How to Handle Difficult Days as a Nurse


Current nurses have a world of experience they can offer to those who are new to the field, either in their careers or in nursing school. Here, guest writer and ICU nurse Becky Clay shares how she gets through those strenuous and exhausting days that are bound to arise.

There are so many factors that can influence your day when you’re a nurse. Your assignment. Your patient load. The physician on the case. Your nursing neighbors. Your patient’s stability. Your own stability. A lot of these things in combination often leading to difficult days as a nurse. Getting through them and coping with them is an art form in its own right.

I am a trauma ICU nurse. The job description alone can be intimidating. I have, and will continue to have, very difficult days. The hardest days for me are when I have to tell someone “there’s nothing more we can do.” I hate that phrase. I’ve tried many times to re-word it to sound kinder; however it’s like ripping off a band aid, or an EKG patch on a hairy chest… you just have to say it.

My great love of people and reminding myself why I became a nurse is how I get through these days. I truly love all kinds of people with all kinds of problems. I’ve taken care of people who were drunk driving and will ultimately die of their injuries; I love them, and I have compassion and kindness for them. My other patient could be the innocent person that they hit. I love them just as much. I remind myself that the family is looking to me for strength through their tear-soaked face, they’re looking at me for hope, for strength and for healing. I stay resolute and strong, and, above everything, kind. That’s how I deal with the great tragedy that is almost every shift for me. I reflect that I surely am in this very moment, this very important moment in this poor soul’s life, there to comfort them, hopefully heal them, to be strong and be an advocate for them.

Difficult days are many as a nurse. We all deal with them differently. I use personal reflection mostly. Some days that isn’t enough and I cry on the way home. I get through it, and go back for more though time and time again. I was meant to do what I’m doing.

If ever you want to console a nurse you love when they get home after a rough day, give them chocolate and wine. Nurses love chocolate and wine.

If you’re interested in learning more about what to expect in nursing school or during your nursing career, get in touch with an advisor today.

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