One of my patients said that to me last night, and I said, "Well, thank you. I would hope that all nurse were caring people!" He looked at me as though I were a very dim bulb and said, "You must be new." I am. Still, I've been working as an RN for just shy of 3 months and now and then feel as though my feet are under me. I've barely scratched the surface, and that's a good thing---one reason I was attracted to nursing is that you never stop learning. But I've scratched it enough that I feel increasingly competent at basic plus some critical care, and that is making everyone's life easier. It is chokingly terrifying to feel afraid and unsure almost all the time, and I've whittled that down to maybe half the time. I'm so blessed to work with nurses who happily answer questions, give advice, and actually lay eyes on my patients if I need an experienced opinion. ("My patient looks funny. His vitals are fine and he isn't in pain, and my assessments are negative, but he doesn't look right to me....")
I was even impressed with myself once last week because I did not think there was any chance I would be able to handle my night: acuity-wise or time managment--wise, either one, but I did. I had jacked-up paperwork to start out with (messy med recs, you name it...eg, "So WHAT do I give him tonight?"), one pretty sick patient and two might-be-sick-any-time patients, and an admission on a vasoactive drip who required high-level care. I thought I'd be there until 10AM. I did ask for help with vitals and a few other tasks (we don't have aides), but I put my head down, kept breathing, and did the next right thing, and I got through it. More to the point, so did my patients, and I left at 7:45. I cried in the car, but that's beside the point. The point is that I learned a lot, I provided appropriate care even though it strained my abilities to, apparently, a breaking point, and the next time that happens I'll do even better.
Although apparently that load violated our acuity level and it's not likely to happen again. One problem with being new is that I feel overwhelmed all the time, so I don't know when to complain about my workload!
I've cried only the once, and I often leave feeling pretty good, so I'd say overall the whole job thing is successful. My patients more often than not tell me how much they appreciate how well I take care of them, and I am getting a metric buttload of critical care experience for free and for fun, as they say. I am, however, physically exhausted, so I will take my leave of the blogosphere for now and, uh, move over to Twitter for a while...