You Might Be a Nurse If . . .


I’ve done a similar post before, but I think this theme deserves to be revisited.

You might be a nurse (or other healthcare member) if . . .

  • You’re watching Sunday night football & every time you see the SNF logo, you think skilled nursing facility.
  • Being sick SUCKS because you always think of every worst case scenario known to mankind . . . because that’s how you have to think when you take care of other people for a living.nurse pic
  • You have absolutely no conception of what constitutes normal meal-time conversation . . . You mean sex & gross stories about all manner of bodily fluids & pooping aren’t normal dinner table topics?  Oops.
  • You read a friend’s post that starts off or ends with PTL & you wonder why they’re talking about pre-term labor.
  • Or you read PSA somewhere & your first thought is prostate specific antigen.nursing humor
  • You casually refer to medications by their classifications (such as NSAIDs, SSRIs, or PPIs) without realizing that the average person has no idea what you’re talking about. Sorry, guys.
  • You want to roll your eyes every time someone asks you what you’re doing for the holidays because the answer is almost always “working.”
  • You swear you can hear IV pumps beeping or telemetry alarms sounding in your sleep.IV-pump
  • You’ve walked in on someone masturbating & that person wasn’t a relative or roommate . . . Yep, this happens way more often than you might think.
  • You’ve discovered that seemingly frail elderly men (& women) can actually be very strong . . . & many of them really enjoy being nude . . .
  • Random people whom you haven’t really talked to in years message you to ask for health advice, sometimes about really private matters . . . But you don’t mind because in some strange way you feel honored that these folks trust you so much.today was a good day
  • You want to (or actually do) scream at the TV every time you see people on medical shows shocking patients in asystole! No!!
  • You’ve bought “old lady” compression hose at the pharmacy because you’re trying to prevent those unsightly varicose veins you have the pleasure of seeing all the time.
  • You’ve come back to work only to find that a patient you cared for a few days ago is now on isolation . . . Ughhhh.isolation
  • You’ve ever had to remind yourself that you don’t have to measure your OWN (or your pet’s) I&O (that’s intake & output).
  • Every time you hear 9-5’ers complaining about traffic, you can’t help but smile to yourself & think “you poor miserable chumps.”
  • On the other hand whenever someone says to you “Oh, it must be so easy to only work 3 days a week,” you kind of want to strangle them because they clearly have no idea how difficult those 3 days are. (That being said, I do love working only 3 days a week, & you definitely won’t see me looking for a 9-5 job any time soon, if ever.)
  • You have a list of doctors & nurses you never want to take care of you if/when you’re ever hospitalized . . . & another list of those you absolutely DO want to take care of you.
  • You’ve ever felt like a juggler, a waitress (or waiter), a baby-sitter, & a scribe . . . all within the first hour of your shift.nurse-cartoons-relevant-experience

Why Nurses Cry: Musings on the Loss of a Patient


Recently I found out that two of my former patients died.  Yes, like many other nurses, I scan the local obituaries every so often looking for names I recognize.  I don’t know why I do this because it inevitably leads to a few tears if I see the name of a patient I really liked, & this happens a lot more often than you might think.  But in an odd way I think reading these obituaries also brings me a bit of closure because it allows me to know that a person whose suffering I witnessed first-hand is now freed from their earthly turmoil.empathy

This situation definitely left me with a few tears in my eyes even though realistically I know that death was the best option for both of these patients.  I know most people view death as the enemy, but one thing I learned very early in my nursing career is that death is NOT always the enemy.  When people are suffering the way these folks were, death can actually be quite the opposite.  And what pains me more than anything is when patients are not able to experience a dignified death that is as peaceful & painless as possible.  Things are slowly improving but unfortunately hospice & palliative care services are still very under-utilized in our society.  (As some of you may know, I actually volunteer with a local hospice group because I feel so strongly about the importance of hospice.)hospice 1

Anyhow, all of this got me to thinking about the many times I have cried as a nurse, both on the job & at home when thinking about my patients after work.  It happens less frequently than it used to because I’ve learned to develop more of a “shell” to help protect me . . . This doesn’t mean I’ve become hard-hearted & insensitive (someone please tell me the day I do so I can turn in my badge).  But as a nurse I’ve had to learn to balance my own mental sanity with showing compassion towards my patients & their families.  Throughout my life I’ve often been told I’m “sensitive” & that I “wear my heart on my sleeve” (who comes up with these expressions?!), & while I certainly hope to never lose that side of me, I’ve had to learn to “buck up” & withstand a lot of things that I probably couldn’t have faced years ago. tears

