I want you all to go into this nursing field with your eyes wide open. So today I'm talking about some powerful reasons why you might NOT want to become a nurse. Nursing isn't for everyone, and it pays to get all the information you can before making this very important decision. If I had to go back, would I still choose nursing? Find out in this episode.
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Today I want to talk about some reasons why you should not become a nurse. And this is coming from my perspective, having recently gone through nursing school, and now as a new nurse. I’ve been working as a nurse for almost a year now, so I think I have a pretty solid base. A fresh outlook, but enough experience to go through some reasons why you might not want to be a nurse.
Now I’m not saying I regret my decision to be a nurse. I think that it’s a solid profession. I do leave the hospital most nights feeling like I have made a difference in people’s lives and I’ve helped them at their most vulnerable. When they most needed someone, I was there to help them, and that is a very fulfilling feeling. I also didn’t have a difficult time finding a job, and the pay is good, and the scheduling is very flexible which is great for my family. But, you know, no job is perfect. In every profession there are going to be pros and cons, and I don’t want to just gloss over the cons. I want you all to, whether you’re just starting off on your nursing journey, or if you’re at the end of it, or, you know I want you to go into this with open eyes, and just be armed with information.
Alright, so the first reason, why you might not want to become a nurse is if you’re not great at multi-tasking. Doing more than one thing at a time. And, in reality, there’s a rumor out there that women are typically better at multi-tasking than men, because you know, we have families and historically, we’ve had to cook dinner, while we’re watching the little ones, or whatever. But, in reality, study after study has shown that really no one is good at multi-tasking. It’s not a thing. And, in fact, every time that someone has to switch their focus from one task to another, it takes at least 64 seconds to get that focus back, and get back into the zone. And when you’re a nurse, your attention, your focus is constantly interrupted. I mean, I am currently a nurse on a med-surg unit, and I usually have 5 patients at a time, and almost every time that I go into a patient’s room. I’m trying to complete a task, talking to the patient, doing something, and my work phone will ring. So then, I’m expected to stop what I’m doing, take my gloves off, answer the phone, and refocus on you know, who is calling, what do they need, what do I need to do? Maybe I have to get my brainsheet papers out at that time, write down some notes, so I don’t forget what I’m supposed to do. Then I hang up, put fresh gloves on, remember what I was in the middle of doing with that patient and complete that task.
There is just this expectation that the nurse is always available and is the go-to person for all the patient’s needs. And honestly, sometimes I just don’t answer the phone because I know that what I’m doing at the moment is more important and that it’s going to take me too much time and effort to refocus. Or, if I’m in a contact room, so say the patient has Covid or something requiring me to put a gown on, and a face shield, if my phone rings in one of those rooms, I am not going to answer it, and that is completely acceptable. No one expects you to answer the phone when you’re in a contact room. But that’s just one example of the many many ways that nurses attentions are pulled from one thing to another. Another thing is you might sit down to chart at the nurses station, and you get maybe two things charted, and then something arrives from the lab in the tube system, and the alarm goes off for that and no one else is around, so you have to stop what you’re doing, get up, silence the alarm, open the tube, figure out what it is, who ordered it, maybe call them and let them know that that medication or whatever has arrived. Then you try to go back to charting. Sit down, then the phone rings. It’s one of your patient’s family members wanting to talk to you, and so you have to pull of they’re chart, remind yourself of their condition. Cause you may have just met this patient 30 minutes ago, but the patient’s family is calling wanting an update, so you have to get into their chart and semi-prepare yourself for that conversation.
And then there is the constant deluge of people sending chat messages on the computer system. Chats from doctors, from phlebotomy, from pharmacy, from physical therapy. It’s just, you get there in the morning, and you put together, you know, what you think your day is going to look like. What you need to do, at what time, for what patients, but it never goes according to plan. And it is very frustrating to have the constant bombardment of interruptions. Even regarding patients that aren’t your own. I mean, you’re at the nurses station and patient’s family members come up, and they just see that you’re a nurse. They just see that you’re in scrubs. They don’t know that they’re loved one is not your patient, so they’re gonna ask you, “hey, can I get this for Joe Shmoe” and then you have to stop what you’re doing and either contact that nurse, or just go get it yourself. The doctors usually have a room that they can go back to, and they do all their stuff in that closed room. But the nurses, we don’t have that. We have our break room, yeah, where we could maybe get an uninterrupted lunch. Not likely. But usually we are out in the open. In a hallway alcove, or at the nurses station, and so there will be constant interruptions as a nurse. So if you think that might drive you crazy, enough that you might not want to do that job, then that is something to think about.
