I’m Kanoa ( “Kah-No-wah”). And yes I quit my job as a nurse.
So what’s the play? What is playing as I write? Muna: Pinklight.
Crazy right? A stable job, you can move anywhere in the country and almost the world. It pays fairly decent, and what is an added bonus, people respect you and trust you the moment they discover you are a nurse. Save for the sometimes WOAH!.. too much info, okay well it was nice to meet you, I think Ill be going now, dinner party conversations.
Why did I quit my nursing job and leave, at least at a full time capacity? This is my journey.
Nursing is a beautiful profession in so many ways. You meet people all the time. You meet people of all ages, and all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. You meet people who speak languages you may have never known existed.
You meet doctors and nurses and health care professionals from all backgrounds as well. Its a beautiful rainbow of people. As time passes working as a nurse over the years, you pick up stories. From the most blissful inspiring, to some of the darkest and saddest. These stories stay with you years after.
Has the work been rewarding? For a while it made me feel like I was making a difference in the lives of people. I still think nurses change lives. In my travels in different countries Ive been told the barometer for nurses is quite low in comparison to the US.
There was a time I got caught speeding and the officer. This was the first time I was pulled over and it was on my birthday. I was driving on a road where the speed limit had changed from 50mph to 30mph. Caught… Nevertheless, the sirens sounded, the lights flashed and I was on the side of the road, and for various and obvious reasons I was nervous, afraid, worried. The moment the officers saw my “Registered Nurse” badge, his eyes lit up, and he let me off with a warning. Perks! In case your wondering I don’t go around speeding with the hopes the officer will let me off.
After 4 years I’m burnt out. From the disrespect by patients, staff, administration, the rampant bullying, and impossible regulations. I’m tired.
Once upon a time 4 years ago I was out of college. I had graduated nearly 2 years prior and in the span of that time I had moved to Seattle to do a post baccalaureate in genetics. After the program ended I tried to stay in Seattle but as the universe decided and as my spirit told me, I went back to home.
In the meantime I decided to apply to accelerated RN programs. There are many programs across the country. I was accepted into the program at university of Connecticut. I was so blown away and excited when I received my acceptance letter. “ AYE! ya girl got in!” The job that I worked at was a hospital and I worked as a secretary for a nurse manager on a nursing unit.
January 2015 the accelerated 1 year BSN program began at UCONN. It was intense studying but intensely exciting, and Ive always been mostly book smart so it flowed together for me. I passed my courses. Completed 3 masters courses on top of the BSN requirements and in December 2015 I graduated.
I began work as RN in January 2016. I worked for 2-3 weeks prior to taking and passing my NCLEX. The NCLEX is the examination all nurses who graduate from nursing school must take in order to get a license to practice as a nurse. Once you pass this exam, the NCLEX folks send the info that you passed the test to the state you want to be licensed in. The university will send the information that you completed your RN degree to the state as well. You pay a fee to the state and you wait. Most hospitals now will not hire a nurse without having a valid license. I was luck I could work as a nurse before I was actually licensed. I was issued a temp license.
Studying for the NCLEX was for me a no brainer. Unlike my undergrad degrees where I did everything las minute. Nursing school taught me to be proactive in studying. It taught me how to study. How to write down answers to questions. Write down the right answer, understand why you got it right. Understand and write down why your got the wrong answer. It taught me how to look for what the question is truly asking and my college has a great study program called ATI that seemed to work. So I studied for 1 weeks everyday before work. I worked evening shifts 8hrs 5 days a week, 3pm to 1130pm. Fun stuff.
Two or three weeks after starting my first job working as a nurse I had a coworker log on to see if I had passed my NCLEX. To find out early you had to pay 9.99. Imagine? Haha! I was too afraid to find out. There were coworkers who had not passed their NCLEX and we demoted to nursing aides until they passes their NCLEX. Some people on my unit had taken their examine multiple times and had not passed. I believe NCLEX pass rate was over 80% when I took the exam and from recent statistics it still is. That evening my coworker logged into the place where you can see if you passed before they officially tell you, and I closed my eyes let out a small moan.
“YOU PASSED!!!” She shouted out. It was a moment of comradery. Smiling all around me were other nurses. Everyone including my manager congratulated me. I HAD PASSED MY NCLEX AND ON THE FIRST TRY!! I was relieved because again there were at least two other nurse coworkers who had not passed and they had taken their exams more than two times. And you have to wait at least 45 days between attempts.
