I hear so many new graduates say “I hate being a nurse.” What is going on?
I know that schools of nursing traditionally focus on the care needs of the client. Students are inundated with nursing theory, disease process, manifestations, diagnostic treatments, prescribed therapies, and then finally how this all fits into nursing care. This process repeats until every age group is studied and the student is ready for graduation. I have yet to see or hear of a course which helps the student deal with the “realities” of working as a staff nurse.
Successfully obtaining and beginning a new job as a new graduate is a time of celebration and joy – for about 8 hours. Then the self-questioning begins:
• What did I get myself into?
• What am I doing here?
• Did I make a mistake?
What happened to the “honeymoon” period that lasted for several weeks to months? I think in health care this period has dwindled (considerably). Reality is setting in much sooner than it has in the past. Why?
A few vocal new graduates shared with me their reasons for “hating” their job:
• Clinical didn’t last 8 hours and not used to working for that length of time
• Clinical didn’t assign me to care for 6 to 8 clients at a time
• I had time to research client care issues for clinical but for work this doesn’t happen
• Other staff nurses think I’m too slow but won’t help me
I met up with a few of my nurse professor colleagues who teach in baccalaureate nursing programs to find out what is being done to acculturate students into the “real world” of nursing. One colleague who teaches in the mid-west agreed that students are “not prepared” to face the reality of working as a nurse. Most often students enter the profession for various reasons such as a steady income, to continue a family tradition of nurses, or after a life-changing event which results in the desire to “give back.” The majority of students have blinders on because the focus is on learning nursing theory, medications, care planning, and preparation for the state board examinations. By the time the student enters the final stages of the program the professors are focusing on leadership content such as delegation, staffing, making assignments, and budgets. Little or no attention is given to the “realities” of working with multiple client loads or other nurses.
Another professor who works in a similar program but on the East coast stated that students believe that when taking the first job as a nurse that everyone else on the staff will be similar to or “just like” their fellow students. The new graduate doesn’t realize, at first, that they have a huge learning curve and that learning does not stop with graduation. The school of nursing that she is employed does not have a course or anything built into the curriculum that focuses on the realities of the profession. And if there are issues with staff while functioning in the role of the student most of the professors just counsel the students to focus on their own needs and not “pay attention” to the “politics” of being a staff member on any particular care area.
I found both of these professors’ comments dis-heartening. We have real issues within the profession. Nurses are being bullied. New graduates are having difficulty passing state boards, and are questioning their commitment to the profession. From the new graduate comments, the nurse to client ratios can be high. These new nurses need to learn how to “deal with” the issues of being a new staff member so that they do not become dis-engaged from the profession.
Unfortunately until the schools of nursing begin to address the realities of being a staff nurse, new nurses may continue to question their decision to join the profession. Until a change is made the profession may lose more qualified talented nurses that adding.
Next week I’ll focus on why the seasoned staff nurses “hate their jobs.” This should be interesting. See you then!