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. You obviously missed my point. Of course I put patients first.
    What I meant was I have witnessed and have been at the end if a patients wrath because I took care of a patient breathing at a rate of 40 with a sat of 77% before I gave an exam room to a patient with a fever.
    I actually had one patient make the comment that we did CPR too long on a patient and she needed her headache medicine. And the patient who tells you they have 10/10 pain but you can’t get them off their cell phone long enough to do an assessment.
    And the patient I had with an abscess on her arm from shooting up heroin who also was in the methadone clinic who dropped “F” bomb next to the child whose sister I was treating for RSV. Who then proceeded to swear and scream more because she wasn’t given anything for pain to go home with.
    My list could go on and on. When I made the comment that it is not all about YOU, I was talking about people having some consideration for each and being a little patient when someone’s needs are more emergent than yours.
    Only someone who is not a nurse would misunderstand what I said!


  3. hater of complaining RNs

    If its too taxing dont do it. I dont feel bad for you in regards to shift work cause you choose your career knowing nurses work 12s on the floors mostly and as a side note the ontario union is almost criminal in how easy nurses have it. Call in sick, take OT the next day, repeat. Work nights, take a 2 or 3 hr nap. Work a holiday, take time and a half, get a free paid stat day. Pick up a weekend shift last minute take a premium. But hey im with you in regards to being harrassed and abused and having 5 patients per nurse is to many on the floors.

  4. I have been a nurse over 10 years. I am now in quality/performance improvement and I have to tell you that reading these posts on the heavy workload and ungrateful patients is giving me flashbacks on just how stressful it is. I thank each and every one of you for all apof your hard work and compassion. God bless my brother and sister nurses.

  5. Amen !!! Well said and absolutely the truth !

  6. I am shocked that you would receive any negative feedback from any person that is a nurse. What you said is 100% true. Being a bedside nurse can be the best and the worst job at the same time. I have recently had surgery and yet I am supposed to take care of those recovering from surgery. I get no time to take snacks, eat lunch, drink water, and take care of myself for 12 hours? We get up before the sun rises and get home after it sets. I love my job but I despise it at the same time. I cannot wait to transition to a role that does not require I give so much of myself!

  7. Maéva Trousquin

    I am currently a Personal Support Worker, and soon-to-be a Registered Practical Nurse and I can totally relate, somedays I’m simply drained out mentally and physically to the point of not wanting to go into work, and that DOES NOT make sure bad health care workers!

  8. Linda L Paloff RN

    Great Blog, You told it like it is. I have been a nurse for 44 years and recently retired from the hospital. It sure isn’t like it was when I started. Then we worked very hard but it was more of a family atmosphere. Where I worked we had each others back and took care of our patients as a team. Now administration could care less about you or your patients as long as the surveys are good and they are not getting sued. They depend on the fact that nurses will care for their patients even at their own cost. No lunch or bathroom breaks, etc. I do wonder who will care for us when nurses realize they can make more with less effort elsewhere.

  9. This is so incredibly true. As a nurse I advise young people not to go into the profession. There are really no words to describe it, horrific, grueling, demeaning, back breaking are a few!

    • Kristina
      I can’t believe you would not advice out younger men and women to go into nursing.
      I get it. It’s so hard at times. I know as I am a nurse myself. But there are so many good things about what we do. We learn so much about ourselves. I would rather spend the day saving a life then writing a new computer program or sell something to someone who doesn’t need it.
      Let’s work together more and find ways to make the profession a little more rewarding and easier on us. Let’s stand up and demand certain things like shorter shifts on holidays. Let’s make our unions stronger. Etc.

  10. I am a nurse also and I agree and support everything you have said. I started working at my local hospital while attending nursing school. After graduation I worked full time in 2 critical care areas. After having my first child I had a hard time working the 12 hour shifts with weekly call and took a new position. It is at hospital clinic and is 8-5… I thought things would calm down. However I have had my eyes opened to how demanding and taxing a doctor office can be…. and it has not been pretty. We are very small and understaffed. Thank god I have such a great group of coworkers and we all support each other. As nurses and health care workers we are all slammed daily with overwhelming demands from both administration and patients. We have to help each other out as much as possible and stick together.I try to remember that everyone is also fighting a personal battle that we may know nothing about. All the help, no matter how small, can make a world of difference to someone (both patients and coworkers) Keep up the good work!

  11. Wow, you said it best. I only work 8 hours because we are long term/ rehab facility but we should be considered subacute. I don’t honestly understand why some nurses are lazy , they get all the glory and nurses that bust our butts get crapoed on? Can you explain since you are great with words.

