Nurse Follies: Getting Out

I’m getting the hell out.

Not completely out of nursing, just out of floor nursing. The time has come to move on and do something different.

I’ve read the stories of veteran nurses getting away from the bedside in droves. I now understand why. At first, I couldn’t articulate my reasons. I just hated my job. Every night before a shift, I would whine to Log about not wanting to go in. I’d come home, exhausted, and filled with stories of horrible patient antics and other dumb things. Occasionally, I’d have a good night. But those stories were grossly disproportionate to the bad ones.

Then, I read this blog entry, and it summed up part of my nurse-fatigue perfectly. I stopped caring, I became jaded. I would cringe whenever people would gush about my profession and refer to me as an “angel” for doing what I do.

The face of nursing is changing with the times. It’s less and less about helping people, and more about money. I was happy to do my job and let someone else worry about the financial aspect. I never looked at a patient and thought about how their hospital bill was going to be paid. Everyone got cared for equally from me, from the homeless guy to the VIP in the room next door. (As a side note, I hate the idea of labeling a patient a VIP as it implies I’m supposed to give them preferential care. Screw that!) But now, nurses are being included in the financial stuff. We need to keep track of cost, and charges, and budget. On top of that, the mountains of charting with have to do. And toss in the actual patient care we do, just to get a giant “Fuck you, I’m going to sue your ass!” whenever we don’t give them what they want (usually narcotics).

The other night, I was actually able to sit down with a patient and have a conversation. A little old guy who was lonely and didn’t have a lot of people in his life. He talked about his life, his fears, his routine, the family he had created in the places he regularly visited. At the end, he thanked me just for taking the time to sit and listen. This human connection is what my job has been missing, and it’s now the time to get it back.

I’m done with floor nursing. I’ve been doing it for so long, that I feel like I don’t have anything to prove. I’ve “hacked it” long enough. I’m tired of being an ambiguous cog in the healthcare machine. I need to do something that has meaning for me and the person I am helping. I’m tired. I’m tired of patients being ungrateful. Tired of the drug-seekers. Tired of always being subtly reminded that I am easily replaceable. Tired of being pissed on. Tired of being pissed off. Tired of shortages and ambivalence. Tired of seeing self-destructive people over and over again. Tired of watching patients rot from the inside out because family members don’t know how to let go. And I am tired of being a party to all of it.

So, I’m going to a clinic. It will be easier in some ways, and challenging in others. I’m sure my horrible patient stories will be few and far between, and I am okay with that. Sure, this decision may be narcissistic and selfish, but at the end of the day, I have to do what is going to make me happy. I have peace with this decision, and that tells me it’s the right thing to do.