Today, our guest blogger talks to those who are new to nursing about how to navigate your personal life and be a nurse. Because you can have it all, but not at the same time.
Relationships in any capacity are hard. Friendships, romantic, work-related, sibling, parents; they are all hard. But are the difficulties compounded even more when we are in nursing?
Any nurse will tell you they love the flexibility of the field. You can work eight-hour days, 12-hour days, weekends only, home-health care, in a hospital, in an office, in a school… the possibilities are endless. That’s one of the many beauties of being a nurse.
What works for me right now is three 12-hour shifts a week. Those 12-hour days are tough. My shift doesn’t end after the 12 hours; I need to give report (30 to 60 minutes), then I need to make sure my charting is true and accurate (15-60 minutes). So these 12-hour shifts usually spill into 13- to 14-hour days, leaving me exhausted and drained by the time I get home around 4 or 5 am.
Now, this isn’t exactly when the rest of America is working. Most people get off work at 5 pm, are home with their loved ones by 6 pm, and doing normal night-time things like catching up on Swamp People or something like that. When you work these crazy hours as a nurse, how do you maintain your relationships?
I’m going to start this one with family relationships. It can be challenging to have a good, healthy relationship with your siblings and parents when you are working these hours. Chances are, you’re the only nurse in the family. Everyone else is doing the 9-to-5 grind.
So that means you’re missing out on birthday gatherings, family dinners, and random get-togethers. This is just the life of the nurse.
We all hope you have a family that understands and values what you do. But what do you do when you don’t? I have plenty of coworkers who will say “they just don’t understand why I can’t make it to Johnny’s birthday party this weekend,” and despite the many attempts to help them understand, they don’t.
My advice to new nurses is to address the issue with their family. When you have time off, make it a special priority to see your family. For example, if Wednesday is your day off, try to have a family dinner every once in a while on Wednesdays. Trust me, after a few years, they’ll hopefully get it.
Friendships can also be tested when you’re a nurse for the same reasons as above. Everyone might be going out to celebrate Cindy’s 25th birthday, but homegirl has to work at 7 am the next day, rendering you a “no bueno” on the RSVP. This is tricky too. Friends can sometimes be non-understanding. You’ll hear the whole “can’t you just go in later?” and that answer is, of course, “well, no, because the man who was in a head-on collision yesterday would like a nurse to take care of him.”
You’ll always, always, always get the “can’t you just call off?” Hey, I’m all about mental health days, but don’t be a jerk. When you’re calling in, you’re screwing your coworkers. If you’re sick, then stay home, get better.
Maintain these special friendships in the same way. Use a day off for catching up and doing random day-off-during-the-week stuff that all you suckers doing 9-to-5 shifts can’t do (shopping trip to Target with no one there? Score!)
Romantic relationships can be hard as well, for every reason above mentioned, plus that additional stress of needing to talk about your day. Nursing is tough. Can I stress that enough? People’s lives are literally in your hands. Decisions you make and are a part of will affect the outcome of someone’s entire life. While I have the fortitude and strength to deal with that, I need to vent about it.
Remember HIPPA. I can’t stress this enough. You have absolutely no rights whatsoever to be discussing someone else’s information with anyone. When you’re venting, you shouldn’t be giving details that someone could deduce who you’re talking about either, for example by saying something like “I took care of this woman who had quadruplets today, what a great experience!” while the 11 o’clock news is on talking about the hospital’s first delivery of quadruplets. Not cool, man.
When I vent, it’s about what I see and what I carry with me. It’s not just the case, it’s the emotions. Taking care of a young kid who turned a gun on himself and is now brain dead, that’s hard. Seeing his grief-stricken father lay across his body sobbing with the greatest amount of sorrow is perhaps, for me, more difficult. When I vent to my significant other, it’s more about the emotions. And those that love me in that capacity might have a hard time. They don’t want me to see this, let alone feel this.
I’ve dated several men before who have tried to get me to quit my brand of nursing, and at this time, I don’t have a desire to do that. So staying connected and receiving the amount of support I need is crucial.
All relationships are hard. Being a nurse makes them harder. You have to factor in time lost at home, weekends, and on holidays. You have to factor in the stresses of the job, and bringing that home. For those new to nursing, don’t despair. With time, this all gets easier. Those that love you will see what a great nurse you are, and they’ll understand and love you that much more.
If you’re interested in becoming a nurse and making a difference, contact us today to speak with a Utica College Accelerated BSN program advisor.