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What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming A Nurse
Nursing school can only teach you so much. Most of what you learn as a nurse comes from the countless hours of tending to patients, working with doctors, and dealing with immense amounts of pressure and stress.
After a few years, your outlook will change and you'll learn a few things that you didn't know or expect in nursing school, including:
You Will Make Mistakes (and that's okay)
Mistakes happen. It's a fact of nursing and of life, but that won't stop you from beating yourself up when you make your first mistake.
It's going to hurt. You might cry. You'll probably never forget about it, but you can't let that mistake define you or hurt you.
The problem with the healthcare profession is that mistakes can be deadly. They can lead to serious health and legal ramifications. But that nursing degree doesn't make you a faultless automaton. You're still human, and while you should always try to do the right thing, you have to understand that mistakes can and will happen.
Your Job is Not Just About Medical Care
Nursing students often enter the workplace believing that they will spend most or all of their time by bedsides caring for patients. That's certainly a big part of the job, but nurses are also tech experts, patient advocates, counselors, friends, and even housekeepers.
Your role is multifaceted and during any given day you can go from calming down angry patients to checking vital signs and cleaning up bodily fluids.
If a patient can't access the WIFI or family members need directions to the nearest vending machine, you're the one they will turn to. If there's an argument among family members or colleagues, you'll be the one stepping in.
You'll Be Worker Harder and Longer Than You Thought
Your schedule might look manageable on paper, but in reality, it'll be longer, harder, and more stressful. 12-hour shifts can easily turn into 15 hours when you finish reporting on patients and dealing with the changeover. Three-day weeks can turn to four or five when the hospital is short-staffed and you're the one who gets the early morning phone call.
You Will Feel Underpaid
In nursing school, the salary of a registered nurse looks quite promising. But as soon as you start your nursing career, you'll feel like you're working more than the salary justifies.
Fortunately, there are lots of additional opportunities to earn. You can pick up some overtime, work extra shifts, or consider a different specialty.
Nothing Will Prepare You For Death
Death is something that we all have to deal with at some point. We have all lost grandparents, parents, uncles, aunties, friends, lovers. But for most people, the process is gradual and it's not something we have to deal with on a regular basis.
For nurses, it's a different story. You will see people die from injuries and disease, and most of them will stay with you. Most nursing students convince themselves that they will become desensitized to death, and that happens to an extent, but it's going to take a while and every death will impact you in one way or another.
You Need to Be Strong
Nurses tolerate levels of stress, pressure, and misery that would break most people. They are mentally strong and possess an incredible constitution, as well as great critical thinking skills and the ability to think and act quickly.
But they also have a wealth of physical strength.
You'll be on your feet all day and will spend that time walking, lifting, and carrying. Your feet will hurt. Your back will hurt. And as you won't have a lot of free time, you'll be doing most of it with an empty stomach and a full bladder.
Learn proper body mechanics to avoid serious back, knee, hip, and leg problems in later life. Exercise. Eat well. Perform basic stretching routines. Sleep a lot and keep yourself in good shape. It will make life a lot easier for you.
You'll Learn the Importance of a Big Breakfast
If you don't eat breakfast at nursing school, you will when you start your career. Simply grabbing a cup of coffee and a snack won't be enough to sustain you throughout the day. Your energy levels will dip within a couple of hours and your work will suffer until you have a chance to eat lunch.
You may need to eat on your commute, so get used to filling up on calories while you're on the train, bus, or before you leave for work.
Nurse Abuse is an Unfortunate Reality of the Job
Nurse abuse happens. It's a high-stress and high-pressure environment. You will be shouted at and sworn at. Patients won't always treat you with the respect that you deserve, and while it can be hard to push through, it's all part of the job.
You'll Be a Walking Medical Encyclopedia For Your Friends
If your friends or family members have a health complaint, who do you think they'll call?
From distant cousins you haven't seen in years to parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors, everyone will want to tell you about their health problems.
The nursing profession is about helping people and nurses are caring by nature, but that doesn't mean they want to spend their days working and their nights staring at their friend's boil and their father's rash. It can be difficult to establish a proper work-life balance, especially in those early days when it's hard to say no.
Your Social Life Will Diminish
Even when you're not working 5 days a week, you'll still struggle to maintain a respectable social life.
All your friends will be free on the weekends and holidays. They'll work respectable hours at normal times, and they won't always understand why you're dead on your feet after a long shift at work.
You'll miss birthday parties, dinner parties, drinks with friends, and other get-togethers, and the more that you miss, the more you'll drift apart from your friends.
You Will Constantly Worry That You'll Kill Someone
In the early days, it's hard to shake the fear that you'll do something wrong and kill someone. It all feeds into the reality that you will make mistakes and should accept the fact, but that fear will actually make you more prone to those mistakes.
Of course, getting rid of that fear is easier said than done, but once you make a habit of triple-checking your work, you'll adapt. Over time, as you gain the necessary experience, providing patient care and dealing with complicated medical equipment will become second nature, allowing you to relax a little.
Summary: Things I Wish I Knew In Nursing School
The harsh reality of becoming a nurse is that nursing school is difficult and expensive, the job is demanding and draining, and you won't always get the respect or salary that you deserve. But nursing practice can also be very rewarding and allows for a great deal of personal and professional development.
You'll make new friends in the workplace. You'll meet some great patients, and once you have helped save someone's life and realize just how much of an impact you're having, you'll realize that it's all worthwhile.
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