I’m a burn out

I  felt like I did everything right growing up, I worked hard in high school (by working hard, meaning I got good grades nothing else) and went to college. I started college a little unsure of what I wanted to do. I knew I loved the arts and I loved people and helping others. I volunteered, I worked with the special needs community and I fell in love with it. My first degree was in art history, even though my mom told me it was going to be hard to get a job out of college with that degree, of course I didn’t listen to her, I did it anyway. In my senior year I decided to switch to nursing because what my mom had been telling me was very true, finding a job with an art history degree was going to be hard and I wasn’t going to make much doing it. To be successful on my own I knew I’d have to do something different. I loved working with special needs kids. I was patient, I was kind, I had a big heart, and wanted to help each one of them grow, even if it was a small amount. I loved the relationship and bond each of us grew to have. Nursing seemed perfect. Nursing school was perfect. It was challenging and I loved to learn new things every day and meet new people. You are taught to go to college, pick something you want to do for the rest of your life and you’ll be set. Right?
I got my first job out of college at an inner city hospital on a medical-surgical-orthopedic-telemetry floor. We have patients with every kind of need. Knee and hip surgery, gallbladder, gastric bypass, appendix, and colon resection surgeries. I worked night shift 3-12 hour shifts every week. I had 7 patients every single night. Patients that constantly needed pain medication, constantly needed help to the bathroom, help turning, help sitting up in bed. It was a very stressful position with a very challenging inner city population. I walked in on patients having sex, I walked in on patients with their girlfriends and wives, I learned not to assume who each visitor was so I wouldn’t start a fight with the patient and that visitor. I walked into rooms where patients had knives. I was never appreciated for what I did for others family members. I loved my co-workers though, and I even won an award for being the employee others most wanted to work with. I went above and beyond every night, I had my routine down pat, I helped others when they were struggling with their 7 patients. I worked my butt off and got no where. I tried many other nursing routes after that, rehab, pediatrics, home care, ICU, and ER. The one that stuck was ER. I was constantly on the go, I had a greatest co-workers ever, I got to work with the doctors, and learn something new each day. The only thing that has bugged me with the ER is sometimes I have to work so fast I’m not thinking why I’m doing something, I’m doing it just to get it done.
It’s been 3 ½ years that I’ve worked as a nurse, and I’m tired. I think about working for another 40 years and it honestly makes me sick to my stomach. I still have those good days where I feel like I’m doing something good, one patients says thank you, and I feel like I was meant for this. All the other days I feel like I’m a waitress, that I’m treating people that could treat themselves with some education, that I’m treating others who will return tomorrow for the same treatment because they do not care for themselves and they do not care about the resources being wasted. I get yelled at by family members for not getting their family members food and water or pain meds fast enough, while in the other room I’m keeping someone breathing. I get yelled at by chronic pain patients for not given them pain meds. I get yelled at psychiatric patients for no reason. I feel my patience running thin, I feel some days I have no compassion, other days I’m a skeptic of everyone’s story and believe they are all just after pain medications. Some days I have 5 patients at a time all needing something at the same time, other times I have 10 patients all needing something at the same time. I get home and I’m defeated, could I give the patients the care they needed? Are my scores on the survey’s going to make it seem like I’m a bad nurse? Am I going to make a mistake? What did I forget to do?
Why is it that I thought I found a career path so perfect for me and after 3 years I can’t imagine working another day? Why is it that I now dream of working at home. Am I lazy? My best friend grew up knowing she wanted to be an elementary school teacher, she had talked about it since the time we were in elementary school ourselves. She’s been a teacher for 3 years as well, and can’t picture herself there much longer, and its heart breaking for her. Teachers in all positions feel like they have no control, parenting has changed and the child no longer needs to be responsible for anything. If the teacher brings up a situation to the parents about a child, the parents turn the blame onto the teacher and their ability to teach their child. The children are rude and have no manners. There’s an increase in behavior issues in all schools that make it harder to teach around. Classroom sizes have grown while pay has stayed the same. Benefits for teachers have decreased as well. How can public employees, teachers, EMT’s nurses, police, firefighters get paid so low and get no respect when they are the ones helping shape our communities?
