What Nursing School Did Not Warn Me About


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Nursing school was one of the most hardest journeys I've ever dealt with in my life. Believe it or not, I've had far more heart breaks from nursing school than any of the guys that ever tried to break my heart (lol just kidding). The time I spent listening to lecture audios, participating in study groups, and practicing endless exam questions was a sacrifice I knew I had to overcome to get those last two credentials (RN) after my name.

Once I graduated and entered my unit, I did not imagine that nursing is as difficult as it is studying for it (I'll explain this later). I was having lunch with my girlfriend from nursing school the other day and realized how nursing has changed our lives. It has changed our personalities, our personal lives, the way we move, the way we think... and at the end of the day, we came to the conclusion that nursing is not only one of the hardest professions to study for, but it is one of the hardest professions to deal with of all time. What makes nursing one of the hardest professions?

Nursing is physically demanding

Pic from pinterest.com "nursing humor"

Pic from pinterest.com "nursing humor"

We, nurses, hear 12-hour shifts and assume we have the best hours. But little did we know how easy it became for 12 hours to turn into 14-15 hour shifts. Some nurses work their shifts with 3 days in a row, allowing them 4 days off at a time.

Seems like a great deal, huh?

But working three 12-hr shifts can be very exhausting. Things to keep in mind why nursing is so tough:

Please be mindful that my experience comes from a medical-surgical (med-surg) standpoint

  • You're on your feet for 12 hours
  • You're constantly walking
  • You're working with total-assist patients
  • You have 5-6 patients (all of them could be totals)
  • You don't get to eat a reasonable hour
  • Some do not eat at all
  • You're assisting with activities of daily living
  • Your charting your whole day
  • You're making phone calls

Nursing is mentally draining

When you're on the floor (either at bedside or as charge), you are continuously using your critical thinking skills to make the appropriate decisions for your patient. This embodies the act of patient advocacy and promotes their safety.

As the bedside nurse, you are:

  • making sure you're applying the 5 patient rights to medication administration
    • You're assuring that medications are appropriate for the right patient, given at the right time with the right dose through the right route.
  • continuously making decisions for the patient's safety
  • admitting, receiving, and discharging patients
  • prioritizing your care
  • answering phone calls from different doctors and other staff members
  • taking and doing physician orders
    • not only does this include orders from internal medicine MDs, but other specialties as well (cardiologists, oncologists, etc.)
  • dealing with over-involved families
  • taking verbal (possibly physical) abuse

Nursing is emotionally disturbing

With nursing, you will always be dealing with issues that could impair your own values and beliefs. You will be faced with traumatic situations that you might find disturbing and are usually based on the type of patients you deal with.

From a med-surg standpoint, we deal with all kinds of patient. The difference between med-surg and other floors is that we do not specialize in anything specific. We will take care of you no matter what condition you're in.

And what we tend to forget is that every patient has a story... 

  • some are homeless with no families
  • some were/are mentally and physically abused
  • some come from broken families

And we deal with traumatic and emotional situations...

  • loss of a patient
  • verbal and physical abuse
  • IV drug users
  • alcoholics
  • advanced dementia
  • so much more (these are just to name a few)

Nursing will have you question your drive or determination and easily replace it with disbelief and lingering guilt. We tend to blame ourselves if something goes wrong or if a patient is not happy. But what we have to remember is that we, nurses, are all human as well... we are not perfect and we certainly cannot make everyone happy.

Nursing is time consuming...

As stated before, 12 hours easily turn into 14-15 hour shifts on a busy day. You work random days every week and you may very well will be missing certain special occasions and holidays to meet staffing needs. You are also obligated to work weekends and no one is exempt from this.

At times, it gets difficult to do the things that you want or need to do on a daily basis. You come in for your shift at 7 o'clock in the morning and you may not leave your shift until 8 o'clock. Sometimes it can even be later depending on how well you managed your time during the day.

When you do get home, you are physically exhausted to a point where you cannot get any chores done. I, personally, have no children or a husband to worry about at this time in my life so I do not have to tend to anybody else but me. But sometimes, I wonder how some nurses do what seems like the impossible to me. How do nurses strive to meet all ends of their activities of daily living and still find the time to tend to the needs of the family? Because we're great at what we do... that's why. To this very day, it still amazes me how nurses make everything possible. 

Despite of all the negativity, nursing is still the most rewarding profession.

Sometimes I do wish that somebody warned me about the 'other side' of nursing, but would have I picked any other profession even if I knew that nursing can be quite difficult?

Absolutely not.

I would not trade my experiences as a nurse for the world. Nursing has made me become who I am now. I am smarter, stronger, faster, more driven... not just with nursing, but with life. I met some of the most wonderful people and listened to their stories that are beyond memorable. When the day gets rough, sometimes you just have to sit down and remind yourself what nursing is. Nursing is a profession that embodies the act of human caring... It is a profession that advocates for patient safety and well-being... better yet.. It is a profession, in which a patient gives you a hug and says, "Thank you for saving my life."