and the other a flight nurse and a 3rd child who is the secretary for the same ccu unit. I didn’t realize how difficult their jobs were until I had a heart attack and became a patient in the ccu unit. omg… I am so proud of the work they do and the care they give to your family even though they miss out on so many of our family activities. I don’t think u truly appeciate a nuse until… THEY SAVE YOUR LIFE OR THE LIFE OF SOMEONE U LOVE! So I raise my glasss to all to all u hard woking nurses for spend endless hour away from their parents, spouses, kids and grandkids so that u… might have a more time with the ones u love.

  21. As a nurse myself working in an Accident and Emergency unit I can so identify with your post. I have seen the squeeze on us get worse over the years, the abuse and misuse of resources, especially ambulances by patients and yet I persevere in what on many days seems a thankless job. Strenght to you.

  22. I have been a nurse for 2 and a half years now and I’ve already experienced the full spectrum of emotions that come with nursing. I work in a cardiac stepdown unit that deals with everything from a simple catheterization to patients recovering from thoracic surgery. It’s not uncommon for a patient of mine to find out they have cancer. Or for someone who was supposed to be a simple overnight stay end up coding and not making it off the floor. I’m constantly the bad guy when I take care of my surgical patients, forcing them to walk when they’re tired, cough when they’re in pain, and wake them up at all hours of the night. And I usually get grief for it. I often feel like I care more for my patients’ health than they do. And it’s discouraging, and frustrating, and exhausting!! But, despite everything I just said, I love my job. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I have the honor of meeting some of the greatest people, of being a part of some of the most intimate moments in a person’s life. And those difficult patients, those difficult surgeons, and those difficult days? They make me stronger. Better. I am a nurse and every day I am proud to call myself one. It’s a phenomenom only another nurse can understand. It’s always good reading an encounter and thinking…it’s like they know!! Because they do. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t let those negative comments get to you. You are part of an amazing community. Keep changing and saving lives!

  23. I’ve been an oncology nurse for 8 years. I have a “cushy” nursing job in that I work Monday to Friday, no nights, no weekends. I rarely have to do personal care on patients. But still the emotional, mental toll is there, if the physical toll is lessened. I had to leave ward nursing practically before I started. I couldn’t stand the guilt of leaving every single shift feeling like I hadn’t done right by my patients, despite my best efforts and missing all but 15 mins of break time on a 12 hr shift. Nurses are gutted by this daily, the constant strain of wishing we could do more, wishing we could do the “right” amount of care. I am hardly surprised that some nurses have lost their way, but for anyone who has not been in a stressful caregiver situation, please don’t judge so quickly. A gentle word to your nurse is likely to make him/her realize. A good nurse/patient relationship takes time for understanding. Unfortunately, time is often lacking as nurses have to constantly think about the next task, then next thing the possible complications to ensure our patients are safe. If you are unhappy with your care, I implore you to talk/write to politicians to ask for adequate ratios. To my fellow nurses, you are loved; keep fighting the good fight.

  24. Try plumbing and then tell me about how hard your job is!

    • ….and you’re convinced that you know more about the difficulties of nursing than we nurses know about the difficulties of plumbing, because……?

      Bernard, this isn’t a contest. No one here is saying that plumbing is a cushy job, or that non-nurses don’t have a right to claim that their own job has challenges and frustrations of its own. If you’d like us to know more about what plumbers have to put up with, feel free to direct us to a forum by and for and about plumbers. But this is a discussion about the nursing profession.

    • Bernard, being under some ones sink with you butt crack showing,,,, yeah, right you have a hard job. Shame on you, try being a nurse for one day, no,,,,, I would give you 1 hour, you could not handle more than that.

  25. My daughter is an OR nurse specializing in cardio/thoracic surgeries. She has two children, one only three months old. Yesterday she worked from 9:00 am until 3:00 am this morning. Her husband took both children for a conjugal visit in the evening so she could nurse the baby and he could retrieve the breast milk she had pumped during her breaks. Being a nurse requires supportive spouses, families, and friends. Hats off to all nurses, especially those who juggle family with career. My prayers are with all of you.

