Two Years a Nurse

Two years ago today I was officially listed on the Texas Board of Nursing website as a registered nurse!

The past two years have been good, bad, hard, fun, and such an expansive learning experience as a new nurse. Nursing school did NOT prepare me for what it’s actually like to be a nurse at the bedside, completely responsible for my patients for a 12-13 hr shift. Of course I knew that the reality of being a nurse was going to be different than what I was able to observe and practice in nursing school, but being a “real world” nurse is SO much more than I expected.

In my residency program I was given 16 weeks to orient to being a nurse. I honestly felt like it was the perfect amount of time…in the beginning I thought I’d never get to the point where I was comfortable taking patients on my own and fully taking care of them, but then by the end I was so ready to not be hovered over anymore, haha!

Of course in the beginning my preceptor and I started out with just one patient, and it was basically me learning how to develop and follow a routine, tackle time management, and take care of a patient with the guidance and help from my preceptor right there beside me. And then as time went on and I was comfortable with completely caring for one patient, another patient was added to the mix. Gradually of course the patient assignment increased until I was doing everything for 3-4 patients with only occasionally needing guidance and help from my preceptor.

About 6 months after I came off orientation the realities of bedside nursing, hospital politics, short staffing, and various other things started to catch up to me and I found myself frustrated and bitter with work on a daily basis. I dreaded going into work. I really enjoyed being with the patients and the patient care that I gave but everything else weighed me down. I was (and am) afraid of making a mistake. I was (and am) afraid that I wouldn’t catch something that I should have. Plus a part of me was angry with myself that I didn’t hold out for an ICU job right out of school like I wanted (even though in retrospect I think starting out on the stepdown unit was the perfect first job for me!) I found myself disillusioned and dissatisfied.

And I was frustrated because nursing had been my passion for a long time. I worked hard for my degree and I didn’t want to lose that zeal and that love for the profession.

Well thankfully I was able to take 3 months off for maternity leave in September. It came at just the right time and surprisingly when the time came to go back to work I actually found myself excited again and ready to get back into nursing. And while I still have bad shifts and days when I don’t want to go to work, I have found that the extended break really help “reset” my emotional self and somehow gave me my love for nursing back.

I’ve learned a lot in the past two years and have built the foundation for being a good nurse. I still have a TON that I want to accomplish and I know I will forever be learning but I’m so glad that the first couple of years of being a nurse are behind me. And I’m so excited to be continuing my career as a new ICU nurse starting in March!! In the middle of January I interviewed for a CVICU and a general medical/surgical ICU and actually got offers for both! I surprised myself – I really thought I’d go for the CVICU (considering I LOVE the heart and I’m familiar with the cardiac system the most since I work on a cardiac stepdown unit) but I ended up accepting the offer for the general ICU. I like the fact that it will give me more experience with the other body systems and I will have a wider knowledge base. Especially because I want to become an acute care nurse practitioner in the future and I want to have a good understanding of more disease processes than what just affect the cardiac system.

I’ll put a blog post up somewhat soon (as soon as my 4.5 month old will allow me the time to write it!) summarizing a typical shift and what my nights generally look like. For now let me just end by saying I’m happy to be back and I’m super excited for the new experiences to come! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Two Years a Nurse

  1. Ive read your posts before when I was just graduating nursing school. Reading this post now I am struck by how similar our nursing career has been. I started on a cardiac step down unit and experienced many of the same emotions as you. After one year at that job, despite loving my coworkers and enjoying patient care, I quit and took what I call “my first retirement”. I spent three months hiking the Appalachian trail and was not even sure I would go back into nursing. Fortunately, I ended up back in the field as a burn icu nurse. I still find myself frustrated and emotionally exhausted but I’m happy with the new challenges and the chance to expand my knowledge. Now I am just starting to navigate what my next step will be. Thank you for sharing your experiences, and reading through my own nursing thoughts. Yay for nurses!

  2. Hi Amber,
    I just happened to stumble across this blog and wanted to say that it has blessed me so much. I am from Georgia, in my first semester of nursing school. I failed my physical assessment check-off this last week because I forgot one very small, simple step (stupid me!). I was feeling discouraged this evening and reading your stories really cheered me up and helped me remember why I chose to do what I’m doing.

  3. Hi,

    I’m really interested in your thoughts on volunteering at children’s. Would you say volunteering could have led up to a job opportunity?

  4. Hi Amber, How has year 3 gone for you?! I’m starting a second degree Accelerated BSN program in the fall and I loved your post on organization and have been since reading other posts 🙂 Not going to lie, this last post had me a little nervous since I’m sometimes nervous that I won’t be cut out for the job…but I’d love your honest thoughts on the year you’ve had since this post.

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