My 6 Biggest Nursing Career Fears As An Experienced RN
I recently wrote an article about my #1 biggest nursing career fear.
It was a hard post to write. It brought up a lot of emotions for me, but also helped clarify new career goals that I needed to set for myself.
At first glance, it may seem to some that I did that to torture myself. But there was a method to my madness.
I recently began a comprehensive writing and website development course that will take me at least 12 months to complete. And one of my first assignments was to write about a significant fear that I have that pertains to my current writing niche.
As a nurse mom blogger who writes about finding ways to help nurses take better care of themselves, I put a lot of thought into this. And I have concluded that one of the ways I want to take better care of myself is to NOT work as a floor nurse for my entire career.
Unfortunately, the wear-and-tear is starting to break me down. I am afraid that what was once a cerebral challenge is beginning to turn into full-fledged irreparable nurse burnout.
As a nurse blogger who frequently blogs specifically about the topic of nurse burnout, I have worked very hard to find solutions for my exhaustion.
My #1 reason for starting a website was to create an outlet for my own overwhelm and fatigue as a nurse and new mom.
Over the last two years, I have spent nearly every minute of my free time researching and exploring possible solutions for these struggles. Then I write it all out clearly as I can with the hope that I can help myself and (hopefully) other nurse moms in my position.
And voila, it works! For a while, anyway.
But, sadly, I eventually find myself feeling burned out again.
So, in the spirit of continuing the blogging assignment I mentioned earlier, I am going to dive in and open up about all of my fears about my nursing career.
It saddens me to think that I may not be a direct patient care nurse for much longer. The healthcare system needs great nurses. But I will always be a nurse, and as I like to say, a nursing practice can take many forms.
My biggest fears as a bedside nurse:
#1. I fear physical injuries from years of nursing.
There is alarming evidence now that even proper lifting techniques expose nurses’ spines to dangerous forces.
Also, chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced-based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%.
Many non-nursing professionals may be alarmed to hear that after only seven years as a bedside nurse, I am already feeling the wear-and-tear of being on my feet all day. I already have chronic back pain. My legs and feet ache for days after a 12-hour shift.
I do a lot of yoga as a preventative measure, and it helps tremendously. But as soon as I have another busy shift with a heavy patient load, the pain returns. Especially when I work with total-care patients.
#2. I fear a life of burnout and constant exhaustion.
I have written many times about my fatigue as a nurse and have even come up with several solutions to beat my nurse burnout (at least temporarily). But if I’m being honest, the only way I even recover from burnout is just not to work at all. It is incredible how much better l feel after stepping away from bedside nursing for a week.
Admittedly, I have created a few of my own unhealthy habits to cope with my nursing career. This is why one of my goals this year is to start taking simple steps to help keep my stress in check so that I don’t end up becoming a patient myself.
I realize now more than ever that, to care for others, I must take care of myself first. And the only proven way I have been able to do that thus far is to step away from the bedside and practice nursing in a different realm.
#3. I fear verbal abuse and violence.
Abuse against nurses is prevalent. Nurses are expected to put up with levels of abuse that would NEVER be acceptable in any other professional setting. I have been cussed at more times than I can count, in just about every colorful way you could imagine, for just doing my job. And guess what? Not one single abusive patient or family member as EVER been asked to leave the hospital. Sadly, it appears that nurse abuse is acceptable and that nurses must deal with it as a part of the job.
Here is a recent example: I had a patient verbally assault me in the vilest way possible when I brought them their scheduled life-saving anti-rejection medicines. I explained that I was there to help them, and calmly asked the patient several times to stop using vulgar language at me. Finally, I told them I would find them a different nurse and left the room.
Tearfully, I told my charge nurse, who supported me and assigned the patient a different RN. I found out later that the patient was so offended that I refused to be their nurse, that they filed a complaint against me. I also found out later that there were several other nurses in the days prior who had been putting up with the same verbal abuse.
Even worse, violence against nurses is prevalent (especially emergency room nurses), and it usually isn’t even routinely tracked. I have been lucky not to find myself the victim of direct physical violence as a nurse as of yet. Many nurses have not been so not fortunate.
#4. I fear not having more earning potential.
Working for an hourly wage kind of sucks. I am very driven, and I have a great work ethic. But no matter how hard I work as a nurse, I’m just not going to make any higher (or lower) than my hourly wage. I could work more hours, but I am already experiencing a lot of nurse burnout, and I have a family to take care of as well.
I often think about how nice it would be to get paid more for working harder. And I want the opportunity to earn a better living. Especially because we live in one of the most expensive cities in the US, and it’s only getting more expensive.
#5. I fear to have a terminal position with no growth opportunity.
There are opportunities for nurses who want to move into administrative roles or become nurse practitioners if you are willing to go back to graduate school for a master’s degree or Ph.D. in nursing. (When you work in the UC system in California, you MUST have a Masters Degree In Nursing to move into administration. No exceptions).
However, my bachelor’s degree in nursing was already my second college degree as I am a second career nurse (I have a prior BA in journalism). Not only was going to nursing school in my early 30’s the single hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but it was also extraordinarily expensive. I know a few nurses graduating with over $100,000 in nursing school loan debt (I don’t have it in me to tell them they will likely never pay it off on a nurse’s salary- at least not in California).
In addition, I have a family now with two toddlers who need me – and I’m already a working mom. So, I could spend a ton of money going back to school, spend almost no time with my family, have a whole bunch of brand new student loan debt, and have a terrible quality of life for the next 3+ years.
And quite honestly, the idea of being a hospital administrator doesn’t even sound very appealing to me. Not to mention, many nurse practitioners are making less then bedside nurses. Thus, I have a hard time seeing the benefit in more school at the moment.
#6. I fear not putting my own needs first.
In my first career, I was a medical device salesperson because I wanted the opportunity to make a significant amount of money. A decade later, I became a nurse because I genuinely wanted to help people and save lives. I wanted to do something that was so much bigger than myself.
I was proud to become a nurse, and I still am. However, this profession revolves around constantly putting other peoples’ needs first. And it must, because our patients’ lives often depend on it.
But I have a family to care for too. And as a mom of young children, I often feel that I am in constant “survival mode.” This leaves very little time for self-care.
Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself
Thinking about the things I fear most is probably my least favorite thing to do. In reality, I am a non-confrontational person and it feels unnatural for me to do a deep-dive into the things I am most afraid of. Especially listing them one-by-one and publishing them on my website!
But, if I can’t be honest with myself about what I feel in my gut when it comes to my nursing career, then how am I supposed to grow and create a better future for myself and my family?
As a busy working mom, I hardly have time to think about myself as it is. It would be a lot easier to pretend my fears didn’t exist and stay super busy until my kids turn 18 and go off to college. But making big life changes is hard, even when they are the best thing for you.
Plus, I would be well into my 50’s by then!
And I don’t have time to waste on being afraid!
Do you have any fears as a bedside nurse? Please leave a comment below!
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