  26. Bravo! Well done! It’s seems like Nursing has a “dirty little secret”. It’s like we are robots . We are generally not permitted to voice how difficult it is to tolerate many aspects of our job. Even our families cannot understand. I was an ER nurse for years and was kicked in the face, harassed, insulted, spit on, puked on and shit on many times. The breaks were few and far between and the hours grueling. Nurses were held to a much tighter behavioral standard and expected to pick up the slack of ancillary staff without saying a word. Management was constantly asking us to do overtime without any effort to accommodate time off requests . The public needs to wake up and smell the coffee. We are a dying breed and understandably so!

  27. You do this job because you love it. The gov gives nurses a very nice salary to work the evenings, overnights and weekends. Most jobs will schedule you on a weekend and not care nor would you get a increase in pay. Boohoo 12 hour shift work … you chose this profession. Work 4 days a week with a following 5 days off …. boohooo… You are a nurse because you LOVE your job so you shouldn’t be looking for sympathy or even complain how hard your job is as there are many people in this world who work far more than you do and receive much less. Appreciate what you have and not what you don’t have.

    • I work in the United States, and I do NOT work for the government. I work for a charity hospital, and nurses in the US are among the lowest paid college educated professions. Furthermore, no where in this post do I complain about my pay. I feel like my pay could be better, but it is NOT the thing that frustrates me about my job. High patient ratios, on the other hand, which can force me to ration the care I am giving my patients, ARE something that frustrates me about my job. It should concern you as well, if you live somewhere like the UK, where a recent study showed high patient ratios cause nurses to feel they are giving inadequate care

      People don’t like when WOMEN complain about anything. People don’t like to think that sometimes, nurses don’t love our jobs. Most days, I really find a great deal of reward in my work, but there are bad days when I need to realize that I need to take care of myself. Nurses need to take care of ourselves so we can continue to love our jobs and do the emotional, mind-taxing, backbreaking work we love. When nurses don’t care for their mental and emotional health, PEOPLE DIE. The nurses vocalizing these frustrations in the comments on my blog are all vocalizing that problems within the profession are causing harm to our patients. Our end goal is the health of our patients. When I can get all my work done and make my patients comfortable and progress toward healing, that’s AN AWESOME 12 HOUR SHIFT.

      I pretty much feel like you came here to troll, but I’m going to let this comment ride. You obviously have a low opinion of the nursing profession and a vast misunderstanding of what nurses do as a whole. Good luck with your bitter attitude.

    • Glitter, it isn’t your place to dictate what nurses may or may not talk about, in reference to their jobs, or how they “should” feel about those jobs.

      Again, this isn’t a contest. No one here is saying that non-nurses, regardless of how much or how little they make, aren’t entitled to gripe about their jobs once in a while, nor is anyone claiming that nursing is the worst job in creation.

      I think it’s very odd—-and sadly telling—-that so many non nurses like you have a problem with nurses getting candid about the frustrations and difficulties of their work. Apparently you don’t think nurses are entitled to behave like human beings sometimes, instead of angels or robots? Why is that? That says a lot more about you and society’s unrealistic expectations than it does about nurses as a group.

