Am I Still a Nurse?

  1. "Are you still a nurse?" This is a question I hear all too often from medical and non-medical people. This is my response.....

    Am I Still a Nurse?

    Am I Still a Nurse? The Question I Am Asked Too Often

    I will start by saying, "Yes I am a nurse and I have been one for 21 years".......after that, things get more convoluted. I don't remember ever deciding to be a nurse, it seems that I just always was on that yellow brick road. You see, I am a nurturer. A caregiver. A quick thinker. I read people's feeling and emotions. I try to fix what seems wrong. I am an educator. Most of all, I give with all I have, so after high school I followed the path to nursing school, graduating with my BSN.

    Straight after graduation, I went on to work in hospice for 5 years. Hospice was another natural step for me. I believe it is nursing at it's more natural and vulnerable state. You utilize minimal watch, listen, feel, read, and teach your way through the care of your patient. I LOVED that job, but I kept hearing from so many seasoned nurses around me that I would "lose my nursing skills" if I did not take a hospital job sooner than later. Everyone said..."Med-Surg is the core and foundation for all nursing care". It worried me so much, that I left a job I loved to throw myself straight into the float pool at a major medical center. That way I would get it all! Needless to say, I put in my time, disliking the nurse/ patient ratios and the fact that I felt like no one got my full attention. I passed meds all shift long. This was not the job for me, but I got my "experience" and an inkling that I might like Intensive care. I caught the attention of the ICU staff who encouraged me to come work with them.

    Through life's turns, I did take a job in the Cardiac Critical Care Unit of a HUGE teaching hospital several states away. That's where I found my next husband and the level and type of care that I was able to give in the CCU. I was a fabulous critical care nurse. I loved the technology and caring for life and death issues with such precision, speed, and thoughtfulness all while having the ratio I desired so I could bond with my patient's and families. I was able to take the time to nurture and educate when families were so afraid. As opposite as it seemed from hospice care, there was so much similarity. (By the way...I continued to keep one clog in the hospice door throughout my time working in the CCU. I felt it kept me grounded, and reminded me to look, listen and feel.)

    After I got married and we started having kids, I took some time off to act as a nurse in a different fashion. I do truly believe every mom is part nurse. I always knew I would go back to critical care and hospice until God had another plan. After the birth of our last son, I had a very unexpected life-altering door slam right in front of me. I lost my hearing. A lot of it. Bam....bilateral hearing aides, worsening deafness without an answer or plateau of loss in sight. Tinnitus...very...loud..ringing..every waking moment. Funny how loud deafness can be.

    I was sad, scared, and mad. I want to say, that hearing-impaired nurses are very capable of providing excellent patient care in every area of nursing. The technology in the field of hearing devices is fascinating and phenomenal, but as for me personally, I felt that I could not provide the same level of critical care and quality of care that I had before my hearing loss. A large part may be fear. Fear that what I do not hear may make a life or death situation for my patient.

    With a very angry, and bitter heart, I decided that my days as a bedside nurse were over. Part of me had been lost...more than just my hearing. Nursing is who I am. I have grieved and to be honest, I still do grieve not caring for patients at the bedside.....but life had to go on.

    I went back to school for Clinical Documentation and Coding. I sat for the national certification exam, passed, and added CCS (certified coding specialist) to my list of letters. I currently work for a large medical center as a Clinical Documentation Specialist. I review the medical records and follow patients concurrently during their hospital stay to ensure that the care given at the bedside is accurately reflected in the documentation. It is challenging. I work with some great doctors and have learned a lot about medicine and documentation. I also found passion in writing stories that are either personal or inspiring to me. It's a way for me to share a piece of myself with others.

    It always surprises me, and I will admit, it stings a bit when I am asked if I am still a nurse. There is a common, sort of old-school-thought, that nurses practice at the bedside only. Honestly, I have been asked this question as often by fellow nurses as the non-medical public. As the decades pass, the role of nurses expands as we are entrepreneurs, inventors, teachers, advanced care practitioners, writers, managers etc. So when you leave bedside care, are you no longer a nurse? I can honestly say that I use my nursing knowledge, critical thinking, nurturing care every day in some capacity. My husband can tell you, I stop for every car accident, fallen kid on the playground or sports event. I get asked medical advice from anyone and everyone it seems some days, and I absolutely love when I can help a loved one with care or support when needed. All that aside from my day job as a NURSE who works in Clinical Documentation Improvement. I can only speak for myself when I say that nursing is who I am not just what I do. So when I am asked if I am still a nurse, (as if what I do isn't nursing), I can stand tall and say "Yes I am!"
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 14
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    About smatacale, BSN, RN

    My name is Sarah Matacale RN, BSN, CCS, CDI and Yes I am a nurse! A nurse with 3 beautiful kids and a husband that support me in whatever shape the role of nurse comes in for me.

