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


42 thoughts on “Why Nurses Struggle at Home

  • January 30, 2015 at 11:58 pm
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    What a great post. Thanks for writing it and capturing the heart of the work!

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    • January 31, 2015 at 12:05 am
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      thank you <3 it really is hard work, but it really is beautiful. and thank god for great families <3 <3 <3

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    • January 31, 2015 at 3:23 pm
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      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.

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    • February 5, 2015 at 3:11 am
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      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!

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    • February 23, 2015 at 1:26 pm
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      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.

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  • January 31, 2015 at 12:53 am
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    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 a little easier for them and quite often felt bad about disturbing them just to do a little thing I couldn’t manage myself after one of my Surgeries. Just found it hard to express how much I appreciated their care during my 9 admissions.

    Thank you for writing this. Reminded me of all the beautiful nurses I have gotten to know over the last year and makes me so thankful that there are so many wonderful people out there dedicated to nursing and caring for others.

    When I am more recovered, thinking of pursuing a career in Occupational Therapy as my way of helping others.

    Keep up with the blogging as you always make me smile ☺

    Caroline

    http://www.nzendogirl.blogspot.com

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  • January 31, 2015 at 12:54 am
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    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!! :)

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  • January 31, 2015 at 1:35 am
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    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!

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  • January 31, 2015 at 4:14 pm
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    Thank you for all you do!

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  • January 31, 2015 at 5:29 pm
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    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*

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  • January 31, 2015 at 7:43 pm
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    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!

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  • January 31, 2015 at 7:55 pm
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    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

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    • February 1, 2015 at 12:07 pm
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      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.

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      • February 1, 2015 at 4:15 pm
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        That ewwwww was for Justin!

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    • February 1, 2015 at 4:22 pm
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      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 the door, hand her a cold beverage of choice, go back to their room while she changes then rub her feet for a few minutes. It only takes about 5 minutes out of his day but it greatly recharges her batteries. She is then able to continue taking care of the house, the kids, the animals and yes her husband but she is recharged because somebody cared about her.

      My husband and I both work stressful jobs and it can often seem unfair. We have a rule in our home that we each spend a few minutes a day taking care of the person – its a way to tangibly express love within our marriage. It really is the little things. Please don’t let the resentment build up.

      To all of the nurses out here, you have my utmost respect and admiration. Wonder Woman should be wearing scrubs. :)

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    • March 14, 2015 at 6:18 am
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      But if you screw up at work, no one dies.

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      • January 31, 2017 at 7:35 pm
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        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 balance your career and your family?” Each spouse is responsible for the others well being and too often we allow all of our energy, time and attention to be spent on others. It is one thing to be understood, it’s another to actually reach a solution. In Justin’s case being last on the priority list or being yelled at by his spouse due to stress, does not equate to “teaching” him to take it. It means his spouse needs to figure out method to cope with her stress or resign. Being patient, supportive and understanding will only last so long before the door mat wears thin. This is simple psychology and I’d encourage everyone to refresh themselves on Maslow’s theories of basic needs. If this nurse does not learn how to relieve her stress in a beneficial way, balance her physical and emotional commitments, one of two things will happen. The family will be miserable but will endure to a point or the family will leave to find the love and fulfilment they need elsewhere. Many find balance whether they are nurses, firemen, police, military, air traffic controllers, EMT’s, therapists, trauma surgeons, etc. as the list is endless. Life is hard, Work is hard but we shouldn’t make our homes hard.

        Just a thought to consider…..

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  • February 1, 2015 at 12:08 pm
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    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!

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  • February 2, 2015 at 1:03 am
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    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. An insurance company can not direct care but can give authorization for payment for the care or treatment under the insurance contract the patient has with the insurer. Continue to document your patient’s signs and the notification of the physician. In the case of non authorization of payment for services, you also can ask your supervisor and or the physician to speak with the patient and significant other. The physician would be the medical professional to give the patient medical advice to continue with the physician’s opinion that a C section is necessary or not. Continue to move all concerns to your supervisor. Document supervisor’s (name) and concerns shared. Above all continue to observe your patient and baby’s signs and report to the physician. DOCUMENT DOCUMENT. Comment: Be sure you have your own malpractice insurance aside from the hospital’s insurance.

    PS When you leave your post at work, turn attention to looking forward to coming home and being with your family, you need their love and support. If all have chores to do to maintain the home, your life would be less stressful. Sit down and talk out a plan with all living in the home.Your family is your best support and would be best to work out a plan together.

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    • March 19, 2016 at 8:37 pm
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      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 that exact time .

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  • February 2, 2015 at 2:45 am
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    GOD bless all the hard working nurses. There is a load on your shoulders.

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  • February 2, 2015 at 4:46 am
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    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 my son’s baseball games, all my daughters dance competitions, all my husbands co–rec softball games, and spent real time with my family. It was important to do that, essential for my well-being and for the well-being of my family. I went back to the hospital as a float nurse, working 8-hr days and slowly working back up to the 3-12 hour shifts we all work. But the time away helped me to find a balance within myself and the strength of character to say no when I needed to, to put my family (at the very least) on the same level as work as hold them just as important. It was the best thing I could have done and I would advise it to anyone feeling this way or realizing they are out of balance. Even nurses need to find a way to recharge, to fill back up, to remember why we do the work we do. I wish you all the best in the crazy, rewarding, challenging, exhausting and important work.

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    • January 31, 2017 at 7:36 pm
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      BRAVO!!!!! This is perfect!

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  • February 2, 2015 at 5:51 am
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    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. =)

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  • February 2, 2015 at 4:46 pm
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    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, and give you great joy in the journey!

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  • February 3, 2015 at 4:50 am
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    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 setting they are passionate about.

    If delivering/nursing is your passion, then look for a problem in the industry, and start dreaming up ways to solve
    It. There’s likely 99 problems to pick from. Focus your pitty-party time on creating a solution to one of the problems, then go see if the hospitals will buy the solution.
    If they won’t, hey that’s fine, just pick another problem and try again!

    Enjoy the journey of truly loving what you do by helping the industry.
    This blog would have been titled “how to overcome struggles at home” if you really had passion in this industry enough to desires making it better.
    And your content would have been 10% paragraph on how tough it is, then 90% paragraphs about how to incorporate a great life into the wonderful journey of nursing, instead of 90% boo-hooing and 10% pretending to be uplifting.

    I hope this awakens you. If not, hey, back to being normal my friend.

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  • February 3, 2015 at 5:14 am
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    Ha! What a prick. I won’t spam your comment because I kind of like it when people make themselves appear as dumb as they are :/ but anyway…thanks for reading ;)

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  • February 4, 2015 at 7:35 am
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    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.

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  • February 6, 2015 at 4:47 am
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    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 for taking the time to reach out and know nurses are in the same boat:)

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    • February 6, 2015 at 6:29 am
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      thank you! oh, and i thought of one more good reason why we struggle at home..because we know how to multitask and our family can’t!! or at least, not as well as we can! right?!?
      lol

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  • February 9, 2015 at 4:21 am
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    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 many of us feel!

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  • February 26, 2015 at 11:11 am
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    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 wouldnt have sny other job in the world, a bit of love and space when I get home would be appreciated!

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  • April 3, 2015 at 9:33 pm
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    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.

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  • November 19, 2016 at 6:15 pm
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    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 weekends and nights. The spouse taking children alone to thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. This depressing for the husband left at home. This should be talked about more honestly. Nursing is sold as a family friendly job full
    Of flexible schedule options. It is not.

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    • December 10, 2016 at 3:40 am
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      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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