Nursing is a strange practice. The art of caring for others while simultaneously trying to care for yourself and live a normal life. There are a few things people don’t know about nursing, or even that people considering changing occupations never knew. These are the few I wish I could have told myself. Or that I wish everyone would read. These are my five things about nursing everyone should know.
1. Don't study to pass the test.
Nursing school is about memorizing and building a foundation of knowledge. You need it. You need all the information you can get and more. Yes, we don't use every single piece of information thrown at you in nursing school, and there is so much more you will learn on the floor. But I wish I would have known:
You are not studying to pass a test. You are studying to save someone’s life someday.
Huge eye opener. And yes, there is always time to review and amazing coworkers to ask questions, but you need that foundation. You need to have that nurse instinct when things start slipping through the cracks. This makes me want to tell my younger self to push harder and be a better student.
2. Healthcare is nothing like TV.
There are not mystery patients that we can't diagnose (not every day anyway). There aren't patients that fall in love with each other, or even nurses that fall in love with patients. Sure, patients fall in love with us, but we are angels, right? Too much? Okay, my bad. There is no such thing as a perfect ratio for perfectly staffed ANY staff or job.
Everyone is short-handed. Almost all the time. Because that’s how life is.
You do not get to pick your patients or have patients with these amazing supportive families. You get homeless, ragged, behavioral, and sometimes manipulating patients that make your shifts feel a little too long. But then again, you also get the sweetest, kindest, most selfless little lady that you have adopted as your honorary grandma who has the perfect grandchildren and she thanks you so many times it makes you cry.
3. Nursing is a team effort.
REALLY. If this is the first time you’ve heard this, then I hope it opens your eyes. If you’re having a great day, there is a very likely chance it is a bad day for someone else. That’s where the team aspect plays in. My floor, which I am so fortunate to have seen so many times firsthand, really strives to be a team.
You get an admit and fell behind and haven’t charted a thing? Please let me pass your Tylenol to free up a few minutes of your day. It’s two o’ clock and you’ve discharged two patients and are getting a transfer from the unit? Go take your lunch so you can survive the next five hours and I can settle them for you. These are just a few examples of the team work I’ve seen. It also means you should try to help your coworkers out when you can.
Being a nurse is not just about you and your patients. It is about every single patient and every single coworker working together so just remember that.
When you roll up into work, you should be greeted with smiles and good mornings. Your coworkers should be excited to see you. Not just because you are this amazing person, but because you are a kick a$$ coworker and you help as much as possible. Because if they're drowning they know someone has their back.
4. You don't always get a break.
Even with the team aspect, there are a lot of times you really don’t get a break. Lunch, bathroom, or even just a minute to yourself. It can really be that busy. When you leave after 13 hours and realize you took one drink of your coffee and haven’t peed since you got up that morning… that is real life. But everyday is not like that. If it is… you should change your specialty. Or tell someone.
5. No one from the outside will understand what you do.
You will get questioned all the time. "What is it that nurses really do"?. It is the question that will always be there. You can explain it in as many different ways as possible, but the outside world will never understand. I can't help but shake my head when I think about the conversation between my fiancé and I.
"So you're telling me, your job can be SO crazy sometimes that you literally cannot stop moving for five minutes and drink water or use the bathroom? What about when you're charting, can't you just use one hand?"
Yes, seriously. We are dehydrated, overworked and don't take care of ourselves some days. And other days we are spoiled by patients' family members who never stop making us cookies, and occasionally our floor isn't full. And it isn't a full moon. And no one calls in. You see what I'm doing here?
These are the main five things about nursing I have always wished someone talked to me about. A little heads up would have been nice, but part of being a nurse is learning as you go. I’m sure I could keep going, but to keep things short and sweet, I’ll leave you with these five to digest.
I hope that you can take these back to your practice, your patients, your office and be that nurse. The nurse that you love working with. The nurse that is a superstar. The nurse that asks for help when things get hard. Be that nurse. Be better. Work harder. Do it for your patients.
And if you’re not a nurse, be a better person. There is a good chance many of these points actually apply to real life and not just nursing/healthcare. Be a good coworker, a good person, and a good human. That does not mean hand out little pieces of yourself to anyone that is asking, it just means work your hardest, be your best, and try to be a better person than you were yesterday.
About the author:
Maria Owen BSN, RN is a free spirited girl from Wyoming who enjoys going through life from one adventure to the next. After graduating with her Bachelor's of Science in Nursing, she pursued a career as a RN in another state. Currently Maria is looking forward to getting married later this year and exploring grad school.