Alright, reason number 2 that you might not want to be a nurse is if you don’t like dealing with rude people. Now, as a nurse, you’re going to get patients from all walks of life. All different socio-economic statuses, different education backgrounds, difference upbringings, and it may be shocking to see how some people think they can just talk to a nurse any way they want, and they can treat that nurse like a slave. And at times, you may feel like a glorified servant. I’ve had patients curse at me and make threats, I’ve had coworkers get punched and pushed, and patients have threatened to find us outside of the hospital and do unspeakable things to us. Now, is this the norm? No, this is definitely the exception. Most of my patients have been grateful and pleasant and as delightful as they could be under the circumstances. But I would say a good 10-15% of the patients are just downright nasty. And there have been times when I’ve had to just excuse myself from the room, and say, “ I am going to walk out of this room right now, and I will come back when you are calm.” And I just walk to the bathroom, have a little cry, give myself a little pep-talk, go tell my charge nurse what’s going on, get back in that room, and try my best to be the professional that I am, and just remind myself that This too shall pass, and at the end of the day, I can go home and take a hot bath and just wash the day away. And if it’s super bad, if we have racist patients, I mean, I don’t see it so much because I’m a white woman, but sometimes we’ll have patients that are openly racist, and in cases like that, the charge nurse can switch around some assignments, and give that nurse a different patient. But, for the most part, as a nurse, you are going to get a lot of rude patients, and if you think that that’s something that you wouldn’t be able to handle, if your gut reaction is to say, “Oh Hell no, I’m not putting up with that,” then nursing might not be for you. And yes, you can try to set healthy boundaries. You can say, “you will not talk to me that way. I will come back when you have remembered how to act.” You can try that, but it may not work, and you still have to provide that patient with a certain level of care that is necessary for them while they’re in the hospital.
Alright, a third reason why you might not want to be a nurse is if you don’t want to feel like you’re just a number at your workplace. If you don’t want to feel like you’re expendable. If you like to feel special at work, and feel like the hospital couldn’t do what it does without you, and if you need sort of frequent praise or compliments or reminders that you’re doing a good job, then nursing might not be for you. Cause you’re probably not going to get that. Hospitals are big huge places of business, and it is a business. You are a number, pretty much. Especially as a new nurse. And there are too many of you for your manager to follow you around and give you compliments all day. That’s probably not going to happen. Your manager might check in with you every now and then and ask you how things are going. And this was something that was a little surprising to me because, I’ll admit it, I tell my husband all the time, I run on compliments and chocolate. (laugh) Give me compliments, give me chocolate, and I’ll be happy all day long, and I will work even harder. But you know, your not gonna get a lot of that from the workplace in the hospital. Maybe from a small clinic, but a big hospital like the one where I work at, once your training is done, your kind of on your own. There’s not a lot of oversight. Which, in a way, can be good, but I will say, as a new nurse, there is a lot of questioning, am I doing this right? I think I am? If it’s really something I don’t remember doing, or you know, then I will ask, but for the most part, I’m on my own, which is a little scary. So if you feel like you need a little more hand-holding or you need to feel a little more special than that, then nursing might not be for you. At least at a big hospital.
Another reason why you might not want to be a nurse is if you are going to get frustrated with the fact that hospitals are businesses. They’re out to make money. So, I’m sure you’ve heard of this nursing shortage that has been going on for, I don’t know, 50 plus years? But I’m coming to realize that there’s not actually a nursing shortage. There are plenty of nurses that could be hired, but the hospitals want to make money. And if they can get away with hiring fewer nurses and paying less, than that’s what they’re going to do. And I’ve seen that more and more even in the short time that I’ve been working in the hospital. When I first started as a PCA, we regularly had 3 PCA’s on the unit, and that has been dwindling down and down, so that now it’s normal to just have one PCA on the unit. Which means the nurses are having to do more and more for the same amount of pay. The same with support techs. We regularly don’t have a support tech on the unit. So that means no one to answer the phones, no one to answer the call lights when the patients call the nurses station, so that is now falling on us as nurses. And I actually heard the charge nurse say the other night, he said, “You know when I first started as a charge nurse, I used to try to rush and answer the phone if there was no support tech, but now I just let it ring, because the hospital is not going to give us a support tech if we’re answering the phone without one. Until the patient’s start to complain, it’s not going to change.” So if things like that will frustrate you so much that you are experiencing job dissatisfaction, then maybe don’t become a nurse.
