It was a rough week in the PCU. Patients were coding left and right, circling the drain, and they all seemed to come from our area of the unit. It was like a black cloud was hanging over our little group of nurses. I dragged myself to work, and dragged myself through each of my three shifts, and my heart skipped a beat every time someone’s O2 sats dropped or I heard a telemetry alarm sound. By this morning, I wondered how I could ever go back.

I know I work in critical care and this is to be expected. I know I personally didn’t make mistakes that led to the codes or the deaths, nor did anyone else. We all busted our butts to take care of these patients. As my preceptor put it, people die here.

But this whole experience is not what I thought it would be, and it is wearing on me. My training wheels come off after next week. Intellectually I know I could handle it but I know I’ll be miserable. I told S tonight that I’m worried my increasing migraines, exhaustion, emotional lability, anxiety dreams and overall blah-ness are signs that I’m getting to a breaking point.

I went into nursing to take care of people, and that is not what I am doing right now, at least not according to my personal definition. I am passing meds, titrating drips, turning bodies every two hours, triple-charting because we’re still in the Dark Ages, struggling to manage my time, and praying at the end of the shift my patients are still alive. I’m not meeting their needs holistically.  I love the time I have one-on-one with each patient. There’s just not enough of it in between everything else.

I met a new RN resident this morning during report – it was her first day and she had that deer-in-headlights look about her that I had in April. I thought to myself, “Damn, I have learned a TON these past four months.” I do appreciate the nursing knowledge that I have gained from this experience. These are technical skills that will make me a better nurse overall.

But technical skills have very little to do with my career goals. Sedation, intubation, pressors, rhythms, emergency surgery at the bedside. I could care less.

I don’t belong here.

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