    • Excuse me, but I am pretty sure that the rest of my colleagues will agree. It seldom works out that you work your 4 12 hour shifts and you get your so called “days off” in a row.
      Before you start throwing stones and talking about something you obviously know nothing about, you should educate yourself.
      I work a two week schedule. It’s not an unusual occurrence to be scheduled 4 or 5 12 hour shifts in a row and then finish up at 7am one morning and be scheduled to come back to start a shift at 7am the next day. Try that once or twice and see what that does to your body.
      You just spent 4 or 5 days being awake all night and in less than 24 hours you are awake all day.
      Now spread that schedule out over a two week period and CONGRATULATIONS!!!! You get 3 days off in a row.
      WOW! What will I do with myself?
      I’ll tell you what you do. You spend a lot of time trying to recover from exhaustion!
      And in 3 days you get to start all over again!!!!
      So before you start making stupid comments, why don’t you take a few minutes and educate yourself?
      If it wasn’t for strong, educated, and dedicated professionals who have the compassion and the stamina that nurses do, you would be the one “BOOHOOING” when you or a family member needed care.
      I work in the USA and my wage doesn’t even begin to cover the responsibilities that I take on at the beginning of every shift.

  28. Thank you for your blog onThe Effects of Nurses On Nursing. While you call for nurses to vote for mandatory minimums this may not be necessarily the right minimum. My graduate work centered on mandatory minimums. At that point there was even legislation that was introduced to hold hospitals accountable for providing a minimum number of nurses for their hospital, but legislation also required hospitals to track the number of hours nurses worked. They were not to exceeded 80 hours in two weeks. Because nurses work often more than one job there was never a good solutions for tracking these hours. Needless to say, but hospitals have very different patient populations, facility layouts, and staff mix (RN, LPN, CNA) ratios. These are all factors we should look at when a staffing ratios are established. This why acuity tools are not the answer. Continue to to provide constructive feedback on unit layout, location of supplies, work flow and staffing mix modifications.

  29. I have been a medical assistant in a pediatric office for 10 years and I am currently working on getting my prereqs done so I can enter the nursing program. I have worked as an admitting clerk in a hospital ER, I’ve seen both sides of nursing and yet, I still want to become a nurse because I do believe they are the backbone of health care. I’ve only been in a hospital a few times as a patient but always had good nurses. If you are a patient and notice your nurse seems a little harried or stressed out, cut them some slack, you are not their only patient, make them laugh, it’ll go a long way in helping them and you!

  30. Okay, I work in a hospital, pediatric surgical unit. I’m sorry to say that I feel this outlook is kind of conceited. I’m also a woman, and a mother. Nursing is a hard job but so are many other jobs. Please, we have military people risking their lives leaving their newborns only to come home (if they get to) to a toddler or grade schooler. What about those men & women building high rises hanging from scaffolds, walking on beams way up in the sky? What about police officers battling the crazies day in and day out & the firemen racing into flames. The surgeons cutting into patients bodies to save their lives. Ever ride along with paramedics??? Maybe ya should. Ever try to be a farmer? What about a horse shoer bending over all day. What about a logger. So you can buy a house made of wood. All hard jobs. What about that property maintenance guy who gets called back into work during his sleep and on his holidays because your toilet is leaking or you locked yourself out of your apartment? I want to say that what I notice about the nursing profession is that there is some strange mentality that “I work harder & I deal with more than other professions and “only other nurses can understand.” Poor poor pitiful nurses? Please get rid of this weak minded mentality. You choose your profession, you choose to have kids and leave them to go to work. We all do. Just lay in the bed you make like everyone else. I think it is self interested, self focused, self serving, and self pitying to look upon yourself in such a manner. There are women like my sister in law with a severely disabled son who has been his mother and nurse for 18 years now, 24/7 job never a break lifting, turning, diaper changes, tube feeding, cathing, suppositories, IV’s, you name it. She never went to nursing school. She had no choice but to learn to do to her son what nurses do at work and are paid to do. I’m sorry, I probably won’t be popular for this comment but if you have a great paying job you can be proud of and and missing your kid’s game or a holiday or two or don’t have every weekend off is the worst of your issues, then you are very rich and blessed and should just be happy.

