I don’t believe that most people go into the nursing profession wanting to be a hero or seeking recognition for altruistic, yet demanding work. It certainly isn’t a glamorous job by any means. But I do believe that most nurses are called to the career. It requires a great deal of compassion, dedication, resiliency, and an authentic desire to help others. It’s not a path for the faint of heart. Honestly, as I’ve previously written, I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to be a nurse, to give so selflessly every day. After I graduated and started working however, things fell into place, and I truly enjoyed the daily challenges and the impact I was having on patients.
As the years passed, it became clear that nursing was not only my job, but also my lifestyle. I couldn’t separate myself from it. Unlike a typical desk position, we don’t clock out at 5:30 pm and leave our work behind. We won’t allow ourselves a swift departure until our tasks are complete simply because someone’s life depends on it. We are nurses 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Like mothers and fathers who unconditionally care for their children, nurses care for strangers as if they are family too. We do it graciously and without hesitation. I found I often became emotionally attached to patients, especially those with extended hospitalizations. I questioned whether it was a characteristic of a good nurse or a sign of weakness. I chose to believe it was a noble trait, but empathy can certainly come at a cost.
One of the many benefits of being a nurse include the skills we develop in patient care which transcend the bedside and seep into our personal lives. We are extremely organized, meticulous, multi-taskers and have very high standards for ourselves. We consistently utilize our knowledge outside of work. If there’s an accident on the side of the road, we are the first to stop and help. If someone is choking in a restaurant or a stranger complains of chest pain, we spring into action. And when a global pandemic upends our lives, we volunteer our free time taking on extra shifts, working at local clinics or providing much-needed vaccination assistance. Family and friends see nurses as trusted sources of information and seek our advice when they are feeling ill, if a child is injured, if they have general medical questions or need a healthcare provider referral. My work has been and continues to be extremely gratifying, it fills my soul and helps define who I am as a person.
Yet we can’t ignore the significant downsides of nursing. These might include loss of sleep due to evening and nightshift, stress and burnout, physical fatigue, and a general lack of work-life balance. “Research has found that 3% or less of nurses practice a healthy lifestyle, which can lead to physical and psychological problems” (Perkins, 2021). As nurses, understanding the practices we ascribe to requires a thoughtful approach to our personal choices. It’s important that we prioritize our own mental, physical, and spiritual needs. Take a minute to visit the blog “Self-Care Tips for Nurses, From Nurses
” for ways you can improve your nursing lifestyle!