    Joined: Jan '17; Posts: 47; Likes: 378

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  3. by   Avill
    Love this! I just wrote an article that hit on my "insecurities" of losing or not gaining all my "clinical skills".
    Thank you for writing this. Nicely stated.
  4. by   NurseSpeedy
    Over the years I've worked in several different settings and I remember always finding it strange when meeting someone from my husband's family and after they would find out I was a nurse they would say, "Oh, really? Which hospital do you work at?"...especially when I was working a desk job going through charts all day. Nursing is one of those fields that has endless possibilities when it comes to work but for some reason so many people who are not nurses get the whole tv drama idea of it I guess.

    I worked in retail with a coworker who was a nurse. She was "retired" so to speak, but she still had an active license and said she would probably renew it forever.
  5. by   Knotanoonurse
    You sound like a wonderful Nurse. Interesting story! Thanks so much for sharing it.
  6. by   DallasRN
    I smiled as I read your comments. For a while, I was totally burned out and quit nursing. I called it "retired" but really, I quit. I went to work in retail and frankly, some aspects of retail I loved and still miss. But I eventually went back to nursing with a better attitude. In the interim, people would frequently ask me if I was "still" a nurse. I guess that is one of the greatest misconceptions the general public has about our profession. Once a nurse, always a nurse. It doesn't matter where you work, if you's kind of like being a mother. Until the day you die, you will always be a mother. Even if your kids are grown, deceased (sadly), estranged - you will never stop being a mother. And I will never stop being a nurse. I think it changes our DNA!
  7. by   wondern
    Yes you're a nurse but we're all human beings first. So sorry for your hearing loss. That would not be fun. I think I would be angry too for a while.
    When you say a nurse is who you are I just want to point out that you are so much more than that. You are a woman and a mom and a strong intelligent person so yes you are much more than just a nurse. Some people may just ask because they admire your position and want to know if you have to keep a license maybe. thats why I might ask anyhow. Others are just passive-aggressive no do gooders. For them laugh in their faces when you answer yes.
  8. by   kmgrove
    A wonderful read! Thanks so much for sharing your journey in such a beautiful way.
    Last edit by kmgrove on Apr 14
  9. by   bmck97004
    I retired 10 years ago, after a 40 year career. I am no longer licensed because I knew I would never go back to work as a nurse. But in my heart, I am still a nurse. I am part of the community of men and women who dedicate their lives to the care and nurturing of the sick and the healthy. I will always be a nurse!
  10. by   thoughtful21
    This story is beautiful to me because of your strength and passion, and because it gives insight into how many different ways we can be nurses! You've reminded me that the nursing journey is an adventure, and I should step forward with courage when I come to a fork in the road. Thanks!
  11. by   sue_rehn
    We EARNED our degrees and we are nurses til the day we die (short of doing something stupid or unscrupulous which could set us up for a lost license!!)! "Am I still a Nurse?"Don't let anyone tell you otherwise...Loved the article and can feel the "nursiness" in you even as I read it! I retired from the floor over a year ago, and i miss it like crazy...just was too much responsibility, and at 64 I was feeling it in my joints! After reading this, I can almost feel myself writing an application for Hospice care, which I was always drawn to at the Skilled Care facility I was working with for 23 years!! Helping folks "go easy" on themselves was what I loved best...even with the fact that they were actively dying...thanks for reminding me of an aspect of my nursing I had put on the back burner! I am also teaching CNA classes which I truly love...getting people to grab on to Nursing in a rural area from the ground level and then having them thank me for getting them going in the right direction is simply awesome! Cheers, all! Long Live Real Nurses!
  12. by   Eschell2971

    This is a beautiful story. At every stage of our lives, if we're able to, we should look for ways to use whatever skills & experiences we have. Sometimes we are our harshest critics, and we let our own insecurities stop us from using what we've got. But, to others in need, what little we think we have may be a huge benefit to them. Let's dig deeper!
  13. by   SpankedInPittsburgh
    Hell yes you are still a Nurse!!!
  14. by   GitanoRN
    Needless to say, a very sincere and heartfelt personal story, which touched my heart and I'm certain the heart of many others. It strikes me funny since that same question it has been asked of me personally "Are you still a nurse" I been asked over the years from patients, family, friends, etc. like isn't there anything else you want to do? like don't you want to become a doctor? or a surgeon?. Having said that, once you become a nurse I strongly believe you will always be a nurse, no matter the initials that follows you name or the situation that life may presents you with, you will think, act, and breath, like a nurse. Furthermore, the skills and tools that we acquired during our training are embedded within each of us for the rest of our lives. Unquestionably, and for this I'm thankful because it has made me the successful human being that I am today, in every facet of my life. Therefore, when I'm asked "Are you still a Nurse? I reply as I live and breath!!! ... Aloha~