22 Reasons Being a Nurse is Really Hard

Written by Peter Jones

You’re a nurse. You want to be a nurse. You know someone who’s a nurse. No matter what your connection to nursing, we’re here to tell you just how hard it is for these folks who strive daily to keep us all alive and well. There’s no question about it, being a nurse is really hard.

Here are 22 prime examples of just how hard nursing can be.

Nurses Must Have Extreme Confidence at All Times

1. They routinely have to make life-and-death decisions for multiple patients at a time, often with little notice or preparation, i.e. a five-minute shift report.

2. They can get transferred to a wing or department for a day (that they know almost nothing about) and be expected to act as though they’ve been at it for 20 years.

Nurses Have Encyclopedic Knowledge and Stellar Memory

3. They’ll get berated by a doctor for the one thing they forgot, but never thanked for the 1001 things they manage to hold in their head throughout a shift.

4. They have to know all there is to know about 18,000+ medications: etiology, classification, contraindications, dosage, allergies, etc.

5. They need to be able to determine the significance of lab results and decide whether to bring in a doctor in the middle of the night if there are obscure abnormalities in your bloodwork or tests.

6. They actually read the research findings taped to the back of the bathroom stall door by the higher-ups.

7. No matter how old they are, they’re often asked to learn whole new software systems from scratch.

8. They can take your pulse with nothing but their fingers and a watch in 15 seconds flat.

Nurses are Caretakers of Everyone Around Them…

9. They have to figure out what to feed themselves and their families while they’re cleaning out your catheters and bedpans.

10. They have to manage care—PT, OT, radiology, diet, social services, medications, consultants, and wound care—for multiple patients at a time, but also remember where they put their car keys.

11. They need a doctor’s permission to write you a prescription for extra strength ibuprofen, but are routinely trusted to float catheters through patients’ hearts and veins to monitor them on the regular.

…At the Expense of Their Own Health

12. If they want to eat, they probably have to have the names and phone numbers of all the local take-out places stored in their memory.

13. They often arrive at work when it’s still dark out and go home after it’s dark again.

14. They feel guilty leaving their patients for the 1o to 30 minutes they (maybe) get to take for lunch.

15. They spend 12+ hours a day on their feet and still are told by their own doctors that they should get more exercise.

16. They probably have two dozen sets of scrubs, but none without a stain from someone’s bodily fluid.

17. More often than not, they won’t get a chair when they need one at the nurses’ station.

The Have a Unique Set of Quirks and Everyday Problems

18. They might have to choose a doctor for themselves based on whether that doctor is kind to nurses.

19. They have to know their patients by diagnosis and room number before they can bother with a name.

20. They probably feel naked without their stethoscope, pen, or other crucial implement.

21. Their worst nightmares involve anything from losing patients to doctors calling them and they can’t find a patient’s chart.

22. They have to learn to read doctors’ “handwriting.”

Bottom line: it’s hard to be a nurse. If you are one, thank you for all you do. If you’re not, go thank a nurse!

About the author

Peter Jones