On the Drudgery of Working in a Nursing Home

story-nurse-with-patients-no-bg-484x252-pngSometimes, young people have their eyes fixed on a goal and their heads in the clouds. Although I became a nurse late, all that I wanted to do was to be an ICU nurse.

I was almost 30 at the time, so you really can’t say I was young and stupid. However, I was a new nurse, and I had watched all of the television shows.

In my eyes at the time, hospital and ICU nurses were the rock stars of the nursing world. I was just arrogant enough to think that I could do that, I could be that, and that is where I belonged.

As I worked through nursing school, I worked as a CNA at a nursing home. To me, it felt like drudgery because I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do.

Yes, friends, even when I left acute care nursing, I still considered nursing home nursing drudgery. I can only claim extreme ignorance, and a sense of not really understanding what I was privileged enough to experience.

You may now guess that I did become a nurse. I did work acute care. I did become an ICU nurse, and I crashed and burned. Burnout, compassion fatigue, simple dissatisfaction: it could be all three.

I am a writer now, speaking out about nurse issues, and I was called out on my very early use of the term “drudgery of nursing home work.” Instead of getting upset, I thought about it.

I don’t think I ever had as much fun in all my nurse work as I had in my nursing home work. Don’t get me wrong – it was hard work – but I liked the patients.

I remember one young man with cerebral palsy that I would always stop and talk to. He was non-verbal, but we always had great conversations. Thinking of him now makes me smile, and I hope he’s okay.

I remember the lady who always clutched her purse like she was going somewhere, or the ladies who were so proud of their hairdos after the beautician came in that day.

The difference for me between acute and long term care is that I remember the patients. They hold a special place in my heart, even after all this time.

Sure, I had the “Fast and Furious” moments in acute care where I got to save lives, but sometimes those memories fill me with dread. I would much rather think of the woman who was singing Christmas carols in the middle of July.

Part of it was drudgery, but so is all nursing. Charting and code browns and feeding and taking care of patients can take a lot out of a person. It is just as easy to get burnt out there as it is anywhere else.

I wish I could retract my statement. This, I hope does that to a certain degree. I respect and admire nursing home nurses. They work hard, and together as a team.

Although I went on to other things and am pursuing a lifelong dream now with my writing, I have been shaped by the time I spent in that nursing home. I miss those patients more than any I had in the hospital, and I want those who take that specialty to know that I give them the utmost respect when many may not.

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