6:30 a.m. I wake up, roll over, and look at alarm clock. There is absolutely no reason to be up this early, but sleeping habits have always been rough for me.
I had the dream again where I'm at my graduation ceremony. It clings to my mind as I try to roll out of bed like a cobweb I walked through in a dusty, dusky barn.
We're all wearing our mortarboards and look so happy just to have made it. The ladies in my class are spending a half hour in the bathroom before we are ushered onstage, primping for the best of reasons: they hadn't really had the time to do so since starting school. Us guys are just standing around and joking about what great jobs we are going to find, the lives we will save, and how our wives/fiancees/girlfriends/whatever are going to be glad to actually spend time with us again.
My mom is there and beaming while chatting on the phone with every nurse she has a number for in her phonebook. She wants the world to know that there will now be two nurses with our last name.
The ceremony itself is a blur. For a second, there is a slideshow. For a moment, a speech. I'm not sure how this paper got in my hands.
After we all get our diplomas, hug a favorite teacher (usually in tears), the whole class shuffles outside for pictures and is full of hope. There are promises to stay in touch, talk about networking for future jobs, scheduling for playdates for kids, and even invitations given out to a wedding. One new grad talks about how she desperately needs cash for a down payment on the house of her dreams, but six months ago, her cousin got a $5K signing bonus as a nurse... HOPE! HOPE! HOPE!
But that's not why I get out of bed. I actually don't have a good reason to leave my apartment today.
Or this week.
Or the foreseeable future.
6:45 a.m. I'm on the treadmill. Angry rock streams through my iPod this morning. I used to work out to happy music, but lately, it has been a steady diet of guys who only know three chords on their guitars and have a severe distortion on their microphone.
It pumps me farther.
I'm pretty well convinced my frustration and anger at five months of unemployment fuels the desire for this crap, not the other way around. Who wouldn't be frustrated?
Lately, I feel like I've been lied to. I turn up the speed of the machine. I need to get back in shape.
I neglected too many parts of my life for school.
7:30 a.m. Shower. With no job to go to and no interviews in the last few weeks, why do I bother? Sure, it feels good to cool down, but who am out to impress?
I guess I need to look sharp and not smell like a lobster's armpit, just in case someone panicking comes pounding on my door, desperately searching for anyone who knows CPR for their kids.
BANG-BANG! "Help! My twins aren't breathing! Oh god! Isn't anyone on this floor a nurse!?!?"
I could make the newspaper! "Courageous Unemployed Nurse saves Congressman's daughters!" the headline would read. And tomorrow afternoon, the CNO of that Level 1 trauma center down the road will call. She'll start barking high salary numbers at me, like some livestock auctioneer on meth.
Better use the good soap today.
8:00 a.m. I used to not eat breakfast. Usually, I had no time with class or work every morning. I must have sacrificed hundreds of good meals, just to get another comma and those letters at the end of my name.
Now, I would trade them for the security of knowing next week I will be able to afford breakfast.
The phone is buzzing. My mom, just like at the dinner table while growing up, seems to know exactly when my mouth is full.
I try to hurry off the phone with her. Rude, I know, but I have the same conversation with her every other morning.
There are lots of jobs back home. I could live with them again until I get set up with the new job I'd surely find. My cousin just got a new job after the private hospital finished remodeling. She loves it! And SHE "only" has her ADN. Of course they would hire me with my BSN! And the family would love to see me again. Every time he comes over, her grandson asks when I'm coming home. He misses his uncle!
The frustration I've had recently has a serious side-effect: it leads to exhaustion.
I'm tired of explaining to my mom that the cousin got hired because she already has experience.
Those jobs she's seeing posted at her own hospital? They want a year of med/surg.
Two years peds.
Two to three years critical care.
I thank her for her help, mumble something about looking into it, and make an excuse to get off the phone.
She's just trying to be helpful.
If the money I saved up in my previous career runs out, I wonder if my pride will ask her to be more helpful.
9:00 a.m. It's Wednesday. It seems most companies post their jobs on Wednesday. I have the website for every local hospital, clinic, LTC, SNF, rehab, and public health saved to my bookmarks.
First step, I call some HR departments. Nursing recruiters must be getting tired of this economy, too. They all go straight to voicemail. I should change what I say from recording to recording so it doesn't sound so dang memorized, but I can't seem to work up much enthusiasm for someone that fields several dozen of new grad and experienced nurse calls each day and, if recent history teaches me anything, won't be returning mine. But being proactive and getting my name out there is important.
10:00 a.m. A quick check of the ads online in my state shows the new postings are the same as every week since I passed my NCLEX: 1-2 years experience required.
Listing after listing, hospitals insist I'm woefully under-qualified to so much as put a 4x4 on a two year-old boy's scraped knee.
There's a place on the other side of the state that says, "LPN. No experience required! New grads welcome!" Hmmm... it IS honorable work... four hours away... I'm not sure if RNs can work as LPNs... wait, what did my class say the role of the LPN is? Even I don't think I'm qualified for this job.
