A lot of people think they want to be a nurse, only to find out they hate it once they start working. Although I love being a nurse, there are some things I wish I knew before going into the profession. Knowing then what I know now wouldn’t have changed my mind, but it may for some. Here are 5 questions you should ask yourself before deciding if bedside nursing is right for you.
1. Are you a people person?
This may seem odd, but you’d be surprised how many nurses leave the bedside because they simply don’t like people. Luckily, there are a variety of things you can do with your nursing degree that does not involve direct patient care.
However, if your goal is to become a bedside nurse, you at least need to be able to tolerate people.
Bedside nurses not only interact with patients all day, but their families as well. Not to mention doctors, residents, social workers, nursing assistants, lift team, turn team… the list goes on and on.
If you don’t enjoy interacting with others, (or can at least fake it) bedside nursing may not be right for you.
2. Can you be assertive?
As a nurse, your patients will depend on you to make sound decisions about their care. Sometimes this may mean getting your patients to do things they don’t want to do.
For example, early ambulation is key to preventing blood clots after surgery and to promote healing. I can’t think of one patient who willingly wants to walk the halls right after having surgery.
As a nurse, its your job to get your patient out of bed and walking. Some patients will be easier to convince than others, so this is where your assertiveness will come in
Being assertive is not the same as being mean, judgmental, or rude! As a nurse, being assertive means you have confidence, are bold and decisive.
You’ll also need to be assertive when it comes to advocating for your patients. If something does not look, feel, or sound right to you, you’re going to need to be confident enough to speak up and assert yourself. This goes for patients, doctors, family members, the hospital CEO – whoever! Your patient is YOUR responsibility!
3. Do you have enough stamina?
I’m talking about physical and mental stamina. The typical bedside nurse shift is 3 twelve hour shifts a week. It may sound nice to have 4 days off but trust me it doesn’t feel like it. Working 12 hours is mentally and physically exhausting and not everyone can handle it.
Not only will you be lifting, walking, turning, and sometimes restraining patients; you’ll be assessing them at the same time. Be prepared to reassess your patients every 3-4 hours and after every medication and intervention.
You’ll need mental endurance as well! Being tired is not an excuse to not know what is going on with your patients. You will be expected to be just as alert at hour twelve as you were at hour one.
4. Do you like to educate?
Educating is a huge part of nursing and believe me, you will find yourself teaching the same thing to the same patient again and again.
When I say educate, I don’t mean stand by the white board and give a mini lecture on how exercise can help manage their blood pressure. Your patient’s eyes will glaze over if you don’t get kicked out of their room.
You’ll need to be crafty when educating your patients and deliver education in small doses throughout your shift.
5. Can you leave your feelings/problems at the door?
Your patients will expect you to be at 100% regardless of what’s going on in your personal life. As a nurse, you are your patient’s teacher, friend, confidant, therapist, etc. checking your attitude and problems at the door will not only benefit your patients, but will give you a break from your issues as well.
Also, remember you will not get to choose your patients. At some point you will have a patient who is of a different culture/religion, sexual orientation, or who has political views that differ from your own. You may have a patient who is racist or just does not like you for no reason at all. You will need to push past your personal feelings and provide quality care regardless of the situation.
You also must look within and realize that you may have certain feelings about your patients. You will be caring for people from all walks of life, different social statuses, and those suffering from addiction. These circumstances can be triggering for some, so it’s important to be in tune with your feelings and be able to separate them when needed.
If this post has you reconsidering becoming a nurse, don’t be discouraged! Bedside nursing is not for everyone and that is perfectly fine! The beautiful thing about nursing is the ability to change your mind again and again until you find the right fit for you!
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