Welcome to the Shangri-La: My (Almost) Perfect Job

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    As a peripatetic nurse who's held 13 jobs in 15 years, I never believed the "right" job really existed. Here's what it's like to work in a setting that's such a perfect fit that I don't even bother to look at the want ads anymore.

    At the risk of jinxing everything, I'm going to say it: I never thought I'd find my perfect nursing job.

    In fifteen years as an RN, I've held a grand total of thirteen jobs. Granted, some of them were part-time positions I worked along with other part-time or per diem jobs, but I have never held the same one for more than 2 1/2 years. I've bounced back and forth between bedside and management, hospital and LTC, geriatrics and OB; I've worked at the same hospital a total of three different times. (OK, one of those times was back when I was a CNA, but it still counts in my book.) I've held some jobs for two years and others for two months....left most of them voluntarily, but I've also been laid off due to injury, "encouraged" to resign, even fired (once).

    In fact, the one commonality among all these different work situations is the determination with which I started them: with a couple of notable exceptions, each and every one was going to be The Last Job: the one I'd keep until retirement. I'd always plan to stay with it for ten, fifteen, thirty years or more until such a time as I saw fit (or could afford) to leave the workforce for good.

    Reality check: the honeymoon period always ended, my brilliant performance and top-notch skills were soon taken for granted, and I became just another brick in the wall. Well, that was intolerable, so I'd get restless and irritable and my performance would become inconsistent; at that point it was all over but the shouting, as I would decide that I deserved better and renew my quest. Sooner or later, I'd find a new and improved workplace, interview well, impress the management in the early going.....and then the cycle would begin again.

    Then, as luck would have it, I literally blundered into my current job in the fall of 2010. I was surfing the Internet and found two different places that interested me; being directionally dyslexic, I naturally got turned around during the drive and wound up in the parking lot at my second choice. So while I was there, I decided to apply......and when I left there after 8 that night, having not only interviewed with the administrator and floor supervisors, but eaten dinner and been introduced to the residents and family members, I had myself a new job. And, barring anything unforeseen, I'll leave my Shangri-La when I'm ready to hang up my stethoscope forever.

    No, I haven't yet been here two years, so I can't say this is my longest tenure. It's a 30-mile commute each way, which gets old when it adds another hour and a half to my day; but I won't move to the city where I work, so I use the drive up to pray and meditate, and the drive home to decompress. The facility is a beautifully appointed assisted living community where many of the staff have been on board for five, ten, even 15 years....ever since the building opened.

    My executive director---arguably the most decent man in the universe---has been there for six years, which is almost unheard-of in the industry. The floor supervisors have been there for almost as long, and their system for managing the med room and floor staff has remained largely untouched by me, as it's the most efficient and accurate I've ever seen. I don't have to deal with staff scheduling. I don't have to order supplies. I don't even get most of the after-hours phone calls.

    That's not to say there aren't horrible, awful, terrible, no-good days. We have a few residents I'd like to bounce out on their ears, and a few more I want to keep but evict their families! There's too much drama thanks to the fact that 95% of our staff is made up of 20-something single moms (yep, lots of estrogen running amok here). Most of my job is administrative, so I sometimes miss the bedside role---my fingers itch whenever I watch the paramedics attempt an IV start on a resident in distress, and I have been known to change the wound vac dressing on a Stage IV pressure ulcer myself while waiting in vain for the home-health nurse to come out at five o'clock on a Friday night.

    But the annoyances of this job are minimal, compared with the sorts of issues I've dealt with in previous positions; and even if they weren't, I'm too old and tired to want to compete in this economy with nurses who are decades younger and more technologically savvy than I. Besides, my old restlessness is gone......I just don't see the need to keep looking for the pot of gold that we all know doesn't exist at the rainbow's end.

    More than that, I realize that I am never going to find a better situation than the one I'm in right now. I turned down a huge promotion last winter that would have meant more money and power, but somehow I knew that I'd wind up hating it because it involved so much travel, and then I'd want to come back to familiar territory.....which of course would have no longer been mine. I guess you don't get this far along in life to be completely stupid.

