I recently wrote an article about my #1 biggest nursing career fear.
It was a hard post to write, to say the least. It brought up a lot of emotions for me, but also helped clarify new career goals that I needed to set for myself.
At first glance it may seem to some that I did that to torture myself. But there was a method to my madness.
I recently began a comprehensive writing and website development course that will take me at least 12 months to complete. And one of my first assignments was to write about a major fear that I have that pertains to my current writing niche.
As a nurse mom blogger who writes about finding ways to help nurses take better care of themselves, I really put a lot of thought into this. And I have come to the conclusion that one of the ways I want to take better care of myself is to NOT work as a floor nurse for my entire career.
Unfortunately, the wear-and-tear is starting to break me down. I am afraid that what was once a cerebral challenge is starting to turn into full-fledged irreparable nurse burnout.
Never let your fear decide your future: my 2021 nursing career fear mantra
As a nurse blogger who frequently blogs specifically about the topic of nurse burnout, I have worked very hard to find solutions for my own exhaustion.
In fact, my #1 reason for starting a website was to create an outlet for my own overwhelm and fatigue as a nurse and new mom.
Over the last two years I have spent nearly every minute of my free time researching and exploring possible solutions for these struggles. Then I write it all out clearly as I can with the hope that I am able to help myself and (hopefully) other nurse moms in my position.
And voila, it works! For a while anyway.
But, sadly, I eventually find myself feeling burned out again.
So, in the spirit of continuing the blogging assignment I mentioned earlier, I am going to dive in and open up about all of my fears about my nursing career.
It saddens me to think that I may not be a direct patient care nurse for much longer. The healthcare system needs great nurses. But I will always be a nurse, and as I like to say, a nursing practice can take many forms.
My biggest fears as a bedside nurse:
#1. I fear physical injuries from years of nursing.
Nursing career fear #1: physical injuries on the job
There is alarming evidence now that even proper lifting techniques expose nurses’s spines to dangerous forces.
In addition, chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%.
Many non-nursing professionals may be alarmed to hear that after only 7 years as a bedside nurse I am already feeling the wear-and-tear of being on my feet all day. I already have chronic back pain. My legs and feet ache for days after a 12 hour shift.
I do a lot of yoga as a preventative measure and it helps tremendously. But as soon as I have another busy shift with a heavy patient load, the pain returns. Especially, when I work with total-care patients.
#2. I fear a life of burnout and constant exhaustion.
Nursing career fear #2: years of chronic exhaustion
I have written many times about my own exhaustion as a nurse and have even come up with several solutions to beat my own nurse burnout (at least temporarily). But if I’m being honest, the only way I really even recover from burnout is to just not work at all. It is amazing how much better l feel after stepping away from bedside nursing for a week.
Admittedly, I have created a few of my own unhealthy habits to cope with my nursing career. Which is why one of my goals this year is to start taking simple steps to help keep my stress in check so that I don’t end up becoming a patient myself.
I realize now more than ever that, in order to care for others, I must to take care of myself first. And the only proven way I have been able to do that thus far is to step away from the bedside and practice nursing in a different realm.
#3. I fear verbal abuse and violence.
Nursing career fear #3: violence against nurses in the workplace
Abuse against nurses is very common. In fact, nurses are expected to put up with levels of abuse that would NEVER be acceptable in any other professional setting. I have been cussed at more times than I can count, in just about every colorful way you could imagine, for just doing my job. And guess what? Not one single abusive patient or family member as EVER been asked to leave the hospital. Sadly, it appears that nurse abuse is acceptable and that nurses must deal with it as a part of the job.
Here is a recent example: I had a patient verbally assault me in the most vile way possible when I brought them their scheduled life-saving anti-rejection medicines. I explained that I was there to help them and calmly asked the patient several times to stop using vulgar language at me. Finally, I told them I would find them a different nurse and left the room.
Tearfully, I told my charge nurse, who supported me and assigned the patient a different RN. I found out later that the patient was so offended that I refused to be their nurse that they filed a complaint against me. I also found out later that their were several other nurses in the days prior who had been putting up with the same exact verbal abuse.
Even worse, violence against nurses is prevalent (especially emergency room nurses) and it usually isn’t even routinely tracked. I have been lucky not to find myself the victim of direct physical violence as a nurse as of yet. Many nurses have not been so not lucky.
#4. I fear not having more earning potential.
Nursing career fear #4: not reaching a higher earning potential
Working for an hourly wage kind of sucks. I am very driven and I have a great work ethic. But no matter how hard I work as a nurse, I’m just not going to make any higher (or lower) than my hourly wage. I could work more hours, but I am already experiencing a lot of nurse burnout and I have a family to take care of as well.
