Stepping Back To Move Forward

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    Nurses can work in so many different areas, but can you combine your nursing knowledge and your life passions to move towards a dream? One nurse thinks she can, read and share the journey.

    Stepping Back To Move Forward

    Sometimes in life, taking a step back provides breathing room, which breeds clarity. This clarity can illuminate the path to achieving dreams. Stepping back can be a great tactic to find clarity in both our personal and professionals lives. Several times in my nursing career, I have found myself in this odd, confusing crossroads that forced me to step back in an effort to take giant strides forward.

    As a child, rarely was I found without a book in one hand and a journal in the other. I wanted to be a journalist. For those teens of the 90's, I wanted to be the next Lisa Ling! However, I was raised by parents who fully believed that college was a means to obtain a set of skills, license or title. Having a degree in journalism did not secure a job, however, a degree in Nursing did. Now, please don't think that I was forced into a career I did not like. Nursing was always a dream as well. I grew up with chronically ill grandparents, so my exposure to nurses in hospitals, clinics, and hospice had a huge impact on my life. And, since mom and dad offered to flip the bill for college, nursing beat journalism as the career of choice.

    June 1998 found me walking across a stage in all white, complete with a crazy nursing cap, accepting my ADN. The day I received my letter stating I passed the boards, I walked onto the unit where I had recently completed my preceptorship and walked off with an hourly wage and start date. I would spend the next year on this Medical-Oncology unit learning the basics of nursing and launching my professional life. I left after one year because life moved me to a new city and new specialty.

    My next job was a huge step forward, bundled up in a tiny package. I traded my adult-sized work for a full-time plus (extreme number of overtime) position in a busy Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This is where I truly became a competent, skilled nurse. But, I quickly found myself burned out and physically ill from the long hours, overtime and swing-shift requirement. I stayed at the same hospital but traded my bedside nursing in for a job as a research nurse floating all over the hospital to assist some world-renowned physicians with their studies. This is where I fell in love with processes, policy and medical writing.

    I worked in research for 5 years, working primarily with male doctors who simply wanted the work completed timely and well. I was afforded an extreme amount of autonomy, which I loved. If you know anything about research, it is all about having a protocol and sticking to it. For a goal driven nurse, like me, this was a match made in heaven. However, life had a different plan, which led to yet another move for me and my family and a new adventure. Little did I know, my research experience would catapult me forward into the life of case management and leadership.

    The next ten years were spent in a myriad of positions in home care, hospice and worker's compensation. I progressed from bedside case manager to Coordinator, Manager, Assistant Director, and Director roles. All the while, struggling with this feeling that there had to be more for me as a nurse and professional. Even though I loved the ability to lead others and impact the provision of care, something was still missing.

    As a means to find the missing piece, I went back to school twice. Once to obtain my Bachelors of Nursing and again to obtain a Master's Degree in Healthcare Administration. I was still quite convinced leadership in a traditional setting was going to be my lifelong path. However, turning 40 set a fire in my gut that just would not go away. That desire to create and blaze my own trail was so strong that it spurred many talks at home with my husband about the future and finances, which are not my favorite talks, but they were worth it. After several months of fighting the feeling that I needed to step down from a management position that simply brought me no joy, I did it. I stepped backwards in the conventional sense as means to spring forward fully-committed to my passion.

    I requested to step down from the manager position and take a work-at-home position as a case manager. This is the part of the story that many people turn their heads to the side in disbelief. Leaving management when my kids had finally reached the teens years and a level of independence seemed to be counter-intuitive to some bystanders. Contrary to their thoughts, I knew it was right for me. Case Management is what I know and I love. Being back in an environment where I was working with the consumer started to spur ideas of blogs, talks, articles and more. I started searching out writing jobs. One or two here and there started to become a bit more consistent. But, I was doing it solely for extra income, not as a dream or a plan. After making some money and realizing that I was good at this, I started to create some concrete goals. My clinical, case management and leadership knowledge set me apart from others. Being a nurse gave me an advantage I did not know existed.

    Better yet, having passion sets me apart in big ways. I am not only able to throw some words together, but I have passion when I create. This passion is communicated in every constructed sentence. The more I write, the stronger the passion becomes. With each article that solidified my potential to be successful at this, the burnout faded and dreams grew. I am very early on in this journey, but I am here ready to write, innovate and give nurses a voice while sharing my passion with others.

    I am a firm believer that we all have been given gifts or passions that set the world ablaze. One of the greatest things about nursing is that you can be a nurse in so many different areas or specialties. What is your passion? How can you incorporate your nursing knowledge with your passion to move forward in new directions? Your passion may seem an unlikely fit with nursing, but I once thought writing and nursing did not go together too. Have you been at a crossroads in your career that required you to step back in order to move forward? I would love to hear your story.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 15, '18
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  2. Visit melissa.mills1117 profile page

    About melissa.mills1117, BSN

    Melissa Mills is a nurse who is on a journey of exploration and entrepreneurship. She is a healthcare writer who specializes in case management and leadership. When she is not in front of a computer, Melissa is busy with her husband, 3 kids, 2 dogs and a fat cat named Little Dude.

