If you've been a nurse for a while you know that nursing has its unfair share of challenges. But, unfortunately, life ain't fair and the sooner you learn this the better. Whether you're a nurse or a garbage man, a job is work and work can be difficult. I guess that's why we get paid to do it and why it's called "work."
The difference between nurses and other professions is that many of us don't view nursing as "just a job" and a way to put pizza on the table, (although, nurses do love pizza). Instead, we look at nursing as a calling and some of us are so dedicated to our profession that we can't imagine doing anything else, even if it did offer more moolah.
A nurse's life can be tough, busy and full of frustrations. From working with co-workers that seem to be on another planet when it comes to common sense. "Earth to nurse Nancy??," to dealing with obnoxious, tattoo ladened, alcoholics who like to spit,pull hair and beg for the only drug they are not allergic to, you guessed it...Dilaudid.
Here are some tips to help you muddle through the crazy world we lovingly call "nursing":
Working just three days a week! "Hoorah, that's hardly working and it'll leave me with so much time to do all kinds of cool stuff." Uh, wrong! While it seems like "only three days," please keep in mind that it's usually three days from hell.
Picture a day that's not eight hours, but instead, it's a scheduled twelve hours and when you finally get to leave it's more like fifteen. You run around like a chicken with no head, answering phones, patient's questions, and nagging family members all while trying to ignore the immense need to urinate and eat. Two things that quickly become luxuries when you're a nurse. Be prepared to have the bladder capacity of a school bus when you're a nurse...you're gonna need it. You'll also need to develop a love for hearing your stomach sing to you each day and threaten that if you don't feed it soon it's gonna throw a really loud tantrum that everyone will hear.
You pass out medications, monitor vital signs, start IV's, stop IV's, invite patients in and send them packing. chart, chart and chart some more. By the time you leave work your legs are wobbly, your scrubs are stuck to you, your brain is like fried slop and your day has become a horrific nightmare. Your neat hairdo now resembles one of the chicks from Girls Gone Wild and you're walking like a Night of the Living Dead zombie.
Three days of this and you're ready to grab a passport and head for a far-off land where no one has ever even heard of nurses. It takes you an entire day to recover from working and even though you've slept that first night off, your body still feels like it's been hit by a semi.
Whatever you do, don't answer your phone. Gawd, no, don't do it! Inevitably there will be a nurse manager on the other end cheerily, but desperately trying to entice you to come back in and work another shift, because Sally-always-sick has called in for the third day straight. Don't fall for it! It's a trap.
If you imagine that nurses spend their whole day sitting by a patient's bed reading them a story and handing them a pill every four hours, get your butt out of this fantasy land Cinderella and face reality.
The role and job description of a nurse is longer than the Missippi River and grows daily as the folks who sit in the office barking orders make more rules and regulations to keep you busy even though they've probably never spent one day in the nursing trenches in their life. The old "Time to lean is time to clean." kind of philosophy is popular among nurse managers.
As a nurse, you're expected to be a bookkeeper, waitress, patient advocate, tech-savvy wiz, electrician, plumber, mediator, counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, mommy, daddy and everything in between.
I repeat our Wi-Fi password at least 20 times per day. Try to figure out why the crazy IV pump won't stop beeping and only beeps when I walk out of the room. Patients and families fight constantly. Patients fight with the doctor and families fight over visitation while you graciously serve them coffee and popsicles then deal with a code in the next room. Nurses fight with other nurses over vacations, call, who stole their IV pump out of room 3. Jeez, can we all just get along?
If you don't care for writing, (or typing) don't choose nursing as your career. If you don't write it down, then it didn't happen and most nurses suffer from carpal tunnel from typing in their sleep.
If you seriously believe that you'll never make a mistake then you'll need to hop off your high-horse immediately, or you'll be in for a crazy ride that is sure to fix any perfectionist personality trait with lightening speed.
We are human, regardless of what administration tells you. You'll make mistakes and you'll certainly always learn from them. Medication errors are tough to deal with. Cry yourself to sleep and then get over it. Don't beat yourself up too bad. To err is human and you can't dwell on mistakes. Just move on and use the error as a learning tool.
