The initials "RN" stand for "Registered Nurse." According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 2.5 million people in the U.S. with licensure as registered nurses. While being an RN can be rewarding, certain aspects of the job can make it very difficult.
Registered nurses may work very long shifts. Hospitals often hire nurses to work for 12 hours at a time. During that time, a nurse may have scant time to take breaks because of patient demands. Nurses may also be required to stay after their shifts end to prepare notes about patients that the next shift will need. Note preparation can extend an RN's shift by a half hour or more.
Educational Recertification Requirements
Nurses in many states are required to take additional courses within a given time frame in order to keep their licenses current. Alabama, for example, requires RN's to complete 24 hours of additional education every two years. California nurses are required to complete 30 hours. Classes may cost hundreds of dollars and might not be reimbursed by the nurses' employers. A nurse may also be asked to take examinations every two years to remain certified in specific skills such as neonatology and pediatric CPR.
Physically Tough Work Tasks
The work of an RN can be both mentally and physically demanding. RN’s may have to lift obese patients, grab medical supplies on high shelves, and stand for long periods of time to assist physicians performing procedures on patients. All of that can put strain on the nurse’s joints, muscles, and back.
RNs often confront demanding patients. Patients who are suffering from serious illness may not be polite and pleasant; many may become rude or upset, and take out their sadness and anger by being nasty to the nurses attempting to assist them. Dealing with such patients can be emotionally taxing.
An RN faces the risk of contracting illnesses from patients. Accidental needle sticks, getting sprayed with blood or other bodily fluids, and regular exposure to airborne contaminants are constant threats. A nurse may also work with patients suffering from contagions such as influenza, hepatitis, and HIV. Even with vaccinations, a nurse may not be fully protecting against catching such diseases.
Legally Required Overtime
A hospital may also legally require a nurse to take on additional hours after the nurse’s shift has ended because of staffing shortages. If the next nurse does not show up for work hospital officials may ask a nurse to work an extra half shift to until a replacement can be found. More than a dozen states have outlawed mandatory overtime requirements.