    Joined: Feb '17; Posts: 160; Likes: 457
    Freelance Writer, Nurse Case Manager, Professor; from OH , US

    Read My Articles


  3. by   CkilgoreRN
    Love the article! I found it very motivational.
  4. by   traumaRUs
    Wow - how scary to take that leap of faith. Glad you did it though and that you wrote about your experience....Thanks
  5. by   VivaLasViejas
    Amazing story. I can't imagine being able to do what you've done. I had to retire a few years ago and go on disability due to both mental and physical health issues, and even though I don't see any return to nursing in my future, I've kept my license active "just in case". I long thought I should go back to school and get a BSN or MSN so I could teach, but I'm almost 60. However, this article made me think.
  6. by   melissa.mills1117
    Thanks for the comment @CKilgoreRN! Do you have a dream you are working on on?
  7. by   melissa.mills1117
    Thanks for the comment! Do you have a dream you are working towards right now?
  8. by   melissa.mills1117
    Quote from VivaLasViejas
    Amazing story. I can't imagine being able to do what you've done. I had to retire a few years ago and go on disability due to both mental and physical health issues, and even though I don't see any return to nursing in my future, I've kept my license active "just in case". I long thought I should go back to school and get a BSN or MSN so I could teach, but I'm almost 60. However, this article made me think.
    Dear VivaLasViejas,
    So glad you enjoyed the article and you started you thinking. Our nursing knowledge is one of our greatest assets and it certainly never leaves us. There are so many things you could do that could just a new chapter in your life. Keep thinking and keep dreaming! ~melissa
  9. by   CkilgoreRN
    I do actually! After being a nurse since 2008, I have decided to pursue my MSN and NP license. Unsure what direction I will take at that point so for now I will just try to enjoy the journey.
  10. by   Snowdin
    This was a very inspirational read. I am just starting my journey to become a nurse, a guppy in a sea of magnificent and colorful fish. It is a bit scary looking down into the water when all you can see is an endless void, but after reading your story, I now feel my motivation bubble its way back up. Your story resonated with me, because I, too, did not pick nursing as my first choice. It was my parents who pushed me into it. After many years of persuasion and knee deep in my journey of completing my bachelors degree in college, I succumbed and finally gave nursing a little more thought. It was then that I realized that nursing could be a career that I would actually love to do! So, I also took a step back. This was around the time I had just graduated from college with a bachelors in Biology, and all my friends were already working professionals, getting their masters, moving up in their careers. I knew what I wanted, but it was extremely difficult for me, because while everyone was moving forward I felt like I was doing everything backwards by getting my Associates in Nursing. Furthermore, it felt like I had been in Limbo for years until I finally received my acceptance letter into nursing school. I had been idle for a year and a half, and now I feel like my dream of becoming a nurse is finally coming true. I know that the journey isn't going to be easy, but nothing is. I had lost count of how many times I felt like giving up, or felt like I did give up... but I eventually triumphed over the many challenges and hurdles I came upon, and I wouldn't be here today without the help of my family and friends. I dream of becoming a great nurse one day, and your story sparked a new flame in me. To be who you want to be, and to get to get where you want to go, we will all need to take that leap of faith. It is scary to think about what lurks on the other side, but if you really want it, I believe that you'll always land on your feet running.
  11. by   icepak
    How do you hone your writing skills? I would love to try this!
  12. by   tnbutterfly
    Quote from icepak
    How do you hone your writing skills? I would love to try this!
    You can hone your writing skills right here on Submit some articles here. We will be glad to help you.

    Go to How to Submit an Article for more information.
  13. by   maybug
    I loved reading this as it is similar to my career path. I've been a nurse only 5 years, but also have experience in acute care units, hospice, and case management and am beginning a work from home case management position in 2 weeks. I am very excited! Like you, I know this is a role I excel in and doesn't leave me exhausted and stressed at the end of the day like bedside roles. I also love to write and have wanted to contribute nursing articles/blogs to the internet, but haven't pursued it seriously. Advanced education is also something I am not super thrilled about but am beginning to consider the opportunities it could lend me. Maybe you are my future self 10 years from now.
  14. by   melissa.mills1117
    @Snowdin~ I am glad that you found inspiration in my story. Nursing is a great career that will provide you with many different paths you can try. No matter what you decide fits you best, there will be opportunity. You can even be innovative and entrepreneurial.

    I wish you the best of luck in all you do. Never give up on your dreams and continue to search for ways to keep that fire burning deep inside of you. It will always be worth it! ~Melissa