So I ran into nursing like a doe just out of the womb. I began working in medical cardiology where I saw patient typically for heat related issues but I would also see patientS with all sort so of disease processes. Chest pain, diabetes, alcohol and drug detox, renal failure, heart attack, cardiac bypass surgery work ups, social issues ( homelessness, abuse, elderly failure to thrive) admit, trauma ( falls, lacerations). So I worked this job for a year. Once my year was up I applied for a job in Bethesda Maryland in a step down progressive care. I moved to DC and lived there for a year. The work got more intense. Step down patient can border needing to be in ICU. There are times you are pushing heavy medications. Drips to slow the heart rate of a fib patients, medications that can shut the heart down for a split second when nothing is controlling the rate, medications that keep blood vessels open for patients with uncontrollable chest pain. Many of the emergencies I often experienced were patients going into respiratory distress. A few times I have had patients code ( need CPR). After one year at Bethesda I became a travel nurse and traveled around New York, Connecticut, Maryland, and California.
Over time I became warn down. My first job as a nurse I had a preceptor ( the nurse who trains you when starting any new job) who in opinion was horrible to me. She would make me feel as if I wasn’t strong enough to be a nurse. Once she said to me “ didn’t they teach you that in nursing school”? Where was the compassion? I made a minor mistake 4 weeks of out nursing school. My first travel assignment got canceled. Right as I had left the job. I was in a panic. To be honest I had fallen asleep at orientation. Sitting in a room listening to people read through power point presentations can be a gateway to dozing off. After workin nights for 2 years the adjustment was difficult. I had never worked days. The hospital contacted my travel company and said they didn’t think I was strong enough. That same day I was heading to work my car was broken into so I had to call out. In end I accept responsiblity. But I didnt have much money saved up so luckily I could work as needed at my former full time job. So I went with another travel RN company and I found myself at NYU. I had a lot of fun there. I worked in the emergency room overflow.
After NYU I went to Monefiore. There I worked in an outpatient transplant clinic. This was a day job that was 5 days a week where I was used to working 3 days/ 12 hours per day each week. In the office as with on the units there was gossip. People in the quiet of lunch rooms and offices and coat rooms whispering and rumoring about what such and such a person said, did, or wore, and so on. People scrutinizing each other’s practice as a nurse. In this particular office there was a director who told me “ I need you to work faster! Is their more you need to learn to complete your job?” When I would ask what she thinks I need to work on she could never give me a straight answer. She would tell me to find out from the nurse practitioners. So, I began to feel bullied. Each week she would call me in her office and say I’m not doing my job and yet she didn’t understand how to do the job. She wasn’t actually a nurse. She had gone to medical school but never practiced as a physician.
There were many times where I was out right bullied. Embarrassed in front of coworkers and patients. Nurses walking into my room to tell me that I need to “hurry up and give report” because they’d been “ waiting to get report and want go home. Where was the professionalism?
Then there are the time constrains and documentation issues. Administration to avoid paying overtime want nurses to clock out on time. You have to make sure that you chart correctly and appropriately and the moment you forget something you will be in an office or reading an email. The problems arise say when you have a heavy assignment. Say you patient is combative and you have to get restraints. This spirals into calling a doctor for said restraints, and hopefully on the overnights that doctor answers your page. I’ve experienced times when some doctors would just flat out not return pages. Meanwhile you have to pass meds, document, check and follow up on labs, send patients down for tests.
Once I had 7 patients. THIS IS UNSAFE!!! We were so short staffed. 7 patients is extremely unsafe. So many medical errors could have happened. I admitted a few patients. It was a busy and stressful night. Being short staffed I only documented on the necessary. I had to pass meds, change wounds, help patients to the bathroom, ensure confused patients didn’t get out of bed and possibly fall, answer phones because we didn’t have a night secretary, straight catch a patient who could not urinate, and chart on each patient. A week later I received an email asking why I failed to chart that a a patient had come in with a wound, something hospitals get fined for if the wound develops in the hospital. Charting that the patient came in with the wound upon admission ensure that when being audited, the hospital doesn’t get fined. I had seven patients.
I had seven patients to keep alive, pass meds, help up and down, and most of these patients were elderly, some confused. So I quietly apologized and said I would do better next time. If I had known better I would have refused to take another patient and kept 6 patients, which is still unsafe. In a safely staffed facility a nurse should have more than 3-4 patients.