At this point in my career, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen someone die.  I’ve lost count of the number of dead bodies I’ve touched & cleaned up to send to the funeral home.  Since I’m not an ED or ICU nurse I don’t see a whole lot of codes but even so I’ve still lost track of the number of codes I’ve assisted with.  And I could probably write a whole book about the number of times I’ve helped prevent a code from happening, for example by recognizing that a patient was dangerously hypoglycemic & giving them D50 (sugar water) in their IV to raise their blood sugar or by recognizing that a patient was in pulmonary edema & needed IV Lasix STAT to pull the fluid off of their lungs, just to name a few . . . Notice a pattern here?  Nurses really do save lives, y’all.  Doctors are great & I have a huge appreciation & respect for the work they do.  But seriously, until you’re a nurse you have no idea how important nurses are.  There is a reason we are called the backbone of the healthcare industry.  We as nurses are the ones watching your lab values, your vital signs, your telemetry (heart monitor), your I&O (fluid intake & output), & your mental status (among other things) like a hawk.  More often than not we are the ones recommending/telling the doctors what needs to be done . . . Again, I am not trying to take away from the important work that doctors do.  I’m just saying that one of the biggest reasons I do not regret choosing nursing school over medical school is that I see on a daily basis just how big of a difference I really make.

Despite the challenges & frustrations of my career, I'm still glad I chose nursing over med school.

Whew, that was a tangent that I wasn’t intending to go on, but, hey, it happens sometimes.  Anyway, when I see that one of my former patients has died (or when a patient dies under my care), there is always a small part of me that feels like all of our hard work to save them has been in vain.  Realistically I know that most of these patients are coming in with so many different medical comorbidities that the chances of them surviving, or at least surviving with any real quality of life (which is after all the more important factor), are low.  But every once in a while I find myself thinking “Gosh, so much of what I do is just keeping people alive for a few more days, weeks, or months, usually with a great deal of suffering involved, until they inevitably die.” nurse pic

But then I remember that maybe in those last few days or weeks or months they might have gotten to see their grandson who lives all the way across the country for one last time.  Or maybe they got to witness another grandchild get married or graduate from college.  Or maybe they just had enough time to adequately say good-bye to all of their loves ones (as best as possible) & vice versa.  And maybe in the midst of all off their suffering, pain, & fears I was able to provide a calming presence, a small balm to ease their wounds.  Or maybe I was able to help their family understand their loved one’s disease process & how to prepare for their loved one’s death.nursing humor 1

All of this brings me to the main point of this post.  As long as I’m a nurse, my sincerest desire is that I never lose that sensitive soul, that compassionate drive which inspires me to do my best for my patients.  I know at times I am not able to grieve for my patients the way I want & need to because I just have to keep on moving to take care of the rest of my patients.  And I know at times I may seem hardened or callous because I don’t cry every time a patient dies or receives a bad diagnosis or because I laugh at things that non-nurses would find revolting.  But as I said, as nurses we do have to harden ourselves a little bit so that we can make it through our shifts.  Trust me, it’s a fine line, a very fine line, we walk trying to maintain our own sanity while still providing truly compassionate care to the patients & their families entrusted to usempathy

My challenge to myself & to anyone who’s reading this who is also a nurse (or any kind of healthcare worker) is this: next time you’re caring for a patient, particularly if they are “challenging” or “difficult” for whatever reason, take a moment to consider that there is probably a higher chance than you’d like to admit that the time you’re spending with this patient might be some of their last days on Earth.  With that in mind, may we all strive to be the best advocates we can be for our patients & to provide the most compassionate care we can, knowing ours could be the last voice they ever hear, our hand the last they ever hold on this planet.

No Such Thing as Too Smart to Be Just a Nurse


This post is for all the people who’ve ever told me (or other nurses) that I’m “too smart to be ‘just’ a nurse.”  There are a lot more of these people than you might think!  In some twisted way I guess some people think this is a compliment.  (Newsflash: it’s not!  It’s actually quite insulting.)  Obviously the people who say such things have no idea why it’s so incredibly important to have a very intelligent nurse.  So let me educate you as to why if you or your loved one are ever sick, you better hope against hope that your nurse is every bit as intelligent as your doctor:nurse pic

Because I’m the one who called the doctor to tell him that your sodium was rising rapidly & thus we needed to stop the hypertonic saline drip you were on & change it to regular saline.  And I did this because I have the smarts to know that no matter how critically low your sodium was initially we can’t replace it too quickly or we can cause serious brain damage.

