What it’s really like to be a nurse

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What it's really like to be a nurse

The Nursing Profession


Nursing. One of the oldest professions out there. It’s certainly changed in many ways over the years and will continue to change with an aging population and increasing chronic health issues. Everyone probably knows someone who is a nurse.

Everyone seems to have a pretty general idea of what a nurse does. I often find myself in conversations with non-nursing friends and the ONE thing that they all seem to come back to is “well, you only work three days a week right?” …Ah yes. As bedside or inpatient nurses we do work three days per week with one four day week each month. What most people do not understand is the amount of mental and physical anguish that go into each and every shift.

Lunch breaks? If we are lucky. Breaks to pee? Sometimes. I often realize 10 hours into my shift that I haven’t peed or drank water all day. We care for people when they are most vulnerable. It’s our jobs to make them feel as comfortable as possible when they are in the most uncomfortable of situations. We are the shoulder to cry on for both patients and families. We answer the most difficult of questions.

“Am I going to die?”

“What if it’s cancer?”

“How am I going to get through this?”

Nurses are there for both the beginning and end of life. We are the ones that hold your hand when you are scared. Hug and cry with families for both tears of joy with triumphs and tears of grief and sadness for heartaches. Every single shift causes you to feel emotions A through Z. We try to be the voice of reason with angry, frustrated people. Nurses try to manage pain, both physical and mental. We get hit, kicked, pushed and screamed at. Nurses take care of people at their absolute worst. We try to do everything we can to keep our one incredibly sick patient or patients on this side of heaven. We leave late because documentation must happen, but caring for patients comes first.

Jack of All Trades


Nurses are case managers, educators, mothers, mechanics, coordinators, schedulers, advocates, dietitians and much much more. We wear several hats and have to solve many problems. When someone asks “what is it like to be a nurse?” I often joke and say I feel like all I do is put out fires that arise all day long. These are obviously not real fires but theoretical ones. Nursing is in large part learning how to be flexible and knowing how to prioritize.

My to do list at the start of my shift is usually much shorter than the list I end my shift with. Things happen. Emergencies happen. One minute you are talking to your patient’s family and the next minute you are yelling for someone to grab the code cart while you start CPR on your unresponsive patient.


Pulled In Every Direction


I wish I could be in four places at once. I know you are having pain. I am waiting for the physician to call me back. I know you want to sit in the chair. I am waiting for physical therapy and a fellow nurse to be able to help me safely move you. Your long stay in the hospital has made your body weak and it’s not your fault. I am getting your discharge papers together so you can leave the hospital and go home, but I just received a really sick patient from another floor who really needs my help in this moment. We do the best we can with the resources we are given.



What it's really like to be a nurse


Our 12 hour shifts are really more like 13+ and then we come home exhausted. So yes. While it is nice to  only work three days during most weeks, we NEED those days off. To recharge. To cope. So we can be on our A-game every shift. We work holidays and weekends. Nurses can’t always be there for events. We know that is frustrating and trust me, it’s frustrating for us too.


This post is not meant to make non-nursing friends feel bad for the difficulties of the nursing profession. We chose to be a nurse after all. It’s meant to raise maybe just a little bit of awareness about the truths and realities of the profession. We love what we do (aside of documentation and charting). There isn’t a profession out there that doesn’t come with its own set of difficulties or stress. Some professions are more stressful than others, but it doesn’t make those less stressful ones any less important.


XO Ashley

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