    • Jacques Raymond

      That’s how it is with politics the attentive nurse takes care of the pt while the lazy nurse all she does is report peoples’ mistake and socialize with management just to be lazy

  12. Aaaaa…..who needs a break? I just cath myself and keep on working. Lol

  13. I am a nurse practicing 20 years, started on nights, went to days, climbed the management ladder to nursing director and after 3 years in leadership I decided to quickly and happily climb down the ladder to the ICU bedside for my last 5 years which were the most rewarding after having to but up with meetings, e-mail, committees and bullshit at the top! They bait you into thinking you can make a difference in leadership, have a say in your budget and staffing, but in the end they never approve your budget or your staffing and you spend most of your time explaining why you are over budget because you staffed appropriately and provided the tools needed for your staff to do their JOB! I should have known I wouldn’t have lasted in a leadership position because I refuse to sell my staff a line of crap handed down from the top. Another point if someone hasn’t made it yet: After 20 years of nursing experience working in ICU my wages topped out at $32/hr. One of my patient’s who retired from the automotive industry admitted to being paid $50/hr with enormous benefits and pension and he proclaimed he knew he was making more than he should because he just worked an assembly line doing a very thoughtless job that required very little skill. I also know engineers fresh out of school that make and made significantly higher salaries. Why???? Do our jobs take any less thought or skill? We are exposed to pathogens, diseases, making critical decisions that are often responsible for saving lives, in addition to being exposed to the worse working conditions. Most 12 hour shifts I had time to pee once so I learned over the years not to drink too much to purposefully dehydrate myself. I am certain at some point I will need a bladder tuck. I do however love nursing. Like most of you who keep coming back for more like me, it feeds our soul. I am compelled to take care of others and perhaps that is why our profession is paid so poorly…we just can’t help ourselves and those who dictate our salaries know that. God bless all nurses for the sacrifices they make and the love and caring they give to their patients and families.

    • I love so much the way this comment was put together… I am very torn on my desire to stay at the bedside and this well sums up the big picture reasons.

  14. Right on, “Sista”! (as the youngsters would say) These “baby nurses” (not my creation) have no idea what all we have done in our careers. To some of these smarties, many facilities are eliminating LVN;s, one aide per floor, no lift teams, and eliminate the position of the senior nurses. You are spot on! I was “retired” after a life time of years. I was the one who was choked by a patient with his oxygen tubing…More recognition for the PTSD of nurses. Thank-you again for putting into words what is in the heart and soul of many nurses.

  15. My hat is off to all nurses , do you notice most nurses are not over weight and now I know why I just got out after having a total hysterectomy and I was there 4 days staying longer due to hemorrhaging needing to have that fixed ,those nurses never slowed down and that first night I required a lot I was bleeding threw bed pads and a mess every hour with blood the first 2 times I called for help and it took sometimes 20 min.if you had to go to the bathroom or a hr. waiting for pain meds. so after the 1st 2 times of getting up every 45min. thinking I needed to go but it was all bloods and sometimes every 1/2 hr. but I had to urine in a hat and I was a bloody mess each time so after the 1st 2 times I started to get up go change my own bed pad because I knew it was something I could do for myself but I would feel awful because with me laying in blood the toilet wood be a mess and I knew I couldn’t clean it and I had someone else in my room and good thing she didn’t have to go often because in a hour and a half I would go 3 times in the same bloody mess that was there until my roommate would have to go then she would have to call for a nurse to come down and clean the toilet up , because sitting in someone else’s blood is not something you want to sit in and I was feeling awful because I was requiring that much attention so often, during that hour and a half there may have been 4 or 5 different ones in and would see it and mention it needed to be cleaned but every time it wouldn’t get cleaned until my roommate would have to require it now most people would probally be pissed off but I wasn’t because they were constantly on the go non stop so I didn’t really see much harm that it didn’t get cleaned until it was absolutely necessary and I would do everything else I could like I asked them to bring a stack of bed pads in and pads and clean hospital underware and gowns so I could take some of the load off them because cleaning myself up or swapping urine hats back and forth between me and my roomate was something I could do for myself to help out If the nurses were just taking their own sweet time or chatiing with each other then I would probally have the attitude hey come on I don’t get paid to change my own bed pads or change my roommates urine hat because they never got changed or dumped until it was absolutely necessary to require help from the nurses , but I look the other way I know their understaff to give all the attention that is needed,so big deal if the toilet didn’t get cleaned until a new person had to use it , did it hurt me to go 2 or 3 times in that mess no ! Did it hurt me to change my own bed pads or clean myself up no! While I was doing things for myself gave the nurses time to get another patient not to have to wait so long for pain med. or someone that can’t get up to go to the bathroom not to have to try so hard not to wet the bed and then requiring just that more time and attention , so I’m o.k to help do for myself health care cost is threw the roof hospitals have cut nursing staff severely so I look at it we all have to help if we can to continue to have healthcare affordable, the more I can do for me requires less of them so we can all work with what we got , putting on more staff cost goes up more, costing me more out of my pocket and you know I ‘d rather pay less and help out a little more and not bad mouth nurses for the things that didn’t get done right away because they did get done but not when we all expect them to jump for ourselves alone , there’s other patient with needs as well that nurse is not for you alone that nurse probally is tending to 6 rooms or 12 patient ,so let’s all pitch in and do what we can , I don’t mind to help out if it means keep affording my healthcare so don’t get your panties ruffled if things can’t get done the way you want and when you want and don’t forget a little kindness goes along ways and I know I liked hearing it but who doesn’t everyone enjoys kind words it also feels good to say them back try it sometime ,see how good it feels and see how much better you start feeling being there God Bless you all give a helping hand and share a little kindness

