July 22, 2009, 7:35 pm

Under Pressure

menopauseI’m sure some women have issues during menopause, but Benzedrine?

Apathy? Psychomotor retardation?

Sounds like me after four night shifts in a row.

And I thought all I’d have to worry about are hot flashes…or in the current PC vernacular, power surges.

Puberty isn’t treated like a disease, but apparently menopause was looked upon as a psychosis! Was it ever listed in the DSM?

Were all the women of the 1950s hyped up on bennies?

OMG – read the fine print – they actually talk about using Benzedrine with electric shock therapy.


We most certainly have come a long way, baby!


Sometimes I think I’m my own worst enemy.

I feel guilty for being angry at a patient’s behavior, shocked by an intensity of rage that is way out of proportion to what they have done.

After all, it isn’t personal; their behavior is a component of their disease.

Or so I tell myself one month (and one post) after the fact.


I feel guilty for tearing up as a patient miscarries.

A week later she would have been far enough along to go to L&D.

The sadness stays with me the entire shift and I cry as I turn out of the parking lot that morning.

I kick myself for not being able to detach; am I not a professional?


I feel guilty for being on edge with co-workers.

Who are only being themselves, but my perception is that of  too much, too loud and too intrusive.

God only knows how I am coming across to them.


When did I become a walking raw nerve?

This isn’t burnout.

When you are burnt out you are apathetic.

I’m almost the opposite of apathetic; everything is very, very acute.

All I know is that this isn’t me.

And I don’t like it.


And I feel guilty for feeling this way.

Why is it so easy to cut other people some slack,

And virtually impossible to do the same for myself?


  • #1 Dinosaur

    July 23, 2009 at 2:37 am

    You don’t think you’re describing burnout, but you are, in fact, describing the early stages perfectly. You claim that in full-fledged burnout you are numb and apathetic. True; but only at the very end.

    Think about burns. Third degree/full thickness ones don’t hurt, but only because the nerves have been completely destroyed. First and second degree burns hurt like hell, even though they’re “not as severe”.

    You are burning. Get help NOW, while it still hurts (because a piece of your soul hasn’t yet been destroyed), before it’s too late.

  • Kim

    July 23, 2009 at 5:21 am

    You are so right, Dino. I’m looking at some time off for the fall semester, so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    Right now, it’s just a “sunburn”. I’ve been through it before, I guess I’m just more attuned to the early stages this time.

  • Katie Bee

    July 23, 2009 at 6:09 am

    You know, I feel that way all the time! Working in Washington and in and around the politics of nursing and other facets of life, it feels like you’re a walking time bomb – so much to get mad about, so much sneakiness and deceit of politics, it’s a toxic atmosphere. So I wonder if it’s just me, but sounds like it’s not. Maybe you’re burning out, but I’d say you’re an intelligent person who has a very passionate soul and is very opinionated. Sometimes the injustice and inequity around us makes us so mad, and we are helpless to change things. We have a great intellect, a great soul, and a passion for what’s right, so sometimes it just gets to be too much.

    Nursing is not easy – it asks to you to take on the most difficult aspects of humanity – pain and suffering, hopelessness, and yes, deceit and sometimes cruelty. It’s not for the weak of heart. I think what you’re feeling is normal, but that doesn’t make it easy.

    It’s hard to get so riled up and then have no where to express the rile. I understand, and appreciate this post because I feel that way a lot too!

  • Candy

    July 23, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Glad to hear you’re thinking about time off. You need it. Take time to reflect on the soul of nursing, and how you embody that essence. You are a good nurse and a good person who is being pulled in too many directions. Take time for Kim for a change and when you’re ready, so will your nursing nirvana be.

  • Misty Faucheux

    July 24, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Just read your post on Benzedrine. Wow. That is insane. Shock therapy for menopause? I’m glad that we have come a long way!

  • Sean

    July 25, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    I believe it’s called the type A personality. We nurses love to beat ourselves up and hold ourselves to some higher degree that virtually doesn’t exist.
    Maybe we should practice treating ourselves the way we treat our patients? huh? 🙂

  • Child Psych

    July 31, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Personally, I prefer to call it compassion fatigue because it is closer to what healthcare folks experience than the burnout of workers in other industries. The early stages can be caring too much, and as #1 Dinosaur notes, apathy comes later. Some links:

    Overcoming Compassion Fatigue – April 2000 Family Practice Management – http://www.aafp.org/fpm/20000400/39over.html

    Stressed Health Care Workers Battle ‘Compassion Fatigue’ – Forbes.com – http://www.forbes.com/feeds/hscout/2009/04/10/hscout625911.html

  • Heather

    August 4, 2009 at 11:25 am

    please don’t ever become soo professional that you detach… I think the best care comes from people who actually CARE.

    great blogs!

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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