There is a lot more to being a nurse than a guaranteed job right out of college, flexible schedule, and a good paycheck. So, that’s why I shared 10 reasons I loved being a nurse. Nursing has some great job perks but the rewarding aspect is what gave me the deepest satisfaction, by a long shot.
Regardless of what I gained from being a nurse, it is still a job that I chose to walk away from, mostly for personal reasons. It just wasn’t the right timing for me.
Although my ultimate reason for quitting my job as a nurse was related to personal reasons, mainly a need to focus on being a mom, there were definitely some other issues that I had with both of the jobs I held as a nurse. So, today I bring to you 10 reasons why I hated being a nurse.
1. I rarely felt like I was actually helping
When I decided to pursue a career in nursing, one of my main goals was to help people who needed me. In reality, I rarely felt like I was actually helping anyone. The majority of my time as a nurse was spent passing out cups of pills and typing on a computer. Obviously, it varies depending on what type of nurse you are, but I’m talking med/surg floor nurse, because that is my experience.
So that was the majority of my time: med passes and charting. The next snippet of my time was spent running around from room to room, fetching snacks, cups of coffee, and mostly doing other people’s jobs for them, like helping doctors communicate with one another, performing patient care duties such as helping patients shower, and transferring patients from their chair back to bed for the physical therapists who had helped them out of bed initially.
I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy doing these things, usually I did. I’d love to just do everything for my patients but when I have 5-8 of them to keep track of, charting to do on every one of them, and you know, a body of my own that needs to be fed and hydrated, it was virtually impossible to complete everything on my to do list for the day.
I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus either. I wasn’t doing other people’s jobs because those people didn’t want to, or were lazy (well, most of the time that wasn’t the case). I would do other people’s jobs mainly because those people were so swamped, that they were incapable of fully completing their tasks. It was kind of like a trickle effect that started with poor hospital administration and extremely saturated healthcare demands.
Also to note, there were times when people had to do my job for me too.
Most hospital workers don’t have the time to go over the top for their job so that leaves the people beneath them with more work. It starts with the administrators who expect too much from the managers of the floors, managers can’t staff properly, which now the charge nurse has to deal with, and then the work conditions are so stressful that people quit or transfer, causing more staffing issues. It’s just a completely messed up, vicious cycle. Honestly, I’m not even sure if this is anyone’s fault because our healthcare system is so deeply flawed and messed up (more on that later). I don’t know how anyone could handle the intricacies of how a hospital functions. Just the idea of it makes my head spin.
So anyways, some days I would be left with small slivers of time, when I would go to a lonely patient’s room and just chat for a bit, or take my time washing and combing my patient’s hair, or whatever it may be. And those were the days when I felt like I was helping, when I felt like I could focus, take my time, and connect with my patients. That was when I felt like I was making an impact. And those times didn’t come often. They were quite rare to be honest.
2. Almost everyone is in it for the money
I remember when I realized that hospitals are businesses that profit off of sick people and it broke my heart. Whether we’re talking nurses, doctors, administrators, the CT guy; a lot of people working in hospitals are in it for the money.
I worked hard as a nurse, but most of my work was sloppy, rushed, and done in an anxiety-driven haste. I looked forward to payday and I often spent my paycheck on impulsive shopping purchases, extravagant brunch dates, and overall, just things I didn’t really need that would help me justify the fact that I was miserable at my job.
Just like how there are servers and retail workers and businessmen who dislike their jobs but do it anyways, only in a miserable, half-assed way, there are healthcare workers who are that way too and we’re holding people’s lives in our hands — just think about that. A lot of times, people performed their jobs poorly because of the working conditions, so I’m not saying that they are bad people or that it was entirely their fault.
Hospitals do contain tons of amazing healthcare workers, across the board. But these people are vastly out numbered by others who are simply capable of doing the work and choose to do it so they can make money. So many people are working at hospitals doing work that they hate or their employer is overworking them and making them miserable but they stick it out because, “I need to make money”.
