Random person:Do you really like being a nurse?
Nurse: Um, yeah, why?
RP: How can you enjoy a job that demands that you work hours outside the typical 8-5 M-F, and you have to work weekends, holidays and nights? Plus, you don't have a set schedule. That would drive me crazy not always working the same days every week.
Nurse: That's one of the great things about nursing, the flexibility. You can work around doctors appointments, school functions and other things you need off work for. You can work just weekends to be home with the kids, or you can work evenings or nights if you aren't a morning person.
RP: Another thing. Nursing is frequently cited as one of the most respected professions, but most of the time, all people hear about are how horrible their nursing care was. How their IV bag ran dry, or they waited forever for pain meds, or that their nurse seemed rushed. Oh, and the patients who think their nurse was a horrible ogre for not giving them the medication they wanted, even though it was the doctor, not the nurse, who decided against that med. Or the family who doesn't think you're doing enough for their family member, even though you've gone above and beyond to care for that patient. That's got to be disheartening. The saying "don't shoot the messenger" comes to mind. Sometimes you hear about how great a nurse was, but not as often. Plus the butt-reaming you get on occasion from a doctor, for reasons justified or unjustified, must suck. I've seen you come home in tears after a particularly horrible shift.
Nurse: There are times when no matter what I do, I can't seem to make a patient or their family happy, and times when I've had my ass chewed by a doctor. That is very frustrating. But, most of the time, patients are pleasant to deal with and the doctors are easy to get along with. After one night of verbal abuse by a patient, I've had the doc decide she needed to go in and talk to the patient about treating the nursing staff with respect and that the decisions made for her care came from her, not me. Occasionally, I've been told I'm a good nurse, that I made a good call, that I really helped a mom enjoy her birth experience, or that I've given them great advice when caring for their baby.
RP: You also frequently talk about shifts that are so busy that you don't get eat, drink much or even pee for 12 hours! Some nurses even get bladder infections from shifts like that! Or on the rare occasion you get to sit down to eat, a family member of one of your patients sees you eating and is instantly pissed because you are sitting and eating and not taking care of their family member. You can't win. You've gone into work feeling like crap, just because if you didn't they'd be way too short staffed. I also remember hearing about a nurse working with a broken bone, or in active labor until the end of her shift, because she felt she had to. How many other professions will do that?! It's high stress, and hard manual labor turning patients, running down the hall for an emergency delivery. Plus the sadness of death, whether it's an elderly man or a stillborn baby. How do you deal with all of that? How is it worth it?
Nurse: Nursing is very emotional. I had to understand my own beliefs so I could deal with the bad things that happen. Especially working OB. The good is really good, but the bad is really bad. We cry alongside patients and their families while still doing our job. There is a grieving process with death, not only for the family, but for the caregivers as well. I do what I can to provide resources for them and to help them start the process of grieving.
I guess what makes nursing rewarding are all of the little things. When you do something for a patient, whether by getting their pain under control, by helping them achieve the birth they want, and giving encouragement to go on, or by just listening to their concerns, that's what makes it worth it. It can be as simple as a successful IV start on a patient who is a "hard stick" and is deathly afraid of needles, or as big as reporting a suspected child abuser. It's when your bedridden patient smiles after a complete bedbath and back rub - that makes it worth it. When a new mom gets her newborn to latch on and breastfeed after hours of unsuccessful attempts. Or when you sit holding a dying woman's hand to let her know she's not alone. It's when I advocate successfully for a patient, and the patient never knows, that's why I'm a nurse. Those moments overshadow all the bad nights. Knowing that maybe, to at least one person, I've made their life a little easier, even if in the smallest measure - that's why I'm a nurse.