Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My good day is someone's really bad day - Confessions of a bored ICU nurse

Since I had too much time on my hands for most of the summer, I took time off from writing apparently. I was uninspired, bored at my job, and desperate for anything to take my mind off how sick I was of my workplace. We were a home for the chronically critically ill, and it almost drove me to insanity - I swear. I became desperate for any exciting event to happen - dreaming of car accidents, trauma hospitals, and even had been contemplating airlift nursing (that is still on my radar by the way). I started out as an ICU nurse - which has been great in many ways, but I sometimes go back to what this older ICU nurse said to me when I was graduating from nursing school: "You don't want to start out as an ICU nurse, because then you will have no where to go". I didn't really understand what she meant, until I have watched four people retire this year who had worked on my unit for like twenty years or something. Jesus Christ! Twenty years??! I know time flies, but please let me spend time away from these same dreary walls and fucked up management (No offense Nurse Manager - who has been fairly decent, and I'm not even just saying that). As I found myself increasingly dissatisfied with my work, and scouring want-ads, those nurses words came back to me, and I looked at my options.

More blood and gore; aka cool new challenges!
I could get my TNCC-Trauma Nurse Core Course, and how cool would that be? I could be in a functional ER with even - get this - a working MRI! (I think I hear angels weeping with joy).
I could also be an ambulance or airlift nurse. Or, I could get some crazy job being the nurse for some foreign dignitary, or even South American drug lords, the options are limitless! I do want my kids to be fluent in Spanish, and who doesn't want to work for the Mexican Mafia? But, my husband has already put his foot down on that one. Usually, it just comes down to the outfit, and I would look really hot in a jumpsuit like this. Admit it people...

This is option one for the bored ICU nurse; more drama and fun. (this sounds good, but I would definitely take a pay cut, and I get five weeks vacation a year - this is hard to give up. Plus, there might be little babies, and that is always hard. take on a whole pile of shit.

I have strong social justice issues. I can see a bigger picture at my workplace, and I see so many areas that we can improve, and it drives me absolutely crazy if I think about it too much. I know that I have strong leadership skills, and I am fortunate to have an ability to encourage groups, and make ideas happen. I am pissed that our nurses (and all other hospital staff) aren't seen for their potential, and that by increasing employee satisfaction and idea ownership, we could improve patient care tenfold. Our nurses are absolutely treated like crap at my work by the upper management. I will say this with not really a twinge of regret, because these people have no idea that I even exist. I got a fucking popsicle for nurses week (from the volunteers), and yet I take all the heat when the Joint Commission comes to town. There is minimal recognition for years of service, basically zero opportunity to participate in greater hospital decisions, and then they wonder why we can't keep staff. Maybe I am ridiculous for even thinking that there can be a better way, that we should just be happy to be working, to know that the man will never listen to the regular working people; but in my heart of hearts, I know that this is bullshit. I know that people who are motivated can accomplish anything, and that by enriching people's perspectives, we can be the best place to work, with the best patient outcomes. I have a passion for excellent patient care, and I want to bring in new research and modernization for our patients and families. I am an optimist, and I fear, dear readers, this will fade in time - especially if I go into management...
Plus, I am still in my youth, and I have energy - I am not ready for the desk job.

Hitting the books

Since I want more, and I don't just want to get stuck in the same place for twenty years, I could go back to school and get my Master's. It would buy me some time, help me make connections, and design the role that I want to have in caring for patients. I have been looking into the Clinical Nurse Leader role, and I think it could be pretty great. But, this is a very new type of position, and there is a lot of controversy about whether or not it will become mainstream. I would still have my degree though, and that never hurts. This would involve me actually reading a book that is not a sci-fi novel or vampire smut, and those are going to be hard to give up, but I might still have the summers to catch up...I have been coddled by my regular day job I suppose.

These are some of the thoughts that have been going through my head this summer. I have not written because I have been tired of being tired. Now, however, my work is indeed exciting again, and I have been able to to give really good care to challenging patients and families who have inspired me to write this and vocalize my ideas.

So, thank you for reading my thoughts, and please give any insights you have. I know that we are nothing without the inspiration of others and I am grateful for that. I am also thankful for the intubated patient who needs lots of blood and pressors, and for the fact we got him better in time for the next one coming in. Amen.


  1. loved this post. im with you on the whole frustration thing and whats sad is ive only been a nurse for a year...

  2. Totally get the idea of not wanting where else to go... but I've only been an ICU nurse for 1 year. I feel like ANY other area I go into is a "step down" even though it's not really. I feel like people will judge me... I feel like my co-workers will call me less of a nurse because I chose something "easy." But I guess it is my life, my happiness in the end... so be it.... I don't know...

  3. I really enjoyed this post. It is true that nurses do not get enough credit and are looked down upon. I have always thought about being an ICU nurse, but have heard the same comments about time moving slowly and not having any "action" Again great post!