I love helping others, but I hate being a nurse. Has this thought ever crossed your mind? If it has, you’re not alone. And you don’t have to feel guilty for it.
Nursing can be an exhausting job. Especially when instead of just doing what you came here to do – help people – you have to deal with controlling bosses, tired and snappy co-workers, mountains of paperwork, the occasional rude patient. On top of that, your professional life seems like a race against the clock. The patients keep coming, yet the nurse ratios don’t change. So you’re overworked, exhausted, and on the brink of burnout. No wonder sometimes you want to scream into a pillow, “I hate my job. I just hate being a nurse!”
So, you hate being a nurse. Now what? Now you take some action. You try to rediscover the spark that drew you to nursing. You need to acknowledge the risks of being constantly overworked. You must build your career on healthy habits.
And here’s how you do it. We’ve compiled a list of solutions for overworked nurses to help them find the balance and the joy in what they do. To turn that “I hate nursing” into “I love my job.”
Let’s find out what they are.
What Are the Risks of Overworked Registered Nurses?
The fact that nurses are often overworked is unfortunately no longer a surprise for anyone. But the outcomes of this can be detrimental. Nurses who feel overworked cannot offer the best care to their patients. The longer the shifts for hospital nurses, the higher the levels of burnout, patient dissatisfaction, and the lower the levels of patient safety and nurses’ wellbeing.
Overworked nurses can put their patients’ health in jeopardy. Fatigue-related errors are bound to happen when RNs go through long shift hours and are sleep-deprived. Exhaustion leads to slower reaction times, loss of concentration, less attention to detail, less energy, less empathy, and a higher possibility of mistakes.
Researchers found that high nurse workloads are directly linked to lower odds of survival for ICU patients. A groundbreaking study also showed that shift length and overtime are directly associated with medical errors. Nurses who work shifts longer than 12.5 hours are three times more likely to make errors in patient care. The increased overtime hours are also associated with increased hospital-acquired infections, skin ulcers, needle injuries, and urinary tract infections.
Overworking is a significant factor in nurse burnout and high staff turnover. When RNs are asked repeatedly to work back-to-back shifts or longer straight shifts, they will feel exhausted, jaded, and unappreciated. Eventually, they may think that the only way out is quitting. Nurses leave, and everyone has to suffer.
The bottom line is overwork, understaffing, high patient-nurse ratios are bad – both for the nurses and the patients. If these underlying problems aren’t addressed immediately, things will only continue to worsen. Healthcare employers have their work cut out for them. But at times, you have to take your fate into your own hands and try to find solutions that can help better your professional situation.
What to Do When You No Longer Want to Be a Nurse
You have invested so much time, money, energy, and passion into your nursing career, and now you feel stuck. The good news is there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. If the thought “I hate being a nurse” has entered your mind, here’s what you should do:
Find the Why
Why do you hate being a nurse?
The truth is, you probably don’t hate nursing. You dislike the messy, even toxic environment, the overworking, the understaffing, the constant pressure to meet quota. But nursing – you still love it. You love your patients, and you love the feeling that each day when you clock into work, you make someone’s life better. Caring for others is what keeps you going.
The first step to regain your love for nursing is figuring out what made you lose interest in your job. You can’t fix a problem until you get to the root of it. You may want to write down a list of all the things that bother you and try to find solutions for each of them. If you’re dealing with a nurse bully, make sure to bring it up to the manager. If you need to change your shift hours to make it to your daughter’s piano recital, speak to the scheduling nurse about it. If you already feel overworked, don’t say yes to an extra shift just because the Charge Nurse is trying to get you to stay. Maybe this area of nursing is no longer bringing you professional satisfaction. It’s never too late to try a new one.
The “why” will often tell you the changes you need to make. So, you need to figure out why you hate being a nurse, and then you can make changes to overcome this challenge.
Make Sure You Set Boundaries and Stick to Them
It’s in your nature to put the needs of others before yourself. That’s why it may be hard to say no when you get called in on your day off. Sometimes you’ll be asked to stay over your 8 or 12-hour shift because the unit is short-staffed. Maybe you’ll avoid calling in sick because you feel guilty your colleagues have to work extra in your absence.
But you need time to recover. You need rest, family time, personal time, and a life outside the workplace. You need to learn to prioritize yourself – you can’t provide quality care to others if you don’t take care of yourself first. You need to set boundaries – both emotional and physical. Your days off are your time to recharge. When your shift ends, you leave the work and the worries at the hospital. When superiors are trying to manipulate you into working longer hours, you have to put yourself first.
Check-In with Your Nurse Manager
There should be open channels of communication between management and nursing staff. So, when you feel overwhelmed and overworked, make sure you bring it up to the Nurse Leader. Reiterate the problems on the ground, be it difficulties with colleagues, scheduling issues, long hours, poorly designed technology, lack of resources, and so on. Make your voice heard.
Don’t Discount the Benefits of Vacation Time
The importance of vacation time for a person’s overall well-being has been extensively researched. Taking a holiday from work increases happiness, improves sleep habits, boosts cardiovascular health, and reduces stress. For nurses specifically, taking time off can prevent burnout and compassion fatigue.
Sometimes you feel like you can’t take time off. The hospital is so understaffed, and meanwhile, you relax? Maybe you want to save up your free days just in case something comes up and you need them later. Or perhaps it’s family obligations that prevent you from taking a well-deserved vacation.
However, you have to remember: working non-stop will do more harm than good in the long run. It would help if you made time for yourself, and a vacation can be the breath of fresh air you so much needed.
