5 challenges unique to nurses and their compensations


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As you already know, there are unique challenges involved in being a nurse. Despite the difficulties, however, there are some bright sides to these challenges, too. Here are five of them.

1. The bad death. Watching a patient die when there’s nothing you can do about their pain (or not enough), or watching family members squabble over how a patient should die, is horrible. However, seeing a patient get markedly better over time, or even after you’ve had a couple of days off, is amazing. Best of all is when they walk (walk!) back on to the unit to thank everybody for their hard work.

2. The gross-out factor. For some reason, people outside of nursing think that a nurse’s resistance to grossness is constant. For me, at least, it ends the minute I punch out. I tell people that they’ll have to pay me my usual hourly rate if they want me to listen to them describe their boils/injuries/surgeries.

But while I’m at work? Bring it on. There’s very little you can manage that will give me the heebie-jeebies. The fact that I mostly don’t have a sense of smell puts me at an even greater advantage compared to my colleagues.

3. The aches and pains. I’m talking achy feet, sore back, a particular type of cracking cuticles and computer headache, in combination. At the end of the day, especially at the end of a long day, everything hurts.

Those aches and pains, though, often come along with a feeling of satisfaction. You’ve made sure every test was done on time; every bed was changed and neat; every medication was given to the recalcitrant, demented patient; and the doctors, patients and families are all happy. That’s golden.

4. Having seen everything. Occasionally that stuff will haunt your dreams, especially when you’ve got patients who break your heart in one way or another.

On the other hand, having seen everything helps you reassure the person with whatever weird diagnosis that there is hope, that you have seen plenty of people get better and that they are going to be okay. Don’t underestimate the power of somebody else’s positive experience.

5. Being totally clueless. It happens, even to the oldest, most experienced nurse. If you keep pushing yourself to learn new things, well, you’ll sometimes be totally clueless and sometimes even moronic.

But you can learn new skills. You’re in a profession that requires it. And it’s exciting to think that, no matter how long you do this, there will always be new nifty things to know.

Agatha Lellis
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at

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