Because I’m the one who noticed that your creatinine, an indicator of kidney function, was off the charts & realized that, with your history of diabetes combined with your current dehydrated state, this was a serious problem that needed to be addressed immediately.  So I’m the one who called the doctor & made sure you had IV fluids ordered & a nephrology consult to further explore your renal failure.  I don’t want to know how much worse your kidneys could have been damaged if I’d just assumed the admitting doctor was aware of the problem & waited till the next doctor happened to look at your chart the next day.

Yes, we nurses know what all of this means.

Yes, we nurses know what all of this means.

Because I’m the one who noticed you were lethargic & slow to respond to my questions, so I checked your blood sugar, found it was dangerously low, & corrected it so that you didn’t end up in a hypoglycemic-induced coma . . . or dead.

Because I’m the one who begged for a palliative care consult because it was obvious to me that your mother was dying & furthermore that she was READY to die, & I wanted her to have the peaceful death she deserved.palliative care

Because I’m the one who noticed you were on a boat-load of narcotics but didn’t have a stool softener or laxative ordered, so I called the doctor to remedy this situation because I didn’t want you to develop severe constipation or worse yet a post-op ileus due to such a “simple” oversight.

Because I’m the one who recognized your mother was having a massive heart attack & demanded the doctor come to see her, even though it was the middle of the night & he had to come in from home, so that I could ensure she was transferred to the ICU where she could receive all the care she so desperately needed.

We nurses know what this means too (bad heart attack!!).

We nurses know what this means too (bad heart attack!!).

Because I’m the one who reminded the doctor to discontinue your blood thinner the night before your heart cath so you wouldn’t bleed out during the procedure the next day.

Because I’m the one who reminded the doctor to order a physical therapy consult so your dad could improve his strength & mobility prior to being discharged home with you.physical therapy cartoon

Because I’m the one who noticed all of your morning lab results were a bit questionable, so I demanded that the lab re-draw them to ensure accuracy.  (And thankfully for your sake the first set was wrong.)

Because I’m the one who noticed your mother’s urine was cloudy & foul-smelling so I made sure she had a urine sample sent & antibiotics started to treat her UTI before she became even sicker than she already was.

Because I’m the one who reminded the doctor that certain medications like Ambien (a commonly prescribed sleeping pill) are really bad for elderly people, so I asked her to order something milder like Remeron instead.

This isn't totally a joke.  Ambien can be very bad for elderly people, but not all doctors realize or remember that, which is why it's important to have a smart nurse to remind them!

This isn’t totally a joke. Ambien can be very bad for elderly people, but not all doctors realize or remember that, which is why it’s important to have a smart nurse to remind them!

Because I’m the one who noticed that your blood sugar was low on your morning labs (but not so low that lab called it to me as a critical result), so I rechecked it & found it to be even lower, dangerously low in fact.  I corrected this by giving you D50, basically sugar water, in your IV.  But I shudder to think what might have happened if I’d overlooked that low blood sugar on your morning labs.

Because I’m the one who noticed that your dad was having trouble breathing & decreased urine output, so I called the doctor & ensured he had a STAT chest x-ray done & some Lasix given because I realized he was probably going into acute heart failure . . . & that couldn’t wait till the doctor rounded the next day.Congestive-Heart-Failure-e1351349118720

Because when the doctor tried to explain what was going on with your body & you didn’t understand a word of it, I’m the one who translated the words into plain English & helped you understand your condition so you would be less frightened.  This is because I have the intelligence to understand your medical condition but also the ability to translate that into simple terms that anyone can understand.

Because I’m the one who noticed that your blood pressure was low &, knowing this could affect your body’s ability to perfuse all of your vital organs, I made sure the doctor ordered a fluid bolus to help increase your blood pressure.  But I also closely monitored your urine output & your respiratory status to make sure we weren’t overloading you with fluid & risking sending you into heart failure.IV fluid

In case you’re wondering, these are all scenarios I have truly encountered as a nurse.  And these are just a small fraction of the things I & my fellow nurses do on a daily basis to help provide excellent care to our patients & their loved ones.

If it isn’t apparent to you yet, let me just explain that, especially at night, there is no guarantee when a doctor will next see you or even look at your medical record.  Not to mention if you’re lucky doctors spend maybe 30 minutes a day with you, whereas nurses are with you for hours & hours each day, so inevitably we know you much better.  This is why it’s so incredibly important to have a very intelligent nurse because we’re the ones who are meticulously following your vital signs & lab results & keeping the doctors up to date on your condition so that nothing important is missed.  We’re the ones double-checking all your orders & making sure they make sense & that nothing has been overlooked.  I say none of this to make doctors look bad or appear incapable; I just realize that patient safety is every bit as dependent on intelligent nurses as it is on intelligent doctors.  Once you realize this too, I sincerely hope you will never again tell me (or anyone else) that I am “too smart to be ‘just’ a nurse.”

