This summer, I came away from my MICU contract with a renewed understanding of why I have this love-hate relationship with nursing. And I’ve summed it up in 6 simple points so when I’m ready to pick up another contract I can remember what to expect, even if months and months of super intense child rearing washes it all out of my head.
So here goes. The love part…
- It’s the feeling you get after the shift that is so great. You made it. You got through this grueling, back breaking, nerve wracking day. It’s a feeling of accomplishment.
- It’s the social interaction. The camaraderie. There is definitely a bond there among nurses. No matter how different a fellow nurse is from you they know exactly what it is that you go through. And for many of us, you can’t say the same thing about your family, your spouse, or your best friend.
- Then there’s just the joy of knowing a difficult job really, really well. Being able to field any curve ball that comes your way in an extremely fast paced environment. Not to mention the fact that people could die if you don’t do the right thing. While that may sound like an enormous amount of pressure, it’s also a great source of pride to know that you can handle that.
And the hate part…
- Night shift – Love, love, love the people who work night shift. But I hate the fact that switching from days to nights makes me feel like a human slug.
- Lower back pain. No need to elaborate here.
- Cleaning up stool. Sorry. it sucks no matter how you slice it. Some will say “Oh it doesn’t bother me at all! You get used to it.” Bullshit. You have 2 ICU patients, each stooling 3-4 times during the night in a 12 hour shift. You do the math. That means you are potentially up to your elbows in shit Q 2 hrs. AND trying to get the rest of your work done.
Having trouble keeping up with my love-hate relationship with nursing? That’s okay, so am I. The good news is that I love it again. I’m almost halfway through my MICU contract and things are going surprisingly well. They didn’t quite start out that way. Here’s a synopsis: Week 1: In the weeds. All the time. Treading water. Hating life. Crossing off the days until this damned contract is over. Week 2: Getting used to it but damn, this job is hard! How does anyone do this for a living? How did I do this for a living? I’ve had it up to here with poop and sputum and agitated patients on the ventilator and I wished I were back working in the recovery room, checking pedal pulses and getting turkey sandwiches for my patients. Week 3: My confidence has officially returned and it’s starting to feel like I never left. I can kind of see why I actually liked this job, although it’s not easy. It’s still very challenging. Week 4: Wait a sec… I kind of love this job! Even after a crazy shift of codes, deaths, bleeding, confusion, and difficult patients, I walk out the door feeling great. It’s probably just the neurotransmitters. I’m high on adrenaline. I drive home with the windows down and the radio blasting, feeling like I really accomplished something. The next day I wake up very tired but still feeling good. I relax more because I feel like I’ve earned it. So now I’m loving it so much I’m thinking about returning as permanent staff. I can make this work. It’s a big pay cut to leave the agency but I love having a work home, and a work family. My MICU coworkers are absolutely the best, and this job is helping me to remember why I chose nursing in the first place. There’s just one teeny weeny little complication. Two, actually. I’m pregnant with twins. So I’m not going to commit to anything just yet. It’s one thing to put one kid in daycare, but three? You get to the point where financially you’re just barely breaking even. So we’ll see. I think the important thing for me is to remember how I feel about being an ICU nurse right now, which is that I love it. After Ben was born I kind of got seduced by that whole social media world and was tempted to migrate away from nursing altogether. But I’m wiser now. And up for the challenge of having 3 kids under the age of 5 for a few years (YIKES!).