These employees are lowering the standard of care for everyone and patients are suffering because of it. It’s a real problem. I’ll be honest, towards the end of being a nurse I was becoming one of these people (it took less than a year of poor working conditions to burn me out enough to get to this point — yikes). When I realized I really needed to quit, my only trepidation was related to the fact that I’d be walking away from a guaranteed paycheck, but when I realized that that was the only thing keeping me around, I knew it was time to quit. I didn’t feel like a good nurse, I was distracted and preoccupied. I needed to walk away because I truly wasn’t giving it my all.
I have witnessed a lot of nurses who are meant to be nurses. They are so compassionate, they are so kind, they are genuinely interested in this form of taking care of people. They truly believe that they are helping.
Money is hard to walk away from and there have been a lot of times in my life when I’ve trudged on in an unhappy situation because I felt stuck. It is easy to do. Some people contemplate quitting for 20 years though and trust me, you don’t want to be that person. These are the people who end up spending their entire professional career at a job they hate. Others just need their time to think it over, save money, or gain experience. The reality is, we probably all have to “stick it out” for a certain amount of time and that’s fine.
I’m not saying that if you’re a person who isn’t happy that you should change jobs right now. Just remind yourself of what your goals are. If you aren’t happy, then what do you want? What type of job is ideal for you? What aspects of your job are making you unhappy? Are there ways they can improve? If not, yeah, you probably should go elsewhere, but do take time and think it through, plan ahead, and save up some money first. Just don’t get stuck because your job literally becomes you.
3. Malnourishment is the norm
A couple of months into my first nursing job, I spoke to a therapist. I was feeling a lot of anxiety at work and having a hard time managing my stress at home. She so graciously offered the suggestion that I try to eat a small amount of protein at least every two hours while I’m at work. “Eating regularly can really stabilize your mood.” Well, she wasn’t wrong, but she was so incredibly oblivious to the fact that eating regularly was literally impossible to do consistently at my job.
Her lack of understanding was really frustrating. I was lucky if I got to sit for the first time and eat something before 4PM, let alone have a snack every 2 hours. I did start to bring some protein powder with me which helped, but the fact that chugging a lumpy protein shake as quickly as I could at 10AM was the closest thing to a “healthy habit” at this job is laughable. Being dehydrated and malnourished as a nurse is simply the norm.
Even at a job that was “well staffed” my days were so unpredictable that there was no way to form a healthy habit like that. This is probably why so many nurses struggle with chronic illness themselves.
4. Sensory overload
I often felt sensory overload after I came home from work, especially if I had worked 3 shifts in a row. I’d franticly speed walk to my car feeling so exhausted yet so wired at the same time. My ears rang once I sat in the silence. Some days I blared music on the way home in an attempt to numb myself from what I had witnessed that day. But when I’d drive home in silence with the windows down, that was the most peaceful feeling.
When working as a nurse, your senses are constantly being stimulated by sounds, bright lights, people rushing around, and people approaching you to ask questions. You are constantly being asked what you want to do and you’re having to make decisions in a snap. It’s overwhelming to the senses and can really make you feel mentally exhausted after the fact.
On top of that, you never really get a break to truly walk away. When you sit down to have lunch you’re in a closet sized room and almost never alone (unless you’re super lucky). Your coworkers are just as overly stimulated and caffeinated as you are and they’re just so curious about all of the food you’ve packed, how your day’s going, what your favorite color is (just kidding).
Okay seriously, all jokes aside, I had a lot of really sweet coworkers and I miss a lot of them. I was lucky to have them. But the design of hospital break rooms being so small and employees just being so wired all the time just fed in even more to the sensory overload of working in a hospital. By the time I got home, the idea of talking to anyone again for at least another 24 hours was exhausting. But 9 times out of 10 I’d have to be back the next day, only about 9 hours after getting home.
5. Compassion fatigue is real
Being a nurse caused me at times to feel inconvenienced by my families needs. Ouch, it hurts to admit that. After 3 straight 12 hour shifts of attempting (and often failing) to meet other people’s needs and listening to people complain (patients and coworkers alike), I often felt so emotionally exhausted that I didn’t even want to talk to my loving fiancé whom I’d barely seen for 3 days.
