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7 Things to Learn from a "Lifer" Nurse

Prisca Smith | Scrubs Magazine

You’ve got a lot to learn, grasshopper!

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between seasoned nurses, whom we call “lifers” because they will likely retire on our floor and have been around a long time, and new nurses.

This probably has something to do with the fact that, in my new job, I am working with nurses who have been in the profession and specialty for 10+ years—there are not many newbies around. Some of these nurses will retire in a few years having been on the same unit their whole career!

The other night I watched a 25+ year nurse as she calmly took a verbal berating from a doctor — only to put him in his place using some evidence-based jargon that had my head reeling!

This is so different in that I am coming from a hospital where new grads moved up the ranks and ran the show at three to four years in, only to burn out and move on. In fact, when I was hired as a new grad, my previous manager told me that the unit had a “burn-out rate” of one year—new grads got their initial experience then moved on.

So, what does my future look like as a seasoned nurse? What can you expect if you’re planning on being a “lifer?”

What are the common traits in nurses with loads of experience?

#1: Lifers are Calmer →


Featured Author: SCRUBS MAGAZINE
Scrubs Magazine is a lifestyle website 100 percent for and about nurses. Here you’ll find articles written by and for nurses about beauty, money, style, health, and wellness. Scrubsmag.com features active conversations with nurse bloggers ranging from a newly minted nurse to a seasoned RN to a misunderstood male nurse. Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook.



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    DebbieMck

    about 3 years ago

    4 comments

    KUDOS! to ScotS. I am 57 and just starting an RN-BSN program. One is never too old to learn.

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    ScotS

    about 3 years ago

    4 comments

    Lifer... Probably..I'm 55yo m just starting a 2y RN-BSN program.

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    JennyGK

    about 3 years ago

    198 comments

    Good advice.

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    brienza

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I am a Lifer,seasoned LPN. My specialty is Peds. I have 34 yrs. experience. I was Peds hospital staff nurse for 17 1/2 yr.,then went to work for a clinic in Peds.Now I work with a solo Pediatrician in her office part time.I always love Nursing.I want to stress that in Pediatrics,you have to earn the Parent's trust and confidence before you reach out to their children.Then it is easy to do what you have to do. Also,have a sense of humor when it is needed.I will retire when my Dr. retires. That is what we plan. I am her only Nurse-have been for 14 yrs now.I am in college-will graduate in May with a History Degree. I will work in our museum as my retirement career. I am there now part time.Our hospital is celebrating 100 years and I am working with them and the museum to have a exhibit and a time-line to educate the community.I get to use both of my Loves in this project.

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    Maerzie

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I was a nursing "lifer", and I'd say it takes the same qualities as a good marriage: consideration, keeping informed, communication, cooperation, honesty, determination, love, empathy, and "sticktuitivity", and not necessarily in that order. If "divorce" is not an option, you know you MUST make it work. Obviously, since you are saying you want to be a "lifer", you already know most of these things. You definitely won't always get your own way. Each struggle you survive is a learning opportunity and earns your "wisdom" for you.

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    gr09

    over 3 years ago

    4 comments

    Nice article.

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    HerbalNurse

    over 3 years ago

    466 comments

    20+ years. Nice article.

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    FLIGHTRN197

    over 3 years ago

    6 comments

    As a very seasoned nurse: see one, do one, teach one, Be calm grasshopper, those who rush don't see the real reason why you became a nurse!

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    GilMichaeli

    over 3 years ago

    6 comments

    Is there such a word as assuridity?

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    shellman

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    Excellent article. Reading this can help someone like me, who is thinking of entering nursing, determine if I have what it takes to be a good nurse. I have some things to work on but I may get a good base when I start training. I am thankful to the author for thinking ahead for herself, and submitting the article for others.

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    cab9960

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I've been in the nursing profession for 26+ years! Unbelievable when I really think about it. I've run the gambit starting as a CNA, then LVN (for 10 years), and now RN for 16 years. I started with an associates, then BSN, now MBA in Healthcare Management. I spent 10 years in middle to upper management (CNO) and now back to basics working as a staff nurse in an ambulatory surgery center. No weekends, no holidays, very little call. Regrets? Absolutely. The grass is not always greener...I'm less stressed, enjoy more patient contact, and have more free time to enjoy my career until retirement. My acquired management skills are a + when working once again as a staff nurse.

