The average age of an RN in 2004 was estimated to be 46 years. I will be 44 in May, so I am approaching that average. They also tend to be white (88%) and female (95%).
Although, this essay is not a discussion of the nursing shortage, there is one. That fact is often not a central one when we discuss the “health care crisis” in America, but it should be. According to surveys, all 50 states will be affected by the nursing shortage in varying degrees by the year 2015. By the year 2020, there will be a nursing shortage of approximately 340,000.
Clearly, areas in which there could be recruitment would be among men and non-Caucasian women. The reasons for the shortage are vast and varied. My own theory is that years ago when my mother became an RN, there were few career choices for women. Now, women have a broader range of options and while nursing does pay well, there are other sectors that do as well and they don’t involve shifts, weekends and holidays. The older nurses and I like to joke at work that a) our retirement plan is death and b) we will be caring the hell out of our patients in the coming years as we totter into rooms in on walkers or zip in on electric scooters. It is amusing in an oh shit kind of way.
It wasn’t my dream to become a nurse, although when I was growing up, I was always asked if I was going to be a nurse “just like mom”, when I got older I found it insulting nobody could conceive of a different future for me. My mother did not subject me to that. She told me not to be a nurse. However, I found myself going to nursing school at age 29 after flopping around in the job market doing contract jobs I actually liked but so no future in and jobs I altered my resume to get because I needed to eat and pay rent. So, yes, I lied on my resume to get jobs, specifically eliminating some of my education and manufacturing some experience that nobody checked up on. I did not want to be super nurse, be an angel, save the world, or do anything heroic. I wanted a job and I did worry when I entered training that I wouldn’t actually like it or even be competent at it. Unlike many of the younger students, I knew what I was getting into and had already worked shifts at crap jobs, so the idea of working on a Saturday night was not a huge burden.
That I ended up in oncology and working with children was an accident. I like kids but not in a romantic, cutesy, mushy way. I have had them call me names, swing and make contact, tell me they hate me, had teenage boys ask for a younger prettier nurse, get spit at, bitten ect ect. When I was in staffing, I used to tell the older ones who called me a “bitch”, sometimes I am, now take your medication and if you can quit being a jerk off for five minutes, we can hang out and talk. When the younger kids told me they hated me I said I know you do, but I still like you. I have a particular approach that helps me when parents or kids are unpredictable and mean: compassion is a philosophy. Everybody deserves it even when we don’t feel like offering it, nothing and everything is personal, and this to shall pass. Now that I am a supervisor, I repeat “this to shall pass about a hundred times a night”. The other tactic my fellow supervisors and I use especially when we are already aware that it will be a challenging and unpleasant night is to say: even if it is a bad night we are gonna find some good in it. It works, when you deal with life and death and the unfairness of it all you really need a coherent philosophy to survive and avoid burnout. Most of my colleagues are Christians and I am not. I don’t make a public statement about it, but most of the ones I have worked with for a long time are aware of it.