    • Unfortunately, there are a lot of overweight nurses for a lot of reason. Working night shift tends to put weight on you, stress tends to put weight on you, and medical staff have some of the worst dietary habits I’ve ever seen. Something good we’ve done on my floor is to support each other to eat well for our health, and I think this really has helped us all. Still, I was a healthy weight when I became a nurse and now I’m very overweight. It’s something I need to work on now that my feel are healing from my Morton’s neuromas.

  16. Glenda aka the good witch

    Nursing is the largest profession so why do we put up with all the crap! If it weren’t for nurses hospitals can not operate floors get closed because they don’t have nurses to staff them! We have the power to make change so let’s change things! California started change with legal nurse pt ratios so let’s keep that going!!

    • I agree. How do we fight for this legally? I’m in.

    • AMEN!! CA has the ratios bc they have a UNION!! ALL STATES need nursing UNIONS and mandated ratios! I am so ready for all of us to say NO till we have safe ratios!

  17. Jacques Raymond

    I agree with what you said. I don’t understand why people would put any nasty remarks. I love being a nurse. The reason I chose this profession was the opportunity it provides. You have so much u could do as a nurse me as soon as I feel depress about what I do ill a change to a different type of nursing

  18. This is so truthful! Though I am not a nurse, I do administrative work in a doctor’s office. I’ve also worked in one of the best hospitals in my position. I’ve thought about going back to school for nursing, and it’s still always a possibility, but truthfully, i don’t think it’s for me. I’ve seen all the amazing things nurses do, the bad attitudes from patients and doctors alike that they deal with, or if there is one nurse that does just the bare minimum of their job, how it can put the next one so far behind. It can be backstabbing, emotionally draining, physically demanding. And i respect our nurses the most. My little brother has been aaccepted into a nursing program and when i said, why not go to become a physician’s assistant? He replied, “Doctors diagnose the issue, but the nurses are the ones to treat and care for the patient. ” I love nurses!

  19. I know I am only one voice, and honestly, you don’t have to publish my comment, this is for you.

    I want you to know how much I appreciate the work nurses do. In my opinion, the two most undervalued jobs are nursing and teaching. I view nursing as more of a calling, not a career choice. Not just anyone can be a nurse, I know that I couldn’t. The work nurses do on a day to day basis is astonishing. If I’m feeling a bit under-the-weather, or tired from a late night and go to work and make a mistake, it’s usually not a very big deal. If a nurse does that, someone could die. That’s job-pressure most of us could not handle.

    Hang in there. At some point in almost every person’s life, they will need a nurse, and they should thank their lucky stars that there are men and women who are willing to to deal with all you deal with. Just know that you are appreciated.

  20. It’s not just nurses either. We lab techs have the same level of the degrees y’all have. We even took most of the same classes. I was in the chem and bio and micro classes with the nursing students . We split to go to our degree specific classes. The nurses went to patient care, we went to learn how to diagnoses based on lab test results. (And yes. We’re taught how to determine what disease we are looking at based on the combination of lab test results. And not just the micro stuff where you determine the bacteria, because the nurses were in the base level of that class with me. Techs got a whole next level of that.)

    Hospitals can’t run without lab techs, either. We’re like the red headed step children. No one even mentions us during rants…. Lol we don’t do the heavy lifting, but the rest is the same. We’re taking patients blood, getting coughed on, thrown up on, fainted on (really lady? The site of your own blood makes you faint? How do you changenyour tampons??? I’ve never understood that. But then, I like looking at blood… Lol anyway…. Off topic…)

    Techs do also have the *starter* associates degree, but more and more hospitals won’t hire the ones that are technicians (2 yr degree) verses technologists (bachelor or masters). Then we specialize just like you guys do onto different floors and departments into various departments within the lab…

    Not knocking nurses! Not at all. The two departments MUST work together well for the good of the hospital and patients! I’m just commiserating. Few health care staff get the respect or pay we deserve for what we do.

    Nothing like calling a doc with critical results (that is a law… Hey doc… Your patient has no platelets or white cells. might want to separate them from the general population while you figure this out….) Only to get screamed at that they know the patient is sick-they’re in the hospital after all!- and that we interupted their dinner/movie/sleep/ballet recital. Or the patients that call the lab and scream because #1 we can’t give them their own lab results and #2 we haven’t managed to pull their doc away from whatever else he may be doing (like saving a life…. You, silly screaming patient, obvi aren’t that sick or you wouldn’t feel up to yelling at me…) Or #3 really especially wonderful are the ones (docs and patients) who don’t understand we aren’t soothsayers. We don’t just hold a tube of blood (or cup of urine, tube of spinal fluid, a TOE for goodness sakes!!!) and magically foretell what is wrong! We aren’t holding the tubes to our foreheads and listening for it to tell us what’s wrong with it! Lol We have to run detailed analytical testing! And if they’re abnormal, or even simply different than the last time the patient had the test, we have to run the test again!!!