I literally would feel like I needed to lay down in a quiet room with a pillow over my head for as long as possible. I was using so much energy on other peoples needs, I couldn’t even address my own or that of my family. That made me feel a lack of control and a lot of guilt as well.
These days, when I’m shrugging my shoulders, rolling my eyes, huffing and puffing because my daughter just woke up for the tenth time and I just want to have a relaxing evening, I try to say your needs are never a burden to me. Even though it may appear that way at times, I pray that she believes me. I’m simply human. I’m trying my best. We all are.
6. I’m convinced that every hospital has staffing issues
My first job as a nurse involved the following patient ration: a team of one RN and one LPN took care of 8 patients, and there was a patient care tech somewhere in the mix (if you were lucky). The LPN gave out the medications and the RN assessed and charted on everyone, gave IV push medications, communicated with doctors, discharged and admitted new patients. Our patient care techs took assignments of anywhere from 13-16 patients. Sometimes we had 1 or 2 techs for the entire floor of close to 40 patients.
Then I got my new “better” job. During my interview, the manager told me, “we staff 3-4 patient care techs for our floor of around 20 patients,” I was in awe. Those ratios sounded like a dream to me. Although, definitely better than where I had come from, staffing issues were still very prevalent at this job. And to be totally honest, I rarely witnessed a shift that staffed more than 2 patient care techs at a time because that is simply all they had to work with. Again, not trying to point any fingers, just telling what I honestly witnessed. To be fair, I only held this job for 2 months, so I had a narrow view into the actual working conditions.
It’s pretty understandable that hospitals have staffing issues because nursing is a profession that involves a lot of turn over. Nurses are constantly transferring, changing their schedules, getting new jobs, etc. I’m not sure how managers can handle these changes so some staffing issues are bound to exist but it just became frustrating for me when I realized that these issues exist virtually everywhere. I only have worked at two hospitals, so if you’re a nurse and you’ve worked at a hospital with no staffing issues please share some insight below! I’d love to hear from you.
7. Our healthcare system is deeply flawed
I knew that healthcare systems had issues but I had no idea the extent until witnessing it first-hand. Again, I’m not blaming anyone because it is such a complex system and I personally have no idea what the solution might be. What I do know, is that I saw plenty of patients (mainly at my first job) who were essentially living at the hospital with no long term care option because the long term facilities couldn’t accept them and they had no family to help.
I will never forget the quadriplegic patient who had come in from living in a house with meth addicts. He had unstageable pressure ulcers covering his lower back and sacrum. No rehab facility would take him because of his younger age and medical complexity and they couldn’t discharge him back to where he came from because he wouldn’t receive adequate care there. He lived at the hospital for months and months. Finally, it was somehow decided to discharge him home. It looked like they had found reliable family to care for him, or so they say. He left the hospital and a few months after that, he was found on the side of the road, non-responsive. Someone had literally just left him there. They brought him into the hospital and found multiple drugs in his system. They weren’t able to revive him and he died.
This was the only time I had witnessed a situation like this with such a tragic outcome, but I have no doubt that there are many situations like this that I just haven’t heard about. I wish I could say it was the only time I saw a patient living at the hospital with no medical needs and no place to go, but I saw it many times over. It just showed to me how deeply flawed this system really is. I can’t help but ask myself and anyone who may know, how can we help these people? How can we change this system? Yes, the system is extremely saturated with minimal staff to help but we are failing people left and right.
8. A new level of “busy”
I remember working as a server and feeling “in the weeds” when I’d get 3 or 4 tables all at once. I’d panic as I thought about who I would go to first, striving to get everyone fed in a timely manner. As a nurse, I’ll never forget the feeling of discharging 5 patients at once as my new admission rolls up simultaneously. Or the times I was still getting report from night shift when its after 7:45 and I’m watching the breakfast treys be delivered to my diabetic patient’s who’s blood sugars I needed to check before they started eating.There was even a day when I had to hang a blood transfusion immediately after beginning my shift because the night shift nurse hadn’t gotten to it, and while I was in the room with the patient for the required 15 minutes after the transfusion began, one of my other patients became hypoglycemic while another ones chest tube began to leak. Oh, the memories.