    • I never said anything about not respecting other professions. This is a personal blog. It is MEANT TO BE “self interested, self focused, self serving and self pitying” because it’s not that much different from a diary. It’s not funded by any organization, I am a private citizen. I wrote it back in AUGUST after 3 rough shifts, and seeing one of my coworkers burst into hysterics. I used my blog to vent, but I also used it to call for nurses to practice better self care because as I have said over and over and over, when nurses do not practice self care, other people die. And there are many things that only nurses understand because it is a unique profession. I don’t assume to know what a blacksmith goes through, or a logger, or a plumber. I don’t do those jobs, and I didn’t go into those careers. I am writing about problems within my own profession and it really doesn’t matter what you think about it. I wrote my blog to fill my emotional need, not to caress a public desire for an endlessly toiling, never complaining image of a registered nurse.

      • I am finding it very difficult to understand why there are so many non nurses reading this bog and then feeling the need to criticize the feelings and emotions that come with this profession.
        I wouldn’t even begin to know what the day in the life of a plumber is let alone comment on it.
        If nurses getting together and discussing the aspects of their career offends you, why not just unsubscribe?

      • Holly,

        This blog post went viral, and got millions of hits over a few days. It’s still puttering around the internet. So some people are annoyed they’ve seen it several times on Facebook or Reddit or Twitter. And a lot of people are just not happy unless they have had the last word. Initially I was letting this just go by, but I’ve had a little more time to respond to the “shut up and keep working” critics.

        I think a lot of the reason for criticism on my blog is to shut me up. People don’t like when women complain, and being a female-dominated field, nursing is often seen as synonymous with femininity, and it should not be. But many people feel women should not complain. The myth of the strong female figure, never complaining, never failing, does women a disservice, especially when it is applied to women of color. If nurses are not allowed to complain about our working conditions, draw the public’s attention to our working conditions, then we will never gather public support for change.

      • I am a male nurse, and speaking about the conditions which we as nurses have to work under sometimes is not limited to females. Trust me, .male and female are equally affected.

        Few professions out there deal with birth, sickness and death as ours does.

      • I really wish this was true, but when women speak out, we are often told to “chill out, relax” or other terms are used to tell us to shut up. Even thought we’re both nurses, you have male privilege. I’ve had many doctors take the word of a male nurse over mine. While I feel we deal with the same stressors and emotions, I can’t say that we are equally judged.

      • Sorry JoAnne, I’ve been on you’re side up untill now but you are wrong. Male nurses are treated like crap. There is no “male privilege”. Are you forgeting the high percentage of female doctors and how almost all supervisors and head nurses are female. This is one profession where the females rule. Male nurses are treated like shiite. Not to mention that almost everyone assumes you’re a homo. When people ask me what I do for a living I’m ashamed to admit I’m a nurse. I often say I’m a truck driver or some such thing to avoid the dirty looks.

      • Thank you for explaining to me why I am so wrong, in your opinion. What you just did is known as “mansplaining.” There is not a “high percentage” of female doctors, and while there are many supervisory staff in NURSING, may be female, as soon as you move above the CNO, those in the upper echelons of hospital hierarchy tend to be primarily male. You have male privilege. You need to accept that you do.

        I knew if I said something about male privilege on my blog I would end up with a man explaining to me why I am wrong. This is a show of male privilege. Do some research, and look beyond what you think you see.

      • Let do some mansplaining some more. I’ve been an RN 27 years and a nurse’s aide for 6 years before that. That’s my research. Almost every supervisor or head nurse is female. 60% to 70% of med sudents are female. 90% of pediatric doctors are female (I was a peds nurse for 10 years). When I think of how I’ve been treated in this profession by females only to hear you talk about “male privilege” it makes me want to laugh. Not having to stand in line in the men’s room is the only advantage I have in this profession.

      • You have a lot of anger, and I’m going to tell you something. This is not the place for you to attack female nurses. This is not the place for you to attack female doctors. You come to a feminist’s blog and want to tell me how bad things are for men? Go get your own blog. Make some men’s rights posts.

        I thought I was done, but I’m not. I am not here for the problems of men. This bitterness you feel? This is how women feel every DAY.

