Working in a hospital is anything like the corny drama on Grey’s Anatomy or House MD. Doctors don’t have sudden strokes of genius every other day, nurses can’t just come and go as they please, and there certainly aren’t as many romantic pairings as the plot of Grey’s might lead you to believe.
Being a nurse is hard. It takes hard work, dedication, skill, and passion. Lots of it. It’s not enough to be skilled in medicine. You need to know how to communicate with patients, how to understand their needs and take care of them in a way that makes them feel safe.
It would be great to have inside information from someone who has faced the struggles of being a nurse, and can help you understand if this is a career you truly want to pursue.
With that in mind, here are seven things most nurses wished they had known before they got their nursing degree.
Prepare to Work Overtime
One of the biggest draws of being a nurse is the flexibility. Most nurses work just three 12-hours shifts a week. Sure, that might sound great on paper, but in reality, you will often work more than that. There’s a nurse shortage, and a lot of hospitals are struggling to find fill-ins. That means that you will regularly receive calls on your day off from your colleagues, begging you to come in because they are short-staffed.
On the bright side, most hospitals offer great incentives, like an additional $500. It’s a great option when you want to go on vacation, but you don’t have the money – just pick up some extra shifts to pay for your holiday extravaganza.
Medical Care Is Just Part of Your Job
You’re not just a nurse. You’re also an adviser, a housekeeper, a mediator between families and doctors, and a shoulder to cry on when everything crumbles. Patients will ask you to reheat their food, get them the Wi-Fi password, help them change their clothes, and so on. They will look up to you for support, and they expect for you to be there when they need it the most.
You Will Make Mistakes
Nobody is perfect. As much as you try to do everything by the book, you will make mistakes. Your first one is the worst, and you will never forget it. Unfortunately, things don’t get easy as you grow; they get more complicated. You’ll get more responsibilities and the pressure not to mess up is heavy. You will constantly worry about everything until you are 100% certain that everything is OK with the patient.
You Need to Train Your Brain and Boost Your Memory
If you don’t have a good memory, you better start exercising it. Or come up with a system to help you remember everything. That’s right – you will need to remember everything, from your patient’s medical history and the doctors you work with to lab results, and so on.
You Will Cry for Your Patients
Sometimes, the stress of taking care of patients who are critically ill is mentally exhausting. You will work hard to save your patients’ life, and when you fail, you will feel a colossal burden on your shoulders. You will spend twelve hours getting lab tests, administrating medications, performing different medical procedures, but all you will want to do is holding the hand of a patient. The emotion you feel watching a mother cry over her dead child’s body or diagnosing a teen with cancer won’t go away after your shift has ended. But, you will need to keep it all together and turn into a column of supportive understanding for grieving families.
Be Certain This Is What You Want to Do
Nurses are often under appreciated. They work hard to ensure safe care for their patients, but they don’t always get the treatment they deserve. You will become a punching bag for angry and frustrated patients and families, and you will have to keep your calm as you work with difficult people. You will have to do this every day, so you need to be sure that you are prepared mentally and physically.
Helping People Will Make You Feel Amazing
There will be times when, after a hard day, you will question your career choice. However, the look on a patient’s face when you ease their pain will make all the bad moments go away. These interactions will make you feel like you have the best job in the world.
Being a nurse is hard. But it can also be the most rewarding thing in the world.