The Weight of Nursing

When I first became a nurse, I couldn’t believe anyone would ever leave the nursing profession. I thought being a nurse was the greatest job in the world, and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I loved to work – in fact, I would have slept on our unit if I didn’t have a family to go home to. I was addicted to obstetrics.

But as the years have gone by, I have slowly realized why some people leave the greatest profession on earth.  Even as a type that, it weighs heavy on my heart.

During my last shift as a labor nurse, I repositioned a patient and twisted my knee in the process. We were busy that day. More often than not, it seems as if we’re understaffed, and the acuity of our patients gets higher and higher, regardless of staffing levels or bed availability. As the day wore on, it became harder and harder to move. My knee throbbed, the pain radiating throughout my leg.

Not wanting to leave my coworkers in a bind, and not wanting to leave my labor patient before she gave birth, I limped around for the rest of the day. As night shift filed in, one after the other, I was so thankful that someone else was there to relieve me of my obligation. I popped another 800mg of Motrin before heading to my car, hoping my liver would survive another dose in such a short period of time.

Nurses give everything they have to their profession and to the patients they care for. They walk a fine line, trying to be everything to everyone. The stress of the work that we do follows us home. Sometimes we’re irritable with our family for no reason. Sometimes we can’t stop thinking of the patients we cared for throughout our day. We’re usually exhausted, and we usually don’t know if the hard work we do is noticed by anyone. We give every ounce of energy to everyone around us, because we’re nurses…and that’s what we’re supposed to do.

I love being a nurse, and I love taking care of people. And although I still love my job, I wouldn’t sleep at work anymore (family at home or no family). Nursing still defines who I am, but I will finally admit that it’s exhausting. And I’m still walking with a limp.

The weight of nursing gets heavier and heavier as time goes by. Looking around at what is expected of us, I see a nursing crisis that most people are blind to. Every day we’re asked to do more and more things, in a shorter amount of time, with more critical patients. Our lives outside of work are up for inspection, and character mistakes can strip us of our license and livelihood. And the saddest part of all is that most nurses don’t know their worth. Or maybe the saddest part of all is that other people don’t see our worth. And look at what we’re doing.

But still, the majority of us forge forward, the love for our patients and our profession pulling us back day after day. I still can’t imagine being anything other than a nurse. And every time I am privileged enough to take care of a patient, I know I chose the right profession. I love the people I take care of and the people I get to work with. The weight of nursing is not heavy enough to pull me away from this profession. And even though most days I bring work home with me, thinking about the events of my shift as I go to bed, I am so very thankful to be a nurse.


Previously published on HealtheCareers.

Until my next delivery ❤

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