At 30 years of age, I have been doing bedside nursing for 7 years already. 2 years in the Philippines, and 5 years here in California. I am one of those who took up nursing because my parents wanted me to, and in my case, all my mom’s sisters talked me into it, because all of them are USRNs. Sure, I didn’t like it at first, and even considered shifting to another course. But I am one of the lucky ones who found reasons to like and stay in nursing.
In the 7 years I worked as an RN, time and again I would still ask myself, “Is this profession really worth it?” Because you see, Nursing is not an easy job. It may sound cliché when nurses say that not everyone can be a nurse, but it is true. It is indeed a very challenging job, where you are stressed in all aspects—physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is not a job where you come in the next day and do the same things you did on your previous shift. Everyday you find yourself dealing with different ailments, different people.
It is PHYSICALLY stressful because first of all, you are on your feet almost the entire 12 hours (or 8 hours, depends on your shifting), that’s why it is important to invest on comfortable shoes. Second, more often than not, you are gonna deal with patients bigger than yourself. Here in the US, obesity is a major problem. You are gonna have patients who are obese, say, 200-400 pounds. The biggest one I have handled so far weighed around 500 pounds, and I am a measly 110-pound petite lady. With the help of other staff and equipment, you have to turn that patient every 2 hours to avoid any skin breakdowns. You get the picture, right? It IS tiring, I must tell you.
It is stressful MENTALLY because as the bedside nurse, YOU are the patients advocate to everyone. You have to protect the patient from all harm from anyone, and that includes yourself. So, you have to make sure EVERYTHING you do is right. You have to be in the right mind: No room for wrong medications, wrong dosages, wrong nursing judgements… or else, not only will you put your patient in danger, but you are putting your license at stake as well. So the little time that you spend sitting down, is the time you have to let your brain cells work while checking the patient’s chart for doctor’s orders, lab values, read your patient’s history. Especially here in the US, there’s too much responsibility on a nurse’s shoulder because the doctor trusts you, and most of them, rely on you. There are times when you call the doctor about a change in condition and they will ask you, “What do you think is the best we can do?”, or “What do you recommend?”. His/Her orders will depend on your answer, until such time he/she sees the patient for himself. So an “I don’t know.” is not an acceptable answer. Oh, and did I mention that on top of that, you have to chart assessments and do nurses’ notes?
It is EMOTIONALLY draining, because remember, you become a part of a patient’s life during a bad and stressful time in their life. Mind you, it is not easy. Patients, and family members as well, most of the time become demanding, needy and some of them, mean. For me, I don’t take it personally, I just do my best to deliver. But sometimes when you’re tired out of your mind, you just can’t take it. I remember having a very busy night, and I had to insert an IV on a mean patient, and unfortunately, I missed the vein. She said, “You’re not good at this, are you?” That short remark just made me excuse myself and step out of the room, go to the restroom and cry! Not only that, you will also encounter mean doctors who can yell at you at the nurses’ station for everyone to hear.
And all of these, if you’re unlucky, CAN happen to you in just one shift.
In the first part of the article, I said not everyone can be a nurse. Well, everyone can be a nurse, but not everyone can be a GOOD nurse. You have to look beyond the salary and how much money you can make. There are a lot of nurses boasting the title RN or BSN… but don’t really have the patient’s best interests at heart. They just work to get the shift done and get the paychecks.
With all of these said… why do I still do it? Because I know I make a difference. At the end of the day, it feels rewarding when patients thank you, or simply knowing that they are stable when you endorse them to the nurse for the next shift. It feels good when doctors listen to you. It feels good knowing you are a big part of the patient’s recovery. To end this, let me share with you this one time I had a very needy post-op patient, and most of my shift was spent taking care of him. Before I went home, he said, “You take care of people who you don’t know and are not even related to. You are blessed because surely, all nurses go to heaven.”
So whenever I find myself asking, “Is this profession worth it?”… I just think back to this conversation and I tell myself that if my ticket to heaven is guaranteed, then it is no doubt, SO WORTH IT. 🙂
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