Nursing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 

I’ve had a lot of people ask if I can share about what my experience has been as a nurse. I work in a Medical ICU, so obviously my experience there is going to be very different than of someone who works in Labor & Delivery, or in an out-patient clinic. However, I still think a lot of nursing positions have similarities so hopefully my thoughts on nursing as a career can either resonate or be helpful to any type of nurse, nursing student, or someone considering nursing as a career.

If you’ve read my ‘About Me’ page, you know that I kind of decided I’d “be a nurse” on a whim. I decided to go back to school for another degree, and nursing seemed like it would be a good option for several reasons (little did I know that nursing has been deemed one of the hardest and most difficult undergrad degrees–whoops!)

Anyway. The reason I chose nursing has to do with a lot of the “good” parts of the career (duh, why else would I have chose it lol). For starters, you will always have a job. You will have great health benefits. Another main perk is the flexibility of it. Regarding your hours, you have nursing positions that work 3, 12 hour shifts, 4, 10 hour shifts, or a regular M-F 9-5pm. If you work as a staff nurse, you can work in a hospital, a clinic, a dermatologist office, plastic surgeon office, for the department of health, as a home health nurse, for a law firm where you read and dissect medical briefs, etc. I mean, there are lots of options as you can see. I still hear about random positions in big corporations where you have to be a RN to do the job. Point being is there is a lot you can do with a nursing degree–more than you probably think! And then, you always have the option to get a higher degree in nursing like a masters or doctorate. You can be a NP (nurse practitioner), a CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist), a nurse educator. The list goes on. So in those respects, nursing is great. The other upside is that you are actually providing a valuable service. This may sound cheesy or lame, but you do have a job that makes a genuine and real difference in society (even if it doesn’t always feel like it).

Alright, let’s talk about the “bad” and the “ugly.” Not trying to be a downer here, but you guys know I am always honest and not one to sugar coat things. So, yes, I’ll tell you my honest thoughts about the downsides of nursing. Before getting into that though, I will first say that I do love where I work now. I always say that for a staff nurse, I feel very lucky to be working where I am. I hear some of my friends talk about their hospital or nursing experience and I am always very grateful to be a nurse at the hospital I’m at, and the unit I am in. So with that said, these downsides are not a reflection of where I actually work, but moreso what the nature of nursing entails.

So, let’s get right to it. To be put bluntly, nursing can be a thanksless and exhausting career. Don’t get me wrong, there are days where patients or family members are very appreciate and grateful…a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way. But overall, you are pretty much busting your ass for 12-13 hours straight…with only 30 minutes for lunch…it’s exhausting. I think what makes it so exhausting is that nursing is a mentally, physically and emotionally demanding job. Not only are you on your feet for the entire day, but you actually have to critically think pretty much nonstop. For me, working in a ICU, the acuity of the patients is very high…the drips they have to be on, the narcotics that are given…it can be a lot especially if you’re a newer nurse. And then in general, there’s the emotional toll it can take on you. This of course depends on what unit you work in, what kind of patients you have–but in general it is a whole other factor that can really weigh on you.

Also, remember when I said that a benefit of working as a nurse is that you can work 3 days a week, 12 hour shifts? Yes, this is great and definitely a perk. BUT. Like I said. It is still exhausting. And honestly, (most) people don’t understand this unless they are a nurse. A lot of people will say, “Why are you so tired, you only work like 1 day a week haha.” {Insert rolling eye emoji here}. Yeah, no. People don’t understand how taxing it is, which can be difficult at times. Honestly, it pisses me off when people make comments like that even if they are joking (and I don’t get mad very easily lol). Because honestly, they probably feel that way to some extent, and while on the outside the 3 days a week seems great (and it definitely is in a lot of ways), it doesn’t mean that it isn’t taxing.

