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What are the Worst Parts of Being a Nurse?

Sad and crying nurse on a hallway of the hospital.

When you think of the job of nursing, it can sound exciting to be part of a system that saves lives and helps people live better every day. However, many will tell you that it is among the most stressful jobs on the planet. As often as there are rewards, and there are many every day, the challenge of making decisions and performing the grunt work of bodily functions and death weighs on nurses daily.

Nurses are also among the most underappreciated professions, while also being among the most regulated professions. They have to be because lives are at stake in every way from a health perspective and a social perspective. Learn more about the worst parts of being a nurse here.

The Loss of Lives

Worried and stressed nurse sitting on corridor.

Nurses deal with death every day in everything they do, and it doesn’t matter what kind of field they specialize in. From surgical nurses to long-term care homes, death is always on the line. Nurses are humans and every moment is nail-biting.

One nurse said that after you have been taking care of a patient for a long time, which could even be a day, seeing them go can be the “hardest part” of being a nurse. As humans dealing with humans, they wish they could cry with them, but they can’t. Nurses don’t refrain from crying strictly out of professionalism, but because they know they need to be strong for the people left behind that don’t feel so strong that day.

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It is one of the worst parts of being a nurse.

The Bad News Portion of the Job

Close up of a sad young female nurse.

Nurses give bad news, strict orders, and make severe decisions every day. They do it because they have to, but also because their patients depend on it, even when the patients don’t like what they have to say. Good nurses have a way of doing this in a manner that marries both compassion, policy, and sound health care decisions.

The best nurses will go home upset about it and come back a few hours later to do it all over again. Most people don’t like to go to hospitals or doctor’s offices because bad news is coming. Or, they can feel the bad news there.

Nurses will walk the halls and the appointment rooms with the nurse face never moving, but with the same feelings inside. They see the times that 20-year-old mothers need to be told to make their own arrangements or grandmothers that think they are walking in mostly healthy and leaving with a life-changing moment in their hands. The bad news part of the job is one of the worst parts of the job.

Nurses Have Notoriously Difficult Conditions

Mature nurse assists an elderly woman.

Nurses are trained to know and learn that the conditions they work under will be difficult, and not for everybody. They work long hours on their feet all day and do a lot of heavy lifting for people. Sometimes it is actually heavy lifting.

We now live in a world where a nurse can walk into work one day and the entire world has changed, and they have to be the first responders. That is just one example of the notoriously difficult conditions that nurses have to deal with. These conditions are not something you can write to the labor board about.

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They are part of the human experience. Being sick is a notoriously difficult condition, and so is taking care of it.

In addition to daily news impacting their workdays, nurses also have to contend with difficult patients, difficult families, difficult colleagues, difficult instructions, difficult hours, difficult energy levels, and difficult physical demands that they worry they can’t keep up with because they are working difficult hours under duress that nobody can stop for them.

These conditions are among the worst parts of being a nurse.

Overworked and Underappreciated

Sad young female nurse wearing face protection.

Few people can say that nurses are underpaid, but they can say they are overworked and underappreciated. The best nurses will say that’s part of the job. They will say this to their loved ones though.

Long shifts are part of the job for nurses, and as humans, this will take a physical toll on them. They know this better than anybody. Those shifts will merge into many with few hours in between on some weeks, and this factor alone can alter the work-life dynamic for anybody.

Nurses also don’t receive the same praise and appreciation that the surgeons and doctors of the world do, and they resent this sometimes. Most face time with patients is with a nurse, and patients don’t realize how much work they do sometimes. This is a very difficult part of the job for a human who has entered a field to make other human’s lives better.

The Stress of Great Expectations

Sad and crying nurse in a hospital office.

All of the worst parts of being a nurse mount up to the largest one of all, and that is the stress of great expectations. With a nurse uniform on, patients look at them like superheroes. And they are.

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However, what patients do not see are the moments outside of the bedroom where they are wondering how to deal with it all themselves. Every single detail in a patient’s life comes under scrutiny, and a nurse needs to manage that. Nurses need to manage expectations for patients, and themselves.

For many nurses, the stress helps them to win the day and motivates them to meet those expectations. Still, some of those expectations are unknown, and that is among the hardest things to deal with as a nurse. The pandemic is just an example of how curveballs that come swinging with expectations attached are taxing for the most professional of health care professionals.

Nurses know that patients have expectations of them, the law does as well, and so do their employers and institutions. Sometimes those expectations take priority, and sometimes they have to decide which ones just don’t. Those decisions could be life-changing for people and usually are.

Meeting those expectations sometimes means skipping lunch so that someone sick can get theirs in time because a test was delayed and now something bad will happen if they don’t eat right now. These are decisions that the law might not like but have to happen so that someone can stay alive that day. The stress of great expectations is among the worst parts of being a nurse.

Learn More About Being a Nurse

As patients, it is hard sometimes to see what really goes into one of the most important jobs in the world. Nurses play just as important a role as doctors in every patient’s life. It is a very rewarding career, but there are moments every single day that make every nurse wonder if they are doing the right thing and in the right job.

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Difficult conditions, loss, constant stress, and daily management of big life decisions are among the worst parts of being a nurse. Overcoming them daily is what makes them heroes.