Despite the challenges & frustrations of my career, I'm still glad I chose nursing over med school.

Despite the challenges & frustrations of my career, I’m still glad I chose nursing over med school.

Inside the Nurse Mind: 16 Ways We Think Differently Than Everyone Else


I remember many of my professors in nursing school encouraging us to “Think like a nurse” & describing to us how differently our minds would process certain information in just a few short years thanks to our nursing experience.  At the time, I (& probably most of my fellow students) couldn’t quite picture exactly what they had in mind, but after just a year or so of nursing I knew exactly what those professors meant.  Nurses really do think differently than the average person (& differently than how we thought before we became nurses).  As many have said before me, this is truly a profession that changes you!  In light of that, as I was taking a shower the other day I thought it might be fun to create a list of some of the many ways nurses think differently than everyone else.  So here it is!today was a good day

  1. Our standard for what makes up a good day can be pretty bizarre.  See the picture above.  It’s not a joke.
  2. Nurses can collect a stool sample or clean up blood & other bodily fluids, then wash our hands & go eat lunch without a second thought.
  3. Along that same vein (there’s a nurse-y phrase!), there is no topic of conversation that nurses deem inappropriate . . . even at the dinner table.
  4. Once you’ve been a nurse for a while, you’ll find yourself constantly evaluating various scenarios for fall risks. See a puddle on the floor in a public restroom or some other situation that might pose a risk of falling, particularly for an elderly or frail person?  As a nurse you can no longer ignore these things.  And even if you’re someone like me who hates to be a complaining customer, as a nurse you’ll find yourself compelled to speak to a manager or someone who can be sure to alleviate the situation & decrease the risk of someone falling (& maybe becoming one of your patients!).fall risk
  5. On a similar topic, I know there have been multiple occasions over the past few years when I have notified a restaurant or other business that the water in their bathroom was dangerously hot & could potentially burn someone, especially someone like a diabetic with decreased nerve sensation. I know this is something I would never have thought to actually report before I became a nurse.
  6. As a nurse there are days when you’re really grateful to have a stuffy nose & thus no sense of smell.

    As a disclaimer, I do NOT condone smoking.  I just thought this was a funny cartoon.

    As a disclaimer, I do NOT condone smoking. I just thought this was a funny cartoon.

  7. When you read the weather report & see that the temperature overnight is going to be zero degrees with a wind-chill of negative 20, your first thought is “I wonder how many homeless people will be in the ER with “chest pain” tonight?” And your second thought is “I can’t blame them for coming in & I wish we could give them all beds & a warm place to sleep without taking time away from those who are truly sick.”
  8. Medical TV shows have been ruined for nurses because we can’t watch them without screaming at the TV every time we see an error (which is often . . . Asystole can’t be shocked, people!!) or every time we realize how completely untrue to real life these shows are. (Doctors don’t start IVs or give medications or perform MRIs & CT scans.  Nurses & various techs do those things!  And in real life, nurses & doctors don’t have time to have sex in the elevator or the linen closet, at least anywhere I’ve ever worked.  I could go on & on but I’ll stop for fear of boring you.)

    scrubs tv

    “Scrubs” is the only medical TV show I can watch now that I’m a nurse because it’s just plain funny & frankly more realistic than “House” or “Grey’s Anatomy.”

  9. Nurses (& other medical personnel) view the holidays differently than almost everyone else. We might be excited for holiday events, but usually we know we will have to miss them or at least plan our family’s celebrations around our own work schedule.
  10. On a similar topic, as much as I love snow, I must admit I view it a bit differently now that I’m a nurse. After all, there’s no such thing as a snow day at home when you’re in the healthcare field. no snow day
  11. This is probably slightly off-topic, but only nurses can know the frustration of not having the authority to give your patient a Tylenol or a cough drop without a doctor’s order, yet having the responsibility to know exactly when & what to notify the doctor about at any hour of the day or night, not to mention coordinating care between all the various disciplines of healthcare (RT, PT, OT, ST, lab, social work, doctors, family members, etc) who all expect us to be the expert on every patient we have.
  12. Nurses obsess over I&O (intake & output; in other words how much you drink & how much you pee) like most people obsess over sports statistics . . . Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration, but as a nurse I know I sometimes have to remind myself that I don’t have to measure my own I&O.  That is NOT an exaggeration!I&O
  13. Nurses know that sweet old ladies & kindly old gentlemen can be exactly that during the day time . . . But once the sun goes down, you never know what “personality” will come out! (In case you’re wondering, this is the “sun-downer’s” phenomenon associated with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia as well as the even more serious condition called delirium that often sets in during hospitalizations.)
  14. As nurses, thinking about starting our own families can be incredibly scary because all we can think about is all the things we know can go wrong during pregnancy & delivery. (Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but it’s definitely true for me.)
  15. Really big “juicy” veins are like porn for nurses. Trust me.nurse porn veins
  16. I’m sure a lot of teachers, police officers, & various people in other professions also feel this way about their chosen field, but as nurses we know that despite the millions of things about healthcare that drive us crazy, there is nothing else we’d rather be doing.

