Ahh the joys of nursing! I think all nurses can agree that our intentions behind joining the field of nursing are in some way, the same. There may be some variation, but by and large, we like the idea of helping. We have this intrinsic desire to help people. Some nurses have a more detailed story, maybe they were the caregiver to a family member, maybe a family member was sick, etc. etc. And I think all nurses have definitely been given the opportunity to help people during our nursing career, many times over.
BUT, I am here to tell you that nursing school left out a huge chunk of reality during nursing school. So here s my list of a few things that I wish I was warned about during my nursing training.
1. No one will say thank you- it’s common decency right? You do something nice for people and they say, ‘Thank You’. Well, nurses are viewed as people who help for a living, so somewhere along the way, the sheer thought of saying ‘Thank You’, has gone out the damn window. I get it, you don’t feel good, you’re pissed, whatever, but man, just be nice!
2. Early on, your peers may not be mentors. We have all heard the saying, “Nurses eat their young”. But Holy Hannah, is that ever true! Now, I know there are different departments and hospitals that have amazing cultures, and really support the guppy nurses. That’s great. But I have to tell you, bullying, at all levels, is very real. If you are humble, no matter your background, and remain teachable, it wont last as long. At least until the next guppy comes along…
3. Let’s talk money- now the topic of pay is all relative. If you worked at Publix before, then yes, it will be an amazing raise. However if like much of the new nursing workforce, if this is a career change and you were in a successful career before this, make sure you are well aware of the pay. I’m not saying it’s bad or low, just be aware.
4. You’re going to get sick- two things I want to say here. Many many hospitals are very old, and may not have the best filtration systems (sounds like they should, right?). Between dust, mold and just really old buildings, and the fact that you will be exposed to a whole new array of germs, be prepared to be sick. A lot. Don’t worry, it will get better, just pump yourself up with immune boosting supplements (I can tell you about my favorites) and drink lots of water.
5. 12 Hour shifts- It’s almost impossible to find a nursing job that isn’t 12 hours. At least if you want to work in a hospital setting. Now there are benefits to 12 hours shifts, like only aging to work 3 days a week! BUT, those 3 days are completely, and utterly, shot. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, you will be able to get done before or after working 13+ hours (don’t forget the drive and report time).
6. Footwear- first of all, don’t fall into the comfort of Crocs and wear them to work. Yes they are great because you can hose off the blood, pee, and poop that you will inevitably get on your shoes, but leave them in the garden folks. They do not support your feet NEARLY enough. I always found that a really good and kind of pricey pair of sneakers are best-good for running, but not up on stilts like those other well known nursing shoes. Two weeks wearing those working in the ER and I almost sprained my ankle.
7 Poop- All people poop, and it all smells. We know this. But, you will come in contact with more stool, in more colors, textures, odors and volumes, than you EVER imagined.
8. Gag buddy- while on the topic of poop, I will never forget the faces of some of my peers when I asked them to help change a patient that pooped himself, or the little old lady that was quite literally in a pool of diarrhea. Sure, it stinks, but it doesn’t make me gag. Trach care, snots, phlegm, mucus–I can’t do it. So here’s the trick – find out what your kryptonite is and buddy up with someone who is cool with that. I didn’t have to look hard for a buddy nurse to accept this offer: you clean my mucus patients and I will clean your poop patients. You’re welcome.