Updated: May 1, 2021
Whether you are striving to become a nurse, or already are in the field, no matter how difficult the road, don't give up!
For the Nursing Student
Everyone in the nursing world knows how difficult nursing school can be. The torment is all too real:
Long miserable shifts where you wonder if each nursing specialty you are thrusted into practice is really for you or if you are doomed to hate your overall professional life at the bedside
Deadline papers that you swore and cursed at in a fit as you navigate through endless medical jargon trying to make sense of a study, all the while you yell into the silent air that you are just trying to become a nurse not a PhD researcher.
Cram studying all day, getting only 2 hours of sleep, fearing the inevitable will happen as you wake up and forget the material you hoped would penetrate through osmosis as you wipe the drool off your face, rush out the door with your hair in a messy bun and coffee in hand
Testing while you mentally coach yourself to relax as you practice deep breathing exercises and begin to discover you have anxiety (maybe even ADD), and may have potentially developed IBS in the woes of nursing school; then meeting up to see what choices everyone else picked for the dreaded questions you were sure would be the final drop in the bucket that would tank your GPA and get you kicked out from your program
Fighting back the urge to strangle those group members who don't pull their weight, or gut check those who thought it to be a good idea to submit their portion of the assignment 30 min before you needed to submit the entire paper with the voice of only 1 writer.
You have to find that spark that keeps you going. A very good friend of mine let me in on the secret to success; In nursing school you will find those special friends that will become your lifelong family. Those friends will make the the uncertainties more bearable, they will embrace the suck together with you, you will keep each other from throwing in the towel, and when all the hard work is done, tests and assignments have been submitted, and you managed to finalize one more semester bruised, beaten, and scarred, these tried and true will pull you up, wipe your tears, and raise their cups toasting to your graduating year.
Every semester, I thought I was the weak link in my group of friends, they never let me voice those concerns, they found reasons to celebrate our differences. You see, we each have a different way at looking at things, and sometimes it shines a light on a subject that may help you all navigate to the answers together. Without my two sisters I would have sunken into an anxious abyss of depression and failed out of school. You need to find your own tried and true, those that will run to join in on the argument and fight without needing cause or background storyline. These will remain in your life forever. No matter how much distance life places between you, you will find a way to celebrate in each other's triumphs, help to uplift one another in darkness, and share in the struggles of bedside nursing together.
....Oh and PS....Only one of you at a time is allowed to lose your shit LOL!
To Mickey and Karla, I will always love you guys....not even security at graduation could keep us apart LMAO!
For Those Already in Nursing
Find your tribe, remember that this too shall pass, and try to believe that things can always be much worse!
Getting my nursing license at the peak of a pandemic, you would have thought it would have been EASY to get any position I desired in the hospital...apparently not, but that story is for a different blog. Needless to say, pandemic or not, we all struggle getting into the specialty of nursing we desire as a new grad. We all have to start somewhere, either a nurse residency program (which are the hospitals' way of paying a licensed nurse half the salary just to save a quick buck), or home health work.
The plus sides to nurse residency programs:
Not much is expected of you, as you are considered to be learning for several months at a paced rate
You can also get a better idea which specialty you may want to go into, as you rotate through the hospital; it also makes it easier on you if you ever have to float to another section when they are short staffed
Most important of all, your foot is in the door
The Downsides to nurse residency programs:
Little pay for the same level of work as your veteran colleagues
Contracted to a hospital or department you may feel is not a good fit for you
Leaving sooner than your contracted time will result in needing to pay back thousands of dollars
Heavy competition with only 8-30 spots only once or twice a year, when local nursing schools are pumping out hundreds of new grad nurses 2-3 times a year
I personally was not able to get into a residency program; The pandemic drained all the hospitals of the financial means to allow a residency program to take place. I resorted to post-operative home health and plastic surgery.
Now that I am an ER nurse, I see all my colleagues under stress, and almost every nurse I know throughout the country feels that their facility is the worst, here is what I say: "Trust me, things could be much worse". There are people in the medical field that get into it for the right reasons and others who know it is a secure, and at times, a lucrative profession. Those that get into medicine to make a fast buck don't care about the wellbeing of patients, don't care about infection control, they only care about the next idiot willing to risk their lives as they hand over their fortunes.
I have found that many disgruntled nurses are working in a specialty that does not suit their personality. When I left the Army, it was difficult to re-integrate to civilian life; My sick sense of humor was shunned away, my sense of perfection and control in a desired state of chaos was highly misunderstood, but when I was blessed to join the ER, that took me in open arms and not only accepted those previously perceived faults, but embraced them with a mirrored image of their own, I knew I found my tribe! I was finally home!
Don't get me wrong, there are a great number of days that stress seems to be seasoned with a kick of panic....but that again is another story for a different blog. The point is, no matter how stressful it is, how understaffed we may be, everyone is embracing the suck together, everyone is helping one another, we come together to debrief, and I am finally able to look in the mirror proud of the work I am doing, and happy to join my comrades in what, sometimes, feels like the field of battle.
I graduated highschool in 2005. I became an EMT in 2007. I joined the Army in 2008. I was trying to get my associate degree since 2005, and finally was able to obtain it in 2016. I had to re-take many classes, I failed some, and others the credit didn't transfer. I applied to one nursing school after another, and rejection seemed to go hand in hand with my name on applications. I finally got into a nursing program, made the dean's list every sememster (how? I have noooo freaking clue). Yet, for 1 year I could not pass my exit HESI exam. Then when all hope seemed lost, on my seventh attempt...YES SEVENTH! I passed the HESI, then passed my NCLEX no problem (too easy if you ask me, almost thought I failed when it shut off at 82). Then thankfully a beautiful soul of a nurse gave me a chance to work for her, and she kept finding me opportunities to bulk up my resume, supporting me in my endevors to get into a hospital (I love you Drea, thank you for always believing in me, having my back, and steering me down the paths that led me here). Then, on the tenth month post licensure, and 16 years into my journey, I FINALLY became an ER nurse. If determination and persistance did not exist, I would not be standing where I am today.
Nursing is not easy, HELL, some of my doctors realize this and pull their weight to help us when they see we are slammed. No matter the specialty...IT IS GOING TO BE HARD, THERE WILL BE DAYS YOU QUESTION YOUR LIFE DECISIONS, YOU WILL WANT TO QUIT AND STAY AT HOME RAISING A FAMILY INSTEAD...BUT! You will have those days where you will comfort the ill, embrace those who survive their lost love, you will save someone's life, you will come home and be grateful for all you have and cherish those who are blessed with another day of life and good health.
If you hate chaos, leave the ER, if you are sick of wiping vomit and ass while getting cursed at by patients and their families, then leave med surge, if your heart has hardened after so many losses and can't take another admission, because you are backed up with the countless preventions you have to do to sustain just one life then leave the ICU. Nursing is grand and vast. there is preventive medicine, public health, occupational health, research, education, the list is endless. You must find your right fit, but always remember you are never alone, and things can always be worse. Just do your best, leave work at the door, and live your life in relaxation and adventure when you are off. Practice self-care and learn to disconnect!
The road paved with success is the road less traveled, so don't be afraid to venture off-road. Find yourself and be happy.