Murphy’s Law of Nursing


This post is meant to be entirely humorous & should not be taken to mean I hate my job.  Anyone who has been a nurse for more than a few weeks or months will smile & nod because you know these are all so true.

1. If you run out of alcohol swabs, saline flushes, tape, or any such thing it will always be while fully garbed in an isolation room.

2. If you bring more than one IV start kit, you will get it on the first try.  If you bring only one IV start kit, you’ll miss it & have to go back for more supplies.

nurse-cartoons-relevant-experience

3. Insulin drips, PD (peritoneal dialysis), & other such patients who require a reduced nurse to patient ratio will always come in 2’s & 3’s which will invariably screw with staffing.

4. Management’s idea of fully staffed will always mean no one ever takes vacation, gets sick or injured, requires surgery, has a family emergency, has a baby, or calls out due to fatigue & exhaustion.

5. The patients who are the sickest &/or in the most pain are often the least vocal about it, sometimes because they are truly too sick to waste energy complaining & sometimes because they “just don’t want to bother you.”  On the other hand, the least sick patients are often the ones with the longest list of demands, many of which are far from reasonable.

disatisffied patient

6. The most popular time to admit or transfer a patient will always be at the very beginning or end of the shift.  And they will always come in 2’s & 3’s & 4’s.

7. The doctors who are the most difficult to get up with in the middle of the night will always be the ones who never order any prn meds or anything that would help save you from having to wake them up at 0300.

8. The patients whose family members are really close to them & truly take good care of them are often the most reasonable & even downright helpful to the nurses.  On the other hand, the patients whose family has ignored them or cared for them poorly will often be the most rude, demanding, & generally impossible to deal with.  A lot of this probably stems from guilt & embarrassment of course, but it’s nonetheless a frustrating paradox to observe someone who has clearly ignored their sick mother for a decade suddenly  watch you like a hawk & quite literally TRY to find a problem with every single thing you do.

demanding patient

9. If you need to perform a STAT glucose check, that will be the exact moment that the glucometer needs to be QC’d.

10. The patient who needs 3 different IV antibiotics, blood transfusions, IVF, & Dilaudid/Phenergan on a regular basis will be an impossible IV stick.

iv cartoon

If you’re a nurse or anything medical, feel free to comment & share your own Murphy’s Law stories.  I’m sure there are tons more.  We really do have the best job in the world, but we have to be able to laugh at the absurdity of it all or we won’t survive.

 

 

 

10 Reasons Why Night Shift Rocks


Today is a special day for me because it marks three years that I’ve been working as an RN.  It is simply amazing to think of all of the things I’ve learned & experienced in just three years.  It feels like just yesterday I was that super-anxious new grad nurse, so excited to learn but so afraid to try so many new things.  Now I’m a charge nurse & preceptor; my, how things have changed!!

Three years ago I was also absolutely PETRIFIED to start night shift.  I was sure I’d never sleep again & that my whole life was basically ending.  I didn’t fall in love with night shift immediately, though I never hated it as much as I thought I would.  After six months or so at my first nursing job, I started rotating shifts so I could experience day shift as well & eventually went to straight day shifts.  However, when we moved to NC two summers ago, night shift was all that was available so I took it.  At first I told my manager I wanted to switch to day shift ASAP but after a while I changed my mind.  I found that the night shift routine had grown on me & for right now I’m not even thinking about going “back” to day shift any time soon.  With all of the negative things associated with night shift, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of all the reasons why night shift is actually AWESOME.

