Why Nurses Struggle at Home

When I got married, I was in nursing school. Things were hard—we were both students, neither of us had any time, and neither of us ever had any money.  But we never argued.  I cooked, I (kind of) cleaned, and we took care of our daughter together.  Fast forward a few years and nursing school was now behind us. We still never have any time, I still (sometimes) cook, and I still (kind of) clean.  We take care of our daughter and our son together.  But now, we do argue sometimes.  What changed?  I became a nurse.

struggle

When I started working as a bedside nurse, it didn’t take me long to come home feeling completely shattered. There was just an endless list of things I needed to do. The provider didn’t like new nurses, so I carefully weighed the importance of what I needed to say before calling them.  One nurse told me “don’t call them until the baby is crowning.” Another nurse told me “if the baby starts acting up, do your interventions first, and then call them after the baby recovers, or else she’ll be an automatic c-section.” I tried to remember every tip that every nurse tried to give me, but it all jumbled up in my head. When the baby had a couple of variables, I intervened and then immediately called the provider.  And my coworker was right, the provider sectioned that patient straight-away.  I felt like I had completely messed everything up.  To top it off, it was right at shift change, so I ended up in the OR an hour after my shift was supposed to have ended. I was so tired, I had so much charting to do, and now the mom was having trouble managing her pain after her cesarean birth and didn’t want to breastfeed. I felt like I had failed everyone…my patient, her baby, the doctor, all of my colleagues, and myself.

I work hard.  My scrubs are faded from so many hot washes. The seam in the back of my pants looks like it may give at any minute, especially if I gain even one more pound. The fabric on the inside of my thighs is rubbing itself away.  My shoes look like my feet feel…worn out and tired. Something weird happens when a nurse puts on their scrubs. All of a sudden, it’s demanded that we master the art of multi-tasking with a smile on our face and an empathetic touch to our hands. It doesn’t matter if we like who we are taking care of, although that’s always a bonus.  It doesn’t matter if our patients are nice or mean or horrible or dumb or if they made every bad decision in the book. We want to take care of them. We want to help them get better, to feel better, to see them hit any milestone they can in our little twelve-hour shift. There is always something for us to do for them. We’re part mother, part maid, part pharmacist, part lawyer—and we wouldn’t have it any other way.  But it puts us in a constant struggle at work. As labor nurses, we struggle to ensure women are having a healthy labor. We stuggle for our patient’s to have a safe delivery.  If we don’t agree with the plan of care, we struggle with how to approach the provider, if we should approach the provider, and when to approach the provider. We weigh the risks and benefits of every action we perform. We dance around and dodge around every different personality at work. We struggle to keep our patient’s pain under control (and they’re in labor). We struggle to make sure our patients and their families are happy. We sometimes struggle to prioritize our tasks. We massage a back during labor, and then we massage a fundus after delivery. We bend, we pull, and we lift. We constantly educate. We provide comfort here, provide pain relief there, we assess and reassess, and then repeat, in a never-ending loop.  And we’re so good at what we do, our hard work and efforts usually pay off.

So the truth is, nursing is demanding.  It’s so emotionally and physically draining, it’s hard to go home and to want to keep taking care of more people.  It takes a physical toll on your body and an emotional toll on your mind. When we come home, there are still a thousand things we have to do for our own family, but by that time, we’re exhausted.  And that’s if we had a good day at work.  Sometimes our patients yell at us. Sometimes providers yell at us. Our bosses are auditing everything we do.   There’s always something else to chart. We frequently work understaffed and every week we’re tasked with doing more and more things. Those are the days that we just want to take a bath and go to bed.

I understand that nurses struggle at home. Know that you aren’t alone.  We’re called to nursing because we want to care for people, but what do we do when we’re tired of caring for the people we love the most?   Step back and breathe.  We have to remind ourselves and we have to remind each other that we’re all doing the best we can.  Even when we’re exhausted and short-staffed and we’re all waiting for the census to drop, remember the beauty of the work we do.  Look around you and speak kindly of your coworkers. Spread positivity at work, because we all know what it’s like to go home completely shattered.  We have to make work as easy for each other as possible, because the work doesn’t end when we go home. We have to find the magic in the work that we do, because it is undoubtedly wonderful work.  And tomorrow is a new day. Don’t give up, don’t give in, and we all have to help each other keep moving forward.

Until my next delivery ❤

Remember our New Year’s Resolution


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42 Comments on "Why Nurses Struggle at Home"

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sasha
Guest

What a great post. Thanks for writing it and capturing the heart of the work!

Anonymous
Guest

I so agree with your story! I am an ICU nurse, and no one understands what it is like until they put on the scrubs and stepped into te shoes of nurse. I know my home struggles were appreciated most by my daughter when she stepped in and now works along side of me. Thanks for the touching story.

