Challenges of Working as an RN

nurse about to give injection full protective gear

Despite being considered a noble and rewarding profession, it’s no secret that nursing is challenging work—especially when there is a global pandemic.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, registered nurses (RNs) have had some of the most demanding job descriptions. Juggling multiple obligations while having to be quick on feet, what nurses do is no walk in the park.



However, it is important to keep in mind that every field has its ups and downs, and being a nurse is no exception. This article explores a few challenges registered nurses face in the field and what they can do to upscale their career path for improved future prospects.

1.    No Downtime

Being responsible for someone’s health means that nurses have to constantly watch patients and track their treatment progress—checking vitals, administering medications and other healthcare interventions.

With all of these requirements to fulfill, nurses rarely ever get the time to relax. Some struggle to maintain a healthy balance between work and home life. Nurses who are passionate and wish to study further to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, struggle to find the time to do so.

Thankfully, one good thing that came out of the pandemic was online learning. This mode of learning has eliminated the need to attend in-person classes. Many universities are now offering online DNP. Online programs give registered nurses the chance to continue their education. With 100% online learning and part-time as well as full-time course options, nurses don’t have to give up their careers to pursue their education.

While nurses are required to work long shifts, there is also a good compensation for their hard work.

According to statistics, and depending on the experience, nurses receive higher pay than people working in a similar capacity in other professions.

For a lot of nursing professionals, patient satisfaction matters more than financial aspects. However, the compensation is an added reward after hours of tending to the needs of patients.

In addition to a good wage, nurses also receive compensation for working extra shifts.

2.    Dealing With the Loss of a Patient

Though it is not common in all nursing roles to witness the loss of a patient, it can still be a common occurrence for those directly involved in medical care.

Being caregivers, nurses naturally form a special bond with their patients. This is their biggest strength, as well as the reason why they are so heavily affected by the loss of a patient. Not only do they have to deal with their own emotions, but they also have to be the bearer of the bad news for the families. With so many feelings and not enough time to process them, nurses often become emotionally stressed.

It’s true that every dark day is followed by a brighter one, and the same applies to nursing.

While losing a patient is expected, the joy of playing a role in someone’s healing overcomes all sorrows. Trust plays an important role in the process of healing the sick. For nurses to provide care, patients need to be able to share their problems with them comfortably.

And they do.

According to a poll, 83% of patients trust their nurses and some even find it easy to share medical anxieties and fears with nurses more than doctors. This results in an environment of open and honest communication between the two parties ensuring compassionate care.

3. Long Shifts

Not every healthcare organization follows the 12-hour shift routine, but it is still a  very common practice. Every nurse knows how taxing 12-hour shifts can be.

Nurses are expected to be active 90% of the time, even during long shifts. With little to no time for breaks or personal or social life, working as a nurse can be draining. But surprisingly, some nurses prefer working long hours.

Giving what you receive applies well to the concept of 12-hour shifts in nursing. This may seem bizarre to most, but to nurses, it introduces a balance between work and free time.

Most hospitals require nurses to either:

  • Work 12-hour shifts three times a week.

or

  • Work 10-hour shifts for four days.

This means that nurses don’t always have to work five days a week. The 12-hour model allows them to spend more time unwinding from long shifts. It gives them room to relax properly before they get back to work.

4. No Public Holidays

Festivals like Christmas or New Year’s Eve are often regular workdays for nurses. More RNs are required to handle the chaos that ensues soon after big holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Stats show that there is a 90% increase in car accidents during the holidays, and nurses are expected to be present in the ER at all times to help doctors deal with injuries.

So, while others enjoy their day at home with friends and family, nurses stay back and look after those who need them the most. This can impact their social and personal lives.

5. Unpleasant Interactions

As tough as nurses are, they are still human. And as humans, no one likes feeling unappreciated or undervalued.

Not every patient that nurses come across is appreciative of their dedication to their wellbeing. Patients often become physically and verbally abusive, while sometimes, even family members lash out at them when receiving bad news.

Such unpleasant interactions can leave nurses feeling disheartened. However, not every interaction is the same, and experiences vary across different specializations.

To Sum it Up

Nurses act as advocates in the lives of their patients during the toughest of times. This fact alone adds to their importance in this world. The altruistic nature of nurses is what makes this profession desirable for many.

One of the best parts about being a nurse is that there are many specializations to choose from. From working in pediatrics to the ER, administration, management and policies, not all nurses have to work in a triage or medical care setting, and many prefer to upscale their career by pursuing a doctorate and master’s degrees.