Nursing is one of the most important and rewarding jobs in the world, but it’s not easy. On the one hand, your work is incredibly meaningful; on the other, it involves some of the most challenging things a person can do – on a daily basis.
Here are our top ten “truths” about being a nurse that we think more people should know. Can you relate?
10 truths about being a nurse
1. You’ll never get enough sleep
Nursing can be physically and mentally exhausting. Long hours, nights and weekends can quickly add up to burnout – and it can feel like you never get enough sleep.
Most sleep experts say that adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep per night (or day, if you work a late shift). To get the most high-quality sleep, try winding down without electronics for an hour before bedtime.
2. Some days are really hard
And we mean really hard.
Difficult patients, stressed or grieving family members and workplace politics can make nursing tough. If you’re finding it hard to cope, don’t stay silent: instead, reach out to a friend, family member or your doctor. What you do is important, and you deserve support too .
3. Other days are amazing
While some days are difficult, others can be amazing. Some of the friendships you form with patients and family members will last years and go beyond the hospital ward or care home.
When people are in pain or afraid, reassurance and comfort mean everything. Knowing you’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life can make nursing incredibly rewarding.
4. There’s way too much paperwork
There’s no denying it: nursing is paperwork central. From handover documents to reports, charts and written reflections, there’s always something to write, which can come as a surprise for newly qualified nurses.
Still, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Some organisations use tech to make record-keeping easier, so you don’t always have to use a paper and pen. Apps like Florence, for example, use digital timesheets to keep track of hours worked.
5. Work follows you home (not cool)
The mantra “leave work at work” is easier said than done if you’re a nurse. It can be hard to separate work from your personal life, especially if it’s been an emotional day or you have one last to-do on your list.
These three tips can help you switch off after your shift:
- Use your commute to unwind. Clear your mind as you travel – try to move from one mental space to another as you ride, drive or walk home.
- Write tomorrow’s to-do list. Simply writing down what you need to do tomorrow can stop you from dwelling on it.
- Make time for hobbies. Create space on your schedule for the things you love doing the most – don’t leave leisure time to chance.
6. Every shift is busy, busy, busy
Nursing can be a pretty hectic job. Unexpected events and busier-than-average days can mean shifts go on longer than expected, too. Plus patients can be…unique.
Juggling tasks on shift can feel intense and challenging. Giving meds, providing emotional support, keeping an eye on vital signs, wound care, doing admin, updating family members, helping doctors perform procedures and other tasks…it’s a lot to handle at once.
7. You need thick skin – and a big heart
Not every story has a happy ending when you’re a nurse. Some patients recover, but others don’t – and tragedy can happen on a daily basis.
Resilience is vital: part of your role is to maintain focus, provide high-quality care, support colleagues and cope with stress under the most challenging circumstances. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, these resources might help:
- The Royal College of Nursing’s Stress and you guide.
- The Resilience Resource SOS page.
- This collection of articles and activities from NursingCenter.
8. Training never stops, ever (seriously)
Have we mentioned training yet? Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate – it continues forever. That’s a good thing: new treatments, practices and studies get published all the time and it’s exciting to stay ahead of the curve and give the best care.
E-learning resources like Florence Academy can make it easier to get your CPD hours in. You can learn on your laptop at home or via your phone on the bus (or the beach), so that’s one more thing ticked off the revalidation checklist.
9. You have to be next-level flexible
Nursing isn’t a nine-to-five job. Sometimes it isn’t even an eight-to-eight job. If a patient or resident needs emergency care, you will find yourself staying late to provide the best care you can give. Then there’s overtime, last-minute shift coverage, handovers that take longer than expected…
Flexibility has a flipside, too. Signing up with Florence – whether you have a full-time job or not – can help you find local NHS and social care nursing shifts that suit your schedule.
10. Hands-on experience is everything
You’re fresh out of nursing school; you know everything, right? Wrong. Hands-on experience is the number one way to learn and grow as a nurse. Theory is useful, for example, but you need practical training too.
Hot tip: One of the best ways to gain experience, especially if you’re new, is to find a trusted mentor. Mentorship can also be useful if you’re trying to specialise after being a nurse for a while. You could ask another nurse to be your mentor, take part in a formal mentoring programme or find a mentor online.
Warm fuzzy: nursing makes life meaningful
Nursing isn’t easy – and that’s putting it mildly. But most nurses agree that what they do is “a calling”, rather than an ordinary job. In a recent Medscape study, 72% of nurses said they were happy with their careers, even after the pandemic.
You’ll nurture patients back to health, hold hands with people who are dying, comfort friends and family members, apply countless plasters and administer thousands of pills over the course of your career – and every little thing you do will really matter. Nurses, we salute you!
Florence can help you find flexible shifts near you, take essential training courses and improve your work-life balance. Find out more and sign up today.
You might also be interested in:
- How to switch to a night shift: 6 tips for nurses
- 9 little things that make nurse life much easier
- Working full time for the NHS vs an agency: which path to choose?