Six months in…

Crazy to think I’ve been a registered nurse for nearly six months now. It’s been a while since I got real on here, so here it goes…

It’s been a challenging, emotional, stressful but wonderful six months. I’ve witnessed so much and have grown more in my role than I ever could have imagined when I accepted my first nursing job six months ago.

I must start off by saying, I got very lucky where I work. I honestly work with one of the best group of nurses I have ever worked with. I never expected to feel so supported as a new nurse and for that I will forever be grateful. I have had the opportunity to learn so many new things and I have never felt judged for not knowing something. I never feel afraid to ask for help and sometimes I don’t even have to ask, my colleagues just jump in when I need it most. We work in an area where the patient population often doesn’t get better, but honestly the group of nurses I work with are truly the reason I love working in oncology. In my experience, oncology is a specialty that attracts the best nurses and I’m so glad I get to learn by their example.

On the other hand, the first six months has truly opened my eyes to some of the biggest issues in Ontario health care. One of the hardest ones for me is the nurse to patient ratios that we are expected to work under. With the current ratios, some days I leave feeling so defeated, that I am not providing the best care I can. Four acute patients on a day shift and six patients on nights, I often feel like after all my tasks are complete, I have little time to just provide emotional support, something I know my oncology patients need so much.

I know that this guilty feeling comes from a place of caring. I honestly wish there were better services in adult care to boost patient moral. Being in the hospital honestly sucks. Patients are often stuck in their rooms all day, the only time they leave is for a treatment or if family comes to take them outside. We have no resources to provide activities for patients so they spend their days thinking about their pain or worrying about the results of their blood work or scans.

Some days it feels like I hardly have a chance to wrap my brain around what I am seeing, and this makes caring for myself at work a struggle. I know that this feeling will probably change with time, as I grow as a nurse and get better with time management, but honestly the ratios need to change because even the most experienced nurses I work with feel the way I do some days.

They tell us that looking after yourself is one of the most important parts of being a good nurse, but what they don’t tell us is that the conditions we work under will make it very difficult to do so. When health care providers are burnt out and working under challenging circumstances, patients aren’t receiving the best care. As a health care provider I am left with a feeling of guilt. I want to provide care that I would want for my loved ones, but honestly if the tables were turned, I wouldn’t want to see my family member’s health care provider working the way we do.

This is the part of nursing I am struggling with most. Nursing school honestly sheltered us from the reality of nursing and the patient experience. Nursing school provided a great “idea” of what health care models should be. Everyday I wish I could always provide care to the textbook standard, be able to look at my patients holistically like most nursing models suggest. This would be the ideal. Unfortunately, the N-CLEX constructed from ideal nursing care, did not set us up for success, for the reality of day to day nursing, No one told us how we as health care providers can possibly time manage under the current standards and still provide our best care to our patients. There is no winning in the current state of our system.

I honestly hope that in my career I can see a change for patients, even be that change to the health care system and nursing. I am scared to lose that passion that I had in nursing school due to the hardships and stress of day to day nursing practice but I know that all I can do is keep fighting through it for my patients. They deserve nurses who fight past the struggle, but nurses also deserve a change that will allow us to provide a better, more individualistic care to each of our patients. A change to stop us from always feeling like we could do better, but that allows us to feel like we are doing our best for our patients. This is what we need.

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