Being a nurse is a great job — but there are plenty of things I don’t love… This post shows the worst things about being a registered nurse, and a 2021 update shares what I left bedside nursing after 23 years.
I think most people think of all the bad things about being a nurse when they think of nursing. The things THEY think of aren’t necessarily mine.
First off, hello! I’m Hilary — many people know me as The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years experience in OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind this website Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺
Be sure to stay tuned for my update from 2020.
And feel free to listen to my discussion on trauma in nursing on the Pulse Check Podcast.
The worst things about being a registered nurse
Here’s my top 6 worst things about being a nurse:
1. Working odd days is a bad things about being a nurse
You will work shifts that no one else is working. You will work holidays, you will work nights, you will work long hours on weekends. When you are new, you won’t get time off during the summer. We don’t have a slow season that lots of people can take off.
When you are a new nurse, you will have to suck it up and just work. New nurses that think they get the pick of the schedule get eaten. The end. Seniority rules the roost as far as scheduling goes. It is just no fun to be the new guy. Senior nurses get the schedules they want (and they worked a long time to get there, so they’re not shy to let you know).
Family members will have to get used to your new schedule, and that can be hard, and 12-hour shifts or night shifts can be hard on your body.
Don’t forget that sometimes lunch breaks are hard to come by on a regular basis (even in a 12-hour shift). It is an extremely demanding work environment!
2. Gross things are a bad thing about being a nurse
Healthcare workers (and especially nurses) will touch things that no one else will touch. Luckily, you get bathed in this during nursing school, so if that is something you’re ending-up squeamish about, you’ll know long before you have your degree in your medical field
I have certain things I am not a fan of — mucus. It just grosses me out to no end. I have no idea. I also hate feet. Hence, I don’t do respiratory and i don’t do podiatry. What a shame. You’ll likely find a patient care area that you’re passionate about though. Most people have certain bodily fluids they tolerate less.
Some people are also weirded out by different parts of the human population. Some might not want an elderly patient, or one with a trach. It’s all just different — and the best way is to find what you like and to stay there for a while. The good news is there are LOTs of types of nurses, adn you can find something that suits you.
3. Doctors (can be) are a hard part of being a nurse
Doctors may want to eat you and spit you out. Thankfully, the nursing profession has come a long way in this area — but not far enough. In doctor’s defense, they HAVE to learn to trust you. You are their eyes and ears. If you aren’t giving them good info, or the info they need, they DO need to let you know that. Nicely.
A lack of respect just isn’t tolerated by me, but I don’t mind correction — and yes, I have received it. And, yes, they have received it. You both, in the end need to have each other’s backs. That’s best for the patients.
4. Bad Managers are a hard part of being a registered nurse
Sometimes nurse managers are just nurses and not so much managers. Most often, your manager will be a nurse. She got into nursing because she loves patients, or helping people or something like that. She may not be the best BUSINESS manager you’ve ever come across.
I had, I think 5 managers in my 7 years at one hospital. They just weren’t meant to be managers (even though they liked the paycheck that came with it). I love my current manager, and I think whatever manager you have there may be issues — but I think management can be an issue for nurses.
Also, admin often changes your nurse manager frequently, which can be a problem.
At the same point, you may be asked to be involved in unit leadership, and possibly be a charge a nurse. You’ll have to decide if that’s something you want to do.
5. You might not get rich as a registered nurse
You are unlikely to be very rich. It’s not a lucrative field. I think nursing is something that IS caught in the gender gap. You’ll live. But the idea that you are saving people’s lives, but may not be able to afford a vacation with your family is something you might need to consider.
I did make GOOD money in the Bay Area, and I do think that Arizona, compared to the cost of living, pays fairly well. BUT, if you think nursing will make you rich — you might think again. Long gone are the days of double time or even time and a half for extra shifts. Hospitals are strapped, at least they say they are. The Average salary for nurses right out of school isn’t horrible, but don’t expect huge increases as you gain experience (which is a shame).
6. You Have to Learn to Love it as registered nurse
You will have patients that you absolutely can NOT stand that you have to be nice to. I’ve had patients with 13 abortions who have told me that they forgot to abort this one. I still have to put on my smile and treat them like anyone else even though my brain steams at the thought. There are going to be bad days in your nursing career. Really, bad days.
Learning to be good to people who I REALLY don’t want to be nice to is one of the things I work on. I think most people work on it but I think it is front and center in the nursing profession sometimes. It’s a real reminder that Jesus served everyone, not just people he liked.
2021 Update on Bad Things About Being a Nurse
In late 2021 I left my bedside job after working labor an delivery for 20 years. I talk about it a bit in this podcast.
To give you the cliff notes, Covid changed how a lot of nurses in the United States see their career choice.
For me it boiled down to a few things.
- Requirements to float to places I wasn’t comfortable with.
- When I discussed #1 with my manager she just basically never responded for an entire year, after repeated follow-ups.
I just found myself hating going to work.
Does this mean I will never return to bedside nursing? Honestly, I don’t know. But I think Covid has changed how all nurses view nursing and will likely see a lot of nurses leaving the career for something else.
I loved the patients.
My co-workers were great, but there were things they said and did that were entirely unacceptable and management didn’t care.
I loved teaching, which is why I have my own perinatal education business. It is what it is.
Best Thing about Being a Nurse
While I do have a whole post about the good things about being a nurse, after ALL of it I think the best thing is all the opportunities and flexibility you will have. I switched into my own nurse educator business, but you can work home health, school nurse, becoming a travel nurse, or doing phone triage. You can also get advanced degrees! There’s just SO many options for an experienced nurse! Find a place with less stress that you can really enjoy!
Also, you do a LOT of good in the world. Unfortunately, that isn’t show in your compensation or your respect from your management or your workplace. However, little things — the thank you’s and knowing you saved someone’s mom — that’s a good feeling in a nurse’s job.
Don’t forget there is always a high demand for great nurses. A good nurse can always find a job (they might not love it — but they can find one).
Are you a nurse? Do you have negatives I didn’t mention? Comment your negatives below!
This post was originally written in 2014, but has been updated.