I often think how nice it would be to get paid more for working harder. And I really want the opportunity to earn a better living. Especially because we live in one of the most expensive cities in the US, and it’s only getting more expensive.
#5. I fear having a terminal position with no growth opportunity.
Nursing career fear #5: not growing professionally in my career
There are opportunities for nurses who want to move into administrative roles or become nurse practitioners if you are willing to go back to graduate school for a masters degree or PhD in nursing. (When you work in the UC system in California, you MUST have have Masters Degree In Nursing to move into administration. No exceptions).
However, my bachelors degree in nursing was already my second college degree as I am a second career nurse (I have a prior BA in journalism). Not only was going to nursing school in my early 30’s the single hardest thing I have ever done in my life, it was also extraordinarily expensive. In fact I know nurses graduating with over $100,000 in nursing school loan debt (I don’t have it in me to tell them they will likely never pay it off on a nurse’s salary- at least not in California).
In addition, I have a family now with two toddlers who need me – and I’m already a working mom. So, I could spend a ton of money going back to school, spend almost no time with my family, have a whole bunch of brand new student loan debt, and have a terrible quality of life for the next 3+ years.
And quite honestly, the idea of being a hospital administrator doesn’t even sound very appealing to me. Not to mention, many nurse practitioners are making less then bedside nurses. Thus, I have a hard time seeing the benefit in more school at the moment.
#6. I fear not putting my own needs first.
Nursing career fear #6: putting my own needs last
In my first career I was a medical device sales person because I wanted the opportunity to make a significant amount of money. A decade later, I became a nurse because I genuinely wanted to help people and save lives. I wanted to do something that was so much bigger than myself.
I was proud to become a nurse, and I still am. However, this profession revolves around constantly putting other peoples’s need first. And it must, because our patients’s lives often depend on it.
But I have a family to care for too. And as a mom of young children I often feel that I am in constant “survival mode.” This leaves very little time for self care.
Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself
Thinking about the things I fear most is probably my least favorite thing to do. In reality, I am a non-confrontational person and it feels unnatural for me to do a deep-dive into the things I am most afraid of. Especially listing them one-by-one and publishing them on my website!
But, if I can’t be honest with myself about what I feel in my gut when it comes to my nursing career, then how am I supposed to grow and create a better future for myself and my family?
As a busy working mom, I hardly have time to think about myself as it is. It would be a lot easier to pretend my fears didn’t exist and stay super busy until my kids turn 18 and go off to college. But making big life changes is hard, even when they are the best thing for you.
Plus, I would be well into my 50’s by then!
And I don’t have time to waste on being afraid!
Do you have any fears as a bedside nurse? Please leave a comment below!
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*This post is sponsored by the American Cleaning Institute to help parents understand how important it is to practice laundry safety, including properly storing and handling laundry packets. You can find our disclosure page here.
Children are so naturally curious
In the early baby days, I knew if I walked away for a few minutes that my babies would be in the exact spot I left them. Therefore, the urgency to child-proof every nook and cranny in our home wasn’t there…yet. After all, they were completely immobile for almost the first year of life!
But with each new, curious day comes another baby milestone (or so it seemed).
First, it’s the rollover (so exciting!). Then baby develops an army crawl. And, before you know it, they pull themselves up to a stand.
Then, boom, you have your very own baby-walking machine! A little unstable, but a baby on the move nonetheless. All the while putting anything and everything they come in contact with into their mouths.
As exciting and adorable as it is to watch, it is also the time those curious minds can do their wobbly, little Frankenstein walk and come into contact with substances that they should not touch – such as household cleaning supplies…
So, in case you didn’t already know: now is the time to make sure your house is 100% baby-proofed! No excuses!
Safety first, always
As an emergency room nurse, I have witnessed first-hand plenty of accidents involving children that could have been prevented- including the ingestion of household items. It only takes a second for those tiny, delicate hands to get into trouble when a home isn’t properly child-proofed.
But I get it, I’m a mom too – parenthood can be overwhelmingly busy and I also sometimes feel I’m being run over by a tiny human army I created myself (and I usually am!).
It is so easy to forget to child-proof your home when you have 1,000 things on your to-do list. But if you take a few simple steps and have systems in place that will prevent accidents from happening, then it will make your life so much easier in the long run. Especially if something bad happens that could have easily been prevented.
Babies and children of all ages need safe spaces to move around and learn in safe environments. Many accidents that bring our little ones to the emergency room can be prevented and avoided altogether.
So in honor of Emergency Nurses Week in October and my desire to encourage other parents to take an active stance in child-proofing their homes, my #1 safety message this year is to encourage parents to put their Packets UP!
Don’t forget to child proof the laundry room
The laundry room is one of those places in the home that is the last to be childproofed, if it even gets child-proofed at all.