  22. I am not a nurse but I think there are an equal amount of bad nurses just as there are an equal amount of bad patients. I’ve seen some nurses that are caring and seem honestly interested in taking care of you. I’ve also seen nurses that are grumpy and take their frustration out on you. You ask for a blanket because the hospital is freezing and they roll their eyes like you are a pain in the ass. Of course there are rude patients that are demanding too. To be honest though, you chose the nursing profession and all the ups and downs of that profession. You have a right to complain about some things but you if you can’t take the pressure maybe you are in the wrong field.

    • You’re right. There are both bad and good nurses, but that isn’t what this blog post is referring to. I am a nurse in an intensive care unit at a major teaching hospital/level one trauma center. It is an extremely rewarding career but also so incredibly challenging that some days it can seem unbearable. Not unbearable from the “pressure” but from the situations we face as nurses every day. You stated you aren’t a nurse… so I’m guessing there are many situations you could never relate to or imagine being involved in. I’m guessing you haven’t assumed the role of “family” to a dying person who had no one else. I’m guessing you’ve never cracked a chest open at the bedside to perform life saving measures. I’m guessing you haven’t been punched or yelled at by family or patients while you are “just trying to do your job.” I love my job AND my patients, but nursing is a career unlike any other… it isn’t about the pressure that makes it hard. It’s about the nurse to patient ratios that make it physically impossible to complete the work assignment you’re given. It’s about not having the resources available on your unit to truly provide adequate patient care. It’s about the number of individuals who you help on a daily basis who frankly just don’t care about their health but expect the government to foot the bill. You don’t have to agree… just food for thought.

      • Anonymous,
        I totally agree with what you had to say.
        It is hard to stay professional when patient to nurse ratios are so high and the acuity of patients is getting higher. The facility that I am working in cut LPN’s and CNA’s from all critical care areas. One would think that is where you would need them the most!
        It is hard to do your job when you have equipment that is outdated and doesn’t work and supplies you are looking for just aren’t there. It irritates me to no end that nurse managers get a bonus if they come in under budget every year. I keep saying that needs to be done away with because it does nothing but hurt the department and directly harms the patient.
        There is no sense complaining. It falls on deaf ears or you just get labeled a trouble maker.
        Every day of this kind of thing gets old quick.
        However, when I see a patient getting better as a direct result of my care, that makes those things seem small and I can go another day.
        But I have to admit, it’s hard to stay professional when a mother brings her child in with a temp of 105 and you ask when the last time was they gave the child Tylenol and they tell you they didn’t because they can’t afford it. And there is a pack of cigarrettes hanging out of their purse.

      • Absolutely know how much you give as an RN, can imagine what you are up against. Thank you for all you do. You would have to love what you do. My doctor has explained that with Obamacare, this will continue to affect the healthcare system, personnel, patients, including doctors, due to the cutbacks in care. I’m sure it wasn’t perfect before Obamacare, but will continue to get worse. Everyone needs to get pro-active and vocal with their local representatives…continuing the push to end a system that is not working…making the healthcare system worse, affecting all Americans.

      • AMEN! I could tell which were the Non-nurse comments! “Until you walk a mile in my shoes”..and might I add, carry a few bed pans, wipe ,lotion,powder and kiss some boo boos..(with no signs of recognition or appreciation for such activities)…we appear to be low on the totem the eyes of the public….until its their light we can’t answer due to trying to save another life next door. I still enjoy nursing, just not the administrative non appreciation of it!

  23. What a wonderful blog. I have been in nursing for 40 years and never regretted my career choice. When I think of the lives I’ve saved and people I cared for I am extremely proud. We need to care for our fellow nurses and others in our profession. Its always nice to have a reminder. I worked Christmas eve and cried when we kept a patient from having to go to open heart surgery. That’s is why its ok to miss a soccer game or a holiday dinner. Not only do we get it back next time but so does the patient we saved.

  24. what you said is right on. I have been a nurse for 30 years minus the 3 year hiatus I took to work in a vets office. Once a nurse always a nurse. I would not have chosen a different profession that what I did. it is very gratifying work and most humbling. I work 3 twelve hour shifts and it is very hard on the body.

  25. I know your pain all to well! I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years! Nursing takes an emotional and physical toll on you. And you’re right! There is an expectation for nurses to make sacrifices and to go above and beyond! I have been hit, kicked, spit on and cussed out. I have worked past the time my shift was supposed to end so my co-workers didn’t get dumped on and into an uncontrollable mess! We do have to take care of ourselves! In part, because everyone is so busy expecting us to take care of everyone else, they forget we need to be cared for as well! As a fellow nurse, hang in there! We need all the help we can get! Especially from each other!

