During Nurses’ Week of 2019, I ran an essay contest for nurses who wanted to share a story about their careers, and Heather (a pseudonym) submitted the winning essay. Enjoy!

Upset nurse sitting on the floor in hospital ward

“I’m not a real nurse.

“Sure, it reads ‘BSN, RN’ on my badge, but that doesn’t count. Yes, I’m on your unit 12 hours but I don’t really belong there. I answer call lights, medicate my patients, and work with the same doctors but I’m not a true caregiver like the rest. I’m not sure my unit manager would even recognize me out of my scrubs, outside of work, in the real world. I went to nursing school and passed boards just like you, yet somehow I’m inferior.

“I only work weekends, you see. I’m not working “the trenches” throughout the week like the rest of my nurse coworkers — I swing in on the weekend and then I’m gone. Most managers don’t even show up when I’m there. “Oh, you’re here today! I haven’t seen you in so long!”, is a common greeting for me.

“I’m a per diem, weekend-working RN in an acute care hospital. My home unit is a 30-bed med/surg unit, yet I don’t always work there; I’m first to float and I often do. I work various units alongside lots of different nurses; some have been there a long time and some are brand new faces to me.

“I’m not benefited and I don’t qualify for any bonuses or prizes that my full-time coworkers might receive. There are no Nurses Week goodies for me, and that’s ok — I’m home with my kids during the week, volunteering at school, carpooling, and being there when they get home. That’s my bonus.

“The bummer though is I feel this undercurrent of ‘I’m-not really-a-nurse-since- I’m-not there-all-the-time’ from some nurses. I’m not really part of my unit because I’m not there when administrators are there, watching, correcting, questioning during the week. I’m not a travel nurse but I feel like one.

“Oh, I must be rich since I don’t have to work full time, is what I’ve been told as well. Sigh — hardly the case. Plus, *NEWSFLASH*: weekends are super hectic nowadays in a hospital. The days of sleepy Sundays are over — you do the same work as is done during the week without the help of ancillary staff. It’s just as tough!

“Anyway, I don’t always get staff memos and in-services about what’s new at work either; I find a new challenge each time I work. Despite this, I still manage to get through every weekend — I do my job and I do it well.

“I love patient care and my patients thank me for taking good care of them. Then I punch out and go home at the end of my shift ( hopefully without overtime) like everyone else.

“In the end, I too wipe butts, update white boards, pass meds, code patients, and everything else you full-timers do. My feet hurt at the end of my shift just like you. I may not always be there, but when I am, I do my best to offer my help and be a good team member.

“Next time someone floats to your unit, welcome them; let them know their presence is appreciated (being short-staffed sucks, right?). I may not be there all the time but I like to feel I’m part of a team and not a solo artist. I love my patients. I enjoy the challenge. I am a registered nurse who deserves a bit of recognition every now and then too.”


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Nurse KeithIn case you didn’t already know, Nurse Keith is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, keynote and motivational speaker, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. From 2012 until its sunset in 2017, Keith co-hosted RNFMRadio, a groundbreaking nursing podcast. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram—as well as at NurseKeith.com.