How Do You Know When It's Time to Hang It Up?

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    Your stethoscope, I mean.

    After months of unrelenting pressure at work---a job I've loved for 2 1/2 years---and the sudden onset of severe anxiety attacks which almost put me in the hospital this week, an awful realization is beginning to dawn on me that maybe.......just maybe......it's time to think about getting out of this profession for good.

    There is something fundamentally WRONG about having to resort to PRN anxiolytics just to make it through the workday. No one should go for weeks on 4-5 hours of broken sleep each night, if even that much. And no one deserves to be so stressed by what she does for a living that she becomes too paranoid even to call the psych NP for a few days' worth of Klonopin until she's in near-hysterics and sobbing uncontrollably into the phone.

    This has got to stop.

    I know it's no better anywhere else, and in fact have worked in environments that were far worse. It's just that I've been through this over and over and over and OVER again, and I am no longer certain that I can---or even want to---take much more.

    And I wonder: Is this what I asked for when I signed up to become a nurse? I've dedicated 20 years of my life to this profession, and for what? To have such impossible demands placed on me that I couldn't meet them all if I worked 100 hours a week? To be the sacrificial lamb when things go sideways during a bad survey? To be unable to do even three-quarters of what's expected of me without benefit of benzodiazepines?

    The handwriting is on the wall......I'm beginning to think I'm done. Not today, not tomorrow---I don't even have a Plan B right now---but it's only a matter of time. And I need to get out before I lose what's left of my marbles, before I get too old and used-up to start over again. AGAIN.

    So, for you retired nurses and those who've left the profession for less-stressful pastures, a simple question: how did you know when it was time to call it a career? What did you do (besides panic at the idea of being without a steady income) when you took that last, desperate step into the abyss? Most importantly......how did you get your groove back??

    I need to know. I've still got some semblance of fight left in me, but it's going fast.

    Thank you.
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  3. 11 Comments so far...

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    I'll be frank with you. You will know when it's time. Everyone has a boundary or limit they reach. Some is instant, it occurs to them in the work place, in the moment and some gradually. If you feel this way now, unless anything is being done to make it better, eventually you'll get to that decision. It's sort of like being in a marriage that is very roocky and problematic, you may think about divorcing but not know when or how to initiate that journey, but if marriage counseling, couples therapy , prayer, whatever isnt being done to turn the situation around, eventually could be monthss from that moment or years, the end result will not change. Divorce will be the resort.

    so in your case. you can keep wearing out till you finally have none left then leave, or strengthen up and understand that the issues are on the patient care side, and that realistically isnt going to change anytime soon so you have to make decisions from your end and what you know you need.

    You may not be with that steady income any more, that is the truth, and you may not live as comfortably as you are now financially, but you will have your sanity back, and learn to live healthier and better. It's a matter of choosing what you need now. So many nurses I see so stressed out and worn out, being worked, instead of working, letting the money make them, instead of making the money. Best of Luck.

    *personal healh has no price. In the end, we are not taking all this with us. To care for others you have to simply care for yourself first.
    MMaeLPN, Marshall1, besaangel, and 1 other like this.
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    I got disabled about 10 years ago, I won't get into the details, but I believe a lot of it had to do with stress and noc shifts. I was off work for a few years and felt like I "got my marbles back". I really didn't know how burnt out I was. I went into apartment management so that I could have free rent and cut my expenses once I got better. I really didn't think I would ever go back into nursing. Every time I would go for a hospital interview, I would succumb to severe N/V/D. I just couldn't do it. Every time I would think about nursing, I wanted to puke! I knew I was done. I gotta tell you though, it was really rough financially! It was hard to get hired in other jobs, because they all just couldn't get why you want to leave nursing (people think it's such a great profession-eesh!). Anyway, I got pregnant with twins at age 40, so I went back to nursing. It took over a year to get a job because I was off for those few years. Finally, I looked in a different direction. I went into home health, have been there a few years and really like it. Oh, there are still problems, but I can deal with it. Take some time off, things will seem clearer then. Maybe go for a change of venue, like a clinic or home health. I value the few years I had off, it changed me somehow. I have known other nurses that needed sabbaticals to get some type of perspective back after all the stress. Many have come back, but found a niche that they could deal with better. Hospital work is the roughest and it's only getting worse. Good luck to you.
    MMaeLPN, Marshall1, besaangel, and 1 other like this.
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    What great wisdom! You've given me some real food for thought and introduced some concepts that I'd never considered before. Thank you for your well-articulated perspectives