So, I think that kind of wraps up my major thoughts on the topic. For you guys that are nurses, do you agree or disagree with anything here? Also, for people considering nursing as a career or who are already in nursing school…any thoughts or questions on this blog? I’d love to hear what you all think! Xx

Oh, and to end this on a lighter note, I’ve attached some of my favorite nursing memes. Hope you guys enjoy them as much as I do 😉 baha

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29 thoughts on “Nursing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 

    1. hahaha, glad you love the memes!! and props to you girl, I know med-surg is WORK! I floated to a step down unit the other day and I was like I CANT DO THIS (lolol)

      1. Those memes are perfect. I’m still in nursing school. But I work as a PCA on a med surg unit. Today was one of those days that makes me question what I’m getting into

      2. Yeah I feel you! But luckily with nursing there is a ton of options. I could never do med surg!! 😬

  1. I just graduated nursing school last Friday and I’m looking to possibly work in the Trauma ICU! I totally agree with this and it makes me a little nervous to start working full time because I was exhausted from just doing clinicals! But hopefully it will be a little bit better since I won’t have to do a 12 hour night shift and then go straight to school for 6 hours, and then also fit in work alongside all of that haha but this was a great post that doesn’t sugar coat the realities of nursing!!

    1. If it makes you feel better, working as a nurse is WAY better than being in nursing school. Also, I know everyone is different but I love working in the ICU. If I had to work as a staff nurse I don’t think I’d “like” it in any other unit!

  2. I agree with all of this! I think that’s a pet peeve of every nurse. And it’s also one of those jobs that’s 12 hours but if crap hits the fan at change of shift you can be there even later….and you have to constantly be on your toes thinking because one mistake can have huge consequences! I had my first patient with an EVD yesterday and was so Intimidated by it! Great post, and great insight!

    1. It’s like the shift is never done until it’s DONE because you never really know what could happen. And yes, one mistake can be very detrimental like you said, so you always have to be on top of it. Eek! yeah that stuff can be scary, but I think like anything, the more you do it, the less intimidating it becomes. Thanks for reading and your perspective 🙂

  3. I’m a new nurse (3 months in) at an oncology hospital on a hematology floor. And I already agree with everything you’re saying. Nice to read a similar perspective and feel less alone. It is sooo taxing and sometimes I wonder how I’m going to be able to do this forever! I love that I’m doing good for people and truly making a difference in people’s lives…it’s just a lot of hard work and so exhausting. I’m hoping it gets easier with time and experience. I’m on days now during orientation but will go to night shifts in a few months. So we’ll see how that goes!! Thanks for a great post! You’re truly inspiring that you are able to work and STILL go to the gym after! I need to pick up that habit, I’m so so burnt out after 13 hours!

    1. I will say that I think it does get easier in some ways. It gets easier because your time management becomes a lot better, and you just overall know what you’re doing more and more each day. So the more comfortable you are, the less stressful it is. But, it doesn’t make it any less physically exhausting…most days I wonder if I can do this “forever.” But do know that it does get easier in some ways. And I do not do well with night shift but I know a lot of people that love them! One reason being is that by nature they are usually less busy and stressful. And once you “get the hang” of nursing more, I think you’ll feel more confident getting in a workout. When you’re first starting the job, its a lot!! xx

  4. Hey Claire! I’m a NICU nurse and have worked nights the last four years. Do you have any insight in regards to nurse burn out? Working in an ICU and having to deal with frequent death/poor diagnoses can be so emotionally tolling and I have phases where I get so burnt out from everything I put into my job and the outcomes I have to handle more than I’d like 😓Love this post and can totally relate, I’m sure you’re a wonderful MICU nurse- definitely not an easy unit to work on!

    1. Honestly, I don’t have much insight 😔 I honestly leave my work at work. I really don’t let it affect me much emotionally when I leave, but physically it’s exhausting. I honestly think that to prevent burnout, working outside a hospital eventually may help (probably less emotionally and physically exhausting) or going back to school and not be a staff nurse anymore. Not the best advice but I’m kind of at a loss like you! 🤷🏼‍♀️😘

  5. Hi! I am currently an undergrad student at Notre Dame and I think that I want to be a nurse, but my school doesn’t have a nursing program! Do you have any tips for gaining experience that nursing schools would value before I enter a second degree program (most likely ABSN) after graduating from my current college?

    1. Hey! So every ABSN program is different. None of them that I applied to cared if I had my CNA or not. One looked at/valued community service but honestly it was all grades. They care about your undergrad GPA and then your GPA in nursing pre reqs like chemistry, statistics, pre cal. So I would focus most of your time and energy on your grades!