I will truly never forget the feeling of being “in the weeds” as a nurse, because it was so much more intense than any other sense of “busy” that I’ve ever felt in my life. What made the difference? The fact that I feared someone would die at my hands. That was always what it came down to. Yeah, it’s too bad if your table doesn’t get their drinks fast enough or if their order comes out wrong, but what about when you’re too wrapped up in one patient’s room and someone else needs you at the same time? As a nurse, I constantly felt the need to be in multiple places at once. I honestly wished I could clone myself on multiple occasions. Luckily, it never got to the point of truly endangering anyone’s life, but it easily could have.
9. So much toxin exposure
Hospitals are just filled with strong toxic chemicals whether it be the cleaning products the janitors use, the hand sanitizers we’re constantly slathering ourselves in, toxic drugs that float through the air, or the unfiltered water that you’re forced to drink for 12 hours a day. I felt like as a nurse, no matter how hard I tried to live a “healthy” lifestyle, it was inevitably ruined by my job because I’d always have to accept exposure to tons of toxic chemicals while in the work place. I actually got to a point where I just felt like giving up on avoiding toxin exposure in my day-to-day life because I knew my job ultimately ruined any effort I put forth to live a healthy lifestyle. Having experienced this job first hand definitely showed me why so many nurses suffer from health issues — it is virtually impossible to live a healthy life while working at this type of job.
As a hospital worker, I often felt like I was just a part of a pack following along with the policies of the facility. Sometimes, things truly didn’t make any sense and when I questioned why something was done a certain way, the answer was always, “it’s hospital policy” or “that’s just how we do it”. It quickly became evident to me that having a voice of reason as a nurse is not exactly the most common practice. Obviously, no one directly said this to me, this is all based off of my opinions and inferences so please feel free to agree or disagree, but I felt like it was expected of me to put my head down, do my work, and not question anyone or anything. This realization showed me how much power large corporations like hospitals truly have — it’s pretty scary.
I was once pressured into receiving a Hepatitis B vaccine by my employer. I did what I was supposed to do, I went to employee health, I got the vaccine, and that was that. I signed a waver prior to receiving the shot and it listed the brand name of the vaccine. No one provided me with information about potential side effects or discussed anything with me. They simply had me sign the form and gave me the shot. I looked up the vaccine after the fact to review the potential side effects and read that it isn’t recommended for breastfeeding women to get this shot because the safety hasn’t been confirmed. If you can’t guess already, I was a breastfeeding woman at the time. No one told me, no one asked me. This type of culture is so widely accepted by nurses that I honestly wasn’t even that surprised, I was just frustrated more than anything. This is how we’re used to treating our patients, just following doctors orders and hospital policy. It’s a slippery slope.
I want to emphasize the fact that I’m not trying to convince other nurses to quit their jobs — we need nurses. Nor am I passing judgement on those of you who work in this profession. If anything, I have serious respect for nurses because to be successful as a nurse, an incredibly high level of resilience and selflessness is required. I’m simply sharing my experience with the hopes of starting a discussion about these issues. The more we speak up about our struggles, the more likely it is that something could change.
Finally, I want to emphasize that the title of this post is “10 Reasons I Hated Being a Nurse”
Emphasis on “reasons” because I didn’t hate being a nurse entirely, there were aspects I loved. The bad just simply outweighed the good for me and I truly could not handle the stress. I had to put myself and my family first. I may return to nursing one day, and that doesn’t make me a hypocrite.
And finally, emphasis on “I” because this is my experience and everyone has a different journey. If you are excelling at nursing, more power to you. If you disagree with what I’ve said, then that’s fine too, this is my opinion and you are entitled to yours as well.
Thank you so much for reading (my longest post yet!), and let me know your thoughts in the comments!