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 }

Nurses get a bad rap from all sides. I was told as a nursing student by some politicians in Albany that they respect nurses above all other professions. But how is that respect manifested? Lip service. Nurses are treated like imbeciles by other medical professionals. We are seen as the lower echelon of hospital workers. Often we are interchangeable. Our "superiors" are always surprised when we exhibit above average intelligence. Even after two years at my current hospital, many attendings and some residents do not know my name. We are rarely consulted even though we are more familiar with protocol and procedure than many MD's. We are held accountable if a doctor breaks the protocols. It is our responsibility to inform them of the protocols. If they wish to flout the rules and we are not acquiescent, they threaten to have us disciplined. We are belittled in front of our patients by certain doctors. We are considered insubordinate if we question an order. We are labeled difficult if we have an opinion that contradicts a doctor's opinion. We are expected to perform as worker bees who are only there to follow orders. We're required to document endlessly on every little event that occurs during a patient's stay. Administrators who make decisions for us are so far removed from what we do that they are unaware of the workload they are putting on us. The nurse must go into "Stepford" mode in order to survive long term in this profession. Don't have an opinion. Follow the rules. Take shit and like it. Comply. I know a handful of doctors who are genuinely kind and appreciative to the nurses and for them I am eternally grateful. I feel respect from them. They have my loyalty and respect in return. Sadly they are in the minority.

There is little or no compensation to being a nurse. The paycheck that you become dependent on is a seduction. It certainly doesn't approach our true work value. What is the price can I charge for the individual things I do? Doctors can charge per service. We are paid by the hour. Even when I delivered a baby because the doctor did not show up in time, he got paid, not me. I didn't even get a "thank you" from him. When I started out as a nurse and was making $50,00 to $60,000 per year, I thought that was a lot, more than I had ever made at anything. But as my experience grew, so did my paycheck. The amount of taxes appropriated from my bi-weekly paycheck is disheartening. We have to pay dues to an ineffectual union, and now we are mandated to pay our own medical insurance because the hospital administrators have determined it is not their responsibility to keep their staff insured. Most of our health complaints are work related injuries. Our work environment exacerbates medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and orthopedic issues.

Lack of a healthy amount of sleep is an issue for night nurses. I know when I have a few days off, it takes me two to five days to feel physically well and back into a normal sleep pattern. It is just when I feel good again that I have to go back to work and the cycle of sleep deprivation begins again. There is not enough money in the world that can make me stay in a job where my health and longevity is placed at risk. I realize this now. As I enter more fully into performing arts and writing, I feel different after a long night of writing or dancing compared to a 12-hour shift at the hospital. It's a satisfying kind of tired, as opposed to abject exhaustion. I feel a sense of accomplishment with my artistic endeavors. After a night of nursing, the only sense of accomplishment that I feel is that I got through another shift and the utter relief of leaving the building in the morning. The kicker is that I would do my art for a hug and a sandwich, that's how much I love it. That's how happy it makes me. That's how I know I want to do it for life.

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