Hanging It Up
Here are some thoughts on what goes into the decision to leave nursing and go in a completely different direction late in life: the hopes, the dreams, the disappointments, the fears.....and the relief that comes with hanging up the stethoscope for good.It seems almost unreal: in six days, I will don my scrubs, put my name badge on, and go to work at the nursing home like I have almost every weekend since last July. I will pass meds, listen to hearts and lungs, change a dressing or two, greet visitors, answer questions, and do admission assessments in much the same manner as I have for the past sixteen-and-a-half years.
Only this time, it will be for the last time.
After many months of having one foot firmly planted in nursing and the other foot testing the waters outside of it, my career as an active, working nurse will be over as of next Sunday. It's actually been over for some time; I simply wasn't quite ready to acknowledge the fact until a month ago, when I looked at my December schedule and saw that I'd been scheduled for only four shifts all month. The reasons for it are many and have no place in this discussion; suffice it to say that the reduction in hours told me everything I needed to know about where I stand in clinical nursing.
They say everything happens for a reason. Just as I was surrendering to the inevitability of going back to Vocational Rehab and begging to be retrained for something that didn't require me to ask customers if they wanted ketchup or fry sauce, I got the call offering me the position that had literally been my dream job for years.
First reaction: That call did NOT just happen.....did it? Second reaction: Omigosh, what do I do now that I'm not the loser I thought I was? You see, when I lost my assisted-living management job last spring, I'd become convinced that I was branded and would never again hold any position of consequence, in nursing or anywhere else. And when I tried to recreate the magic I'd made the first time I worked at this LTC, I crashed and burned, disappointing not only my superiors and co-workers, but myself. That's when I knew it was the end of the line for me as a nurse, and I could almost feel my entire life beginning to unravel.
No one starts out in nursing with the idea of being satisfied with mediocrity. We don't throw ourselves against a wall every day for decades just because we want a paycheck. It's when years of physical and psychological stress wear us down to the point where we can no longer perform to our own standards that we lose what made us good nurses in the first place, and burnout occurs. I'd been through it before; it had always been temporary, though, and I'd always been able to recover and come back stronger than before.
Not this time. I will be 55 in a few weeks; I'm tired, and I've run my course, though that has less to do with aging than with mileage. Some nurses can maintain the required level of intensity in their 70s, while others should've gotten out in their 50s or even their 40s. When I put my bandage scissors and hemostats away next Sunday, when I turn in my badge and collect my final paycheck, the sigh of relief will probably be audible in every corner of the nation. This career has been good to me in many ways, but it's nearly destroyed me in other respects and I am ready to be done.
I'm just thankful that there's a second act for this "semi-retired" nurse. I'll keep my license active because I'm a specialist in this position and need the credentials, but there will be no more shifts, no more running the floor with my hair on fire, no more 24/7 responsibility for too many residents with too many care needs. I can't work like that anymore. I can't LIVE like that anymore.
Even if something were to go haywire with this new job, my days as an RN in any vital capacity are over. And as with every other decision I've made at gut level, I'll never regret this one. I may wish I could still nurse the way I used to, but I can't, and walking away is the best gift I could have given myself---and my patients---this Christmas.Last edit by Joe V on Dec 23, '13
About VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN
VivaLasViejas has '17' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'LTC, assisted living, geriatrics, psych'. From 'The Great Northwest'; 55 Years Old; Joined Sep '02; Posts: 25,265; Likes: 36,780.8Dec 23, '13 by NashvillejeanneI sooo relate to your post. I was downsized recently from a middle management position in an industry I truly loved. I loved my job and was absolutely blindsided by the "restructuring meeting." In retrospect....there were signs. I am a glass half full person and I am looking at this as a opportunity to move into a totally different area of nursing at this point. I am planning on moving away from end of life care and a Medicare based reimbursement system to medical aesthetics...yeah, I know! I am scared, excited and ready to try something different. Life is funny, right?7Dec 23, '13 by nurse42longI hear you. After 39 years of nursing, it has finally beat me as well. I've done L&D, NICU, OR, ER, LTC, etc. I did some great work but I can't take the "customer service" approach anymore. Doing more with less until there is nothing left to work with. Since I can't retire yet I'm looking for an office job, reception, filing, whatever. I don't want anything medical or nursing related. Good luck to you, Viva and to all the nurses out there who have to stay at it. Bless your hearts.8Dec 23, '13 by EmergentCongrats on the new job. I've considered leaving nursing before and working for a nursery, becoming a massage therapist, becoming a wheeler dealer, opening up my own business, you name it.
People change careers going into nursing, and people change careers leaving it. Life is full of changes and new challenges!