Over 4 years the onslaught of stress ensued. Emails, calls, office sit downs about why this wasn’t done, which some were warranted, I had made honest errors, bullying from other nurses, more experienced nurses making less experienced nurses feel incompetent instead letting things be a teachable moment, we are a team right…?and managers coming up to you asking why you clocked out late? But not accounting that it was a heavy night with the patient assignment I had. Like trying to be careful with narcotics and having to give patients their pain meds when they request them, document, ensure confused and combative patients don’t hurt others and themselves, and also imagine having patients who, some not all, who have a narcotic addiction and they are asking for meds every 4 hours on the hour and screaming if they dont get them.
Scheduling? Depending on were you work it can be good and often it can be a shit show. Even if you have a three month schedule as a staff nurse it varies week to week. One week you work three 12 hour shifts back to back, then the next week you work two days, off two days, on one, then leading into the next week, one on 3 off, 2 on. So you can necessarily plan. Nothing is quite routine. When I was off work. I would try to catch up on sleep. Once I got enough rest then I would try to find a day to do something fun, so by the time I got around to say writing this blog, or building a side business I have little to no energy, and its time to return to work.
Patient and nurse on nurse bullying?
Disrespect is another factor in why I left. I’ve been called dumb, incompetent, lazy, stupid, had racist remarks thrown at me. Ive had patients ask for a new nurse because they didn’t like my care. In aall honesty these were often patients that were outright rude to me and so I told them how it is and that I will not be disrespected and so when you do that patients feel that often you as the nurse have to take their abuse and demands.
Nurse to nurse bullying is rampant.
It can be subtle and it can be outright. It can be in the way another nurse will talk to you. Often as a less experienced nurse you will make mistakes and there were often times where I witnessed or was bullied for lack of experience. And not only was I bullied but I participated. I’m not proud of this. The culture of bullying and gossiping is rampant and there were times where I participated. I’m not proud of it. This culture is a result of really stress. Nurses are stressed and many wont admit it.
As times went on in nursing I began to stand up for myself. When nurses, patients, and admin begin bullying and nit picking I began to speak up for myself. When you begin to speak up for yourself your cross into murky territory, your risk losing your job. With student loan debt at an all time high, my own being nearly 6 figures, many nurses don’t have the luxury of just quitting or losing their job. I didn’t at the the time. Or so I thought.
Gossiping? Then there is the way in which nurses will talk about patients when together in the staff areas. “Oh did you see her, she’s such a drug addict.” “that guy is crazy he’s only here for drugs.” I overheard a nurse talk about a time she cared for drug addicted new borns who she called her “ little crack babies”. And yes, I too participated in this part of nursing culture, of talking foully about patients and their families.
So what broke me?
The anxiety began to catch up. Having chest pain and palpations. Going to emergency room. Running back to therapy but feeling like it wasn’t helping. My anxiety was out of control. I would have emotional break downs while on the way to work. I began to question if this was the work I was called to do.
Then I went to Peru and found plant medicine and it shed a light deep into my life and into my spirit. I discovered my gifts and the work I was called to do.
Caring for patients in the United States is a heavy undertaking. People are extremely sick. In the land of plenty our food is making us sick, television, and social media consumption is making us sick. We have lost touch with nature and spirituality. Patient in the United States are both spiritually and physically sick. Working as a nurse I felt like I was admitting sick patients only to discharge them and yet they were still sick. I was giving medications that really only act as a band aid. The same patients return to the hospital over and over again.
So this is to say. I left nursing at a full time capacity. Even with my student debt. I have some money saved.
What am I doing?
Well partly I’m living off savings. I’m also exploring what it is like being black, a black traveler, a black nomad. right now I’m exploring Mexico on a cheap budget. Im also looking for online remote work. Maybe at some point I will return to nursing at a part time basis. But right now I need a real break.
Im regaining compassion for myself. I’m regaining compassion for humans. I lost sight of what I came into this life to do. I lost sight of what true healing is. I lost sight of how to speak to people compassionately. How to see into the lives of people and see their true needs. I lost my empathy. I lost sight of what I came to this life to do, to help others heal, to help them find the tools to heal.
Im learning to breathe again. I’m learning to rest, to sleep, to eat healthy meals. I’m connecting again with nature. I’m connecting again to humans. I’m connect back into the human spirit.
I’m figuring this out as I go. I’m praying to my ancestors. I’m meditating and asking the cards for help. I’m quieting my mind. I’m writing down ideas. In march I will begin studying to become an end of life doula. I’ll talk all about this in an upcoming post.
If you want to hear more you can tune into Kindred sister podcast here.
I’m your kindred sister and until next time. I love you, I honor, I send you protection, and healing to your journey.