1. This is a generalization for sure, but I have found that IN GENERAL night shift nurses are the most fun to work with because they tend to be more laid-back & relaxed.  For someone like me who has her fair share of anxiety issues, it’s great to work with people who are more relaxed because that helps combat my own anxious tendencies.  I think part of the reason night shift nurses tend to be more relaxed is because the doctors are not quite as available to us, so we have learned to handle situations on our own.  This isn’t to say we don’t keep the doctors informed about what’s going on with our patients.  It’s just that we realize that every time our patient has a BP of 180/90 it isn’t the end of the world & if the doctor is busy & doesn’t call us back for an hour or more, it’s ok.  If you work day shift, please don’t be offended by what I’m saying here.  As I said, this is a GENERALIZATION & it probably has more to do with the way the shift itself flows than the actual people who are working it.

night shift humor

2. For someone like me who is mildly claustrophobic & despises crowds, day shift can be a little challenging because it is a CONSTANT CROWD.  A lot of the people who make up this crowd are tremendously helpful & often at nights we wish we had those folks around.  If your patient needs to leave the floor for a test any later than say 9:00 p.m., guess whose job it is to take them to the test (& possibly stay there to monitor them, depending on the test): yours!  There is no transport at night.  No PT/OT to help get the heavy or difficult-to-move patients out of bed.  No case manager to call when your patient’s wife is refusing the oxygen that is absolutely vital for him to go home.  No wound care nurse to assist with the crazy complicated dressing that you suddenly have to change at midnight when it gets soiled for various & sundry reasons.  No IV team to help with the impossible-stick patient who needs two different IV antibiotics, IV fluids, & K/MG replacement.  Basically there are a ton of great resources that simply aren’t available at night.  This isn’t to say we can’t provide the same level of care.  It’s just that as a night shift nurse you’re required to be extremely resourceful & figure out a lot of things yourself.  The upside though is that for someone like me who gets anxious in crowds, it’s really nice to feel like we “own the hospital” at night.  We definitely interact with other depts & certainly with patients’ families, but night shift is just not the same constant crowd, & for a socially anxious person like me, that is wonderful.

3. As I discussed above, night shift has a lot fewer ancillary depts to help the nursing staff which can definitely be challenging at times.  However, another upside to this is that night shift nurses of necessity build really great teamwork.  It’s not that day shift nurses can’t or don’t help each other.  They definitely do.  But on nights it’s just the bedside nurses running the show, for the most part.  Because we are less distracted by the various other depts constantly coming in & out of the rooms, we are better able to sense who’s struggling & step up to help each other, often without even being asked.  Nursing is definitely a team effort & on nights that is especially true.  Additionally, having great teamwork I believe builds greater job satisfaction which for me is definitely an added bonus.

4. Financially night shift is clearly the better option.  Night shift is hard on the body & mind without a doubt so there’s a reason we get paid more.  Of course the trouble is once you get used to that extra money, you don’t want to leave it.

5. You will definitely sacrifice sleep at times, but if you can learn not to sleep all day on your days off (which has never been a problem for me because I am not a night owl by nature), you can have a lot more “free time” to catch up on housework, doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, & just life in general.  When I worked day shift I realized that I was almost as tired as when I worked nights & I felt like I had a lot less time to get things done outside of work.  And I was making less money!

6. Because there are fewer ancillary depts going in & out of the rooms & less chance of patients leaving the unit for tests & procedures, it is considerably more likely that you will have time to actually TALK TO YOUR PATIENTS with fewer interruptions on night shift.  Trust me, my phone still rings way more than I wish it did & inevitably that seems to happen when I’m starting an IV or having a crucial conversation with a patient, but in general I do feel that I have more time to get to know my patients on night shift.   Sometimes this happens at 0200 when they can’t sleep & just need someone to listen to them.  I do think night shift nurses are less likely to be remembered by patients (at least our names) because hopefully they do sleep for at least part of our shift, but I also know that being there for a patient in the middle of the night when they are tired, lonely, & afraid can be a truly rewarding experience.

nurse pic

7. It is true that it is very easy to gain weight on night shift.  (There have even been research studies showing all of the health dangers of night shift.  They’re very depressing so I try not to read them!)  I’ll confess that I gained about ten lbs my first year as a nurse, but at last half that time I was working day shift so maybe it wasn’t totally night shift’s fault.  Anyway, I managed to lose all the weight & more, & I’ve kept it off for almost two years now, all of which has been while working night shift.  The upside to this is that when you do learn to manage your weight on night shift, you will feel like an absolute rock star for proving all the statistics wrong!

