Seems weird to find myself writing this morning about work, but I figure I’ll get it out now and then commence my vacation.
People ask me all the time, “Do you love being a nurse?”
Love? I honestly don’t know if I LOVE being a nurse. I LOVE that I finished nursing school. I LOVE that I have a good job. I LOVE the people with whom I work. I LOVE some of the task-oriented things I do as a nurse, such as foley catheters, IV starts, and blood draws. But, do I LOVE BEING a nurse. The best answer I can give people is, “I love being a nurse MOST OF THE TIME.”
What does THAT mean?
It means there are nights I go into work with all the resolve and determination of a bright, shiny brand-new not-yet-jaded nurse who truly believes that her bedside care alone is going to work magic for her patients. Those feelings last the entire 97-mile one-way commute (we’ll get to that in a later post), and all the way into the building. Those feelings begin to fade when I see the assignment board. Why?
Too much emphasis on acuity scores or a score that is given to a patient load in order to assign nursing care. These scores are so highly coveted, they will actually take the place of sheer logic. Logic that tells most mortal beings that it is indeed wiser to put a nurse’s patients within a REASONABLE distance from one another. Why? Safety. When my patients are strewn about, far apart, I feel as if my nursing license is practically flying out of my wallet and into the nursing board’s hands. It’s simply NOT safe. I’d rather have a higher acuity score with my patients all together in a smaller, tight-knit group and work my ass off those eight hours than have a more “evenly balanced” score with my patients littered about the unit. I still don’t understand this logic. Maybe someone will comment and give me some insight.
Why don’t I agree? I think sometimes nurses need to remember that yeah, it’s not easy work. Yeah, sometimes it’s back-breaking, mind-numbing work, but we are there for eight hours, and as long as our patients are meeting the criteria to be on our floor, we should be able to step up, roll up our sleeves and get the job done. Quit bitching about how you don’t have enough help or that your load is too heavy. How many days or nights have you come in to a relatively easy assignment and continued to coast along all day, not ever getting much more to do? I bet it happens. Remember: no one forced you into this career. If you didn’t see the writing on the wall when you chose your major in college, that’s not nursing’s fault. Nursing is far from glamorous. It’s hard work. Bedside nursing means you better put on your running shoes, dress comfortably and be ready for whatever comes your way. It means that yeah, sometimes your day is gonna suck, and other days? Well, other days, you’re gonna remember exactly why you decided to put on a pair of scrubs to go to work.
Am I absolving management of any responsibility? NO. Management needs to realize that we are only human, and we can truly only do so much. We would very much appreciate it if you didn’t try to spread us as thin as parchment paper in the efforts to save the almighty dollar. We get that times are tough and the economy has put strains on all types of business, hospitals included, but if you can’t spend a few dollars to get good, quality nursing care, then perhaps the outcomes that result from overworked, overtired, overstressed nurses is just an inevitability.
Sadly, I see brand new nurses right out of school become so jaded in just months on the job. In those months, they are seeing the stark contrast between nursing school nursing and real-life nursing. No, patients that need a foley catheter aren’t always going to just lie there still and silent and allow you to spread their legs and manipulate their genitalia in the pursuit of relieving their bladder spasms, like the mannequin did in your clinical laboratory. No, the 85-year old woman with skin like onion paper isn’t going to just smile and give you a blank stare as you sink an 16-gauge needle into her arm, like the fake, rubbery arm with the rope veins in the clinical laboratory. THIS IS THE REAL WORLD OF NURSING. The sooner you immerse yourself in it, the better. The sooner you realize that the stark world of black and white nursing school is not the reality that gives you a paycheck every two weeks, the better.
Too bad they don’t offer a course in nursing school called ‘REAL WORLD NURSING’. It could be taught outside of any school influence, at a local trauma center, psych unit or in any inpatient unit in any hospital. In REAL WORLD NURSING you must ask for help. You must question things that don’t seem right. You must trust your gut. You must run your ass off. You must help your fellow nurses when you see them sinking. You must kiss some ass even when you don’t feel like it. You must follow the rules set forth by your hospital and management. You must put a smile on your face even when you feel like crying from exhaustion. Why? Because this is the REAL WORLD, and you are a nurse in it. Perhaps if you had been shown this REAL WORLD before you signed your major you could have changed course.
Or perhaps you would have been right here all along.
I always befriend the new nurses. I feel as if it’s my duty as a nurse. I want them to be able to come to me and vent, cry, laugh, joke, and ask for help. Regardless of how long I have been a nurse, I always recall my first day on the floor. I think of my work with GNs as my way of paying it forward to the profession. By giving myself to the new nurses, it’s my way of helping with the nursing shortage by hopefully preventing more turnover. I give freely to the new nurses. I give them my heart, my funny stories, my thoughts and yeah, even my veins if they want to practice IV starts and blood draws. If you have brand new nurses on your floor, please, please take the time to at least introduce yourself. Shake their hand. Welcome them to your unit. You never know when you might need someone to help YOU out in a bind. These things matter. Be better than those nurses sitting at the nurses’ station, bitching about everything from their schedule to their patient load.
I don’t have all the answers, I just know that I’ve been a nurse now for almost three years, and one thing is certain. I love nursing and I hate nursing. I have been fortunate to finally find a balance between work and home, and I will do anything to protect that. I feel that my time at home allows me to be a better nurse on the nights I’m there. You won’t find me clamoring for overtime or agreeing to stay late or come in early. As a matter of fact, I have put myself on a “DO NOT CALL” list in the Staffing office which simply means, “don’t call me for any overtime requests.” EVER. I think I’m a good nurse because I don’t work so much that I feel the sting of overwhelming burnout. The work/life balance is a delicate highwire. Once you find your balance, do all you can to keep it. Your nursing career and the people who share your life outside of it depend on it.
Maybe I’m too Type B. I’ve never been Type A, and I never will be. I don’t know whether this is a good thing or a detriment to my nursing career. I do know this: I go to work, I clock in. I work. I clock out. I don’t take my work home and I don’t bring my home to work. I don’t dwell on things once I leave the hospital. I leave it all behind. I don’t sweat the issues that management chooses to bring to my plate. I go to work, I take care of my patients and I do the best I can for those eight hours. I don’t reinvent the wheel or how it spins. If this makes me Type B, I’ll take it every single day.
So, yeah. I have a constant love/hate relationship with nursing. But, it completely describes how I feel about it.
Lisa, Registered Nurse