Who I Had Become
I started my nursing career as a second career ten years ago. I had big goals of becoming an Emergency Room nurse, performing excellent CPR, and having the competency to deal with any patient that came my way. In a matter of ten years, I achieved my goals. I eventually went from working on an intermediate cardiac medicine unit to working in the Cardiac ICU. I graduated to the ICU Float Pool, which had me working in all six ICUs in the hospital including the Emergency Room and PACU. I was even a STAT/Resource Nurse, where I carried a code pager and responded to emergencies or help calls throughout the hospital. I became the leader I wanted to be. And then I left.
Should I Leave the Bedside?
The decision to leave bedside nursing was not an easy one. Many factors came into play.
1. I have a young family. I wanted to spend more time with them, and I decided they were what was important.
2. I had achieved most of what I wanted to in the hospital, with not many other places to go. I had come to a checkmate, and I was cornered.
3. I had an experience that made me realize that I was not as important or valuable in my position as I had felt. When I had reached the top in my mind, I was quickly brought down to earth and learned I could easily be replaced. I felt I was just a number.
4. I was tired of the night shift.
5. I was tired of the commute.
6. I was just plain tired.
What I learned about bedside nursing is you can put as little or as much as you want into it. It was a career where you could potentially earn more money hourly and in less time than a Nurse Practitioner with an advanced degree would earn by salary. A nurse would probably put in more hours working as they advanced their education. I was happy with a BSN but went back and forth all the time about getting an MSN.
You Are Not Alone
When I left a year ago, many nurses were also considering leaving the bedside. It was not about COVID, although that created stress and pressure many nurses did not want to experience. It was more about administration, and feeling that they didn’t care about the employee. It was about requesting certain days off and not having it approved. It was about not being reimbursed for a conference that improved your line of work. It was about workplace safety, unsafe staffing levels, and mandatory overtime. Nurses were the heart of the hospital, but in many instances, felt that they had no voice.
The decision to leave the bedside is different for everyone. The hardest part for me was giving up teaching, and giving up being in a role where I was looked up to by my colleagues. I was a resource for new nurses and seasoned nurses alike. I eventually decided that members of my leadership were poor, and they were leaders for all the wrong reasons. Everyone seemed to be working on their resume, rather than working for the employees. I was lucky to have great colleagues, and I worked on many units with great teams. I just decided there was nowhere else to go.
“Work to Live, Not Live to Work.”
I have always said one should “work to live, not live to work.” Once work began to impact my private life, I knew something had to change. I eventually picked up a school nurse job in my childrens’ school district. I am sleeping better now that I am not working the night shift. I have a 5-minute commute to and from work. I am getting paid close to what I was paid for two shifts a week at the hospital. I can plan days off whenever I want them, because I work on a salary now rather than hourly pay. I do not need to struggle switching shifts, or working on the weekend. I have summers off, or I can choose to work if I want to. I have more time with my kids, and I find that I am able to be more patient with them. My work stress is gone.
Get Off The Conveyor Belt
No matter what, choosing to leave the bedside will be a difficult decision for you. It is easy to get wrapped up in the extra money. You become friends with your colleagues and you go through many situations together that only nurses can understand. There seems to be an ever-running conveyor belt of working your way up from being a new nurse, to being a preceptor or charge nurse, to going to the ICU, learning different skills for your specialty, then eventually getting an ambulatory position because the shifts have no nights or weekends. My colleagues kept me going and encouraged me. Eventually, I just came to a different stage in my life and I wanted to get off the conveyor belt.
I still miss what I did, and I will always be proud of what I have achieved. I am not sure if I will be okay going back to the bedside one day and starting over, knowing how I used to be a leader. I just know that if it fits my life, I will do it. For now, I am enjoying being a leader for my family. A nursing career can take you anywhere, and I am letting it. You just have to let go and enjoy the journey.