8. There is a certain level of constant fatigue that accompanies working night shift.  Actually I think it might just accompany being a nurse in general.  (Or maybe just being an ADULT!)  Anyway, for me that background level of fatigue is actually a good thing because believe it or not, it calms my brain a little bit.  I’ve spoken to my therapist about this & she says it’s actually quite logical.  For someone like me whose mind is constantly GOING, GOING, GOING like the Energizer Bunny, having a certain level of background fatigue can slow the “wheels” down just enough so that I can actually focus better & function optimally.  It sounds totally backwards I know.  But I swear it is true for me.

9. As I’ve mentioned previously, there are a lot less people around on nights.  One of the positives to this is that night shift nurses can (& do) talk about anything & everything.  This leads to some seriously hilarious conversations that are probably not fit to post here.  😉  But trust me when I say we have a lot of fun.  Of course nurses of necessity have a very twisted sense of humor so our idea of what is funny is often a bit “off” anyway.

sense of humor nursing

10. As I mentioned at the beginning, I DREADED night shift.  I had serious anxiety about it for MONTHS before I even graduated because I knew as a new grad nurse it was inevitable.  However, realizing that I can not only handle working nights but actually ENJOY it has brought me a tremendous sense of accomplishment.  Furthermore, it has reinforced to me that often the things we dread in life can actually be blessings in disguise.  I guess what I’m trying to say is, never say never.  I never thought I’d be happy working as a night shift nurse but here I am doing it & loving it.  🙂

15 Reasons Why Nursing is the Best Career Ever


Those of you who know me in real life may be aware that I spent a great deal of time pondering whether I should attend nursing school or medical school.  For a number of reasons I chose nursing, not the least of which was my scholarship to attend nursing school.  Even after graduation & moving on to “the real world” for a while I still had a lot of days (or nights) when I wondered if I’d made the right choice.  To further complicate matters I’ve even been told by well-meaning but clueless folks “You’re too smart to be just a nurse” or some variation on that theme.  Those comments used to really bother me & I couldn’t help but wonder for a while if maybe there was some truth in them.  But the longer I’ve been a nurse the more I’ve realized that being “smart” has little to do with whether one should be a doctor vs a nurse (or anything else for that matter).  Both fields require a great amount of intelligence along with many other important skills.  For right now I’m very content that nursing was the right path for me.  Someday I will probably “move on” to nursing education, Nurse Practitioner, or maybe even med school.  I’m not ruling out anything at this point.  But for right now nursing seems to be a perfect fit for me & I’m so glad I chose this path.

nursing humor

To be honest when I decided to attend nursing school I intended to be a bedside nurse for only a few years, maybe 5 years at most.  My sole intention was to advance to being an NP.  However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I actually love bedside nursing, a lot more than I honestly thought I would, & I’m in no hurry to leave it.  Yes, I have stressful shifts in which I wonder why the heck I chose this profession, but thankfully those are few & far between, & even on those shifts I know that I’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life in some way, no matter how small.  I’ve been blessed to work with some AMAZING people at both of my nursing jobs, from fellow nurses & nursing assistants to doctors & respiratory therapists.  What I’ve realized is that in healthcare (as everywhere) no man (or woman) is an island.  None of us can do our jobs alone.  I am not one of those nurses who feels the need to “cut down” doctors or compete with anyone for attention or glory.  The truth is every single healthcare team member is irreplaceable.  From housekeepers to nursing assistants, from doctors to pharmacists, from physical therapists to nurses, we are all invaluable.  And our patients receive the best care when we treat each other with the respect & dignity we all deserve.

With this being nurses’ week I’d like to send out a salute to all my fellow nurses for the excellent care you provide in whatever function you serve.  I’d also like to share what I believe are some of the best things about the nursing profession & why I can’t imagine a better career.

1. OPTIONS.  I for one cannot think of any other career in which you have as many options as nursing.  In the hospital alone, nurses can work everything from ortho & med-surg to ICU & ER to OR & endoscopy.  Or we can select a specialty like wound care, case management, or infection control.  If we tire of working with adults, we can switch over to babies or children or vice versa.  Outside of the hospital nurses can work with hospice, home health, or in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, schools, & clinics.  With additional training we can move on to nursing education, Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Anesthetist, management & administration, informatics, & many other roles.  The possibilities are truly endless.

2. Working 3 days (or nights, if you’re a night shifter like me) a week is awesome!!  I truly do not think I could ever return to the 9-5 grind.  Such a pain in the butt!  I love working my 3 12-hr shifts & then being done for the week.  Yes, I have NO LIFE outside of the hospital for those few nights but when it’s over, it’s over & I have more time left over for just LIVING.