Here are some tips on how to ensure that you take advantage of vacation time. First, you need to plan ahead. The major holidays and summer vacation are the most coveted time for holidays, so many nurses will ask for time off. That’s why you need to think ahead and put your request in as soon as you can. If possible, opt for off-season vacations. It will be easier to get the time off if you plan around the most popular vacation days. Also, make sure you put it in writing. Add your vacation days to the shared workspace calendar so that your absence doesn’t take anyone by surprise.
Breaks at Work Are a Necessity, Not a Luxury
Many nurses don’t take breaks when they are at work. It’s an unhealthy trend that has been proven time and time again. A study conducted by the American Nurses Association found that 35% of nurses “rarely or never” took a meal-length break.
Nurses feel constantly stressed to get tasks done and to uninterruptedly care for patients to the detriment of the little free time they are entitled to as employees. The workplace pressures that are forcing nursing staff to miss breaks are harmful. You mustn’t give into them.
You need to take breaks during your shift in order to rest, rehydrate, and refuel. Breaks help you relax, get your thoughts together, and find the energy to keep fulfilling your responsibilities. Working without breaks will make you stressed, anxious, and burnt out. That may have severe consequences for your mental and physical health. We know nursing is a very demanding profession, but if you don’t take care of yourself during your shifts, you’ll end up overworked and hating your job.
Find a Hobby
Having a hobby and practicing it regularly is an invaluable form of self-care. It’s a great way to release tension and make you forget at least temporarily about the worries, challenges, and work-related stress. Hobbies can also improve your social relationships and can prevent you from falling into a painstakingly monotonous rut. They’re a way to disconnect and focus on yourself.
If all you do is work, you’re bound to start hating your job sooner or later. You need to find a hobby, and it will enrich your life. You can take up gardening or knitting. Try outdoor sports or have a shot at jewelry making. Start a blog or a scrapbook. The possibilities are endless.
Cut Down to Part-Time
If you simply cannot shake this feeling that you hate being a nurse, you can try working part-time at least for a while. Maybe the problem isn’t nursing itself, but the fact that it took over your life completely. So, perhaps reducing the number of hours and finding something else to do on the side will give you more time for yourself while rekindling your passion for nursing.
If the financial aspect is what’s keeping you from cutting down to part-time, there’s a solution. You can reduce the number of hours at the institution where you now work full time and get a side gig. This way, you’ll still have a stable monthly income, and you have the other occupation making up for lost wages.
Give PRN a Chance
PRN is a fairly common practice in the nursing field. The acronym itself stands for the Latin phrase “pro re neta,” which means “as the need arises.” PRN Nurses are temporary or short-term employees of a healthcare facility. Essentially, when hospitals need more nurses to fill staffing shortages, they will employ PRN RNs.
Many nurses turn to staffing agencies and pursue PRN roles either full-time or part-time. It allows them a lot more flexibility in their professional life. They have more control over the work environment because they can choose where they work and when. Generally, they can opt for weekly or even daily commitments. A great solution to feeling overworked all the time? Take charge of how much, when, and where you work.
Try a Different Department
One of the best things about nursing is the versatility of the field. Maybe you lost interest in the area of nursing you initially chose. You don’t have the spark in your eyes when you talk about your role anymore. A switch to a different nursing department might do the trick and reignite your passion for nursing. Seeing a new perspective, working in a new department, diversifying your patient base can quickly turn “I hate being a nurse” into “I guess I was in the wrong specialty because nursing is actually amazing.”
Especially if you have a Bachelor’s degree in nursing, you have a wide range of opportunities as far as your career is concerned. If the ICU life is starting to be too much, maybe give Geriatrics a chance. Do you feel overworked and burnt out in the Emergency Department? Maybe working as a Dialysis RN will be more up your alley. Do you find that Hospice nursing isn’t all you wished for? You can try working with babies instead. Is working in the Oncology department too draining physically and emotionally? Transition to a career in Nursing Informatics, for instance. As long as you’re not afraid of change, you’ll find that nursing has a lot to offer.
There are many career paths to choose from for Registered Nurses. Our guide on the subject can help you get inspired.
Switch to an Alternative, Less Stressful Nursing Career
If you don’t enjoy working at the bedside, or if you’ve just had enough of it, it may be time to pursue an alternative career. One that is less stressful, more flexible, and balanced. Luckily for you, you don’t have to start from scratch. A BSN in nursing opens the door to a lot of alternative nursing careers.
Although not a new concept, Telehealth nursing is currently gaining a lot of momentum and can be a very lucrative and relatively stress-free career. You can try Public Health Nursing if you’d rather care for communities than individual patients in a hospital. You can become a Nutritionist Nurse or an Occupational Health Nurse if your goal is a less stressful nursing career.
Or you can switch the hospital rooms for a classroom and pursue a career as a Nurse Educator. Becoming a nursing instructor means a stable schedule, a good salary, benefits, and a fantastic job outlook. On top of that, it’s a gratifying career because you get to educate and train the nurses of tomorrow.
Ready to Change Narratives?
There’s no denying that nursing is an exhausting job. You were aware of that, and you still chose to pursue this career. You’re a natural caregiver, so nothing compares to the feeling of helping people, saving lives, making the world a better place. The problem is when tiredness takes over and impacts your efficiency, mental state, and job satisfaction – when you lose the passion that drove you to embrace nursing in the first place.
“I hate being a nurse.” When this thought creeps into your mind, you need to take action and find solutions that will help you change the narrative. Take charge of your future in the nursing field and make the best decisions for your well-being and career.