How it Started
Hey everyone! I’m writing this to discuss the struggles I faced at my last job. After some soul searching to figure out what career was a good fit, my background in nursing started as a second degree BSN major over 6 years ago.
I went straight into the Neonatal ICU after nursing school and truly loved it. Life as a NICU nurse is crazy rewarding some days, and extremely defeating others.
I picked up OT left and right over the first 2-3 years because I loved being there, I wanted to see my patients progress, and I wanted to help the unit be safely staffed. After a while, I started to feel the mental, emotional, and physical burnout that many of us feel.
The Burnout Setting In
I started to ask myself why I was subjecting my own health and safety for a hospital that had no commitment to me as an employee. I started feeling like I was just a number.
On top of all the effort I put in over the first few years of nursing, nursing staff only received a 2-3% wage increase per year. Let me be clear, this was BARELY performance based. The annual raise was about 60-70 cents/hour. It was laughable. We were expected to train to be a flight transport nurses, join the PICC team, be on multiple unit committees, pick up last minute OT, etc., all without a pay raise.
The best part was a $75 gift card hospital staff got to a local grocery store as their annual bonus. This was also taxed, meaning we got about $65 to go grocery shopping. It’s a nice gesture, but are they serious?
I remember meeting with my manager for a year end eval, and just like the years prior, she said, “you’re doing great, keep taking care of sicker patients”….she had no idea what her staff was doing on the floor and how hard they truly worked. She had no idea I had been taking care of the sickest patients for years prior.
Our unit also had a chronic issue with the physician to nurse relations and communications. My last few weeks at the hospital, the entire staff had to sign a contract stating they would be professional with one another. It included things like, “I will not roll my eyes when spoken to”. I felt like a 5th grader signing it.
Where I personally saw and experienced a breakdown was unfortunately with many of our attending physicians (it was a teaching hospital). It made me wonder how our fellows would move forward as attendings. Would they follow in their teachers footsteps? Or would they realize how important it is to trust your nurses judgement and work as a team?
After only working at one hospital, I wasn’t sure if it was common for nurses to be spoken down to by a physician. It became a normal occurrence for our nursing assessments to be waved off. Mind you, the patient would always wind up with a septic work up the next day, and the nurses questioned about why it wasn’t brought to a physician’s awareness sooner…good thing for “physician notifications” in our charting system.
It happened OFTEN, and to nurses who had been there for 20+ years! Many nurses got to the point that they felt like voicing their concerns to the doctors wouldn’t accomplish anything. That’s a bad environment to be a part of. It was bizarre and frustrating to me that it was a struggle to get a physician to the bedside to examine a patient I was concerned about.
I’m NOT a crier, and I don’t break easily, but there were a handful of occasions where a physician spoke to me so poorly that I thought I was going to pack my bag and leave after just arriving to work.
I do want to clarify that it wasn’t all of our attendings who acted like this, but there were multiple who did on a daily basis. I’d go home and tell my husband about the day. Every time he was shocked that someone wasn’t fired for saying the things they said. Maybe it’s different in the medical field versus the finance world, but it shouldn’t be. We were all there working towards the same goal, and yet, nurses were often treated less than stellar.
Thank goodness for the nurses on my unit. They were my saving grace and the reason I lasted on that floor for six years. I miss them deeply, but eventually, I had to change paths in order to find something that I wasn’t dreading every day. I loved my job so much, and the outside aspects like the shift rotations, poor management, unsafe nurse:patient ratios, and dreadful nurse-physician relationship was enough to make me want to quit.
Where I am Now
In December I put in my notice to leave the hospital at the beginning of January. Just like that, it was as if I had never worked there. Leaving on my last day felt liberating, but also very sad.
It felt amazing knowing it was my last time clocking out. All the extra BS would no longer touch me. I was also sad to leave some of the best friends and coworkers I had ever made. It felt somewhat defeating that the burnout got to me for as long as it did. I stayed there for two years longer than I should have. My heart was no longer 110% in it like it was in those first years. It affected my life outside the hospital too.
I developed really bad pre-shift anxiety. The nights/days before my shifts, I dreaded what was to come over the next couple days. I’d send up prayers that a nice attending would be on service, especially if I was in charge. Soon, I realized I didn’t feel as happy in my day to day life. It was because I was so tired and burned out that I didn’t feel much else.
Today, I’m working outpatient, learning something new. I work with adults as opposed to babies. I’m figuring it out as I go. I don’t feel the dread going into work each day. I’m no longer tired all the time, and enjoy my days off that much more.
There’s so much we can do within the nursing field. If you’re: not happy where you are; taken for granted; underpaid for what you do; treated lesser than…I will be the first to say, make the change now. Don’t wait like I did. Time flies, and life is short. Find your happiness now.
Written by: Claire Lang, RN-BSN, RYT-200