So this is a question that comes up from time to time in conversation – people ask me if I regret quitting nursing. I even find myself asking myself that. The short answer is no. There are however things I do miss about it – I definitely DO NOT miss the backache, headaches and stress. I feel better paid for the work I do now as an online entrepreneur and I do not want to go back to a position or career in which I’m literally breaking my back and getting mistreated by my employers. The stress is absolutely not worth it.
Hi loyal readers.
I want to thank you for the ongoing support and love. I’ve been rather busy but I still get so many beautiful and touching letters and comments coming in daily. You have inspired me to give back to the nursing community. I’ve been working on a new book which I’ll be publishing for you all to download for free! The book is a more detailed account of how I turned my career around after suffering nursing burn out. It will also contain advice and tips designed to help you decide what’s the right move for you.
If there is one thing I’ve come to appreciate through nursing, it’s the complexity a single human being is made up of. The brain is one of the most complex things in the universe and it’s right behind the nose! Anatomy aside, the human spirit is quite a captivating thing. The one thing I’ve noticed repeatedly is that a person’s attitude and outlook toward life matters hugely and can effect the progression or regression of illness.
When I was still a pupil nurse, it was new to me to see so many ill people so when I saw a 36 year old female patient wheeling herself into the surgical ward, I was stunned silent for a minute before I could ask what she had come in for. She was battling cancer, had a gangrenous right leg, and was booked to have her leg amputated that morning. While I struggled to come to terms with the state of her body, she kept a smile on her face and said “Don’t worry dear, it’s just a body. I’m made up of much more than this flimsy thing.” I felt embarrassed that she caught me staring but amazed at how bright and happy she looked despite the painful ordeal she was going through. The operation a success, her smile never faded. She kept a great sense of humour, helped herself as much as humanly possible, rarely rang the bell and never spent a single moment in self-pity. If she caught me pitying her, she’d stop me in my tracks. She believed there was still much to be grateful for. I know that there must have been hard times during the diagnosing and treatment process and that she wasn’t overjoyed having to deal with cancer but even though the cancer was destroying her body, she laughed a pure laugh and she strengthened people around her with her spirit and you couldn’t see a sign of sadness in her eyes. What matters is that she could still feel happiness and kept doing whatever she needed to do to live life the best she could, given the cards she was dealt.
On the other hand in another ward, I had a diabetic patient who had gone blind. She couldn’t walk very far because her legs would ache under her weight. She’d cry all day and night, and she’d ask over and over again why God had punished her like this. Her body was full of aches and pains and while we’d do as much as we could to help her with pain relief, she would never be even mildly content. I’d try to comfort her and sympathized with her but she left me feeling a sense of hopelessness around her because she would remain unresponsive to any positive encouragement. Naturally her misery repelled people. Her family would rarely visit her which added to her misery. She wouldn’t smile for a single moment and she would not attempt to help herself or regain some independence. She looked terrible and she was miserable every day. Her ailments were far from a death sentence. With a diet change and a closely observed treatment plan, she could have returned to a relatively normal life but she saw the disease as punishment and so it became punishment and her blood sugar wouldn’t settle. She’d be continuously in and out of hospital, her family abandoned her and we had to hand over her case to social services. She no doubt, will continue to suffer and her condition will get worse if she keeps up that attitude.
Whatever you’re going through, don’t let it consume you. There is something inside of you that’s indestructible and if you keep in touch with it, you will make it through any battle just fine.
Edit: Coincidentally just as I finished writing this post, the song “Inside Us All” by rock band “Creed” came through my headphones! There really is a peace inside us all.
It was a wintery night shift in the post natal ward, when the midwives from the labour ward called in some of the post natal team to assist with a difficult delivery. The patient was a stage IV AIDS case and she was in no condition to be put under the knife, it was too risky. She was to have a normal vaginal delivery, despite being too ill to feed herself or go to the toilet, much less push a baby out.
A team of about 7 nurses took their positions around the patient; I grabbed her lower right leg, while another nurse grabbed her left leg. There were two nurses pinning down each of her arms, a nurse at the top of the bed, keeping her shoulders down as two midwives manually pushed the baby out by pumping on the patient’s abdomen. The patient was frantic and resisting our actions as much as her weak body would allow. Her screams were haunting and her eyes were wide with fear. The midwives pumped and pumped and pumped, pushing that baby down. If anyone were watching us from the outside, they’d have run screaming in the opposite direction, because I am sure it looked thoroughly evil to anyone who didn’t understand what was going on.