        As for your statistics? THEY ARE BULLSHIT. Women still don’t make up half of the medical student population, your “90% of pediatric doctors are women” doesn’t even stand up to a Google search.

        It does sound like you have been the victim of lateral violence and bullying, and for that you have my sympathy. I would suggest you read some books on how to deal with lateral violence and bullying, and address the bullying you have experienced with your nurse managers. Here is a blog post I wrote about a theory I have to decrease lateral violence. I am sorry you have experienced bullying and lateral violence as a male nurse, but my blog is NOT THE PLATFORM FOR YOUR ANGER.

      • Olivia,

        I appreciate what you are trying to do but I am not going to allow my blog to become a place for nurses to argue who does more. We cannot generalize what happens in all of nursing based on our specific hospital units. I actually have had very different experiences with male nurses than you have stated here, and I am not comfortable with an argument about male nurses vs. female nurses happening on my blog post, which was intended to be about self care.

    • Bobbi, I find three things wrong with your logic:

      1) Telling someone s/he “should be happy” accomplishes nothing. Feelings aren’t something that can be turned on and off like a faucet—–they just ARE. And, when you try to tell a complete stranger that her feelings are wrong, all you succeed in doing is showing that you’re not understanding where she’s coming from.

      2) This isn’t a contest. The original poster never claimed that she had more right to be frustrated with her job than anyone else in the universe. And, while it’s absolutely true that maintenance workers and mothers of disabled children have a tough job, too, in no way does that translate into nurses not having a right to vent now and then.

      3) So you feel “blessed” with your job, and don’t have any desire to vent about it after a particularly difficult shift? Great! But it doesn’t necessarily follow that you’re the gold standard against which all other nurses should be measured. This poster already stated that she loves her work, but was just venting after several particularly hard shifts. That’s normal and healthy, and can even be productive in the long run. Sometimes we just need to be heard and validated.

    • This is a NURSING blog and not any other profession. Please start your own blog and then we may understand how you feel about your job. This has not a thing to do with “us’ (meaning nurses) feeling sorry for ourselves. Yes, we chose the profession and have difficult days and if a RN blogger chooses to vent how her shift was on her own blog, then that is her choice. Everyone has choices and if you do not like seeing what is being written then please choose to leave this blog. AND after 30 plus years in the nursing field.. It is TRUE.. in some aspects only NURSES know how the other nurse may feel because more than likely they have experienced similar situations. Just because someone is venting does not mean the person does not like their job. I am sure in many professions there are plenty of people who complain and vent about their jobs. I would be surprised if you..yourself have not gone home after a hard day at work and vented..either to family or a co-worker.

  31. Don’t forget the CNAS who are.working just as hard as you and missing there loved ones to. A lot of 12 hours as well

  32. One last remark, Joanne, and then I’ll leave your blog alone: if you’re not comfortable with arguments about male nurses vs. female nurses, maybe it wasn’t the best plan to accuse nurses you don’t know of enjoying male privilege?

    As you rightly pointed out, your experience with male nurses on your unit is very different from mine on my unit. (Which, by the way, I wasn’t denying—I made it clear that it was MY current experience, not a universal truth.) It seems, though, that if you’re going to accuse someone of being privileged, it’s only fair to give examples of what you mean. And, for better or worse, that’s what I was trying to do. It had nothing to do with “who does more.”

    • Yes, I accused a man of having male privilege. This is different than having an us vs. them argument about who does more work, which is what your comment contained.

      I really don’t appreciate this message, and frankly, I am tired of having you on my blog. I’ve allowed you to keep commenting because I have tried to allow everyone a place to speak here, but you’ve set up camp in my blog like it was your own. You have more comments on one post than I have posted to my entire blog. Please leave. I don’t need your help.

  1. Pingback: Love a nurse | Dormiveglia

  2. Pingback: The Effects of Nursing on Nurses #nursing #medicine | Leta Blake

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