What is being a nurse really like?

Ryan McVay | Thinkstock

Some TV shows would have you believe that a nurse’s sole function is to be a hospital handmaiden. But nursing is so much more than dispensing meds and cleaning up Code Browns. So what’s it really like being a nurse?



What is being a nurse really like?

  • It’s like walking a tightrope with your hands in your pockets. You must do this, that and the other, without unbalancing the act.
  • Nurses get to see so many things, patients come in hurt, afraid and vulnerable, or angry, confrontational and manipulative, and everything in between.
  • We do the best that we can with the resources we have.
  • We listen, we cheer, we encourage, we set limits, we admonish and we educate.
  • We hear ways to use cuss words we never knew existed.
  • We get to listen to stories of people who have been married 60 years and how they met.
  • We learn about family feuds and dysfunction.
  • We listen to young children’s fears and teenagers’ anguish,
  • Sometimes they are wrapped up in anger and defiance, so we have to be detectives and counselors.
  • We pull people from the edge of death, and sometimes they live, and sometimes they just exist, in a bruised and battered body with no real knowledge of where they are.
  • We feel frustration and hope, anger and joy, and all the little points in between.
  • We do our job and beyond.
  • We care, and we believe, we give and we receive, we comfort and we pray, and we work as a team to heal.
  • We are the eyes and ears of not only the physicians, but the families who cannot be there.
  • We navigate the HIPAA laws…or try to, even through the angry phone calls.
  • We get to hold the hand of the dying as they transition beyond this life and we hold the babies, gently, tenderly and guide them into this one.
  • We get to do so many, many things, be intimate with one person at a time, we change them and they change us.
  • Acknowledged sometimes, scolded, hit, cursed and called names at other times.
  • It is hard, physically, emotionally, mentally.
  • It is tearing down and building up.
  • To be a nurse…it is life-changing. And I am blessed.

Written by Nurse Sherri ‘Peppi’ Launius-Pepitone

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14 Responses to What is being a nurse really like?

  1. suzanne

    So beautiful!! Doesn’t matter where you nurse…It’s all the same!!! Tears in my eyes reading this. You definely KNOW what it means to be a nurse. HAPPY NURSES WEEK to all of US!!!

  2. punkey00

    That sums our job in such a beautiful and matter of fact way thy only another nurse could truly understand and appreciate!!!
    When I first read the headline, my first thought was nursing is one of the very few jobs that can make you feel like a hero and the villian all within the same shift!

  3. Smithteamracing

    We make a difference every day we work.

  4. Nursedavid

    Good Lord, it’s this sappy stuff which nursing students read and believe! 90% unrelentling stress and being micromanaged to the 9th degree, 10% reward.

    • carollynnSKJ

      I felt like that some days, nursedavid, but, I can’t imagine having done anything else. There are a tremendous amount of rewards. I can’t imagine any other job that would offer them in the same way. I think that if you don’t feel that way, it’s just not the job for you. Maybe you should go for a leadership position and change that micromanagement stuff because it does exist. The thing that kept me going was knowing that I truly made a difference.

    • queenie

      Someone I agree with. I think I like you. You tell the truth.

    • lukethenurse

      While I agree there is an element of micromanagement to our roles I think it unfair to say the article is sappy. Everything said here is part of every nurses professional lives, and for most of what has been said it should be a part of our lives (minus the abuse we sometimes recieve). If you feel this is sappy then perhaps you need to look closer at yourself and your practice.

    • momcat117@yahoo.com

      nursedavid you are so right. the only time i feel like a “nurse” is in the moments that I am with a patient, which amounts to 10% of my shift. the rest of the time I am a micromanaged cog in the money making wheel. very disillusioning, and it’s pathetic that so much sap is put out there to attract people into the field so that they can make the tremendous investment to qualify, and end up feeling like a meaningless cog in the wheel.

  5. queenie

    I was agreeing with NurseDavid.

  6. lukethenurse

    What a lovely article.

    • ilovegb

      I am retired. Until I joined this site, I thought nurses had it easier that back in the day. But I was wrong, seems like it’s the same old ^#$(. Guess that never changes. lol, Nurse Shirley

  7. qaqueen

    When it is bad, it can be REALLY bad. Not enough supplies, staff, time, etc..

    But when it is good, it is life affirming.