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    catzhouz

    over 3 years ago

    6 comments

    I too am a lifer. I have 33 + years as a nurse. I specialize in geriatrics. I chose this area as I was afraid of "old" people. I have learned the art of respect that I think we sometimes forget. Your article has discribed the "lifer' quite well. I like to think I have been kind to the new comers so that they don't run. Teaching these "kids" is the best way for harmony on the shift and cohesion of the staff. To the "kids" I wish you the best, listen well and remain open to changes.

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    motrn

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I am currently retired & have been a nurse 32 years-But I am getting ready to go back to work for another 5-8 years. Being a NURSE is anintegral part of my Identy. I haveworked in a wide variety of settings with a lot of New nurses & hope I have been kind to them.One of the tragedies of Nursing is how we "eat our Young"-we push them into High stress ,paperwork filled jungles without proper support. This nurse is wise to recognize what keeps us lifers in the profession-YOU GO GIRL(& GUYS)!!

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    rockymtnRN

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I am a "seasoned" RN having worked 16yrs on med/surg floors. A few years ago I had a challenge with a physician who had a history of not being very compassionate with patients who were nearing their end of life... things like pain management and comfrot measure in general. He had verbalized on more than one occasion that it was not money well spent. One day I had one of his patients whose family was having great difficulty with the end time transition for this patient. The patient was a DNR and on a morphine drip at 1mg/hr and O2 via cannula for comfort. The family asked if there was more we could do for comfort as the patient was very restless. I asked the Doc if we could turn the drip up a little and he countered with, " SURE... turn it up to 10 mg and take away the O2... that should make them more relaxed!" I was shocked and told him so and was met with, "You want to make this patient comfy?? Then this should do it!' He then left the station. The "order" was so completely absurd that I didn't write it as I thought he was simply being rude. I told my charge RN about the incident and she said not to worry and she got orders from another Doc on the case for more reasonable pain management orders and we left the O2 on as it was (O2 sats were acceptable).
    The next day another nurse had that patient and I heard the original Doc bellow about "Why weren't my orders written down and carried out??". I came around the end of the chart files and faced him and told him that they were so far offbase that I was sure he had to have been joking and that we sought other recourse. He blew up at me, of course... in front of every RN at the station and within earshot of patients and visitors as well. I simply told him that taking away O2 from my expiring patient and giving them a dose of morphine that would take them out almost immediately was not in my patient's nor their family's best interest and that would have nothing to do with patient assisted death. He stormed out of the station and I stood there trembling and light-headed... and then everyone who had heard the exchange came and hugged me and told me they wished they ahd my "guts". I was about to fall over from the stress of it all... I told my charge RN what had happened... I wrote the offending Doc up and he was called on the carpet in the end. My charge RN came and told me she was proud of me for being a very good advocate for the patient and the family as well. The patient passed later the next day... peacefully and quietly... and the family was grateful for the care she received and for helping them through a tough time in a graceful manner.
    That Doc wouldn't talk to me for a very long time... and when he finally did he kept things strictly limited to business at hand and never crossed me up again.
    I came out stronger in spirit for having gone through that battle... stronger as an advocate for my patients (for those who are not able to speak for themselves or for their families who do not know how to articulate their needs in a sometimes scary medical environment and situation)... and stronger in my convictions that EVERYONE needsto be able to accept correction at one point or another (myself included).
    I hope that new grads are always able to look to us "seasoned" RN's for guidance and ancouragement... and just pick our brains and hearts for the tools that help make their careers more fulfilling... maybe save them a few heartaches along the way.

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    JaneS

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    As a "Lifer" you must continue to learn and remake yourslef. As a hospital nurse for 20 yrs things have changed and I can no longer work in hospitals I have had 3 back surgeries, chronic pain and cannot stand for any extended period of time. I finally left the hospital "kicking & screaming"" and went to phone coaching. I spent 8 months and found that telephone coaching was not my thing. I did learn a huge amount about communication, motivating people to good health care goals, etc. It was a very valueable experience. In an interview I can speak about staging people's willingness to change, goal setting ,etc. It has made me more marketable. If you must leave the hopital you must review your assess because there is a huge wealth of info due to simply being a nurse for 20 yrs.

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