Don’t Become a Nurse if You Don’t Like Taking Care of People

My title seems obvious to me, but I feel the need to share this advice to the world after meeting so many nurses that simply should not be nurses, or at least not pediatric nurses.

I am not a nurse. I would be terrible at it. I love helping people, but I wear out quickly. I have so much empathy that I feel the pain of others and find it impossible to remain calm and strong in emergencies.

I am not a sunny, perky person. I tend to be quiet, introspective, and thoughtful. I can not easily walk into a room with a big smile and a big happy voice. I have never stretched a “hello” into 10 bouncing syllables.

My son went through so many traumatic experiences in the hospital last week. He did not need grumpy or apathetic nurses to compound his misery. I’d say we met about 20 different nurses last week. Most were fine – friendly and hard working but nothing remarkable. A few were stellar – they had those outward personalities that positively charge a room and make everyone feel at ease. A few should consider a different profession, or at least a break if they are burned out.

Stress is real, and its effects on health are well known now. Children are easier to frighten, and have more volatile systems and should be given extra special treatment when hospitalized to encourage recovery. Children are less inclined to cooperate with medical staff unless they feel safe and trust them. Children see them as strangers, and young children have huge emotions they can’t yet control. Hell, I have huge emotions I can’t yet control. Reducing stress is the key.

Some of the nurses forgot my little guy was a frightened, tired, hurting 5 year old boy. Some I think even forgot he was a person at all, and just tried to methodically complete the task at hand robotically, compassion-free. Some of the nurses are lucky I had enough self-control not to wring their necks. Some of the nurses were reported to the charge nurse though.

I have huge respect for all nurses. It must me a tiring, often thankless job. Like being a mother to all those helpless patients. I get that. But if you don’t like taking care of people, and can’t force a smile on your face and take a minute to make someone feel safe, and think it is acceptable to use force before an introduction, or blame the child for misbehaving – please find a different job.

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13 thoughts on “Don’t Become a Nurse if You Don’t Like Taking Care of People

  1. I aam a retired R.N., and i was good. As much of an introvert as i am, i always formed bonds with my patients and their families. When caring for others when not a nurse, i have more than once, asked to have another nurse put on duty. Eight or more hours with crap is too long. Xoxox. Excuse any typos and all of my love.

  2. You are singing my song! I work in health care and I see these nurses (and therapists and technicians and, worse of all, physicians) who seem to have lost every caring bone in their body. In fact, I’ve worked directly for two of them in the last five years and it makes my blood run cold. In peds though…you’d think that they’d at least be compassionate. 😦 Little ones get better much faster when they are treated gently and with firm kindness. I know IV lines hurt and so do they…for a little man like your boy, the unknown fear compounds the panic. It’s a really crappy thing to do to a child who is already feeling terrible and frightened. I commend you for speaking to the charge nurse. Most of the leaders will take this sort of complaint seriously and actually do have an underlying need to keep their patients as comfortable as possible even if it means spending an extra 10 minutes explaining things and being careful not to hurt an already delicate situation even more.

    I wish I could scoop you and your little guy up and take care of you for a month so neither had to worry. One day at a time though…for now.

    Much love xx

    • Yes I thought you would understand and have an inside view of this. The charge nurse did take it seriously and rearranged assignments for our next few days to give us the best personality matches. I really appreciated that. I hate conflict and didn’t want to cause trouble, but I could not tolerate extra stress and pain for my little guy when it is avoidable. Things are settling down, still waiting for genetic test results, they had to go to an out of state lab. His current labs look good, so the crisis is over, but we need to know what happened still, and how to prevent it from happening again.

  3. This is an important post. I think many, many nurses do a great job. And I have tons of empathy for how hard it must be. But I’ve had my 5 year old treated like an object several times too. It’s hard enough to watch what they are going through without the pain and trauma being compounded by insensitivity. I do understand that lots of people just don’t know how to work with kiddos (and maybe it’s a gift for those that do) but I think understanding that children are not adults is key. And that they are people.
    I’m sorry that your stressful situation was made worse. I’m hoping that your little man is feeling better and that you’ve gotten some rest. I’ve thought a lot about your family over the past few weeks, and hope you know how much support and positive thoughts you’ve had directed your way. Take care.

    • Thanks for understanding. I do think some people are gifted to work with people and we were lucky to meet many of them as well. But somehow the bitter ones are more memorable, as it was just one more stressor, one more trauma of our week. I appreciate those positive thoughts, it has really helped me through all of this.

  4. I agree with you…my sister is also a retired R.N. and she was one with kindness and compassion. But I’ve been in the hospital before where there were very few smiles and no compassion. I just felt like another number, so you make some very good, strong points…
    Me a nurse? I love caring for people, I’m nice, but can’t stand the sight of needles, even after having 2 children and some surgeries…:)

    • Yes, caring for people is not enough. Something special is required to make a great nurse. I’m not strong enough to hurt people (with needles) for their own good. I know I couldn’t do it over and over again.

  5. I feel like too many people get into fields that they have no passion for why is that? I hate to think of an innocent child being treated in such a way! hope your future experiences are better

    • Yes I wonder about that too. I think many young women are pushed into nursing, or maybe once they get in and see what it really requires it just isn’t for them. The trouble is that it is so difficult and expensive to change careers, so I wonder if they feel stuck. Thanks for the comment!

  6. I’m sorry you had this experience, but unfortunately some people hate their lives and project it outwardly. I work with babies in the NICU, and I love my job. I especially love working with families…however I witness other nurses often, who should just move on! The only problem is….people need jobs! There’s a scarcity. I hope you never have to take another trip to the hospital, but if you do, I hope you get excellent treatment! 😉

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