When the baby finally emerged, we were exhausted but happy that the baby was breathing well. The mother remained weak and didn’t even have the energy to look at the baby. We transferred them both to the post natal ward. It was going to be a long night watching over this patient. I shut the doors and windows and checked in on the mother every 15 to 30 minutes. She seemed as well as she could be, given the circumstances. I was ordered to check her vital signs every half hour. Everything was fine until about 3AM. I went to the patient’s room and stood at the door feeling incredibly uneasy. It took me a minute or two to work up the courage to open the patient’s room door and when I finally did, a bird came flying right at me from inside the room! I ducked and let out a little shriek. The bird flew around me and went straight back inside the room. It would circle the patient then sit on one of the bed posts, and then it would circle her again and move to the next bed post and did that until it had a chance to sit on each of the four bed posts, then it would fly toward the closed window, and back around the patient to restart the sequence in the same order as before. The feeling of unease grew increasingly intense. I found the birds behaviour really peculiar as I watched from the doorway for any signs of life from the patient. I wanted to believe she was just fast asleep but the sinking feeling in my stomach told me otherwise. I quickly ran to the window and pushed it open to let the bird out and it flew out almost immediately, disappearing into the dark misty sky.
I called out the patients name, then shook her shoulder slightly…no movement…no pulse…she was dead. Her eyes wide open and her face spelling terror, I was thoroughly creeped out. The doctor declared her dead while I searched the tiny room and the entire ward for any opening the bird could have come in from. All windows and doors were closed and there were no open vents that it could have sneaked in from. It was quite a large bird so surely I would have noticed it in the room before? Why did it appear in this particular room at the time of this woman’s death and where did it come from? Why was it up at this ungodly hour? These questions played on my mind as I sombrely thought of the now orphaned baby in the nursery who started crying uncontrollably. I held the baby with tears in my eyes and stared out the window, as the birds started to come out of their nests, and for the first time, instead of feeling at peace watching them, I felt an irrational sense of anger toward them….as the baby’s cries grew stronger…I held him close. His little face remains burned into my memory. I can never forget him. I remember every little spot on his tiny body. Life is difficult and to think if I hadn’t become a nurse, I’d be probably safe and sound in my boyfriends arms, not even aware that a beautiful little boy had just lost an amazing mom. A woman who would literally die for him and did exactly that…
Have you ever complained about a certain aspect of nursing or contemplated quitting nursing only to find a bunch of people that would shake their heads at you and make you feel ashamed for feeling the way you do?
Some common complaints and the judgmental responses you may get:
“I don’t get paid enough! I work overtime without pay. I often have to stay in on lunch breaks and after hours because there just isn’t enough staff and the patients struggle at the end but now I’m beat, broke and don’t have much time for my family or friends.”
“Nurses shouldn’t be looking for money, they should be doing nursing out of the goodness of their hearts and as a service to humanity.”
I’m sorry but times are tough and the “goodness of your heart” isn’t going to save you when they try to repossess your house and put your kids on the street. If that’s the case why do doctors get paid so much? Nurses have every right to be well compensated for the work they do. It doesn’t make them evil if they ask to be better paid. They still care about the patient at the end of the day but they have needs too!
Now I know there are people who really are very thin skinned and complain because they want to complain, but allot of us don’t want to have anything to complain about! Pay us well, give us enough staff, treat us like we’re valued, assist us when we’re overwhelmed. It isn’t much to ask. I know I personally pushed myself to do everything I possibly could to keep things running smoothly and it did nothing but harm at the end. Too many nurses end up with damaged backs and health issues that cannot be helped or reversed and it’s usually because they aren’t given the resources they need to survive such a difficult and challenging career. I also often found that management would try to cut corners and save money by sidelining the needs of nurses and expecting them to make do under unbearable conditions. Like running a full ward of 32 critically ill patients with only 2 nurses. Again the goodness of your heart isn’t going to heal your broken back at the end of the day. No other career in the world is expected to run on love alone.
Nurses are constantly made to feel undervalued and doctors can be such bullies about it. How can anyone be happy in a job that doesn’t let them feel valued or wanted? There has to be a sense of accomplishment and a sense of being valued.
Here’s an interesting talk about how people really want to feel valued in their profession not just do the job and get paid for it.
So the next time someone makes you feel like you’re the scum of the earth for raising complaint about your job, tell them you appreciate their input, (it is important to hear them out, they may actually have a point at times), then evaluate whether you’re being unreasonable in your complaint, more often than not, you’ll find you had a good reason to feel the way you feel and you should do something about it. Nothing improves by laying low and staying silent!
