On Burnout by Catherine Rutherford

Heads up, this story is pretty negative. I recently moved back to my hometown. I have yet to start looking for a job here, because my first job as a nurse was so terrible that I hate even the idea of being a nurse right now. I am so burned out from the 2.5 years I spent on a Transplant unit in southwest Ohio that I am afraid to even interview for another nursing job, even at hospitals that I know and love, ones that shaped me in clinicals as a student nurse. When people like ZDogg, MD bring to light how absolutely horrible it is to be a nurse right now, they aren't being whiny or negative. They are speaking the uncomfortable truth. Why do you think so many people want to work in clinics and other outpatient settings? Bedside. Nursing. Sucks. I stepped out of my orientation onto a floor that had been, and still is, woefully and chronically understaffed. In my two and a half years I saw 42 nurses come and go. I'm not kidding. Some there 10 years before they couldn't take it any longer, some there 10 weeks. My normal shift was at least 5 patients to every nurse. Most of them surgical. Most of them too stable for ICU, but too acute for the floor. Imagine a stepdown full of nurses who don't know they work on a stepdown. It's a miracle we didn't have more codes. If we were lucky we would have 1 tech for 24 patients. They'd take 12 patients so you'd only have to worry about doing absolutely every part of your patient's care for 2-3 of your patients. Many nights we had no techs. Many nights we lacked 2 or more nurses. Many nights we would fly by the seat of our pants and give our patients adequate care, at best. Many nights we would put our licenses in jeopardy. Our manager was a hot ass mess, to put it mildly. Known for calling at night while drunk "to check on us" she would rattle off excuse after excuse when we begged, pleaded for her to find us more staff. The nurses' union we belonged to was equally a mess, taking money from our checks and offering nothing in return when it came to advocating on our behalf. New grads who had been on the floor 5 months were forced to be charge. There was no training provided. Imagine your loved one trying to recover from a transplant on a unit with 4 nurses for 24 patients, where the charge is a 23 year old who's been a nurse for less than half a year and is still the most senior on the unit. Complaint after complaint after complaint fell on deaf ears. What had started as a rewarding and educational experience quickly turned into a contest to see how fast you could pass your meds and how much of your charting you could guesstimate once you sat down at 9 am. The patients did little to help my quickly darkening outlook. I will never forget the man who showed up drunk for his liver transplant. Or the woman who took her new kidney for a test drive by refusing to take her anti-rejection meds. Or the frequent fliers, good lord, the frequent fliers. There was the HIV/HCV + patient with severe bipolar who enjoyed skipping dialysis and throwing blood soaked tissues at the staff. The angry old fart who raised his cane to hit me while I stood by his bed, 9 months pregnant, explaining that he was a fall risk and the bed alarm was a necessity. Don't get me wrong, there were good patients. The kind who laugh with you, thank you, nominate you for Daisy's and reaffirm your feeling of self worth as a nurse. But those were few and far between. I could go on and on. I share this to say, burnout is real. And it is harmful. Dangerous. It chips away steadily at the life force that makes a nurse, a nurse. The compassion, the will to help and understand others. The caring. The commitment. 
For starters, every state needs legislature regarding mandatory safe staffing ratios. Every. State. And I think we can all agree Press-Ganey
needs to get the hell out. These issues are just the tip of a very, very big iceberg. 
So much in our healthcare system is burning us out. Killing our dreams. Preventing nurses from being nurses. And it's a damn shame.

Catherine Rutherford