    I'm thankful that I don't work in a hospital. BTDT, had the nervous breakdown to prove it. That was 7 years ago, and quite frankly I'd have to be literally homeless and starving to ever work in such an environment again. I know nursing is cutthroat everywhere we go; some places are just worse than others. I will say that my current employer is the best I've ever worked for---I've had support, encouragement, and when necessary, accommodations made to help me continue in this very responsible position. But in the fragile state I'm in, even moderate amounts of stress are devastating, and that's why I'm afraid it's time to go. I can't go through the rest of my working years eating Ativan like candy......
    qaqueen, Jessy_RN, and gloryfied like this.
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    Sorry to hear about what you are going through Viva. I've been following your post about your job situation. I haven't been a nurse as long as you (only 12 years), but know what you are going through.

    I knew I was done when I had a student one day and couldn't bite my tongue about nursing. I couldn't sugarcoat it. I told her the realities that no one told me before I went into nursing. From that day on I knew I didn't want to pursue this profession for the remainder of my working years.

    Since then I have started 2 businesses doing consulting and I will soon publish my own book. I am well on my way to branching out into another career.
    VivaLasViejas likes this.
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    What kind of consulting?
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    Viva, I have been reading your posts, several things jump out at me. You love nursing and are a talented writer. You are a people person, and do not like adm details. You are challenged as far as standing, lifting,etc. You like to work without someone micro managing you.

    To me two opportunities would be good for you, one is home care, lots of patient interaction lots of flexibility. You would be best as a nurse who does visits not the case management. Second who be an educators with you writing skills and knowledge you would have much to offer.
    MMaeLPN and VivaLasViejas like this.
  10. 0
    Quote from Ginger's Mom
    Viva, I have been reading your posts, several things jump out at me. You love nursing and are a talented writer. You are a people person, and do not like adm details. You are challenged as far as standing, lifting,etc. You like to work without someone micro managing you.

    To me two opportunities would be good for you, one is home care, lots of patient interaction lots of flexibility. You would be best as a nurse who does visits not the case management. Second who be an educators with you writing skills and knowledge you would have much to offer.
    Thank you for this. I've thought of doing home health or hospice, and you may very well be right---I do love the one-on-one with patients! I don't know if I'd be qualified because my actual nursing skills are pretty rusty, but it's not like I couldn't regain them with a refresher course. And yes, I'd probably do best as the visiting nurse, not the case manager....been there, done that, have a permanent dent in my ear from years of holding a phone to it.

    It just occurred to me that in this job, I've developed some major networks. People from all the home-health and hospice agencies come to my facility to work with my residents, they consult with me, we shoot the breeze, we're friends. Maybe it's time to explore a little......
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    Your home care skills are fine, it is basic nursing assessment. The more complex tasks any home care nurse would have to be inserviced ( such as IV's or wound vacs).

    You know how to do a physical assessment and when to call the doc. You know basic wound care and you know medication management. I don't think you need a refresher course for this based on your postings.
    MMaeLPN and VivaLasViejas like this.
  12. 1
    I identify with what you and other posters are saying...I hope you are able to find another path, a better suited to you path, in the near future. Nursing and life in general, is difficult..especially for women and even more so for a woman who has the added battle of a mental health illness and all that goes along with it - the doctors appointments, sometimes lab appointments, therapy, medications, side effects of the meds...piling that on top of a job, a personal life...its often times more than one woman, even a wonder woman, can take. I use to think working in the hospital, especially in a critical care type unit, was the "be all end all" and the only way to nurse..but as with most things in life, time, experience, changes in me and in the healthcare system have made that notion an idea of the past. I currently work in an office, part time, and it is easier than the hospital by far..but is not for me..so I'm seeking something else that I think will fit more to what I need in life - both personally and professionally - to be able to give the best of myself without giving myself away completely. If that makes sense.
    Writing for nursing journals, working in mental health, education, home health (which some offer mental health services), hospice..all those venues are something you could consider and I feel certain would be a success at. Hang in there - I know that's easier said than done sometimes.
    VivaLasViejas likes this.


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