Death is a part of life and nurses must experience more death than the average person. It's all in the way you look at death. While watching others die isn't easy, I believe that my attitude is everything and I am privileged to be in a career that watches newborn eyes open and see the world for the first time while I've also closed the eyes of patients who were at the end of their journey. I feel it's a blessing to have been a part of anyone's life regardless of what phase they were in. It's all part of the circle of life.
Watching death as often as we have to also reminds me to appreciate the wonderful people in my life and how precious and fragile life is. It's a gift and we are never guaranteed to have our love ones forever. Hug them tighter and always tell the people you love how you feel about them.
With all the death and near-death situations, nurses encounter it's no surprise that we have a dreadfully sick sense of humor. What others may feel is, "inappropriate," or "disgusting," is our coping mechanism. Don't allow anyone to make you feel ashamed of your humor. It's perfectly healthy and as long as patient's names remain confidential then laugh your self-silly. It's a great stress reliever and if others "don't get you," then it's their loss. They don't live your life and shouldn't be judging you.
Get yourself a nice fake, friendly phone voice. Practice it till you're blue in the face. This way you'll be able to fake it on the 200,000 phone calls you have to make during your shift. Call the pharmacy, call the lab, the doctor, central supply, social workers, priests, the pizza place, administration, maintenance, the baker and the freaking candlestick maker. I never thought I would ever be tired of my own voice, but sometimes I remind myself of a robot, repeating the same things over and over, (always with my sickly fake voice)...I'm so nice, ha!
Pain will become your new middle name. When you stand, walk, run, lift 400lb patients, push, pull and reach for 12 hours or more, you'll look like Jillian Michaels in no time and your body will hurt like a triathlete. Use proper body mechanics or you'll quickly be out of the game. You'll also need a great heating pad. I recommend the ones that you heat in the microwave that provide moist heat for aching backs and joints.
Buy good shoes. I'm not talking about the latest cute pumps at your local Payless. I'm talking about good nursing shoes, like Timberland Renova or great tennis shoes like Asics. Make sure they have good arch support and will be comfortable all day.
If you don't already wear support stockings you need to join those of us that wear them and have learned the hard way. If you're tired of sore feet and legs and you're already wearing good shoes, you need some really good quality support hose. Sigvaris are by far the best support hose you can buy and your legs and feet will feel great when your shift is over.
Help your friends and family. Okay, I have to admit this gets bloody-well annoying at times. Answering texts and phone calls from friends and family that have medical questions can drive you a bit nuts when you've already had 16 hours of dealing with sick people. But try to be nice and help your friends with their rectal abscess questions, their snotty noses, green poop and pink eye. The Karma train will come back and haunt you if you don't and, well, it's just a nice thing to do.
Not enough money? If you joined the nursing profession to make lots of money, you've been misinformed. While nurses do make a decent wage in the U.S, it's certainly not a good reason to become a nurse and you'll quickly feel disillusioned. The best nurses would be nurses even if they didn't get paid because they love caring for others and making a difference in people's lives. One fantastic thing about being a nurse is that you can always pick up extra shifts. Consider agency nursing, travel nursing or working for a pharmaceutical or medical device company.
You'll make great friends with coworkers. You'll be able to understand them better than you can all your non-nurse friends and they'll become a big part of your life. You can also share all your nasty, disgusting stories with them over dinner break...if you ever get one.
Don't like missing meals? Oh, boy, you're in for a treat, (pardon the pun). Some days the only way to get a meal in is to eat it during your commute to work. I like to bring a boiled egg and a muffin for carbs and protein. Or a banana and peanut butter if I'm in a hurry. It may be the only meal you'll get all day. Cardiac arrests don't know when you need a break and they really don't care. Learn to eat lunch in one minute flat. It's an awesome skill to have; one not usually taught in nursing school, but essential, nonetheless.
Is this really what you want in life? Nursing school is extremely difficult and it takes a special person to become a nurse. To dedicate your life to the care of others. Unlike other professions, there is a huge human component in nursing. We must use our emotions to relate to our patients. We have to be empathetic to their situations in order to care for them properly. Nurses become involved in every aspect of a patient's life because we must treat the whole person, not just the disease or condition. Be sure that nursing is really your calling before you embark on your journey. If you've chosen the right career and you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life.