Alright, then there are the more obvious things, like if you get queasy at the sight or thought of blood, if you are completely grossed out by the thought of cleaning someone else’s poop. And we’re not talking about like baby in a diaper kind of poop, we’re talking about full grown adult, maybe a 300 lb person who has pooped and it is all over their bed. In their butt crack, in their front crack, and you, as a nurse, either by yourself, or with the help of maybe one other person, have to figure out how to turn this patient on their side, and get them cleaned up. And change the sheets, and change their gown. Possibly several times during your shift. And, yeah, that’s gonna be gross to most people, right? That’s not a highlight of the job, for sure. But if that sounds so repulsive that you’re like gagging a little bit in your throat right now, then maybe don’t go into nursing.
Another reason why you should not go into nursing, is if you don’t want to work 12 hour shifts. Now, yes there are a lot of nursing jobs out there that are 8 hour shifts, but, honestly I have looked, and I think those are fewer and farer, farer? Between, and harder to get. It seems like those are more clinic nursing jobs, and the clinic jobs that I’ve seen, are hiring LPNs, not RNs. Or maybe you know, the whole clinic might need one RN on staff. And so your chances of scoring an 8 hour shift job seem to me a lot less likely than a 12 hour shift job. All of the ones in the hospital that I’ve seen, except maybe the PACU have been 12 hour shifts. So working 3 days a week in a hospital is considered full time. Cause it’s not actually 12 hours, it’s more like 13 hours by the time you give report and take report and all of that. So that’s about 39 hours, so that’s considered full-time. And usually nurses will try to schedule their 3 days a week back to back. So like, uh, Monday, tuesday, and wednesday. And they do that so they can hopefully have the same patients, because the first day that you have a new set of patients is always the hardest because you are having to learn how that patient likes things, what their preferences are. What their orders are. Are they getting dressing changes 2 times a day, are they wet to dry? OK, this patient will only drink Gatorade, they won’t drink water, or this patient likes their gauze to be cut a certain way, or you know, each patient has, on a med-surg unit anyway has different preferences, and the first day is the hardest because you are learning all of those things. But by the third day, it’s easy peasy. So usually nurses will try to schedule their three days back to back, so you can keep the same patients. But, if each of those shifts are 12, 13 hours, then that doesn’t really leave a lot of time for life, or sleeping. And that can really wear down on a person quickly. And if you don’t live close to the hospital where you work, like in my case, I live about 45 minutes away from the hospital, so let’s say I get off at 8:00, get home at 8:45, maybe eat something, hang out with my husband for a bit, probably go to bed at 10, and then I have to wake up at 5 the next morning. So that gives me 7 hours of sleep, on a good day. But, I don’t know, if you’re anything like me, I have a hard time going to bed right when I get home. I usually like to stay up for a couple of hours, so it’s usually more like 6 hours of sleep instead of 7. And if you’re doing that for several days in a row, it just really wears down on you. I feel, and I’ve actually told my husband this, let’s say I’m working Monday, tuesday, and Wednesday. I’ll tell my husband on Sunday, when I go to bed, “Ok, I’ll see you on Thursday.” because I feel like, when I’m working those 3 days, I just go into what I call the “work hole”. I just go to work, come home, eat, sleep, and repeat over and over again until my last shift is done, and then I sort of like come up from this hole and see the sun and I’m like reborn. And that’s just how you feel after working 3 twelve hours shifts. And you don’t have time for life outside of work during those 3 days. And if you’re working a night shift, it’s more like 4 days because it takes a full day to recover and get back onto a daytime schedule. So if you don’t want to go into a work hole for 3 days and feel like you’re kind of losing 3 days of your life every week, then nursing may not be for you.
Also, on that same note, if you don’t have a strong support system, let’s say if you have kids, and you don’t have someone to watch them during those 3 days, then nursing would probably not be the best idea, because unless you’re in a big city, it might be hard to find daycare during the time that you’re at work. Most daycares close at 6pm. So you really need to have someone, whether it’s a grandparent, a spouse, someone to watch the kids and be able to get them to and from school on those 3 days that you’re working. But if you don’t have that reliably, then nursing might not be the best choice.
Alright yall. I feel like I’ve been Debbie downer this whole time. A little vent session. No, I just want to like keep it real with you guys and share the highs and the lows. If I could go back, would I have choses something other than nursing? Hmmm, that’s a tough question. I’m still new to this journey, right? I think I would probably say no, I think I would probably still go into nursing, but it’s definitely not the pretty perfect picture in my head that I once had. I guess I have a more realistic view, now that I’ve done it for a little bit. But, you know, no job is perfect. Like I said, every job has it’s pros and it’s cons. So, you know, I just want to arm you guys with information and you can take what you like and leave the rest.
Alright you guys. Have a wonderful week, and I will talk to you soon. Bye.