Are You Taught To Hate Your Field?

Why on earth is the healthcare provider education system so hell bent on burning people out before they’ve even got their license in hand?

At least that’s the way it seems. Maybe it’s just a regional thing. Maybe all the schools in my area are teaching using similar techniques, and all the teachers subscribe to a similar mindset. Or maybe I’ve officially lost my mind (I am certainly not ruling that out).

This post is going to mostly be about nursing school, because that’s what I’ve experienced. But, any new-grad paramedic I know has talked about similar problems.

For any of you that actually read my rambling, babbling, nonsensical drawl, you know that I am unhappy in nursing school. Yes, I do feel absolutely miserable. Every week, I find myself up in the wee hours of the morning on the verge of a mental meltdown. Every drive to school is filled with anxiety, and every drive home is filled with discouragement. It feels almost like a trap some days. The further into the program I get, the worse I feel, but the more obligated I feel to finish it. At my worst, I find myself panicky, physically sick, unable to sleep, and waking up with horribly graphic and disturbing nightmares. Sometimes I start wondering why I ever decided to go into nursing. In my stress, I start to look for other careers I could do. Maybe I’ll find my calling in something else. In the past, I’ve considered going to paramedic school. Currently, I have some wild aspiration to go into law enforcement…which I’m sure would be greatly discouraged by anyone who actually knows me. I have to stop and wonder if these aspirations are real, or if I’m just looking into them because it’s something other than what I’m going through right now.

I’m in an associate’s degree program, so it’s only 2 years long. Most paramedic programs are about that long as well. It’s a short amount of time in which to learn a lot of important things. It’s not like earning a typical degree…after we get out of school, our decisions could greatly impact the lives of others. The stakes are very high, and it’s incredibly important to learn as much as we can in the short time that we have. Maybe these programs are just too short to be reasonable. I find that students in these shorter healthcare degrees/certification programs are just so stressed out and inundated with schoolwork that they find themselves discouraged or disliking the career they are about to enter. It’s heartbreaking to work so hard towards something, and then to be almost directed to hate it.

Maybe I just don’t love my potential career enough. Maybe I’m not dedicated enough. And like I mentioned before, maybe it’s purely a regional thing. Regardless, something should change here. Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s the healthcare system. Or perhaps something in between.

Are any of you having problems similar to this? Or did I really just plain old lose my mind.

Comments

  1. Great post!
    I hear you, and feel your pain, literally. I went through a 4 year university nursing school working full time as a lead medic in a very busy, 911 system. My nursing instructors treated me like hammered dog poop in every class and clinical. They knew that I was a medic and resented me for it. They would drop derogitive comments to me, about me etc. every time they had the chance. Finally, I had had enough and went to complain to my county medical director. He smiled and told me “You’ll have your chance, in the mean time ask yourself, is this really what you see yourself doing?” . He thought I’d make a better PA or ARNP. Like you, I wanted to finish just to say that I did it. It was hell. I not going to lie. I hated every minute of it. After graduation and licensure, I continued to work as a medic full time. I had NO DESIRE to work as a nurse. I was too burned out. Eventually (couple of years later), I picked up part time ER nursing job. It didn’t exactly float my boat. I’ve been a nurse for 15 years now (medic for 20 years) and still work as a full time medic, but do a lot of long distance critical care transports (which I enjoy); this allows me to use both of my skill sets. I also work as a part time school nurse at a rural high school. Again, I use both skill sets with every shift, patient and situation. I fully understand that nurses, more than any field (that I know) eat their young. I will never understand this. I’ve also heard and seen other nurses treat other EMT’s, paramedics like #$%^ as a sign of dominence. It’s stupid. I will tell you, that out of all my classmates, only a handful are still working in nursing. Several never even went to work after graduating, stating burn out.
    By the way my nursing school was University of W. Great program, but be prepared to be eaten.
    Good luck. the only advice I can give you is, find a medic, nurse, PA, doctor etc. that you admire and ask for advice. Nursing isn’t for everyone. Personally, I cannot do floor nursing to save my life. I love the ability to make decisions on my own, hence critical care and school nursing. I also volunteer for international medical teams and with the Red Cross. You may also want to talk to your head nursing program director. Is it just you or do others feel/get treated the same? You cannot be true to your patients if you can’t be true to yourself. Good luck and G-d speed.
    Peace.

    • probietopractitioner says:

      You have no idea how comforting it is to hear from someone who went through the same thing. I feel like I’ve been fighting an uphill battle throughout my college education (both during my pre-reqs for nursing school, and nursing school itself) because I’m an EMT. I feel so burned out and frustrated, that I can’t see myself working as a nurse in any capacity…on good days, I think I’d enjoy critical care transport as a nurse, but that’s about where it stops. Maybe I’m too used to my autonomy to go back now, haha.

      My classmates are also having a hard time with school. The general attitude and unprofessional behavior that our teacher puts forth does anything but foster a learning environment. It makes people afraid to ask questions. For instance, whenever she’s with a small group of us, she bad mouths other students in our class and talks about the “stupid” questions they asked. How do I know she’s not going to talk to other students about my stupid questions? As it should happen, she’s also the only official tutor available to us. I’ve been writing down my questions to ask the paramedics I work with and the nurses I do get along with in our local ER. But, obviously, you retain the information you use. Seeing as how they work in an emergency setting, they can’t readily recall or help with neonate material (for example).