3. Working with sick people is a constant reminder that life is short & good health & long life are never guaranteed, even for the young & seemingly invincible.  Since becoming a nurse I know I live my life with greater purpose & intention.  I hold those I love closer.  I don’t take tomorrow for granted as much.  I appreciate my good health & work harder to maintain it.

stethoscope

4. It’s often been said that nurses “eat their young,” & lateral violence is a well-documented phenomenon in the nursing world as well as in the healthcare field in general.  However, I must say I am blessed to have never really encountered this kind of behavior.  On the contrary, the nurses and nursing assistants I have worked with have been some of the kindest, most intelligent & hard-working people I’ve ever known.  From relatively new nurses in their 20’s like me to experienced nurses in their 50’s & 60’s, we all have so much to offer, & I’ve learned so much from my coworkers, not just about nursing but about life.  Some of my best friends are other nurses & I love you all.

5. Nurses can talk about ANYTHING.  And I really do mean anything.  If you’ve ever had a gross question about the human body, as a nurse you can ask it in front of your coworkers with no fear of embarrassment or scorn.  No topics are off the table with us.  It’s so much fun, trust me!

6. Nursing is never boring, at least any field I’ve worked in thus far has never been boring.  Whenever I have free time at work, there is always something to be done, from organizing supplies to helping out my coworkers with their patients.  Though I certainly have a routine, no two shifts are ever the same.  I never know what I’m going to see or encounter at work & that is part of what makes it so exciting.

7. On a similar token, the learning never ends.  I’m constantly taking classes to further my nursing knowledge or to learn about a new technology, piece of equipment, or computer system.  The continual learning curve, I believe, keeps my mind stimulated & interested & hopefully young as well.

8. Hearing a patient say thank you is one of the greatest feelings in the world.  Sometimes they don’t even say it but you can see it in their eyes & their smile.

9. Watching a patient who you thought would never recover start to improve is so inspiring.  I’ve seen patients I thought would never leave the hospital alive, much less walking & talking, recover & prove me wrong in so many ways.  Of course I’ve also seen lots of horribly sad things, but in order to survive in nursing you have to focus on the good stories.

10. As I emphasized previously, healthcare is always a team approach.  No one saves a life on his or her own.  But I know without a doubt that there have been times in my nursing career when my own critical thinking & quick actions, along with the help of others, have quite literally saved a life.  I can’t describe to you how great it feels to know you’ve helped save a life but those of you who’ve been there know what I mean.

11. Nursing is hard.  There are times when you will want to quit.  There are times when none of the stress seems worth it.  But the bad days make the good days sweeter.  And the challenges remind you that this really is a worth-while career.  As so many wise folks have said before, nothing good ever comes easy.  All jobs are hard at times & everyone has bad days.  But at least when I have a bad day as a nurse, I still know I’ve helped someone, & that makes the bad days easier to tolerate, at least for me.

12. Helping someone die peacefully & helping their family process this loss is one of life’s greatest challenges but also one of life’s greatest rewards.  There are some patients you will see more often than your own family members & losing them will be very difficult.  But knowing you made their last few days, weeks, or months at least a little more comfortable is an incredible blessing.

13. I don’t do OB nursing & never plan to, but I did get to witness both a C-section & a vaginal birth in nursing school & both were amazing experiences.  Though it’s not something I ever plan to pursue as a career, watching a baby enter the world is pretty miraculous.

nurse comic

14. I know it may seem unlikely that a profession that centers on caring for the sick & dying could possibly be humorous, but trust me when I say I’ve laughed more at work than almost anywhere in the past few years.  From crazy things that patients say (both confused & not confused) to crazy discussions with coworkers & everything in between, I’ve laughed a lot as a nurse the past few years.  And also trust me when I say that having a “wicked” or “twisted” sense of humor is a serious requirement to survive in the healthcare field.

15. Nursing will change you.  If you work in a healthy atmosphere & can maintain a positive (but realistic) attitude, nursing can & will make you a better person.  I know nursing has made me more confident, more resilient, more assertive, & so many other important things.  When I think about all the times I’ve stayed up 24 hrs straight or worked on just a few hours of sleep & still balanced the needs of 3-5 challenging patients, I think “Motherhood might be doable after all!”  In all seriousness, this profession does change you.  It will expose you to a lot of dark, scary, & tragic things.  You will see the “underbelly” of humanity so to speak.  But you will also see wonderful, life-affirming things that will renew & restore your faith in humanity.

If you’re a nurse, I hope this post has helped to remind you why our profession really is so amazing.  If you’re not a nurse, say thank you to those nurses who’ve helped you during times of illness or injury.  Trust me when I say you will make their day by doing so.