Nurses put up with a lot of sh*t. Both literally and figuratively. Here’s a list of sh*t I hated dealing with in my nursing career:
1. Doctors with huge egos.
A doctor I know once had a nurse fired simply for answering the ward telephone in his presence. In a hospital there are all kinds of emergencies and answering the telephone may well save a life! Of course nothing could be more important than Doctor Bruised Ego over there!
2. Managers with their nose high up in the air.
Some managers develop a similar sort of bloated ego as doctors do. This can cause a lot of issues for everyone. Of course I wouldn’t class all matrons (or doctors for that matter) the same way…just a few.
3. Patients that think they own you.
Nurses I worked with at least found ways to warn each other about these patients by using code words in the patients diagnosis. “This is Mrs Smeegle and she has HPT, DVT, Chronic PIA (pain in the ass)”. Or for a particularly dimwitted patient we’d say “we have a case of low apgar”A scoring system used on newborn babies to assess their physical condition. A low apgar score, would usually indicate a lack of oxygen to the brain and the possibility of retardation.. It was little ways of not only warning other nurses that this patient may be a danger to herself and others, but also a tiny bit of vengeance for her terrible attitude (having a little inside joke/laugh at her expense). Yeah, some might find this horrendously offensive but I think it’s harmless compared to the immense amount of stress these types of patients inflict on nurses daily.
4. People that think of you as a walking pharmacy because you work at a hospital.
How many times have people come up to you and asked if you could get them meds? Like you have the ability to just walk into the hospital take whatever you please and hand it out to everyone. Well, yeah you can get away with that sometimes in tiny quantities and there are people who you really don’t mind helping out, but then there are those that keep coming back for more, or worse, they tell their aunts, uncles, cousins and cousins cousins cousin that you can supply them with free meds for a lifetime.
5. People who think all you do is clean poop and sleep all day!
This should have been higher up on the list. This makes me go CRAZY INSANE! I just can’t stand it when ignorant people undermine the job as though they’d survive even one hour doing what nurses do! It’s an insult above all insults. Say that to a nurse and you’re not gonna have a good time next time you need to get your shots buddy!
Let me know in the comments below what you find unbearably maddening from your experiences as a nurse. How do you deal with the issues that you experience? Also, if you’ve got a story to tell from a patients/doctors/managers perspective, I’d love to hear it.
I recently discovered some shocking news that a RN I used to work with died of Cancer. She complained about back and body pain for ages but dismissed it as part of the package when you’re a nurse. Every nurse experiences backache…nothing to panic about right? She was oblivious to that fact that she had cancer until 2 months prior to her death. She continued serving others until the day she died.
Yes nursing is the noble profession and you do have a tendency to put others first when you’re a nurse…but there are times when you’ve got to use your skills and intuition to take care of yourself and that’s probably the most important thing you could do for the world and yes, for your patients too. We need more nurses…not less…so do everyone a favour and go get yourself regular check ups. You know better than to ignore persistent pain! Think about what you would tell your patient to do…
Afterthought: I find it really aggravating to know that in South Africa, the hospitals don’t provide regular mandatory checkups for health care workers. We’re surrounded by doctors and medical equipment everyday. It wouldn’t take much to have free health checks for staff at least 6 monthly, if not every month. Does your hospital provide you with regular check ups? Are there gyms freely available? Do they provide counselling if you’ve been through emotionally taxing experiences? Nurses are human beings not machines…with the kind of work we do, our employers owe us a lot more than a pay check.
I came across this YouTube vid of a little robin hatching. The mother robin knows exactly what she’s doing, keeping a watchful eye, guarding and warming her eggs. She attends to the hatched robin like a pro and clears out the empty shells as soon as the baby robin is free from it. Next the baby bird raises its head to the sky, and opens his beak wide to receive food from its parents.
When a human baby is born, it immediately turns its head to the side if you stroke its cheek and it will open its mouth up wide, looking for the nipple. Oddly enough, I’ve met a countless number of new mothers who didn’t know what to do next. I thought humans are supposed to be the superior species? Like any animal, humans have instincts but it seems that we’ve become a lazy spoon-fed society. Mothers have suffocated, drowned, poisoned or dropped their babies by accident and very often the nurses get blamed for it. “There wasn’t enough patient education given.” they say. Yes, I do agree patient education is VITAL but I’d like to know what happened to human instincts nonetheless.
Basic common sense, anyone?