Jackie
Guest
I have definitely felt the same way. Oftentimes I come home and basically only have the energy to eat, sleep, and go to bed (and repeat in the am!). I feel like I have nothing left to give to my husband in terms of time, conversation, productivity, etc. I have no idea how people with children do it. It makes me lose my mind at the thought of feeding people, bathing, and changing adult diapers at work, and then to come home and feed and change and bathe etc. Props to people who can do it!
scottlatta2013
Guest

My GF is in the last semester of nursing school and slowing losing her mind. lol So she really liked this piece. This sentiment could cover a few professions.

beadstork
Guest

This sounds very familiar. If you want another version from the point of view…
Come see me! https://beadstork.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/come-ride-the-rollercoaster/

Caroline
Guest
This is such a lovely and well written post! I stumbled across your blog a few months back and love reading about your experiences as a Labour Nurse. This post really spoke to me though because I spent a lot of time in hospital (first time in my life since birth) last year and was a regular on the Gynaecology Ward due to being diagnosed with Endometriosis at age 20. The majority of nurses that looked after me were absolutely wonderful and I felt like I’d suddenly got a whole group of new aunties. I always tried to make things… Read more »
Malisa K.
Guest

Wow! That is definitely nursing in a nutshell. I wish they had shared this in nursing school. starting off in labor and delivery, or any area of nursing for that matter, is no easy feat. I was explaining this hardship to my boyfriend, he always has a way of relaxing my mind and bringing me back down to earth. I have gone through this predicament and i feel mentally exhausted from it each time. Thanks for the post!! :)

Kim
Guest

Love your last paragraph. So applicable to any nursing (Im in the NICU). Some days are soooooo hard and when we get home and have little (and big) people pulling at us it`s easy to be cranky! We should help each other at work with anything possible. I love what you said about spreading positivity. We aren`t the only ones that go home to families…our co-workers do to! :) Till your next delivery…which hopefully doesn`t come my way!

Anonymous
Guest

Thank you for all you do!

Naomi
Guest

Thank you for voicing this insight about labor and delivery nursing. I feel that beyond all of our positivity and love for our jobs we must become advocates for ourselves! It’s not okay to be yelled at by doctors or other nurses. How do we stay positive in the face of so many demands? How do we teach our spouses to be supportive at home? Who cares for us and supports us when we’re shattered….?
n*

Carol
Guest

I am a nurse turned nurse midwife. I have LOVED my career. Now though, I am in “forced retirement” due to back troubles. I intended on being on the floor (L&D) until I was VERY OLD. Although 53 isn’t young, it’s younger that what I had hoped for. Please, fellow nurses, love your patients, but love yourself also.. Protect your back, your body as a whole, AND your mind! Your family deserves it, your patients deserve it, and YOU deserve it!

justin
Guest

What about the people you struggling nurses come home to? Nobody seems real worried about them, I have emotionally demanding job , as well as physically demanding. Of course though my nurse wife gets to come home and yell at me at the end of the day. Yall can make all the excuses you want about your terrible behavior, but remember everyone comes home stressed out from work . Suck it up be an adult

crosstitchery
Guest

Youre right Justin, lots of people work in stressful jobs. I dont remember reading in this post that being a nurse means you can be rude or resentful at home. I think this post was the exact opposite, and focuses on the positives instead. Im sorry to read your comment, and I hope things become less stressful soon for you and your wife.

Anonymous
Guest

Ewwwww

Anonymous
Guest

That ewwwww was for Justin!

Mandy
Guest
Justin, I feel your pain. One of my relatives is a L&D nurse in the same region as the author of this blog. I think the struggle comes down to this: as a nurse you spend 12 hours a day meeting the needs of every single person you come in contact with at a superhuman level. Then you go home and you have to do the same for the family you love very much. But a lot of times nobody is meeting the needs of said nurse, which leaves her emotionally drained. My relative’s husband will often meet her at… Read more »
Mary Walker
Guest

But if you screw up at work, no one dies.

Bryan
Guest
Actually many of us hold and perform duties that another’s life may depend upon. If you are doing anything worthwhile in life it will be stressful, demanding and exhausting. While I don’t necessarily agree with the tone (but understand the frustration) Justin is making a valid point. The article simply defines the stresses that L&D nurses experience and while spouses may never be able to sympathize, we certainly here about it in very descriptive detail. I feel it would be beneficial to move beyond the obvious struggle as defined in the article and answer the question, “so how do you… Read more »
crosstitchery
Guest

Thank you for all the work that you do. I always enjoy reading your posts and getting a tiny insight into the life of a nurse. Your efforts are really appreciated!

A nurse from Michigan or not give
Guest
A nurse from Michigan or not give
I would like to offer you support regarding your issues. First of all your role as a nurse is to care for your patient. The physician directs the care and writes the order. If you disagree with an order or you have concerns, always speak with your supervisor. If the “provider”, you are speaking about is an insurance co. and gave you directions or did not authorize the C section, contact the treating physician and supervisor for further directions and document all of your actions. Ask your supervisor and the physician to speak with the patient and the significant other.… Read more »
Tammy
Guest
Your response , although well intentioned , is extremely out of touch with bedside nursing. This labor nurse is not talking about a scheduled c-section , this decision is done during a patient’s labor and although there may be processes in place for the nurse and patient to challenge the physician’s decision these processes are used in extreme cases . Documentation is always done by the nurse but there are usually varied interpretations which are all technically correct . It’s not a matter of a right and wrong decision but what is the most correct for the individual patient at… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

GOD bless all the hard working nurses. There is a load on your shoulders.