  26. Bless your heart. I’m a cna and a secretary in a hospital, and working my way through nursing school. And not only is the patient to nurse scale off it’s worse for us cnas. Sometimes we have as many as 14 or more patients. I often cry on my drive home from work because there just isn’t enough of me to go around. It’s a frustrating situation and a lot of times nurses don’t even realize just how thin their cnas are spread. I love my patients and the nurses. Something has to give though.

  27. Thank You Nurses for all you do and sacrifice.
    I have had good experiences and bad experiences at the hospital, based on the compassion of the nurses (not the doctors) taking care of me. Compassion has to be the biggest quality that a nurse must posses. I have had nurses NOT want to give me medicine that a doctor prescribed. I had a nurse who kept bringing me ice bags for my shoulder injury that would break after a few minutes leaving me and my bedding drenched in cold icy water. She seemed to be taking pleasure from it. And if she was sadistic because she was so overworked, then why did she keep bringing me loosely secured ice bags that she kept having to replace and clean up (although she did leave me in the wet gown and bedding that kept getting wetter with every ice bag),
    I have had nurses save my life, advocating to the doctor on my behalf. I have had nurses be kind and compassionate. I have had nurses search the other floors to find me a banana popsicle.
    There are mostly good nurses, but if you can’t be compassionate for the patients you treat, who don’t always say please and thank you, who bleed, who spit, who vomit, who need help getting to the bathroom, then please find a new job.
    Also, if grumpy nurses seem to plague a hospital, then it may be a sign that the hospital isn’t treating its staff fairly, and it may be time, if possible, to choose a new hospital as a patient.
    I’m glad that nurses support other nurses. Every profession, especially nurses, need a place to vent.
    It only takes a drop of poison to ruin the whole pot of stew.

  28. I work in a county jail (also a reservist currently deployed) with everything from minimum to maximum security inmates. A lot of what you said, especially the part about being mentally, emotionally, and physical draining sounds very familiar. That being said, I read this article because my wife is an RN and I thought this article would give me insight to what she deals with. It did not disappoint; I had no idea these were some of the things my wife went through and it has given me a whole new perspective on what my beloved actually deals with. Turns out our jobs are more similar than I could’ve imagined. Thank you, and if she asks I’ll still say my jovial is harder 😉 I just won’t be serious this time.

  29. As an RN with 12 years experience, I could not agree with you more. I encourage no one to enter this profession. The only benefit of this field is the ability to keep a roof over your head, but at a very costly expense

  30. Your remark that nursing “is a fucking hard job” nails it on the head. I’m a male nurse of almost 15 years and the girls look to me to take the heavy patients and the violent patients because I’m stronger but that gets old real quick when you get wailed on repeatedly by the patients and management. Management thinks you can be in seven places at one time. Unfortunately we need union.

    • John, it’s not fair for the male nurses to get stuck with all the physical assignments. I can imagine that it would get old quick. You definitely get taken advantage of. The only thing I can say is God bless you! I know that I have been rescued more than once by a male nurse and thankful one was on the unit when a situation arose.
      I will make sure I am more aware of it because of your comment.

  31. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been in nursing since 1990, right out if high school I started working in a nursing home-$4/ hr nigh shifts on the weekends while in school. I went from there to a hospital where I was both the aide and secretary while in school- a very large hospital too. I was burned out before I even got out of nursing school- sad truth. I graduated in 1995 with my BSN, after transferring to another school because there were too many at the public university trying to get into classes to apply for the nursing program, I was happy I changed. Throughout this all I was going to save humanity and provide the utmost care to every patient, I was different than those grouchy old nurses who so readily bossed me around, this is what I told myself. Anyhow, 23 years later I have totally destroyed my body and mind for the sake of others, I was born with a genetic bone condition and have basically destroyed my body all the while hoping I was making a difference in others. I will forever be reminded of the many things I’ve missed with my own family, the extra hours I put in thinking I was helping out my hospital family, etc etc… It’s all changed to big business and who can come out on top profit wise or should I say not filing for bankruptcy. It’s very very scary to be in the other side of healthcare these days. I miss the nursing that I used to provide, it no longer can exist. I’m no longer able to work due to the damage my body has sustained as well as the progressive state that my bone disease took, I believe at an a accelerated rate due to over working it under extreme work conditions. I could write stories forever on this topic because I am so passionate about it. However, you said it best, unless you’ve been there and done it , you have no place to make negative comments regarding the nursing field, at least in the truly subjective form.

  32. Hi,

    I’m in my second year of nursing school and I really think you outlined many relateable points with anyone in nursing. There are so many challenges and so many “nursing moments” in nursing. It reminds me of the saying “I never said it’ll get easier, I said it would be worth it” and it’s highly applicable to this profession. We’re the most caring profession in the world, we put our souls to the test in this profession, we break up our bodies for it, we maybe the last face someone sees while they take their last breath, or the first HCP someone sees when they come into the ER. We are truly the backbone in health care. Thank you for teaching me how to become a better future nurse and a better person through your blog. You are a good person and I hope you will receive much praise with many nursing moments in your career. Nursing is a lifestyle, not just a career choice. I believe you are made for nursing and I hope people in your life will continue to support you through all your hard and good days.