All sounds like common sense to me. Believe it or not, I’ve had to wash babies that were covered head to toe in their own poo because the mother skipped diaper changes a few times through the night. Mothers have unwittingly suffocated their babies while they were sleeping or dropped them because they weren’t careful enough not to leave the baby on an unguarded surface. Some don’t even bother wrapping their newborns in blankets properly before going to sleep. The robin in the video, provided warmth, safety, food and hygiene (bare necessities) to its young and they didn’t need a nurse telling them what to do!
I quit nursing in January and even though we’re now in August and the business is a whole 8 months old, it’s felt like no more than 3-4 months. Time flies when you’re having fun. I don’t like it but yeah, it’s true. We could try subscribing to the Dunbar theory of longevity. (Dunbar is a character in the brilliant book “Catch 22”, and he believes that in order to live a long life, you should spend as much time as possible being bored or experiencing unpleasant conditions.)
“A half minute before that you were stepping into high school, and an unhooked brassiere was as close as you ever hoped to get to Paradise. Only a fifth of a second before that you were a small kid with a ten-week summer vacation, that lasted a hundred thousand years and still ended too soon. Zip! They go rocketing by so fast. How the hell else are you ever going to slow down?” – Dunbar.
Though Clevinger (from Catch 22), does make a stronger point: “Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it’s to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?”
Anyway, the bottom line is, you have two choices.
You can have an incredibly miserable but long life or a blazingly fast and fulfilling one. I chose the latter. With the internet being what it is today, none of you have any excuse to be trapped in a job you’re no longer feeling and a burnt-out nurse is probably every patients worst nightmare. You owe it to yourself and the nursing profession to be happy. If you’ve tried it all and still find it difficult to get through to 6:45 then, try something different!
I’ve had the honor and privilege to work with a wonderful RN in the US, Annette Tersigni, better known as the YogaNurse.
She is a nurse entrepreneur or yogapreneur and she has created a transformational new movement in health care called Yoga Nursing®. She helps nurses, yoga therapists and other care givers to learn her accredited programs so that they can relieve chronic stress, anxiety, pain and suffering for themselves, their clients and their communities worldwide. She runs her own blog, hosts retreats, learnt all the tricks and trends of the internet by herself and never lets age be a factor in determining what she can or cannot learn. Check out her website www.yoganurseacademy.com and you can be on your way to a fulfilling yoganursing career or just find a way to relieve your nursing burnout.
I’m extremely stoked to find that they’ve released an HD mod for an old game that I used to play, called “Theme hospital” by “Bullfrog”. Surprisingly it still works perfectly despite being more than ten years old and it still looks great. I used to play for hours in my teen days, before I had any idea that I was actually going to become a nurse someday, and practically live inside the walls of a hospital for a good few years! An unintentional manifestation I call it. I think I was enjoying the game a little too much!
I used to enjoy managing the staff, hospital budget, equipment and patients in the game. It felt really satisfying when you got through a challenging level and started building a good reputation, so that you could earn more money to improve upon your hospital. Of course the games’ difficulty level could never match up to the real thing but I often found myself thinking that the management at my hospital could do with a good game of Theme Hospital because they don’t seem to have any management skills at all. Perhaps the game could reinforce some basic principles.
It teaches you that staff should be kept happy, with a relaxing staff room, a nice salary and as little overtime as possible. If you failed to budget, and couldn’t hire more staff to assist overworked staff, your hospital literally collapsed. Patient happiness depended on the quality of care and you had to keep your staff happy, to keep your patients happy. If you didn’t do proper queue management (prioritize patients), your patients died in the hallway and you’d suffer the consequence. Control of infectious disease, cleanliness, comfort, maintenance of equipment and staff education mattered hugely in the game and were the deciding factors on whether you passed or failed the level.
These were the types of things that didn’t get enough attention at the hospital that I worked for. They’re so lax on training staff you could be an LPN (staff nurse) for years before they’d allow you to train again (depending on your skin colour of course!). Staff were continuously unhappy and overworked, the patients were always complaining because they weren’t getting the attention they deserved (not enough staff). If this happened in the game, the hospital manager would have her name plastered to the hall of shame and she’d be fired. But in South Africa, criminals become presidents, so why not hire total idiots to run our hospitals?
On the lighter side, I do wish we had patients with funny illnesses like ‘Bloaty Head Syndrome’, ‘Slack Tongue disease’ and ‘Elvis Syndrome’ – at least staff would have a fun day at work. I love this game. Try it out sometime. 🙂