Top 7 Mistakes To Avoid In Your Nursing Career

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

When you first become a nurse, it’s easy to believe that you’ll always love your job. But there will come a time where burnout, frustration and boredom take their toll. While you can’t avoid every pitfall, there are some mistakes that you can veer around.

Make the most of your career as a nurse by avoiding these seven mistakes.

1. Rushing Into Becoming a Nurse

If you’re thinking of becoming a nurse, take the time to talk to seasoned veterans and get the inside scoop. Visit nursing schools to learn about prerequisites. Volunteer at a hospital or clinic to see if you really have a passion for medicine. Nursing is one of the most rewarding jobs out there, but it’s best to be prepared before you dive in.

Sure, some of us are really impulsive and can pull off a career switch or educational 180 with ease. Most of us, though, need a little more preparation. Deciding on a career path is a big decision – whether you’re 17 or 47 – but it’s particularly important to think through your choice to become a nurse because there is so much involved. Prereqs. Nursing school. NCLEX. New grad programs. A lot goes into becoming a nurse –which is why not everyone can be one!

2. Changing Specialties Too Many Times

You started in med/surg but soon got bored and moved to L&D. A few months later you got tired of your boss and jumped to same day surgery. A year later you were on to pediatrics. Switching nursing specialties can be a great way to learn what you really have a passion for, but changing areas too quickly or too many times can cause burnout or hurt your career. You might begin to feel like you don’t have a place in nursing and potential employers might wonder why you haven’t committed to one area for very long.

Give each specialty you enter a chance before you take off for something more enticing. Talk to nurses who are currently working in the area you are considering as well as nurses who have left that specialty. They can give you the nitty gritty details on what that area is really like.

3. Not Changing Specialties Enough

On the other side of the coin, you could damage your career by not trying out enough different specialties. Of course, if you love the NICU, don’t leave just to try something else. But if you’re staying in the OR because it’s safe and familiar (but you’re bored out of your mind!), take the risk and apply to another area. You never know what you might be destined to do!

4. Letting Your Job Control Your Life

With late-night shifts and long hours, it’s easy to let your nursing career take over the rest of your life. Maintaining work-life balance is a key element in being stress-free and loving your job. Sure, there will be times when your 12-hour shift seems to stretch into a 24-hour shift, but leave that pressure at home. Remember to take time for yourself, your friends and your family – even if it’s just one night a week.

5. Ignoring Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue (otherwise known as “burnout”) can hit even the most conscientious nurse from time to time. The key is recognizing burnout and making a concentrated effort to eradicate it. Of course, there will always be those patients, families, and colleagues that make you want to tear your hair out, but that doesn’t have to ruin your nursing career.

Feeling burned out? Take a step back and think to yourself “What am I worried about? Is something outside work stressing me out?” Look into changing shifts if working in the middle of the night isn’t your cup of tea. Have some vacation time saved up? Take some time off – alone or with family and friends. Lastly, think back to all the reasons you wanted to become a nurse. Make a list of these reasons and look at it every once in a while to remind yourself of all the great things about your job.

6. Believing You’re “Just a Nurse”

As featured author Donna Cardillo said, “Just a nurse? No such thing!” Don’t let anyone beat you down and make you feel inferior. You care for the sick. You inspire the down-trodden. And you save lives! There really is no such thing as “just a nurse.” Be proud of what you do and why you do it.

7. Not Gathering Nurse Allies

We’ve all heard the phrase “Nurses eat their young” and many NursingLink members have said that is definitely true. But even with the drama that may occur, there is always room for friendship. Connecting with other nurses is a great way to avoid burnout, re-ignite your passion for nursing, and expand your knowledge. Whether it’s nurse friends at work or nurses from another facility, they will understand you like your non-nursing friends never will.

Nurse allies can benefit more than your mental health. They can help you advance your career by writing recommendations and finding job openings. It’s always good to have someone who’s looking out for you – and who better to do it than someone who can literally save your life!


This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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