I recall the time back in high school when I was first starting to think about becoming a nurse. One of the most appealing things about the profession was the hours. Typically, they were three 12 hour shifts, totaling 36 hours. Sounds pretty sweet doesn’t it? That’s what most people told me. People were even considering changing professions after I had told them about the weekly hours of a nurse. I know I loved hearing about those hours. What’s more: a nurse could pick up one extra day a week, get major overtime and still have three days off.
Now, many nurses work more than 36 hours. For whatever reason, whether extra finances, emergencies or just wanting to work more, a lot of nurses work well beyond the typical full-time schedule. This was usually the case for me personally. Rarely have I ever only worked 36 hours. However, for this article, I am simply pointing out the hours necessary to be considered full time.
One thing I, nor most other people, did not realize is the reason for those hours. While those 36 hours in a week may not seem like much, they were grueling, long, tumultuous, tiring and stressful. Those 36 hours do not feel like only 36 hours. Those four days off are truly needed for rest, recovery and peace. Otherwise, a nurse might just go mad! Sometimes, they have.
That being said, just how important is it for a nurse to decompress? The answer: extremely. As a nurse, you often hold the patients’ lives in your hand and the smallest mistakes can make a situation go from good to bad to worse very quickly. One minute, you are discharging a patient, and the next, stopping a patient from dying. On top of that, you are running around trying to give meds on time, making sure patients are getting their tests done, labs drawn/resulted, and meals given. You have to call the doctor multiple times a day, while dealing with an unruly family member. Try keeping your cool when you have to explain to a stable patient who is badgering you about their food being cold, while you are trying to make sure another patient does not die. Also, as a nurse, everything comes down on you, no matter how out of your control something may have been. Oh, BTW, during that 12 hours, you are lucky if you’ve had a lunch break.
I have just barely hit on the tip of the ice berg of what a nurse goes through on a regular basis. One must work in the profession to truly realize the extent of what goes on. For these, and many other reasons, decompressing on a regular basis is very important. Get away from work; go on a hike; watch a movie; take a vacation; sleep endlessly. If none of this appeals to you, do whatever it is that you do for rest and relaxation and to clear your mind. It will help you from getting burned out and losing your sanity.
Always remember that nursing is a diverse field. If you are getting sick of one area, it may be time for a change.