    Kindest Regards,
    Another Future Nurse

  33. I hear and understand everything you stated. I lived it for over 40 years. Everything you have stated is true. Unless one is a nurse, they just don’t totally understand. I’m a retired RN and I hear you, my sister.

  34. God bless all nurses. My sister works 3 twelves for 30 years and I have heard it all. Most problems seem to stem from nurse/patient ratios i.e. understaffing and the “not me” attitude of some coworkers who want the same pay but sit and text or talk on their phones whenever they can and never want to be the one to take an admission or stay for the last person on the next shift to arrive. Everyone looking out for #1 when it comes to self scheduling…..trying to get every holiday off every year. Wonderful rewards from helping patients and good pay but can be very stressful.

  35. SO well written! You hit the nail on the head. I’ve had the car accident thoughts, wondering how much time off it would get me. Even worse than that I’ve fantasized about getting pregnant, not because I want a baby, but because the idea of 6 months off sounds like heaven! But even with those crazy thoughts running through my head at the begining of 3 12s I know in my heart that there is no other job that I would ever want to do. I love being a nurse, I love helping people, I love the feeling I get when I clock out and know that I did everything in my power to help my patients AND my co-workers. Only another nurse can understand the love/hate relationship that we have for the job because it truly is a job like no other. For anyone who has ever had a “bad” nurse take care of you I’m sorry that you didn’t get the care that you thought you needed but please try to remember that when you are asking for another blanket or popsicle that your nurse may also be caring for a terminally ill patient in the next room, or working their 4th 12 hour shift in a row, or maybe they haven’t eaten or gone to the bathroom for the last 10 hours, or clocked out for their lunch break but kept working through it because there just isn’t enough time… Please be mindful, and if you have a chance, hug a nurse, odds are that they need it.

  36. I work in a children’s hospital where a lot of really sick kids get transferred to…….yes the nurse-patient ratio has changed to 5-1, and with the type of patients we get, (cpmr, chest tubes, resp distress, trachs, etc), it’s not safe, and if you express to your charge that the assignment is too heavy, it falls on deaf ears……..if you still complain………well you are told your organizational skills need working on………..there is no way we can give 5 really sick kids the care they need…… breaks my heart……….I feel like a half nurse………we are all stressed and can’t help each other as we can’t keep up with our patient load. In the last 6 shifts, I have had no break and no lunch x2 of those shifts…….try working 13 hours without any food or drinks. The only reason we take a bathroom break is we just can’t hold it any longer……………I pray every night that all my patients are still breathing in the morning……it seems that the people making these decisions have never worked the floors, most are not nurses and they seem to turn a deaf ear……….the attitude is if you don’t like it ,………leave!!!!!…………so sad we are at that point!

  37. I love being a nurse . I work 12 hour shifts at night on a medical surgical unit and some nights are hell. We have no CNA or break nurse. But I show up for my patients and my co- workers.

  38. Nancy Dennager BSN, RN

    Oh how I feel your emotions and thoughts. You are right on… I am retired (the hospital eliminated my job and I chose not to take what they were offering instead, so out I went). I recently was a patient at that hospital and the care sucked, but by reading your blog I now realize how great the problem of nurse to patient ratio has become. Hospitals, yes even the “religious” based hospitals, are BUSINESSES and their mission statement has been ignored totally. As I advance in age I only pray my health holds out until my last breath, because I dread being a patient in our health system today. It definitely is insurance dictated. You are wonderful and a much better person/nurse than I was. I quit plain and simple!! I just could not take anymore and would not want to be in the health system today.

  39. I have had the privilege of working with nursing staff for the last six years. In that short time I have worked with some of the brightest, most caring individuals you could ever imagine meeting. I have also worked with some real pieces of work. I describe the latter in this way because this is the make up of those people and there is nothing that can be done to change their nature. Sure, some of the kind, caring nursing staff members could occasionally be bitchy however, they were not bitches.

    I have witnessed nurses who have gone without potty breaks and or lunches because of the high acuity of their patients and the equally high patient to nursing staff ratios. CNA’s who have been responsible for an entire unit of 18+ patients who have been kept running for the entire shift without so much as a thank-you from the nurse or house managers.

    Therein lies one of the major issues. Nursing staff who have been elevated to House Manager’s or VP’s of Nursing who have never known what it’s like to have the hands-on experience of working on the floor under the aforementioned conditions.

