Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system. No hospital or healthcare facility can operate without them. There's a hard truth that comes with being a nurse: It's one of the most important, yet most exhausting jobs you can have.
Choosing a career is challenging when you don’t have all the facts. Here are a few facts you should know before embarking on your nursing journey. If you are considering nursing or are on that path already, you will be able to go into the industry with your eyes a bit more open.
There are many things nurses don’t talk about because they don’t want to be discouraging, but then there’s the question as to why so many nurses are leaving the industry so quickly. This is because no one warned them. Having doubts and fears about entering nursing is common and you are not alone.
Everything a nurse does needs to be documented, however a lot of it is usually computerized. The saying is that if you didn't document it then you didn't do it. Every year they add more and more charting but tell you patient satisfaction is the number one priority. Yes, contradicting, but you must learn to chart and talk, and chart and walk. Find ways to manage your time with patients and not lose track of charting.
Your off days are truly sleep days. Initially you will be so tired and out of routine that you will sleep away your off days. Work, go home, eat, sleep, repeat. That is basically your life. If you can adapt to the shifts or are given preference to shifts, you will be able to plan your schedule and still have some flexibility.
Forget your standard holidays. Who must work and who gets off is based on seniority. Hospitals don’t recognize big events/ or religious days, you are just expected to be there. However, the cycle will always come around again, and you will be able to have selected days off the following year.
Some people handle working on holidays better than others - the bonus is that you get paid more.
You will also be required to work every other weekend, and this can become challenging when your partner works traditional working hours, or you are missing out on family events and your kids extra mural activities.
Nursing involves doing a lot off messy things - blood, faeces, pus, body fluids. You need to be okay with it and find ways to cope with it. There is no sugarcoating this part of nursing- it’s not fun and no one loves it. You do need to keep facial composure.
Don’t let patients know that you are grossed out. You are caring for people at their most vulnerable- the least you can do is make them feel human when they are feeling helpless. The upside is that you will receive a lot of thanks and appreciation- which is so rewarding.
You are not the dictator, and you don’t call all the shots. Nurses are a good resource and may be given free rein in certain areas or units, and although your input is appreciated, the final call is not yours to make. Be sure to voice your concerns or offer suggestions, but you need to remember your role.
One of the downfalls of nursing is working overtime. The last thing you want to be told after a 12-hour shift is that you need to stay an extra 6 hours. If the unit is short-staffed for the shift after yours, hospitals can make you work. This does happen and you should be aware of it. They can also call you to come in early. When there is a shortage of staff, there is also mandatory overtime, but this shouldn’t be happening every shift. It can be very challenging when you are totally exhausted, which is also unsafe. The positive is that you will be paid overtime.
Nurse to patient ratio is one of the biggest reasons for nurse burnout. The standard number of patients per nurse is 2-4, considering all the information you need to know about them despite the state of their criticalness. This can go up to 7-8 patients which gets very busy and overwhelming, and just completely unsafe. Covid has been the main reason for this increase, resulting in many nurses leaving the industry.
Nursing does pay well, and this also varies according to the facility or area. You will not be flashing designer bags and travelling the world (unless you are a travel nurse), but you will be well off and comfortable. The internet has sabotaged the nursing industry. Don’t just go into the profession for the money because you saw it looked glamourous on social media. The job is physically and emotionally draining and is sometimes not worth the money.
Nurses spend so much time on their feet and it’s important to make smart clothing choices. Cute shoes are great but are not going to benefit you after a 12-hour shift. Find comfortable trainers that are light and the right size. Compression socks are also a lifesaver that will help immediately with any leg, foot, or knee pain. It may seem like a small thing but take it to heart and make comfort a priority when choosing footwear—your body will thank you.
Your life will change. You will experience a lot of loss, but also empowerment. Nursing changes your perception of death, changes your opinions about things you wholeheartedly believed in. Nursing is beautiful, complicated, and intimate. You will hold hands of people dying, comfort families that are experiencing loss, watch kids lay with their mothers/ fathers savoring the last moments. Your life will never be simple, but it will not always be sad.
Remember that nursing is not for everyone and it’s okay if it’s not for you.