      I don’t understand why nurses eat their young either. It’s exceptionally cruel. My classmates were super cut-throat and catty last semester, but that’s hardly a problem this semester (thank God). But we still have issues with the teachers, like I mentioned. A group of us students have decided to get together and speak with the dean of the program after this semester is over…we’d speak with her earlier, but we’re afraid of the repercussions that may be involved with bringing anything up any sooner.

      That’s almost a relief that you didn’t go into nursing for a while after you earned your license…I seem to get myself in this mindset where I *HAVE* to do this…like I’ve condemned myself to nursing for the rest of my life.

      As for talking with the paramedics I work with, they are all telling me to hang in there, including a paramedic who dropped out of nursing school for paramedic school one semester before he was set to graduate. He says that while he loves being a paramedic, he regrets abandoning the nursing certification when he did. Basically, everyone is telling me to stay with nursing because of all the perks…pay, better hours, ability to transfer to a new “field” whenever I please, stability, etc. I think I’ve driven all of the medics and nurses I trust insane with my constant negativity and inquiring for advice, haha. It looks like I’m going to have to stick this out and look forward to doing something else after I graduate.

      • “A group of us students have decided to get together and speak with the dean of the program after this semester is over…we’d speak with her earlier, but we’re afraid of the repercussions that may be involved with bringing anything up any sooner.”

        Bring it up NOW. If you wait until later, it’s likely that they won’t take it as seriously. Also, as I said on your more recent post, it’s important to establish a pattern of behavior early on in case anything worse happens later. As far as I know, there are legal protections against retaliation in place for people who in good faith report inappropriate behavior to their supervisors in a work setting, and I’d imagine that these apply as well to students reporting teachers, but I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t say for sure.

        • probietopractitioner says:

          It appears that there are no such protections for students. So, if we were to report this right away, we would likely face repercussions from this particular instruct now. We’re having a hard enough time as is, haha. I’m not sure we can handle much more.

          • If you haven’t already, see if your school has a policy on this. They might have something set up to protect you even if the laws don’t.

  2. I agree with Danny 100%!!! Also, report her to your State or Province Department of Health Services and Nursing/Ministry of Health. If a nurse is being unprofessional, that can go against their license. You have the right to report with out prosecution. We spoke with the Dean of our university after our program was over and we had graduated…..BIG MISTAKE! The Dean was absolutely furious and frustrated with us for not coming forth sooner. He seriously couldn’t believe what we had all put up with, especially me! Needless to say, the really horrid instructor and program instructor was fired/let go/resigned, even though she supposidily had tenure (turns out she was mentally ill and had a serious nervous breakdown during that summer and was considered unfit to be department head of nursing). The same group of us also complained to the Dept. of Health and nursing about her and filed a complaint of unprofessionalism, which went against her license. It will stay with her forever and is there for all the world to see, as she had to undergo a mental health evaluation (which she failed) and disaplinary hearing and action. She no longer works as a nurse in Washington state. Rumour has it, she has moved out of state. I have no idea where she has moved to, or if she is still a nurse. She would be in her 70’s by now. With any hope, she’s retired.

    Here’s something else…and you may want to go talk with a life coach or therapist about this….what is it about nursing that you are attracted to? I thought the exact same as you, but found it to be not true in the end. If anything, I felt like it was talking a step backwards and that I was just a puppet. However, being that I have both EMT-P and BSN RN after my name, I seem to get more respect from both colleague, patient and family members. Peter Canning (MedicScribe) and Mark Glencorse (Medic999) are also and medic and nurse. Quite a few male medics I know are also RN’s and many of them work as flight medic/nurses, or for international medical teams, or even big name ski patrol clinics (Vail, Steamboat, Jackson Hole). Many have also been going on to PA school and working in (again) emergency medicine. They seem to get more respect as well, however, I am not sure if they get paid more. In terms of women, I know a few, but many seem to step off the truck and become emergency or surgical nurses. A life coach or therapist/couselor may help you decide where you want your life to go. They really are worth their weight in gold. I didn’t want to go until a collegue made me go (thankfully he went with me!). I felt stupid for it and embarrassed, but came out it so much better. My “coach” was able to help me figure out what I wanted out of life and career and help find the appropriate way to get there. 100% worth it, and then some!
    Do you have any upcoming days off? Maybe getting away from all of it for awhile may help. Spring Break to some place warm and sunny always works for me. 🙂

    • probietopractitioner says:

      Theresa, you are awesome. I would be beyond honored if you emailed me so we can talk about this more in-depth.

      I don’t really know why I decided to go into nursing. I can’t really remember it. I had to set a goal a few years ago when I was really sick and I felt like I couldn’t finish my education. So I changed my goals from medical school to nursing school. I do remember liking that I’d have more hands-on interactions with patients, where as many doctors only see their patients for a few minutes. I’m finding that I truly hate the “eat their young” attitude of nursing. I have a small hope that it gets better once I’m out in the field. I also really hate the lack of autonomy. I totally agree with you about feeling like I’m moving backwards some days.

      I’m coming to the decision that if it doesn’t get better, maybe I can move on to PA school, APRN school, or maybe even medical school. Maybe I’ll go into law enforcement or something completely different. Regardless of what decision I make, I’m going to paramedic school at some point. I’m looking at school now simply as getting a degree, and not as a “I MUST be an RN when this is over”, do-or-die kind of thing.

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