Why you should look forward to the bad days in nursing school (REALLY!)

A Nurse’s Guide to Good Living
By: Sean Dent


Nursing school is a tough cookie. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, someone or something throws you that curve ball.

I always find it interesting to hear the “war stories” from current and previous students. The quality of the story stems from the description of how they were treated by the instructor and preceptor, or the staff nurses, or the physicians, or maybe even their fellow nursing students. The story is given a thumbs up or a thumbs down as a conglomeration of how the experience panned out for them.

If the preceptor was mean, then it was a bad day. If the physician was friendly and a good mentor, then it was a good day. So on and so forth.

Here’s the rub. A good day does not always equal a good learning experience. And a bad day does not always mean a failed learning experience. Remember, you are not there to have “fun;” you are there to learn.

Just because your preceptor was a jaded, burned out staff nurse doesn’t mean they didn’t pass on some important pearls of wisdom for you to take with you when you move through your career. And just because the physician was friendly and made attempts to educate or teach you doesn’t mean it will translate into important information at the bedside.

For me personally, the worst days I’d had as a student have taught me the most. I learned invaluable information from bad experiences, bad people and bad situations. I learned a great deal about myself, the type of nurse I want to be and the subset of skills I strive to possess.

Don’t hope for the “easy street” every day when you’re in class or at clinicals. You need to be challenged, you need to be stressed and you need to navigate through the badness. The badness is something that never goes away once you become a nurse. It will test your mettle when you least expect it.

If you get to experience the badness while you are a student, you will be that much more prepared to take it head-on when it shows up later in your career.

Some of the worst experiences will teach us the most. Any experience, whether good or bad, will teach you something. Be sure to pay attention.

“Don’t ask for a lighter load, ask for a stronger back” (adapted from Phillips Brooks).

Do you agree? Have your worst days at school or on the job taught you the most?


22 Reasons Why It’s Difficult to Be a Nurse


By: Susan Kieffer

To be a nurse is difficult. This article is dedicated to outstanding nurses around the world working in the trenches; working tirelessly for the good of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones who are entrusted to your tender, loving and skillful care.

Many are asking, why is it so difficult to be a nurse? Is it the job itself, difficult colleagues and physicians or your patients? Here are the 22 questions that might make you realize that being a  nurse is a daunting job.

  1. Make life-and-death decisions for 7 people based on a 5-minute shift report?
  2. Get berated by a physician for forgetting one thing when you have remembered 100 other things?
  3. Think about what you are going to have for lunch while cleaning an emesis basis or a bedpan?
  4. Have to know the etiology, classification, dosage, side effects, contraindications, and compatibility for 18,000 different medications?
  5. Need to know the significance of obscure lab results and whether the doctor should be awakened at 3am because of them?
  6. Have to obtain a physician’s order to give a patient a Tylenol but have the authority to float a Swan-Ganz catheter through a patient’s heart to measure central venous pressure and pulmonary artery pressure?
  7. Coordinate respiratory therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, radiology, dietary, social services, consulting specialists, and wound care nurses for 7 patients but somehow forget where you put your car keys?
  8. Spend 12 hours on your feet only to be told by your personal physician that you need to get more exercise?
  9. Own 20 sets of nursing scrubs and own zero sets without a stain on them?
  10. Have to learn a new corporate computer system when you are 55 years old, and you don’t even own a computer?
  11. Memorize the menus and phone numbers of every local restaurant that will deliver in the middle of the night?
  12. Being a nurse, find yourself choosing a personal physician based on how nice he or she is to nurses?
  13. Go to work when it’s still dark outside and leave work when it is again dark outside?
  14. Get floated to some random area of the hospital where you have received zero training and be expected to carry the load of a nurse who has worked the unit for 20 years?
  15. Consider a chair at the nurses’ station something worth fighting for?
  16. Learn about research findings because the administration taped them on the wall of the ladies’ room across from the toilet?
  17. Know your patients by their diagnoses and/or their room numbers rather than their names?
  18. Feel naked without a stethoscope and a pen hanging around your neck? Can nurses survive without things?
  19. Learn how to take a manual blood pressure in 15 seconds flat?
  20. Remember your worst nightmare was when you dreamt that the doctor called and you couldn’t find the patient’s chart?
  21. Feel guilty when you leave your patients for 30 minutes to have lunch?
  22. Learn to read physicians’ handwriting that resembles the graffiti on the dumpster behind the local Wal-Mart?

5 Things New Professional Nurses Should Never Say to a Patient

By: Renee Thompson

New nurses tend to be very myopic during their first year as a professional nurse. What do I have to do? What do I have to learn? How am I going to get through this shift? This is a normal part of being new, especially in a profession that involves life and death! However, sometimes patients can become casualties in the process. We don’t always realize that what we say makes a huge difference to patients and their families, sometimes leading to a lack of confidence in us as healthcare professionals.

Here are 5 things you should never say to a patient or family member:

  1. “We are really short-staffed.” When you tell a patient you’re really short-staffed, they worry that you won’t be able to take care of them, especially in a crisis. Even if it were true, patients need to trust that you will meet their needs—not worry that you are not capable.
  2. “I have never done this before.” If you are asked to do something you’ve never done before, you need to thoroughly prepare before you walk into your patient’s room. This might include reviewing the policy or bringing a more experienced nurse into the room with you. But please make sure you are not verbalizing your insecurity to your patient. The last thing you want to do is to scare them into thinking that patient care will be poor.
  3. “I don’t know. That’s what the doctor wrote.” Ugh. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. As a nurse, it is your responsibility to understand the plan of care for your patient—including what the doctor wrote. However, if your patient asks you a question about their care and you’ve been too busy to review the chart or discuss with the physician, tell them you’ll find out and get back to them. Don’t punt it to the doctor. It undermines our value.
  4.  “I’m not sure why you’re on this medication.” Not only is this bad to say, but you should never ever give a medication to a patient unless you know why they are on it, anything you have to assess before giving it, and what you expect as an outcome. This is both an issue of professionalism in nursing and patient safety. You have to know.
  5.  “They don’t treat nurses well here.” When you are at work, you are representing your organization—the good, the bad and the ugly. Your patients see you as an extension of the hospital and when you badmouth them, you are bad mouthing yourself and everyone else that works there. Although you may have legitimate complaints, sharing them with your patient is unprofessional. Just don’t do it.