4 min read

What it's like being a Registered Nurse (from my perspective)

I don't write about work very often, aside from how it intertwines with our daily life. But I wanted to write a brief post about "what I do" and why. I've discussed the very basics: 12-hour shifts (really, they're more like 13-hour shifts) at night.  I've mentioned the jet-lag from days to nights to days, and how Nicholas and I cherish our time together after I've worked a stretch of nights. But there's more to it than just those details.

A sweet coworker shared her peanut M&M's with me on  a long night (above)

  • I spend a lot of time with my coworkers. If I work three in a row with the same people, that's almost 40 hours over the course of three days with the same people. Thankfully, they're some of my favorite people ever.
  • We help each other out—I'm never without an extra hand if I need it, and my coworkers frequently ask me if I need help before I have a chance to ask
  • We like to potluck and celebrate with cake and homemade goodies (sometimes for an occasion, sometimes just because we're up all night together)
  • When it's a difficult shift, we help one another, share the work, (hopefully) laugh together, and wish each other a good "night" sleep as we're going home
  • At our (small) hospital, we know the doctors and the pharmacists fairly well, and the pharmacists send us chocolates through the tube system
  • Sometimes we go out after work. Breakfast tacos after a long shift are just the thing.
  • We spend a lot of time on the phone, talking to doctors, pharmacy, lab, patient's families, and other members of the team. I never knew being a nurse would entail so many phone calls.
  • Some nights, we're kept busy with asking about our patient's pain/nausea levels, retrieving medication, administering medication, and then returning to see the efficacy of the medication...all steps repeated every four hours, sometimes with multiple meds.
  • At our hospital, we use "rolling workstations," aka computers on wheels. It's equal parts convenience and inconvenience (you have to make sure they're adequately charged), and all parts humorous. ;)
  • No two nights are ever the same.
  • Some nights, we walk a lot. On one memorable night, I walked almost four miles before midnight. On a "quiet" night, I might only walk half of that in twelve hours.
  • We have good poker faces, due to the frequency that we see "gross things." Naturally, I'll spare the details.
  • Sometimes it's difficult for friends and family outside the healthcare field to understand certain aspects of the work we do—both in subject matter and logistics. But my friends and family do an awesome job of supporting me, encouraging me, reminding me to get enough sleep, and praying for me when I'm at work. I could not be a nurse if I didn't have a support system both outside of and at work.
  • Our patients are generally awesome. They share their vulnerabilities and their stories with us. And sometimes we pray together, or laugh together, or just sit together. And if I get a patient a few nights in a row, we get the honor of seeing the progress they've made in just the twelve hours between my shifts. I'm genuinely proud of how hard our patients work to get well.
  • I used to consider sleep a waste of time, but now I see it as a necessity. Nights are tricky when you account for the with the amount of time required for preparation sleep and then recovery sleep. If I work a few days in a row, my uniform is as such: pajamas, scrubs, pajamas, scrubs, pajamas, scrubs, pajamas...and then normal clothes.
  • When we're not at work, we do have four days off. After a few long nights, it's wonderful to have a few long, full days off of work.

My "between-shifts uniform," complete with a mug of coffee (above); our rolling computers (below)

I love being a nurse. More often than not, I leave work sleepy and smiling. It is really hard work, but it's work that is worth it.

But if I weren't for frequent heart attitude-checks, I'd have less balance in my work-life blend. Without work, days off would not be so sweet. When I'm overly focused on the difficult aspects of work, I love how this quote from Charles Spurgeon addresses my attitude:

God is glorified by our serving him in our proper vocations. Take care, dear reader, that you do not forsake the path of duty by leaving your occupation, and take care that you do not dishonour your profession while in it. Think little of yourselves, but do not think little of your callings. Every lawful trade may be sanctified by the gospel to noblest ends . Turn to the Bible, and you will find the most menial forms of labor connected with the most daring deeds of faith, or with persons whose lives have been illustrious for holiness.

When I was in nursing school, I chose to have 1 Peter 3:8 inscribed on my stethoscope:

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

To this day, I'm thankful for that reminder, and I'm thankful for my job.


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