My Challenges Transitioning from Nurse to Patient

Jen Cueva avatar

by Jen Cueva |

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As I work on my continuing education credits required to maintain my nursing license, I am reminded of how much I miss my days as a nurse. Prior to my diagnosis with pulmonary hypertension (PH), I worked in hospice and palliative care. The transition from nurse to patient is an ongoing struggle for me.

I embraced my role as a caregiver. I believe that this is my purpose in life. I’ve always been nurturing. I aspire to help others, and I know that this is God’s plan for me.

Transitioning from my caregiver role was no laughing matter. Even after 14 years, changing the mindset and perspective from nurse to patient continues to get the best of me. When my mom visits, I have an internal desire to take care of her. Isn’t this our duty as our parents age? But my mom is rebellious and stubborn — and she wonders where I get it from.

I am the patient in the hospital who tries to take care of her roommate. Or explains to my husband that the nurses are busy. He stays by my side and is the one who does the running around. I only push the nurse call button if I can’t get out of bed without setting off any alarms. (I am guilty of setting those off a time or two.)

Despite the patience I used with my patients, I am the opposite as a patient myself. Part of this stems from my nursing background. I know what is happening with the many tests and procedures. Often, I think that I would rather not know. Besides that, I often “hold off” when I probably should go to the doctor.

I think that all medical staff should view care from a patient’s perspective at least once. It is an eye-opening experience. The perspective is different on this side of the chart and bed.

I am in a constant battle with myself. I often need to step back and reassess the situation. I have to remind myself that I am the patient. I remember my first hospitalization, more than 14 years ago. I told my medical team and family “to just fix me and get me back to my patients.”

Little did I know that I would not be caring for my patients again.

Recently, I reminded myself that caregiving can be performed in many ways. Offering comfort and support to a family member, friend, or another patient is something that I do almost daily.

Stepping back from my nurse mentality is still a challenge. But there are days when the symptoms and complications of PH mean that I need to rest. That often means mental breaks, too. This can be a struggle when I want to save the world. But I can’t help others if I am not taking care of myself first.


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


G. McCrary avatar

G. McCrary

Absolutely LOVE this article by Jen Cueva! Have been a professional health care worker in the Operating Room for almost 25 years. This is exactly how I feel. Thanks for putting it do eloquently and reminding me I'm not alone!!

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Thank you so much for reading. I'm happy to hear that you could relate. I'm sure working in the OR for that long, you certainly understand.

I appreciate your kinds words. Have a great day.

Rebecca A Talkie avatar

Rebecca A Talkie

I too was a nurse. I worked on a high powered, high energy Telemetry Step Down unit for most of my 36 year career. Although it was back issues that caused my days as a nurse to end, it was the pending diagnosis of PH that caused me to give up my license totally. It is hard to be a patient. I have tried to chat with the staff like a fellow medical professional and/or hide the fact in order to make myself comfortable with what is happening to me. I have been an outpatient for tests but not an inpatient for my PH so far. Being on the other side is tough. Wish I had an answer for you.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi Rebecca,
Thanks for sharing your nursing connection. Being on the opposite side certainly is a challenge.
I think that finding that balance and not wanting to “be in control” as a nurse is important. But, I also need to be the patient, sometimes, that is OK, too.

Thanks for reading.

Gward avatar


Jen, thank you for your post. I was a nurse for 45 years before my diagnosis and no just just how you feel. I agree healthcare providers should all experience care from a patients point of view. I must say I have been blessed with a great team of caregivers that give me as much control as I can handle at any given time. I am proud to be a nurse and appreciate all nursing contributes .
Again thanks

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi Gayle,
After 45 years, I am sure that this is tough for you, too. It is hard to “turn off” that nurse mindset. I am happy to hear that your team works with you and allows you to control to a certain extent. I also have a great PH team that often asks me what I think and will try things that I suggest. I am happy to have them. Other days, I just wish I knew less. I am sure that you can relate to it.

Thanks for reading.


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