    So nurses, if you haven't landed that "perfect" job yet, you might just want to put that search on hold, and go for "good enough". Trust me......you'll know you've found it when you're reading your morning newspaper and realize that you haven't checked out the classifieds in ages.
    Last edit by Joe V on Aug 12, '12
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    About VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN Guide

    Joined: Sep '02; Posts: 26,888; Likes: 44,315
    RN and blogger extraordinaire; from OR , US
    Specialty: 20 year(s) of experience in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych

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  3. by   kcmylorn
    Viva- I can't imagine you getting fired from any job. You are never controversal. You always know the right supportive thing to say, unlike myself who has never learned to zip it.

    I too had my Shangri-La but it wasn't bedside and it was a temp/time limited position. I could have stayed there forever. I managed to keep for 2 yrs until I was offered too low a pay to live off of by the new company that took over the contact. I cried for days on end. I look back and wonder if I should have taken the low pay and found a second job to make up for the $1,200/month difference. I still grabble back and forth if I did the right thing.

    The job I took post Shangri La, was permanant, only an $800/month pay cut with bene's and almost identical in role, I have already left it. It was a nightmare. I knew day 2, it was not the place for me, when I saw how the patients were treated. The ironic thing about it was- the management was very supportive and didn't have a clue how ugly, horrid and uncivil the staff behaved. The staff talked to walkie talkie alert but destitude patients like they were dogs. The managment were very trusting of their staff and should not be. I can't go with that flow. HR saw how unhappy I was, we had a talk and I never went back.

    I have a new temp/time limited position starting for the original better wages and i have no idea what to expect, never done it before but what the heck. The pay is good. it's not hospital/bedside. The commute is 1 hr each way. I guess I will be the "Queen of the temps" for alittle while longer. Maybe, with my bills getting paid, it will be a ticket out of nursing for good.

    So- if Shangri La comes your way. Hang on to it,especially in Nursing. The next nightmare is right around the corner. There is an old saying- "Better the devil you know, then the one you don't".
  4. by   VivaLasViejas
    You can say THAT again, kc!

    I won't deny that there have been some really tough times at this job. The past 6 months were especially challenging because of some mental health issues that proved difficult to control; but even as I was going through it all, I never quite lost sight of the fact that this job is my lifeline---not just because it pays the bills, but because it gives me a vital part of my identity, a reason to get up in the morning......a place I can call home, away from home.

    Of course, time changes everything and this may not last forever, but I'm not going to worry about that now. All I know is that I'm going to keep on going for as long as I possibly can, until the time comes when I cannot nurse anymore and decide to become a Wal-Mart greeter (believe me, there are days when I think about that!) and/or a freelance writer.
  5. by   Mulan
    Walmart doesn't have greeters anymore, at least not where I am.
  6. by   VivaLasViejas
  7. by   Wild Irish LPN
    Love this snap-shot of your career, I wish nothing but the utmost happiness for you....for a looooong time coming
  8. by   Genista
    I like to believe that Shangri-la of nursing exists!!! Thanks for sharing your story. ;-)
  9. by   Rosenhammer
    I found some great inspiration in this post and can relate on such a large scale that it's scary. Shangri-La DOES exist. It doesn't always relate to where you are in your career or even to your career at all. After spending 18+ years in my current profession, I couldn't find it. But I know it's out there...and I know it's in Nursing.

    Thanks Viva!
  10. by   TakeTwoAspirin
    You are refreshingly insightful in a world where it seems like it is ALWAYS somebody else's fault!
  11. by   LogCabinMom
    Aargh... it's nice to hear your story, because I don't think I'll ever find my Shangri-La - at this point I'm only in it for a paycheck, sad to say--
  12. by   imintrouble
    I'm glad you've found your perfect job as I am still looking for mine.
    I'm just not sure I'll find it as a nurse. I'm glad that you did.
  13. by   Little_Mouse
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I've been a nurse for only 3 years, but haven't kept the same job for that long for a lot of the same reasons you've listed above. I really just haven't found my niche yet either. I yearn for a job where the stress doesn't drive me up the walls and have me feeling like I didn't do enough. I really am burnt out from rude doctors, management, and families...I'm thinking bedside isn't for me anymore. But like I said, I haven't quite found my niche yet.

    Anyway, glad to hear I'm not the only one. Your article helped to calm the waters for me..for now (although I continue to search for job openings).

    Good luck. Thanks again.
  14. by   itsmejuli
    Please explain what a peripatetic nurse does.