    Fairly recently during Union contract negotiations, when a CNA voiced frustration by being saddled with every one of the patients on a unit for an entire shift, I was witness to a VP of Nursing say: “Little lady, I have been a nurse for 30+ years, so don’t tell me what it’s like to work on the floor!” I also witnessed that same kind, caring, sweet, hard-working CNA being reduced to tears because at that very moment in time they realized that the value in their work has been reduced to its effect on “the bottom-line.” I am sad to say that the CNA never returned to her position with this healthcare organization, feeling it would better serve her and her young child if she took the risk of quitting her job and tried to find more meaningful work elsewhere. The audacity of this manager spouting this “holier than thou” line though they haven’t pulled one shift on the floor in over 15 years. Condescension in its finest and ugliest form.

    But, who suffers?

    The CNA who felt the need to leave the meeting room because they were crying so uncontrollably that they didn’t want to disrupt this most important meeting … feeling that leaving the job that she loved doing because her hard work wasn’t valued by the organization that she worked for? Sure.

    The RN who works their ass off, shift after shift and doesn’t get so much as a passing nod by the CEO of these organizations, for their efforts? Most certainly.

    Ultimately the patient … and the quality of care received. Even as these healthcare organizations tout the phrase: “The patient is our highest priority!”

    I wish I were even a tiny bit optimistic about the future of healthcare but, I am not. I am not, nor do I ever want to be an RN or CNA. I am just a unit secretary. And I find that being witness to these transgressions is too much to bear for me and I want out. I simply cannot imagine what makes these nursing staffs continue on. Other than their deeply ingrained need to care for and to serve others. And for that and so much more … they have my undying gratitude!

    The Almighty Dollar reins supreme!

    • I have experienced similar issues at work. I gave my heart and soul to my work as a Registered Nurse for 15 years. I juggled family, medical emergencies family emergencies and my own health issues. I cared for my patients with dedication, skill and expertise. I made wonderful friends. Once you are friends with a nurse – You are friends for life But what made me just quit my job of 15 years was how little we care for each other. 5 years ago I had a family emergency with my 21 year old son lying with a broken back in Portugal and I had to fly over. When I returned, I was not greeted with care or compassion instead this is how I was greeted: “You no longer work 30 hours, you only work 20” An assistant manager made a unilateral decision to cut back my hours without informing her manager. When the manager found out 3 months later, she fired the ANM, gave me back my hours but never reimbursed me for hours missed.
      Despite being fit and active this last year was hard – I had 2 surgeries, and a broken ankle. when I returned from my second disability, I walked into a hostile environment. The nurses were angry with ME because management did not cover the extra workload. I had to take a day off due to high fever high heart rate and infection related to my surgery (unpaid as I used up my sick time) I was humiliated, intimidated and accused of ‘faking a sick day’ I had tried to talk nicely with the nurse who accused me and I was told;” I am not talking to you without a witness” When I turned around I was faced with this mean spirited nurse and 2 managers. None of whom had greeted me when I returned. After months of this hostile environment where I gave my all to patient care, being compassionate, charming, kind, skilled, smart, thinking critically, using my vast experience and education to improve the quality of my patient’s lives and the lives of my coworkers, I would drive home every day crying. I had to hold my feelings in all day as I cared for my patients. The environment was increasingly hostile, without so much as a sideways glance, a hello, a smile, eye contact, from managers and my immediate coworker. THIS was the straw that broke the camel’s back. So I resigned.
      How upsetting that we do not care for each other as well as we care for our patients.
      Not everyone is like this. There are many rewards in this job. But the way hospitals are run, they skimp where the care is most needed. Yet they remodel, buy stupid hats for people with logos on, CEO’s make huge profits. ALso with the new Electronic Medical records, nurses are being told to do more and more every day, and they are being scrutinized for giving a med 5 minutes late when they have 5 patients or more and each one has to be treated as if they are the only one they have when they are in the room with that patient.
      I will never work in a hospital again. The toll on my body, the herniated disks from lifting obese patients, the leg pain from standing, the bladder issues from holding it in, and not being allowed to have drinking water close by.the shoulder pains, the lack of breaks, the lack of respect. But I will miss my friends. I hope to somehow do some work to change the hospital environment focus on healing the healer. it is so important.
      Also I wish there weren’t so many angry , embittered, comments on this post. Some are by non nurses who criticize us for lack of education’ Excuse me, Microbiology, chemistry, physics, advanced algebra, statistics anatomy, physiology, psychology, cultural sensitivity etc are all courses required to be an RN. I went to school when I had small children, burning the midnight oil. It took me 6 years to get my Rn as I was also working at the time. Then later another 3 to get my Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Some are by nurses who seem to have a mentality of self destruction – which is a road I refused to go down when I saw the writing on the wall.
      Not sure what the answer is.