While checking a website for the university hospital in the area, I notice a job that doesn't require experience! It says only "graduate of a nursing program, XX state license required. ACLS, ENPC, TNCC preferred." Well, that's me! I fit those requirements!
"Internal candidates only." Rats.
I don't know which Peanuts running gag is more appropriate:
Snoopy gets kicked out of a building and the deep, booming voice sings "NO DOGS ALLOWED", or Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy's football.
11:15 a.m. I started checking hospitals out of state after a few weeks of not finding work. I can actually say I'm licensed in 27 states. Even though that includes compact states, that's over half! Well, there's American Samoa and Puerto Rico... but it still sounds impressive to me.
Let's see... Texas? Do you have to wear a cowboy hat with your scrubs? Does it have to match? Does Crocs make cowboy boots? I don't think I'm cool enough to pull off telling people I live in Texas. Nothing really much there for work anyway...
Maybe New York? Nah, I've been hearing the situation for new grads is even worse there than here.
I check the hospitals back in my hometown to ease my guilt for blowing off my mom. Just like last week, nothing.
I really would be willing to move just about anywhere. Except Nebraska. Don't ask.
1:30 p.m. I'm treating myself to the new teriyaki rice bowl place down the street. I liked the sub shop next door to this place, but I found myself last week lecturing the guy behind the counter on singing "Happy Birthday" twice to himself while he washes his hands after using the bathroom. Can you believe I saw him in the john just put his hands under the faucet for, like, 2 seconds and then go straight for the towels? Forget that place!
They don't have to-go orders here, so I take a seat in the corner near the rest of the guys who have nothing better to do in the afternoon. One of the guys is complaining to another stranger because his unemployment insurance benefits ended. He's not sure how he's going to make rent. He was hoping to make it or find a job until his wife graduated from nursing school this December. Then everything will be okay, because, see, there's a nursing shortage on and she's sure to get work immediately.
I'm over being frustrated with the "but, thar be a nursin' shortage" line. After snapping at the 50th stranger who dared to be ignorant, I gave up. It really isn't their fault when newspapers won't say a peep about it and the TV commercials are trying to get more students to enroll. For now, I'm just too tired to tell this hopeful husband what it's really like out there. It would be like having no Christmas money this year, telling a kid that there's no Santa; the little guy will find out soon enough on his own.
2:45 Usually, I study Spanish on the computer in the afternoon. I figure it will be a good skill to have considering the population in the area. Heck, it would be nice if it were a part of every nursing school.
But, it has been two weeks since I applied at the nursing homes and SNFs in the area. I can pull those up again. Maybe this will be the break I need!
These days, most think they can get the kind of experience that would make a nurse an anesthetist, but many don't even bother having a single listing. When I call or visit, nobody is sure to whom I should try talking.
I'm running out of ideas. Two months ago, I started applying at the prisons. That would be good experience, but all I get back is a letter stating that they have received my application. I followed up once, but I left a voicemail that must have eerily evaporated into the ether.
5:00 p.m.Social networking time.
Facebook and the nursing internet boards only get me more disheartened. New grads complaining about how there are no job. Old grads (as I have heard some taking to calling them) either complain about how nursing schools these days don't prepare their orientees to even wipe someone's nose or gripe about the patient loads they are being forced to work. Please, send some of that bad luck my way!
7:00 p.m. A light dinner and followed by a violent video game to relieve stress. Then, maybe, I'm back to my search.
?:?? p.m. or a.m. Sleeping on your keyboard is bad. Is "QWERTY-itis" an nursing diagnosis or a medical one?
I watch some old stand-up comedy videos on YouTube.
Dad has joked to me that even an old fool like him passed the Bar examination, so maybe I could go back to school and he would hire me into his law firm.
It seemed funny at the time, but I consider it a few times each day. I'm starting to forget why I got into this career to begin with.
I wanted to help people.
I wanted to be able to support a family.
I wanted to never have to wear a tie again!
Someday (hopefully) soon, I the economy will turn around. On that day, a young man graduating from nursing school will be hired the day Pearson-Vue sends him "The Letter". A respected, experienced nurse will be able to finally afford retirement and be able to spend time with the grandkids. The new grad young man will get in over his head because there was nobody experienced anymore to train him right. And the retired nurse will not get the care she earned because the executives at all health facilities were re-active instead of pro-active to this crisis. There will be a true "nursing shortage". And the newspapers will run stories wondering about the deplorable state of the health care field.
My phone is forever charged and with me, my email is continuously checked, my portfolio is always updated and ready to go, my car is ready to drive me to an interview.
In one of the two interviews I have been able to be honored with, I was asked if I could use my nursing practice to bring glory of god (it was in their mission statement). I had to lie because of my personal beliefs. I felt dirty lying to a prospective employer, especially over something so important.
And each day that passes uneventfully, I reluctantly admit I would do it again.
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