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What is the hardest part about being a registered nurse?

I am researching for my class about careers we would like to eventually have. I would like to be an RN someday and want to know some more information.

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Adam’s Answer

Hi Arianna,

Thank you for your interest in this really great profession. We really could use the help.

Apart from nursing school itself (which of the three college degrees I have was hands down the toughest course of study I experienced) it seems there a couple of things that affect many nurses when they’re new to the job.

People who make great nurses are there because they care, a lot. That can make it difficult to do certain things. It’s hard to tell a patient they can’t do something they want to do. It’s very hard to be the first person in the room after a physician delivers devastating news and quickly leaves. You will learn to find your nursing voice. You will learn a new level of compassion that allows you to remain professional outside while your heart breaks inside. You will learn how to ease pain with just your words or presence when there’s nothing else to do.

When you are starting out you have so much information and new knowledge swirling inside your head it’s difficult to see the forest through the trees. We’ve all been there. Nobody expects you to connect all the dots for quite awhile. Nursing is a team sport. Lean on your fellow nurses, your nursing assistants (who see many things you won’t), pharmacists, phlebotomists, radiology/ultrasound techs, others I’m not intentionally forgetting… but especially, your respiratory therapists. They will save you over and over and over again. Use the information they give and the knowledge they share to inform your decisions. Nobody can do this job alone, and not a single one of us know all the answers. The bad nurses are usually the ones who never question themselves. Be skeptical of your plans until it’s time to implement them and always consider alternatives. When it’s time to do things, know what you’re going to do, how to do it, and most importantly: why you’re doing it. You might have to justify your choices.

All of that leads to nurses experiencing imposter syndrome. That’s where, despite your education and experience, you feel inadequate to do the things you’re doing, make the decisions you make and carry the responsibility you carry. But, believe me, you didn’t get there by accident. You CAN handle the task. You can shoulder the burden and you will make a difference.
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the advice. Arianna
Thank you comment icon Thank you, Adam for the advice. Ryley
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Joan’s Answer

Hello Ariana!

It's fantastic to see your enthusiasm in exploring the Nursing Profession!

Registered Nurses, like many professionals, encounter a variety of challenges in their line of work. Among these are the demands of documentation, which can be quite time-consuming and inefficient. This can lead to feelings of burnout, higher staff turnover, nursing shortages, and the need for extra overtime due to charting. There can also be safety issues due to delays in documentation, and the potential for inaccuracies.

The introduction of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) has certainly brought about some changes. It has replaced traditional handwritten notes with organized, digital cells that can be easily tracked and compiled. However, these cells don't always capture the rich, detailed data that narrative notes provide. Efforts to capture this rich data have led to an increase in discrete fields, adding to the "point and click" workload.

Moreover, the nursing community is dealing with additional challenges that have been exacerbated by the aftermath of COVID. These include high staff vacancies and industrial action from nurses expressing their dissatisfaction and unrest, which is often tied to the high-stress nature of the job.

I hope this information sheds light on some of the daily challenges that Registered Nurses navigate. Remember, each challenge is an opportunity for growth and resilience.
Thank you comment icon I appreciate you taking the time to answer this. Arianna
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