  6. Hey Claire!!
    I’m a nursing student working on my second degree (BSN) in the accelerated program at NYU! My first is in biology. I’m halfway done and honestly can’t wait to be out of school and working in the field already. I totally agree with everything you said above. My mom is a nurse and she’s one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met (and my dad’s a doctor too). Haha. She definitely works harder. Nurses are so under appreciated. I swear my biggest pet peeve is when people ask me why I’m “settling” for nursing instead of going to medical school. I literally makes me want to punch a wall every time… like really!?? Anyways. I love following your instagram account, and I can’t wait to be a fit, hot nurse like you in the near future 😉

    1. Awesome! I almost went there actually! But then decided to go to UNCW since my parents lived there. Good for you girl! 🙌🏼 and that’s awesome to hear, and I totally agree! Obviously everyone is working hard but it is irritating to get overlooked or compared to not being “as good” 🙄 and yes, that would be another pet peeve of mine too! People are ignorant, what can you do 🤷🏼‍♀️ and heheh, you will be a fit, hot nurse–soon! I know those accelerated programs fly by. Good luck! 😄

  7. I’m starting nursing school next week and I’m pretty nervous but also very excited! I just want to tell you thank you for all you do! My dad was in the ICU for two weeks with a less that 1% chance of coming back the way he was, but he’s here today totally normal. Thank you for your endless hard work! It takes a special person to work in the ICU.

    1. Awesome! Congrats! Just know that no matter how stressful nursing school seems or gets, it’s just temporary and being an actual nurse is so much better haha. But that makes me happy to hear about your dad. It’s stories like that make days working in an ICU worth it. I’m happy to hear that you guys were one of those “cases”! 🙂

  8. I always tell people that nursing is the best/worst thing I have ever done. Some days I come home fulfilled and some days I’m fighting back tears over the teenager we couldn’t save. However, there is nothing else I can see myself doing.

    1. Yeah I think that is a great way to put it–it makes definitely a career that has more “ups and downs” than most but I think a lot of nurses are willing to go through all of what they do because they are passionate about it and they love it

  9. My husband is a nurse in a cardiac step unit on nights. And even though I’m not the one personally experiencing this (although similar in a few ways- I’m a certified veterinary nurse in a busy small animal practice) I would completely agree! I see how much it takes a toll on him and how he can come home and sleep for 11 more hours to get up and do it all over again. Those 3 in a rows are ROUGH (for the both of us 😂) This was a good reminder how much I need to let him know I appreciate him and all this hard work! Love following you on insta and your blog!

    1. awww that’s so sweet! I’m glad this post was a nice reminder 🙂 But it definitely takes a toll on you too–it’s not just him! that’s how I feel with Stephen too, I know that it can be rough on him as well. sometimes it really is a team effort to get through those shifts. I know especially need his support when I have several shifts in a row or a long day so I’m sure your husband appreciates that as well 🙂 thanks for your comment!!

  10. I definitely think the public underestimates nurses. Sure, maybe a 12 wouldn’t be exhausting if nurses were robots following doctors’ orders. But, like you said, it’s the constant critical thinking — THAT’S what nurses are paid for. I don’t think I even understood how much nurses do until I started nursing school. I’m getting ready to graduate in December and I’m so excited for the opportunities a nursing degree affords me! (Though I’ve loved nursing school and I’m sad to be leaving the classroom..) Thank you so much for doing these posts and sharing your perspective! As a pre-RN (LOL), I’m always looking for more information about life after nursing school 🙂

    1. Yes, exactly. As the saying goes, the nurses are the ones that save lives! I just mean that you are the one always with the patient so you have to be aware of everything that is going on either to fix it yourself or make the doctor aware. But congrats! Nursing school is tough. And as exhausting as being an actual nurse can be, it is so much better than nursing school!!

  11. I have been a med surg nurse for over 2 years now, and I totally get what you’re saying! It can be tough on relationships also. My husband most of the time doesn’t get how angry he makes me when he says “you only work 3 days a week”. A 12 hour shift sometimes turns into 14 hours, and in the end we end up working what some people work in a week. My first couple days off end up with me being a zombie pretty much! But in the end, I love this job and couldn’t see myself doing anything else. 🙂

    1. props to doing med surg! I think that would be really challenging, I don’t know if I could do it! but yeah, I don’t think that unless you’ve worked as a nurse that you can fully understand how taxing it is. Even when people make jokes, its still frustrating!! lol But I feel you on the zombie part, it really does take a couple days to feel “normal” again lol. thanks for reading!!

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