In my humbly short and ongoing career as a nurse, I’ve mainly worked in the hospital setting. I have to say: I love it…but I also hate it.
I must say I was quite naive when I started. “Do you want to do some extra time here? Do you want to do an extra shift on this Tuesday?”
At the beginning, I was doing it to help my coworkers. When you’re doing one of those RARE 8-hour shift AKA “short day” (but what the average human calls a regular day), and you know no one is scheduled to replace you at the end of your shift; that you’re literally giving extra work to the other nurses that are staying for the remaining 4 hours. You do feel guilty…
At least at the beginning.
Then I did it for the money…and the money was always so promising, right? A little overtime here, and a little overtime there, and I’ll be able to pay me this nice winter jacket I wanted for so long. Or, like I heard the other day: “this will help me pay for my son’s braces.” It’s so easy to get carried away. And you do see a difference in your paycheck. But have you noticed how the Tax Man collects his money? Whether it’s in your bi-monthly paycheck slip, or at the end of the fiscal year, you rest assured that the money you’re getting does not compare to what you have actually done in OT.
So I did this for a while. OT here, extra day there. On a medical floor, caring for 6-8 patients on average (when the “ideal” ratio is 1 nurse for 4 patients). Eating late or skipping my meal altogether just to make sure I wouldn’t leave too late at the end of my shift. Or finishing 30 minutes late because I never had enough time to chart during the day. And when you go home, you’re like a zombie, or worse, you’re snappy and cranky because you got crap from patients’ family or doctors all day. And you need to vent and let go of that stress. And the list goes on and on. Crazy how one is able to put up with so much daily crap, heh?
Then I went to ER-trauma. I know, crazy-me lol. I loved the adrenaline, I still do. But this was the epitome of short-staffing shifts. And in ER, there is no such thing as patients quota. If you work in the monitored care area, for example, you obviously can’t say to a 54 y.o gentlemen who presents with chest pain radiating to the left arm, shortness of breath and nausea: “I’m sorry Sir, there is no more room, no more cardiac monitors, so we won’t be able to accommodate you. May I suggest that you head towards the RVH hospital…it’s about 10 minutes away by car? Ok take care!”
You just can’t.
So patients are pilling up. Sometimes you can’t get in between stretchers because the room is so full. No patient privacy whatsoever. You’re trying to do the simplest task, an EKG on a 30 something y.o lady, and you can’t even find a curtain to close. SMH.
You don’t eat properly. You barely sleep. The hours are too long. You can’t do your work the way you want to because of the environment. Your back hurts. Your head is pounding because you’re dehydrated. And, of course, you need to pee…like 3 hours ago. It’s chaos in the setting… and in your body too.
These frustrating experiences have led me to create healthfornurses.com.
I figured it would be a great place to start, in order to help other nurses who are on the verge of a depression or a burnout. Because a lot of us are. It’s a demanding profession, and if your coping mechanisms are taxed beyond measures, you’re still at risk of those and other illnesses. We see so much suffering, so many traumatizing stuff, that sometimes we forget we’re real. That we too are human beings. That we need to be taken cared of. That we’re vulnerable.
This blog is also a good therapy for me, as I do find relief in writing. I know that the issues we nurses are facing in Canada are similar to the ones American or Asian nurses face. I know we can almost all relate to the busy shifts, the crazy schedules and the frustration we go through when dealing with other human beings. I want HFN to become a platform, where everyone, nurses LPN, RNA, PABs, and other professionals (regardless of their background) can share a little bit of their experience, their knowledge about how to deal with stress and find a work-life balance.
And you’re about to find out.
This was a bit of my journey…
What about yours?