I feel like as a society we put so much of our identities in our career choices.
It's fairly common when you meet people to ask them "What do you do?"
I then respond "I'm a pediatric nurse."
And I quickly hear "Awww how sweet. I bet you take care of the cutest children."
To which I smile, because how do I kindly say "No they're hells angels with grandparents of fire and I loathe my work?" LOL.
No, I laugh, and say "I love my children- I love my kids." Because I do. They're the reason I do this job. Each sweet child, baby, or teenager makes me praise God, and makes me smile and laugh in the midst of a long or stressful night.
But friends, nursing is extremely difficult in many ways and I want to tell you about that in this blogpost. I was actually doing some research the other day on nurses and job satisfaction as well as coping with stress in the hospital and I found a sad statistic that said "nurses are twice as likely to be on antidepressants than other individuals." And this really saddens me, yet it honestly doesn't surprise me.
While I always imagined that being a nurse would be difficult-- and never imagined doing this profession... the reasons why I didn't want to be a nurse, were quite different, from the realities of my major difficulties in nursing.
I thought I would hate the poop- and disgusting things- you have to do as a nurse.
- And to be honest, that I do dislike quite a bit.
I thought I would hate having to give shots or help with iv's and making them cry.
- And to this day, I still don't like having to do that. It makes me sad to see the kids' in pain.
I thought nursing would be boring and mundane.
- And it is. Often it's the same jobs over and over again, and yet it's also very stressful at times.
But honestly that's not what I hate the most. Nursing is hard in many ways that I never expected. Especially working in the night, has taken a physical, mental, and emotional toll on my general well-being. Here are I think the biggest three reasons.
1. Mental and emotional exhaustion.
Working in a hospital during the nights, dealing with angry families, and sick kids has been one of the most emotionally difficult experiences of my life. I see so many kids who are mentally handicapped, so many kids with cancer or lifelong diseases, and so many kids who have committed suicide, are cutters, or suffering from anorexia. I would have never expected to see so many children who suffer from mental illness. It's like all of a sudden, I'm transported right in the middle of a families' worst nightmare- there's alot of grief and pain that is unprocessed.
Yet it's not the difficult disease, circumstance, or even child that makes it hard- often it's the family, or the abusive patient. While I try my best, to delegate with grace their families' disaster- there are too many conflicts that don't self- resolve. There are families that are abusive and unappreciative. I have had parents tell me that I don't know what I'm doing and even that I don't care for their child. And at the end of many nights, my heart has been raw with anger and emotion and exhaustion at humanity who is too rude to appreciate my heart-felt efforts.
Although I try my hardest, it seems I am never enough.I hate getting a 4th patient mid shift when you've worked so hard all night long and nobody says thank you. As a nurse, un-appreciation- is the understatement of the year. And it takes a hard hit on your emotional well-being and even identity if you let it.
2. Competency vs Expectations
Nursing is hard because I don't often feel totally competent in the role I'm playing. Often there are diseases, conditions, or medicines that I don't know enough about. There are orders I'm doing my best to follow and I do my best to take care of my patient's condition. I try to research a little about their disease if I have time, but some nights just don't allow it. I try to ask other nurses on my floor- for advice, or feedback- but often when I do they make me feel stupid, or do not know the answers. Many nurses will give different things for advice- and in the end- sometimes sadly it comes down to me making my best guess, and trying to do the right thing- instead of being 100% positive that the patient care I'm getting is exactly right.
One of the worst feelings in the world, is when after doing your best, you end up making a mistake and getting called out on it. Nursing is hard, because your best- is sometimes not enough.
My first nursing mistake, and thankfully the patient was done no harm or injury, was almost enough to make me quit. For days I relived the nightmare, I had no idea was even happening, and bashed myself. I told myself I would never be a good enough nurse, listing to myself the reasons why.
I just couldn't get over the fact, that I had done what I thought was a good job-- and yet still made a major error. I suddenly felt like I couldn't be a nurse anymore. And I screamed out to heaven, asking God why he called me to a profession to fail me. I prayed to sleep at night, trying to forget about the error and my difficult patients, and praying that God would let me quit nursing.
Sadly, and honestly, every nurse is going to make a mistake- probably a few mistakes- especially when they are first beginning their career. And it's important for them to forgive themselves, as I'm learning to forgive myself and to choose to grow in my career, and become a better nurse.
3. Night shifts
Nursing is hard because 12 hour shifts- that quickly roll into 13-14 hour shifts are difficult on the body- and adjusting to night shifts is extremely difficult. Each night, I struggle with energy and trying hard not to fall asleep, and to remember to care and focus- so late at night. I have to use caffeine to give me energy and help me focus, but it's not the perfect solution- and I've already become dependent.
I have to stay up the night before and the night after- to prepare- and to recover from night shift or my body will not function properly. In general most nights I end up staying up til 2 am. It's hard when your body is awake so late at night because there are not alot of productive things to do, or friends to hang out with. In the morning, your body needs to sleep and so it is easy to miss out on alot of social activities by letting your body recover.
Everyone says "wow you only work 3 days a week"- that must be amazing. And in some ways, it is a great blessing, but people don't understand the amount of recovery time that is necessary after night shifts. Nurses are working the same amount of hours as other professionals- it's just in a more packed time. For night shift I "waste" almost always the day before and the day after my night shifts- and sleep all day in between. This is necessary in order to get the rest my body needs.
While nursing is much more difficult, than I would imagine. I know that nurses make a huge difference in patient's lives and I know that nursing is a wonderful opportunity to serve others and even share Jesus with others.
I believe that adjusting to nursing life and hospital life is difficult- and that it's important to give yourself grace and recovery time.
I take courage in the fact, that there are many job opportunities for nursing, and that I don't have to work in the hospital- or on nights- my whole life. While I believe that Jesus is the only reason I have gotten this far in nursing, and that Jesus has blessed me as a nurse, I am still praying about how much longer I should work in my current job as a nurse and still seeing God's will for guidance. I encourage you, that if your a new nurse, to trust God and to reach out to others for support during the beginning of your nursing journey =)