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Least Favorite Nursing Duties

Photo by: Army Medicine (Flickr)

Working with our patients is definitely the best part of nursing.

17 Least Favorite Nursing Duties

For the most part, I think all of us nurses love what we do. We wouldn't have become nurses in the first place if we didn't. Our job is stressful in ways that many other jobs aren't, and it takes a very special person to become a nurse. Alongside that stress, however, comes job satisfaction and rewards that cannot be found in any other vocation either. There is nothing better than nursing patients back to health and receiving their love and appreciation in return. That's probably the best part of our job. So, what is the worst part? Here are a few of our least favorite things.

  1. Code Browns: It's pretty much a given that one of our least favorite things about being a nurse is code browns. Sure, your patients certainly appreciate it when you clean up their excrement, but it's not the most pleasant of tasks. We especially dislike code browns if the patient is suffering from C. diff, which make the code brown a health risk to us and anyone else around the patient.

  2. Vomiting: Another not-so-fun part of our job is cleaning up patient vomit. Again, there are certainly health risks involved with being exposed to any bodily fluid, especially if the patient is vomiting because of the flu or another contagion, just like code browns. I remind myself how appreciative my patient will be to get me through these types of clean-ups.

  3. Distractions from Patient Care: I think it's safe to say that we all became nurses because we wanted to take care of our patients. Unfortunately, our job duties do include some mundane activities that take us away from our patients, including stocking supplies and filling water pitchers. While we need to do these jobs, they are oftentimes annoying and do take us away from the reason why we became nurses.

  4. Insurance Companies: Speaking of things that take us away from patient care, calling insurance companies may very well be one of our least favorite nursing duties. After all, we are the nurses, not the person on the other end of the line, so it seems ludicrous to spend critical time away from patient care to obtain permission to do our jobs. We know what the patients need, not the insurance company.

  5. Paperwork: Ah, paperwork. Just as much fun as dealing with insurance companies, isn't it? There is a ton of paperwork in our field and this too keeps us away from taking care of our patients. Of course everything must be documented accurately to protect our patients and ourselves, but it sure would be nice if the paperwork filled itself out!

  6. Unpredictability: Nursing is an incredibly unpredictable vocation. You might end your shift with a critical patient taking a turn for the better, only to come into your next shift to find that the patient took a downturn or passed away. Our job is horribly unpredictable, and we must be extremely flexible and able to roll with the stressors and punches that will, inevitably, hit us all day long. Perhaps unpredictability is only predictable thing about nursing.

  7. Overtime/Long Shifts: Part of the unpredictability of nursing is going in and thinking you'll be getting off on time. Due to unexpected emergencies or staff illnesses, nurses face working a lot of overtime or extended shifts. This is not a favorite thing for any of us. It is extremely hard to keep on a happy face and have any type of bedside manner at all after an extremely long and stressful shift.

  8. Fatigue: The result of these long shifts is fatigue, and nursing fatigue has become a huge concern within the healthcare industry in the United States. Fatigued nurses become dangerous nurses and they are capable of making life-threatening mistakes in patient care when they are too tired. I don't think any of us enjoy the fatigue that is a natural part of our job.

  9. Combative Patients: Working long shifts and/or suffering from fatigue make combative patients all the more difficult to deal with. We want to help people, but sometimes patients don't want our help. In some cases, the patients are combative consciously, and it just makes you want to scream. Even more difficult, however, are combative patients who are not aware they are being combative. This is particularly distressing in the nursing field because there is simply nothing you can do to rectify the situation except sedate the patient when necessary.

  10. Self-destructive Patients: There are combative patients and then there are self-destructive patients - both are one of the least favorite parts of nursing for me. Some patients want to be sick, or they have an addiction or mental illness that they cannot control. You know the patient can get better, but the patient doesn't want to get better. That is definitely a "least fav" in my book!

  11. Difficult Family Members: And then there are difficult family members. You all know what I'm talking about. The demanding family members, the family members who know more about medicine than you do, the family members who want their relative hospitalized so they can go to movies... Difficult family members can definitely make a nurse's job unbearable!

  12. Internal Conflict: We are all a family if you think about it - us nurses and doctors - and internal conflict is just as bad as external conflict. Another least favorite part of nursing is when we fight amongst ourselves. Let's face it, healthcare professionals can be somewhat egocentric at times - we are taking people's lives into our own hands. When we don't get along and undermine each other, it not only makes for an extremely unpleasant working environment, it's also dangerous for our patients.

  13. Undermining Other Nurses: Speaking of internal conflict and undermining each other, I really dislike it when nursing students or recent graduates ask intelligent questions and are met with cynical or incomplete answers. Nursing is education - continuing education. We all have to keep up with current medicines and medical procedures. We also have to help each other if a member of our team isn't up to speed. Hazing the "newbie" is another least favorite thing that I see in nursing.

  14. Pressure to Prove Ourselves: This brings me to my next least favorite thing and that is undue pressure to prove ourselves to other staff members, our patients, and our patients' family members. We are under enough stress as it is dealing with the day-to-day duties of nursing and patient care. We should not have to be under the gun and consistently answer why we do everything we do. This causes additional and dangerous pressure for any nurse.

  15. Situations Beyond Our Control: We are trained medical professionals. We have the skills and tools to aid people who are in very dire situations. This does not mean, however, that we can save everyone, and I think we will all agree that another least favorite part of nursing are illnesses or situations, such as patient refusing necessary medical care, that leave us helpless to control the patient's outcome. Nothing is more frustrating than finding out a patient is terminally ill and there is absolutely nothing we can do for him or her.

  16. Having to Explain the Situation Beyond Our Control: In line with this is the responsibility of telling the patient and his or her family members that their situation is beyond our control. I don't think any nurse enjoys explaining a poor prognosis to patients or their family members. It is even more difficult helping them make the necessary arrangements for the patient after death. This is certainly a monumental least favorite part of nursing.

  17. Death: Which leads me to the last least favorite part of nursing on my list and that is losing a patient. We've all experienced this horrific loss and nothing is worse than doing everything you can to save a patient and having that still not be enough. Perhaps the only comfort to us nurses when we lose a patient is the understanding that the patient is no longer suffering. Still, the pain of losing a patient is a difficult one to bear and definitely my least favorite part of nursing.

Here are some links I hope you'll find interesting about our profession and its pros and cons:

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