Since elementary school, I have wanted to be a nurse. I grew up with a mother who works as an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurses) for an internal medicine office. I also grew up with an aunt who serves as an RN in various capacities, from obstetrics to emergency nursing, to telephonic nursing. I heard so many stories that made me want to join the medical field. I knew I wanted to help people.
As a veteran nurse of almost 15 years (where has the time gone?), I can truthfully say that I do not regret my decision to become a nurse. However, I wish someone had told me that nursing involves more than just helping people.
1. Not Everyone Will Appreciate Your Care
I envisioned what nursing would be like. I imagined laughing with my patients as I helped them walk to the bathroom or down the hall. I thought about giving an occasional bed bath and administering immunizations. In truth, nursing involves all those things, but it requires so much more.
I find it challenging to face one of the hardest truths: not all my patients would laugh with me. Not all of them would thank me for my care. Many would scream in my face if I failed to answer the call light fast enough or to fill their water glass. However, far more patients do appreciate my care – and that appreciation reflects the reasons why I became a nurse.
2. Charting Will be the (Figurative) Death of You
You may remember the adage from nursing school, “Not charted is not done.” Unfortunately, this proves true. Without charting, no evidence or care provided exists.
Little things, like providing a patient education handout, can become big things if they lack documentation. For example, if you administered a patient their first dose of warfarin to prevent a blood clot after a stroke and they fell three days later, did you provide the correct education to impress upon them that warfarin has a substantial risk of bleeding? Charting documents that education and care.
You will spend most of your day charting. Some days you will wonder if you provided any patient care or if you just delegated so you could complete your charting.
3. You Will Burn Out
In nursing school, I remember learning about stress management techniques like journaling, meditation, and prioritization of self-care. Talking with a friend or family member can also provide an outlet. If practiced consistently and regularly, these self-care techniques offer pathways to decompress and relax.
In practice, meditating, journaling, drinking enough water, and getting exercise can prove challenging because at the end of the day, exhaustion often prevails.
I cannot recommend these practices enough. I also recommend finding other techniques that relax your soul and provide you with ease. When you find yourself feeling exhausted or overworked, please take a moment to acknowledge it. Do not be afraid to seek help from your healthcare provider or a therapist.
4. You Will Make the BEST of Friends
I can recall an after-work breakfast with my coworkers and my husband. We had just worked a difficult night shift and decided to meet for breakfast at a local restaurant. My husband met us at the restaurant as he had worked a night shift too.
During the meal, I laughed into my pancakes, tears streaming down my face. One coworker discussed a disgusting experience involving fecal matter. My husband sat next to me, completely repulsed.
At that moment, I realized my coworkers had become my people, people who shared common experiences, laughs, and advice.
5. You Will Learn to Deal with Death
Death is inevitable–something we will all experience in our personal lives, as well as our professional lives. It can be an uncomfortable experience; however, it can also be a dignified experience.
Some of the most difficult moments in my nursing career have involved watching people die without family by their side. Other difficult moments have involved witnessing people kept alive by well-meaning family members who do not know their loved one’s wishes.
I wish I could tell you that dealing with death gets easier, but it does not. However, you will get to a point in your career where death taking place on your shift does not derail your entire day.
6. Before Becoming a Nurse I Wish I Knew There is More Than Just Bedside Nursing
As a student, I envisioned a career as a bedside nurse. In truth, I did not know all the other career paths that a nurse can take. Once I got into nursing school, I began to see other options, such as case management and nursing informatics. However, nothing besides bedside nursing sounded like “me.”
I began my career as a telemetry nurse. Conducting procedures, reading rhythm strips, and working on the Code Blue team fascinated me. However, a few years into my career, things began to change. Our hospital changed staffing and the types of patients that we served. I no longer felt like a telemetry nurse.
At the time, I began to investigate other career paths. I entertained a lot of ideas, such as case management and nursing leadership, but eventually settled into diabetes education. Within a couple of years, I became a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES).
Becoming a CDCES opened an area of nursing that I never imagined. I have now been in the field for seven years. I frequently get emails from patients, detailing how my education assisted them with a significant reduction in their A1c levels.
The Bottom Line….
On the journey, some experiences will bring joy, and some bring tears, humbling you. You will learn a lot about healthcare, but you will also learn a lot about yourself.
Interested in learning more about how you can better balance work and life?
Krysti Ostermeyer is an RN, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES), and a freelance writer. She enjoys writing about health, wellness, and nursing. She dreams about being a full-time writer when she grows up.
When Krysti isn’t working, she enjoys mountain biking, hiking, taking walks, practicing yoga, reading, and drinking copious amounts of iced coffee.