Laura
Guest
I’ve worked in nursing in several different capacities, each stressful in their own way. At one point, after 3 years working in a very busy ICU, it became apparent that I was giving all the very best I had to my patients and working long hours and extra shifts. I had little or nothing left for my husband and children at home. I had to take a step back, examine my priorities, and took a job for a year as an endoscopy nurse in an outpatient center. 4-8hr shifts, no weekend, no evenings, no holidays, no call. I attended all… Read more »
Bryan
Guest

BRAVO!!!!! This is perfect!

searchingforsubstance
Guest

giiiirll. preach it! =D

i’ve worked in various areas of nursing as well and each one has been intense and demanding in their own way. you said it well.. we get yelled at by everybody! patients, providers, supervisors, anybody and everybody… it’s always easiest for everyone to yell at the nurse… and at the same time, it’s the nurse that keeps the ship afloat!

thanks for sharing this.. it’s great to read the lamentations and encouragement of others nurses. =)

Batman RN
Guest

Reblogged this on Pacifiers and Stethoscopes.

Flygurl36k
Guest
I feel like I could have written this blog post ten years ago; I was a labor & delivery nurse for over ten years. Same frustrations, joys, struggles and heartache. I left the nursing Industry after 20 years; ran my own photography studio for 8 years. Now, me and my husband are empty nesters and I am a flight attendant…but my house is still messy…but it does get better! I even use WordPress and have a similar layout to my blog…Crazy! May God bless the work of your hands, keep your heart tender to all you love and hold dear,… Read more »
Onlooker
Guest
This is a pitty party, through and through. Hey, nothing wrong with a pitty party, it’s actually very common, but don’t try to throw in a few uplifting words in the last paragraph and claim you are praising your role. That’s just passive aggressive, so, just accept your common ground with the rest of common America. In fact, nurses and firefighters have the “sweet schedule” of 3 days on, 4 days off, which most people would love to have if given that choice. You often see the motivated ones using their 4 days off to create a side business in… Read more »
folashade
Guest

Reblogged this on careoftheelderlyblog.

Teresa Unruh
Guest

I loved and sometimes hated working as labor and delivery high risk nurse. I encourage each and every one of you in your work. It is honorable work, sometimes thankless, but always worth it. I wish I could go back to it, unfortunately I am unable to work as an RN any more. I had a stroke at age 40. So enjoy what you have while you have it, life is always changing. God Bless Each And Every One Of You.

Kristen
Guest
The whole point of this blog was to help other nurses to not feel alone and that they have struggles at home…it’s nice that were not alone in that feeling. I have worked for hospice and med surge and the emergency department. Taing care of people is very important to me as well and it is so tough to come home and take care of a 18 month old and make dinner or get groceries and do laundry. Because you are constantly taking care of other people. Wonder why people are angry at this blog? I love it. Thank you… Read more »
twistrn
Guest
I SO appreciated your blog! Having been a L/D nurse for close to 14 years, I have experienced all of these thoughts & struggles at times! I have a 12 yr. old son with Asperger’s/ ADHD/ OCD……and have found as he gets older, he needs more and more care/ support. I’m currently not working, but have realized over the past few months, just how withdrawn I’d become in being “present” at home as much as at work. I feel, like so many others commenting, how much on target your blog was! Thanks so much for putting into words what so… Read more »
GemLou73
Guest
Its been said before, but you write exactly what we feel! Finished my shift the other night by admitting an IV drug user at 35 weeks in labour – non compliant, uncontrollable, poor historian. Thought baby would be quick as she was a multi. Handed over to night staff, and found out next day she had to be sedated and baby didnt arrive for 5 hours. Went home shaking with the adrenaline, but nobody asked how my day was, just home to (what by then seemed) trivial everyday niggles. Didnt really care. Our job is so draining, and while I… Read more »
Vicki Pelfrey
Guest

went straight from h.s. to nursing school. The director of my diploma school REALLY frowned on girls being married; in fact, she made it VERY DIFFICULT to be married! It was a requirement to live in the dorm. I don’t think anyone could be married (let alone have a family) and survive this school. I think she probably knew that …….I can only recall 1 or 2 girls in my 36 mos. that were ever married.

SDH
Guest
Definitely being the spouse of a hospital nurse isn’t something great. My wife became a nurse after the kids got to 3rd grade. We never saw her during upper division. Didn’t change much when she went to Work in the ER. Missing holidays and most weekend social plans had a long term negative affect on our life together. It’s not a job for those who enjoy spending quality time with their spouses. Our relationship has suffered because of the lack family friendly job options. I notice as I read these boards that the perspective of the spouse left at home… Read more »
abby jones
Guest

Amen brother. the spouse, often becomes the tailpipe of the day, we get the exhaust. yes my wife is a great nurse…but also as so many careers, the career consumes them. the thee 12 hr day wipes the family out for the whole week. And yes i know what they go through. Nurses you need to put your families first. this “nurse-hood” is great, but you are glossing over the reality.

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