There is an increase in millennials being unhappy in their current positions across the board. According to a business insider article published in 2015 “Unfortunately for 20-somethings, their professional ambitions haven’t yet come to fruition. Some 76% of respondents said they’re still looking for their ideal job.” Millennials are more interested in having a job they love and a job that makes them feel like they are making a difference than a job that pays highly. Wouldn’t you think that teaching, becoming a nurse, a firefighter, EMT, or police officer would be fulfilling?
Nursing burnout can be contributed to staffing issues, many employees are searching for unions to come in to help fight for better staffing ratios. On many med-surg floors the staffing ratios are 7 patients to 1 RN, on ICU and critical care units the ratio is 3:1 or 2:1. In the ER there is no ratio, we can’t turn patients away, they keep coming there is no cap for the amount of patients we get. We are always told there is more staff being hired, but then more staff changes shifts or quits. It’s a revolving door and it’s in all areas of nursing, not just the ER. Many blame management. Management is given a staffing grid and once it’s filled out staffing is complete. In our ER we even changed our staffing grid to have more nurses on the floor at all times. Here’s the kicker though, we don’t have the staff to fill all of those holes in the grid. Most articles on nurse burnout all relate to short staffing. Maybe that’s where my unhappiness is coming from. My hospital is in talks with a union to provide safe staffing ratios. Maybe work will get better when that happens.
Unfortunately, this year I decided I wanted to leave direct patient care all together, Im unsure if I can wait for those changes to happen. I feel like I’ve tried so many new things I have no idea where I would go next, nor do I want to tell my friends and family that I’m trying something new again. I already have a nursing degree, do I go back to school for a whole new degree? I could become a nurse practitioner and or physician assistant, but I’d still be caring for the patients that don’t care for themselves. I could go into law and help with malpractice suits but then could I be turning against a nurse in a position that could’ve been me? I could go into research but would I be stuck behind a desk all day? Could I try to open a community center where there is education to inner city kids on pregnancy, drugs, and abuse. There would be free resources and testing. Could I make a living out of that?
Being 28 and not knowing what I want to do to provide a future for my dog, boyfriend and myself is scary. I know I’m not the only 28 year old out there who can’t figure it out. What am I meant to do? What is my purpose? What can I do with my time that is important?
According to Mark Manson there are 7 questions to help get to the bottom of it.
  1. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FLAVOR OF SHIT SANDWICH AND DOES IT COME WITH AN OLIVE? Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. So the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate?
  4. HOW CAN YOU BETTER EMBARRASS YOURSELF? To be good at something you have to be really bad at something first.
I sat and looked at these questions and some of them I honestly couldn’t answer. Then I began to think, in order to pick a career path that is going to make me happy I have to get to know myself better, the self I lost in the 3 ½ years I’ve been unhappy with my career.
Here are things I love. Being outside, the water, the mountains, the forest. I love helping others who don’t expect help. I love to work hard. I love to feel that I am doing something significant with my life. I love to love. I love to laugh. I want to rescue every animal in need. I want to make things. I want to cook and eat good food. I love adventure. I love new experiences. I love to learn new things. I love to try new things. I love good beer and wine. I love being healthy. I love to eat nacho cheese a little more. So I need to find a job where I can inspire others, feel good about myself, be outside and drink beer and eat nacho cheese? Sounds too good to be true. I think what it came down to more is I want to work for myself, I want to take time for adventure and the outdoors when I want to, I want to do something for inner city kids and give them a better chance at a future. I could even share my nachos with these kids. Planning to go out on your own takes a lot of time, research and sacrifices. Something I can not just jump into.
If you’re feeling as lost as I am, take time to answer those 7 questions. Maybe you will feel a wave of relief wash over you when you learn a little more about yourself. Turn to family and friends for advice, and most importantly don’t settle. You deserve to be happy, in all aspects of life. Hopefully I can update you with what my future holds, but until then I’ll continue to be the best ER nurse that I can be, until I figure out the rest of it.
Cat xo

One thought on “I’m a burn out

  1. Love this post- it makes me feel better to know that I am not alone in my uncertainty with my degree that I have almost finished. I think it’s simple to figure out what we truly want to do, the challenge is overcoming the fear in doing it. The fear of other people’s thoughts, the fear of failing, but what’s that when you already feel the way you do, unhappy, unsure? Thanks for sharing! xo


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