Confessions of a Frustrated Nurse

Although she enjoys the pay of a nurse, she longs to earn a living making her art.

by Julie Snyder • Member { View Profile }

I'm an RN in a NYC hospital. I've had a rough time at work in the past few months. Staffing issues, undesirable changes in personnel, a poorly timed visit from JCAHO, and change in computer system all add to the stress and confusion we are experiencing. There is a chronic problem of broken and missing equipment. In this environment, we must accommodate an overwhelming volume of patients (our hospital boasts one of the highest volume of births in NYC with nearly 6,000 deliveries a year.)

We passed the JCAHO inspection. All administrative efforts were focused on prepping the unit and priming the staff with mini drills. They even put an extra nurse in the C-section that JCAHO monitored; a "baby nurse." Something we simply can't afford the luxury of having in an unobserved delivery. There are not enough nurses to spare. The ones we have left are burned out.

I see my co-workers sighing, angry and frustrated. Some of us are getting a wild-eyed look of desperation that comes with the fight-or-flight response. We talk among ourselves. The consensus is that we do not feel supported, or heard or appreciated. Words of appreciation and pep talks can only placate us for so long. The upshot of this careless approach to nursing issues is that we come in late, call out or leave altogether.

There are nurses who have invested themselves fully in their job and the hospital for over 20 years. One nurse was verbally honored for her longevity at a morning "huddle" for which she got applause. The acknowledgement was followed by an apology that there would be no token of appreciation such as a traditional gift or dinner in her honor. She smiled wryly and everyone looked at each other knowingly. Why did that not come as a surprise? It's what we have come to expect. Disregard.

As an RN of 12 years, I've run the gamut of experiences. I will never be one of those nurses honored for her longevity. I started late (at age 37), and my primary interest in being an RN at this point is the paycheck. I have no job satisfaction. Don't get me wrong, I do love the times with my patients where we bond and talk together like new friends. In those moments, they feel safe with me, and I feel human. It is all I have to get me through a grueling shift. But as a night nurse by choice, I'm among the population of nurses who get the brunt of the short-staffing issue. This leads to a heavier workload and no breaks. Not many nurses want to stay on nights for long, but the night shift works better than the day shift for me. I can be home for my children when they come back from school in the afternoon, help them with their homework, make them dinner and get them to bed at a reasonable hour...then to school in the morning. This would not be possible for me to do if I went to the day shift. I would have to leave before they were awake and not be home until their bedtime. They would have to fend for themselves whenever I worked. This is not what I want for them, so I remain on the night shift.

Right now I'm at a crossroads in life. I will be 50 next year. I have kept my balance and sanity with my "hobbies" over the past six or seven years. This began with modeling and writing, costuming and crafting. These things gave me back a dimension of my life that I gave up when I became a nurse. I have always been an artist anyway you look at it. I'm happiest when creating something, whether it is some writing, a sketch, a costume, a dance or a song. In nursing I have had to curb my mind and learn only the things I'm required to do by wrote. It was a very hard lesson for me. Nursing is an unnatural fit for an artistic type, but I have learned a lot from it. Artists have an extremely difficult time with rules and protocol. They are the wild card in a hierarchic situation as they are constantly leaving the "box." We don't see lines or boundaries. We don't see ourselves as better or worse than anyone. We also are not impressed by authority. We put values on people's behaviors, not their station or title. I've had to learn a new mindset by being out of my element in a hospital environment. I've been in survival mode ever since becoming a nurse. I'm tired of the struggle.

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