Time For Soul Searching?

I think I’ve finally had enough, and some soul-searching might be in order.

Recently, my grandma unexpectedly got very sick very fast, and was placed on hospice for a short while before she passed away. For about two weeks, any moment not spent in school was spent driving back and forth to distance major medical centers or her residence, spending what time I could with her. Her wishes were to be buried in her hometown in New York. When she finally passed, we had to travel for the funeral. In the middle of all this, I had a major paper due. My teachers were aware of what was going on, and granted me an extension on that paper. Certainly not something I asked for, but I was very grateful when it was offered to me.

When I came back to class, one girl had the stones to tell me, “I can’t believe you used a death in the family as an excuse. Must be nice to have family emergencies to give you even more time to get work done. Instead of just pushing through it like the rest of us.”

Once the urge to kick her in the head subsided, I felt hurt. Most of the drives home from school feel that way too. Which translates into commutes to school that are filled with anxiety and dread. Comments like the one I made above are made just about every day. I thought we were in college here. I thought the bullying was supposed to be over by now.

As hard as I try not to be, I’m a sensitive person. I’m much better at letting things roll off my back now than I used to be, but the right comments at the right time still get to me. So I vent to my friends who currently are nurses up at our little ER.

The popular response? “Yeah, nurses eat their young. That’s kind of normal. But in a year and a half, you’ll at least be making good money.”

That’s what I have to look forward to? A pay check? Let me be abundantly clear. Being paid is not and will never be enough compensation for daily emotional abuse. At least the patients who are mean are sick. Well, sometimes. Regardless, they won’t be in my care forever. But, I will have to be around mean coworkers all the time. And I don’t know that I can do that.

The school work is hard. But I know I can do it. I’ve been more proud of how much I’ve accomplished and pushed through this semester than I’ve ever been before in my life. It’s the fear that my working career will be just like my academic career–full of mean people who will say and do anything to cut you down. I don’t expect to be coddled and held and adored all the time. I don’t belong to that annoying mindset that I deserve a pat on the head and unabated praise for taking a poop every day. Although I’d like someone to joke around with, I’d be perfectly fine with neutrality.

Yes, I understand the world is full of mean people. But there are lots of really nice, caring, and wonderful people in the world too. Usually, I’ve found it’s a good mix, even leaning towards the good more so than the bad–at least in my small corners of the world. I’m talking about entering an environment daily that is nothing but cruel. And yes, I know, not all nurses are these awful and mean people. But it seems that that has become acceptable and normal; like kind coworkers are an exception. Therein lies the problem.

So do I keep on with nursing school, and hope that in a year-and-a-half, my career and coworkers will not seem as bleak and terrible as they’ve been made out to be? Or do I cut myself off from all the negativity now, and pursue something else? If I do that…then what else would I do?

Any insight? Support? Slaps in the face? Shaking in of common sense? Suggestions? Any and all of the above would be appreciated.


  1. If you want someone to joke around with become an Er nurse, that way you can have fun with EMS when we bring in pt’s

  2. I am assuming that since this career choice was not about money it was because you want to help people. I won’t lie and tell you that you wont have to grow a thicker skin but the difference between school and career will be the patients. EMS is the same way, in that kind coworkers appear to be an exception. It took me ten years to find the right place to work. To get there, I always tried to remember that I did not get into this for my coworkers, or to be liked, but to help people. I find that the worst stab in the back can be easily healed by the grip of a patient as they squeeze your hand or the smile that they thought they lost forever returning to their face. It’s not easy and unfortunately the “mean people” syndrome is an epidemic throughout society these days, not exclusive to the medical fields.

  3. I’ve seen the same thing in every field I’ve worked in and every place I’ve been. They’re everywhere. You can be a resilient and shining example of what a great attitude and a bit more compassion can do for a career, and the ones who will benefit most are the patients. Bad attitudes rub off easily, but you know what? So do good attitudes.

    My 2 cents to how to deal with these types of people is to be frank, but not rude. I simply tell them something like, “Wow, that was incredibly callous, insensitive, and inconsiderate. Do you treat your patients that way too? I bet they just love spending every minute they can with someone who acts like you’re acting right now. Me, I prefer to show a little compassion when I don’t know all the circumstances. So far, it’s made my career far more rewarding.” Sometimes the reaction is that they didn’t even realize how negative or insensitive they were being and you can see a visible change. They take stock in themselves and will think before they act. Sometimes they develop a brief, audible respiratory gas leak, followed by, “Whatever,” and they walk away and may even go to lengths to avoid you in the future. Sometimes the only way to get through to them is to do it in the midst of other peers, where they are suddenly embarrassed and have to face the music. Maybe the choice response would be something blunt like, “Yeah… I guess I’m just lucky someone really close to me died, huh? You know, I’m sure glad your life is in perfect order and you didn’t have to go through what I just did, because I would never have treated you like crap as you just did to me.”

    If those approaches don’t work for me, I take the advice of a former FTO of mine (who was also a Marine Corps Sniper), and say, “F*** ’em. Feed ’em fish heads!” and have nothing more to do with them. Regardless, I take care of my patients in the best way I can. I go home at the end of my shift feeling good about what I was able to do. No paycheck can change that. And the best part about EMS and nursing is there’s always another place to try working for.

  4. Kick her in the face? You shouldn’t do that. You should aim lower and in a much more sensitive location. Just make sure that there are no witnesses.

  5. probietopractitioner says:

    Thank you all. All of your comments really helped considerably. Looks like I’ll be in this for the long haul, and look forward to getting my paramedic license afterwards so I can still go play with all of you.

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