Wide-eyed, anticipating, eager, and idealistic, I stepped onto the grounds of a beautiful sprawling campus on an amazingly vibrant island, fully ready to start my first day of nursing school and, of course, to save the entire world from disease and famine. I dreamed of myself dressed as Florence Nightingale, wistfully sweeping the thick hair across the brow of a wounded soldier, feeding the hurt and wounded and dressing wounds of a man who just lost his leg. I imagined myself in a 1940’s hospital, assisting surgeons, healing the sick, bandaging the wounded, and retiring at the end of the day to a beautiful home, feeling fulfilled and hopeful that I had saved lives and cared for the dying the way only I could do…


Fast forward 16 months later. I had just cleaned poop off the walls in the patient’s room who discovered he could write his name on the wall using his own feces, while my critical lab values were burning a hole in my pocket, my student nurse was waiting on me to give meds, a patient’s family was screaming in frustration when the doctor wouldn’t answer my 15th page, a patient’s husband called me “nurse” for the 198th time, I could still smell c-diff permeating in my nose from last night’s patient, and the patient in room 306 admitted for DKA was asking for her 8th Coca-Cola and to be walked to the bathroom. Again.


I managed to nearly crawl to the bathroom for the first time in the 10th hour of my 12-hour shift and glanced at myself in the mirror. There were bags under my eyes, my hair had some kind of mystery crust in it, sclera was bloodshot, skin looked dry and underappreciated, and I really failed to recognize who I was. THIS WAS NOT WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR. I cried every day going to work, I felt like a miserable failure in time management, I couldn’t remember all my lab values, everyone needed everything, and I was being pulled in 100 different directions that I didn’t even think I wanted to go. Nobody tells you about the fear, the doubt, the First Year Agony. I graduated nursing school thinking that I had triumphed all feats…passed the NCLEX thinking…THIS IS IT…I DID IT…IT WILL NEVER BE THIS HARD AGAIN. Then I nailed my dream job and is that what this is…a dream job? I felt alone. I felt like I had made a mistake. No one ever said it would be this hard. No one said this is what nursing would be like.



Fast forward 2 years later. I was the charge nurse on the unit with a student nurse and 4 patients. Everyone was yelling. Everyone was sick. But I was slinging Morphine like a boss. I was pushing Narcan and bringing the dead to life and letting the “this is your job to get me more ice” statements roll off me as I defibrillated and did compressions, as I pushed epi and myself to whole new levels. I survived the dreaded first year. I would go home exhausted, empty, hungry, but too fatigued to eat, and I would sleep for 6 hours and wake up and do it all over again. I made it through that dreaded first year where you know nothing and you hate your job and you wish you had never set foot in nursing school and you feel like a giant imposter. I took that feeling, drop-kicked it, and carried on…and on…and on…

So my friend…if you are in that dreaded First Year Nursing Agony where all you want to do is go home and cry or binge watch Netflix or be your own damn Big Spoon, you miss every social function because you’re too tired or you’re always and forever working, IT GETS BETTER. It’s still exhausting and it’s still tiring but it becomes rewarding and amazing and finally feels like you know a tiny bit what to do without killing anyone. So hang in there, dig deep, and scrub that poo off the walls because this too shall pass and you are inches away from being that Florence Nightingale/Tyler Durden badass nurse the first day naïve nursing student dreamed of becoming.