The Highs and Lows of Being a Nursing Home Nurse

I learned a lot about nursing homes during my grandmother’s stay at our local nursing home. She actually was a resident on several occasions for different reasons. This was the first glimpse I had at the extreme versatility of a nursing home nurse.


Many nursing homes have different levels of care. Some areas are for rehabilitation or recovery, while others provide long-term care. My grandmother used both sides of our local nursing home, which allowed me to meet and get to know a number of the nurses.

The responsibilities of a nursing home nurse ranges from helping a person who has broken a hip become ambulatory again to assisting a patient with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. This means that the nursing care may be extremely light or intensive depending on the patient’s circumstances and needs.

The first time my grandmother was in the nursing home, she was recovering from major surgery. The doctor wanted more care than could be provided at home, but did not think she needed to remain in the hospital. At first, the nurses had to monitor her diet, medications, and keep the wound clean. She needed assistance in all activities of daily living, including personal grooming. Some of these tasks were completed by nurses and others by aides. I found that the rehabilitation and recovery nursing was one of the highlights for the nurses. These patients were going to recover and return home. The nurses were able to meet the families and form relationships with the patients that were not going to become painful later.

The last time my grandmother was in the nursing home was for an advanced illness. While the nurses and staff were professional, helpful, and even friendly to my grandmother and my family, they still seemed more subdued. I realized later that, while the job was still something they loved, it took more of a toll emotionally. While they got to know all of us, they knew we wouldn’t be there for very long, and at the end it was obvious that they had still grown attached to my family. This would definitely be the low side of becoming a nursing home nurse. While it certainly is rewarding to help the family and the patient through a difficult time, it is also emotionally draining to lose people on a regular basis that you have become close to. Even those who maintain a professional detachment will find one or two patients each year that are especially endearing. Learning to balance this love and loss takes a true gift.

What made you want to become a nursing home nurse?

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