  40. It’s because medicine is a business and nursing is a service. For everything a physician does from a limited exam to an invasive procedure has a billing code. If they spend 30 minutes talking to a patient and their family..they bill even more for the service rendered. Nursing never developed their own fee for service system. Nursing salary is dependent on the wages set by administrators who don’t understand the complexity of nursing work or the physical/mental/emotional demands. Unfortunately, physicians are viewed as profitable by hospitals because their servises are reimbursed..and nurses are viewed as an expense. What nursing needs is there own fee for service coding system. The AMA owns ICD9/10 and I know from experiance (I am a NP who “borrows” the coding system) that they would not be willing to legally allow nurses to share the system. Anyway, my point is that nursing has allowed others to dictate their value. Large health systems are essentially large businesses and will continue to scale back on expenses even if that means ignoring data on safe staffing ratios. We NEED a billing system. We need to be viewed as knowledgable and skilled entrepreneurs..who have valuable and profitable expertise. Otherwise, nursing will always be at the disadvantage when negotiating wages/hours/safe practice. Who is up for creating ICD-N? 🙂

    • I would love to share this comment and others comments from this blog face book. We need to keep reaching the public for change:)

      • As RNGetsIt if they approve of you using their comment.

        Also.. MY BLOG HAS A FACEBOOK? Can you link me to it?

      • I’ve shared the link but was hoping for a Facebook fan page or something like it? I think it would be easier to share comments? You got one of those? Let’s start one if not:) xoxoxo love your post and all the people it continues to reach

      • No, I don’t have a facebook fan page and I’d rather not have one, because I do not want to give my full name and where I work.

    • I would love to see nursing bill for services. It would be a fair way for nurses to get paid. It always seems like the same nurses get the patients with the higher acuity and do more work than some of their colleagues.
      However, my fear is that insurance companies will get the idea that this particular code doesn’t require registered nursing services. Or this code only requires the care of a CNA.
      It doesn’t sound possible since the RN has to do at least an initial assessment or one assessment per shift. However, since healthcare has come down to the almighty buck, I think hospitals and government would get around it.
      It could be a way for staffing to be scaled back further.

  41. Deborah Traweek Boyd

    I Never Met A Nurse That I Didn’t Love, And I Have Met Many, All Just Wonderful. Thank God For Them. ♥♥♥

  42. Thank you for this article! I think a lot of nurses don’t know what they’re getting into. I think its important for us to be honest, like you were. Thanks for being brave!

  43. So true!! Granted I’m a CNA, but I deffinetly relate. This passsed holiday season I was lucky to spend 4 hrs with famiy on christmas, forget thanksgiving and new years, because I had to work the rest of the day. I’m running wild 24/7 to help my patients, cleaning up those awesome messes that come from any end. And then managment has the odasity to tell you you aren’t doing your job, or working fast enough because light 5 was on 20 min. Well I answered lights 10-15 in 10min and #15 was activly dieing. Sorry I couldn’t get 5 their water in time. This is why after being an aide for almost 5 years I decided I was NOT going into nursing, but switching to physical therapy. I love nursing and think I would be awesome, but the min. I took a restorative job my husband told me, “you are so much happier.” I couldn’t sacrifice my family to do a job I loved, when it made me a beast at home. I commend those who can return home and still smile. I started back at school and now work hospice and at an assisted living, where I pass meds, so yeah I understand that side too. I love the hospice, gets you out and about, and my facility is amazing but I’m so done working for a big facility that can’t staff because they are saving $. I’m tired of wanting to give amazing care but only being able to give marginally good care because you have 14 patients to one aide.people always commend me for being me and doing the job I do, but seem offended if I say ANYTHING remotly negative about my job, or judging me because I’m not around at home. I can’t help but think, wow did you have to send one of your fav. People to the mortuary today? No, then I’m allowed to be upset by my job today. And when people judge me for not always being home for evwry event I just tell them while you celwbrate, I’m taking care of people who can’t celebrate with thwir family because they aren’t home for reasons xyz. People don’t stop diwing or being old on the holidays, and the general public just doeant understand that.

  44. I totally agree with your statements im a male nurse. When I first started I thought shift work would be easy man was I wrong. Im now the cn for a dialysis unit and feel constantly drained every day of the week. I totally agree about the unhealthy culture in nursing and the abuse by management not to staff us correctly.

  45. I am an RN as well and I have done the gamut….LTC,SNF, LTACH, and acute care in a level 1 trauma center, bedside and management…nursing is hard but the thought that keeps me going is knowing that the only difference between me and my patient is that it is not my season yet, sooner than later I will be in that bed and just want someone to smile at me…I LOVE MY CAREER CHOICE…I just wish that some of the others did as well. Nowadays you can become an LPN in 9 months then an RN 3 semesters later…quick money seems to be the draw…I thank God for some of my peers and also the few Docs who actually listen and respect us…to my sisters and brothers in this great family of caring …try not to lose sight of what this is truly about. We are angels of mercy, just know that even that hello you said to someone brought a smile to them that wasn’t there before…for everyone else…B52’s !!!! lol… 50 of Benadryl, 5 of Haldol and 2 of Ativan!!! …Depakote Daquiris….Vodka Valium Lattes!!! …JK… be safe and keep ’em alive’ til 7:05 !!!

  46. Awesomely written.

  47. I have been a nurse for over 20 years, 19 in home health and these words are very true. Thank you for writing this.

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