Nurses reveal the 11 hardest parts of their job, from the death of patients to not having time to pee during a shift

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  • Business Insider asked nurses to share the hardest parts of their job.
  • Many said seeing patients die after doing everything to care for them is the hardest part.
  • Other challenges include long shifts, having to use time-consuming technology, and a lack of respect from other people in the healthcare industry.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Working as a nurse isn't easy.

Nurses have some of the most stressful jobs in the country. Nursing will be among the fastest growing professions by 2026, but the American Association of Colleges of Nursing still expects there to be a shortage in the coming years.

Read more: Here's how being a nurse has changed in the last 50 years

The shortage may result from decreased nursing-school enrollment, aging baby boomers, and insufficient staffing, AACN said.

Business Insider spoke to dozens of nurses on the most challenging parts about their job - and many agreed losing patients hurts the most.

Other problems with the job include dealing with hospital politics, getting insulted by others in the healthcare industry, and working shifts so long there's no time to use the bathroom.

Here are eight of the hardest parts about being a nurse.

If you're a nurse with a story to share, email aakhtar@businessinsider.com.


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Seeing the death of their patients.

Seeing the death of their patients.

Most nurses said seeing the death of patients was the hardest part of their job, including Heather, a nurse from North Carolina, and Chelsey Rodgers, a former nurse who now runs an education company called Tribe RN.

"Seeing those patients you took care of die and how devastating it is to the family" is the hardest part of being a nurse, said Melissa, a nurse from Oklahoma city.

Megan, a nurse who works in Ohio, said she struggles to keep from crying during difficult situations: "We do not have the luxury of crying, we have to keep moving. Death... Death is so hard until it's a blessing. Then explaining that ... That is the worst."

Dealing with judgmental opinions about their occupation.

Dealing with judgmental opinions about their occupation.

"It is often hard to explain to people what we do," said a nurse from Pennsylvania who wished to stay anonymous. "There is a notion that I'm 'just a nurse' and I struggle to explain to people that this is what I want. No, this is not a step to medical school. No, I never thought about being a [physician assistant]. I am a nurse, and I am proud of that."

Long, arduous shifts.

Long, arduous shifts.

The hardest part about being a nurse for Beth, a nurse from Wisconsin, is the "total mental, emotional and physical exhaustion by the end of a shift."

"Then getting up to do it all over again 6 hours later," she adds.

A lack of respect from other people in the healthcare industry.

A lack of respect from other people in the healthcare industry.

Leslie, a licensed practical nurse from Florida, said the hardest part of her job is the "lack of respect and verbal/physical abuse from families, management, fellow healthcare workers."

Amy, a nurse from Texas, also said nurses "tolerate a lot of verbal and physical abuse from patients and sometimes physicians."

Having to deal with hospital politics.

Having to deal with hospital politics.

"Nursing has become more about politics," said Mayte, nurse for a hospital in Iowa. "That it isn't just about helping people but about making a profit. Healthcare should not be for profit."

Teresa, a nurse from Oregon, also said the hardest part of her job was not having a voice "in a system that considers nurses an unfortunate cost, rather than the essential frontline care providers that we are."

Not having time to even pee during shifts.

Not having time to even pee during shifts.

Chelsea, a nurse from Illinois, said sometimes she doesn't even have time to pee for her entire 12-hour shift.

Amy, a nurse from Texas, also had the same issue. She said the hardest part about her job was "running around and caring for my patients without peeing the entire shift, and then administration having the nerve to ask me why my white board in the patient's room isn't updated."

Having to use outdated (and time-consuming) technology.

Having to use outdated (and time-consuming) technology.

Jess, a nurse from Texas, said the hardest part of her job was "having to deal with all the technology that keeps us from actually providing hands-on care with the patient."

"The EMR requires more time in the patient's chart and less time in the patient's room," she added, referring to the electronic medical record, a digital system to store health records. A recent investigation found software glitches and user errors due to electronic health records caused death and serious injury to patients.

When patients and their families think they know more than the nurse.

When patients and their families think they know more than the nurse.

"When patients and their family members question every move you make or think that their quick Google search makes them just as much of an expert as I am," said a nurse from Pennsylvania who wished to stay anonymous.

Nat, a nurse from Massachusetts, also gets frustrated when her patients rely on the internet to give them medical advice: "I didn't know Google had a nursing license."

Next time you get sick, do yourself a favor and tell your nurse your symptoms — not WebMD.

Working on holidays and weekends.

Working on holidays and weekends.

Working on holidays is the hardest part of the job, according to Betsy, a nurse in Florida.

The different shifts, holidays, and weekends can also make the job physically draining, according to a nurse from Sweden who wished to stay anonymous.

The pressure to know everything.

The pressure to know everything.

The pressure to have all the answers makes the job of Nat, a nurse from Massachusetts, much more difficult.

"Nurses have different specialties," she said. "We don't know everything. But what we don't know, we research evidenced based information and educate ourselves."

Taking care of drug-addicted patients.

Taking care of drug-addicted patients.

As the country grapples with its ongoing opioid crisis, hospitalization related to drug addiction skyrocketed from 2002 to 2012, Kaiser Health News reported.

Nurses find dealing with drug-addicted patients challenging.

Deborah, a nurse from Florida, says the hardest part of her job is "taking care of people who just want drugs."

Amy, a nurse from Texas, also struggles with caring for patients who do not take care of themselves. "Why should I care when they obviously don't?" she said.

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