That’s why I’ve partnered up with the American Cleaning Institute to help parents understand how important it is to practice laundry safety, including properly storing and handling liquid laundry packets. Accidents involving liquid laundry packets are 100% preventable!
I’m talking about taking simple steps to keep the laundry room safe at all times. By putting a few simple systems in place, you won’t have to worry about accidental poisoning and you will be proactively preventing avoidable child injuries.
Think of it like this: Playtime + child-proofed home = SAFE SPACE for baby and child growth and learning opportunities!
(The ER nurse in me geeks out about safety-proofing. You should see our home – even my husband has a hard time getting into closets and drawers. But at least I know our kids are safe!).
Keep the laundry room safe by keeping your packets up!
Simple child safety tips in the laundry room
Step #1: Keep liquid laundry packets out of reach
Keep all laundry products in a designated out of reach and in an area that children can’t get into.
If you don’t have a cabinet with doors to hide your cleaning products available, place liquid laundry packets (in the original packaging) into a larger bin with other laundry and household products and put it up high where children won’t be able to see it.
Step #2: Don’t keep laundry packets on display
While clear or glass jars can be an Instagram-worthy way to display household items, storing liquid laundry packets visibly in these jars could attract unwanted attention from young children. Always keep liquid laundry packets tightly secured in their original packaging, stored up and out of reach.
Step #3: Keep laundry packets separate from groceries
When purchasing laundry packets and other household cleaners from the store, have them bagged separately and put them away in their designated safe storage spot – out of sight and out of reach – as soon as you get home and unpack your groceries.
Step #4: Make safety checks a priority
Conduct routine safety checks in the home to prevent accidents.
Tip: Consider making a sign in the laundry room to remind yourself to check your laundry packets and make sure they are stored properly and out of children’s reach. That way use can ensure safety each time you do the laundry. If you have a housekeeper or someone else who does the laundry, have a conversation with them about how important it is that they also follow your laundry room safety rules. All adults in the house need to be on the same page.
If a liquid laundry packet is ingested:
Call the Poison Help Line immediately at 1-800-222-1212.
I hope this messaging can help parents understand how important it is to practice laundry safety, including properly storing and handling laundry packets. Safety is the number one message here, and I hope this helps to encourage and remind all parents to find simple ways to keep all laundry products up and away from little ones in the home.
Let’s have ZERO accidental laundry product accidents this and every year. Safety first!!
Remember these key laundry packet safety points:
- It is so important to store liquid laundry packets up high and out of sight and reach.
- Don’t forget to completely close and seal liquid laundry packet containers after use.
- Finally, always store liquid laundry packets in their original containers.
For more information about the Packets Up campaign:
Visit packetsup.com for more information and tools to help you prevent exposures from liquid laundry packets. You can also join the conversation: follow #PacketsUp for the latest laundry room safety tips and information.
Order a free cling and put it on your cabinet as a safe storage reminder.
As s a nurse I have been exposed to so many stressful situations. I’ve been cussed at by angry patients (more times then I can count), swung at, kicked, had a full urinal thrown at me, been exposed to, been in the middle of dozens of violent patient situations and take-downs, and been the victim of nurse bullying.
In addition, I see other nurses being treated poorly from patients, family members, doctors and even sometimes other nurses. In fact, it’s not even unusual. And, like other nurses, I am expected to continue giving compassionate patient care without regard to my own well being.
This sacrificial attitude of putting myself last on a very long spectrum of compassionate care is just not going to cut it anymore. The thought of spending an entire career with this amount of wear-and-tear is frightening. Something has to give before I completely fizzle and burn to a crisp.
Nurses need to have compassion for themselves too.
I came out of nursing school with equal parts compassion and adrenaline to save lives and make a positive difference in the world! In fact, I left a very lucrative 10 year medical equipment sales career so I could do just that. I was determined to advocate for and serve my patients to the best of my ability. Compassion was one of my greatest strengths.
As an overachiever for most of my life I have always maintained the attitude that I can do anything as long as I try hard enough. And now, after 7 years as a registered nurse, I am discovering that I am failing at the one thing that actually defines a great nurse: compassion.
The nurse burnout is real.
What I am currently experiencing is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that is more extreme than anything that I have ever experienced in my adult life. I started my nursing career with the determination to give amazing patient care and here I am, 7 years later, losing my compassion.
(And just so you know – this has been hard for me to acknowledge because I have been a “yes” person my entire life.)
There is beauty in the breakdown.
My nursing burnout amplified after the birth of my first child in 2015. Then, it got even worse after my second child in 2018. In fact, I started writing regularly again out of desperation to find an outlet for the exhaustion and overwhelming fatigue I was feeling as a nurse and new mom. My goal was to find more effective ways to take better care of myself and make my life a little easier. And it actually has helped me find a little reprieve.
But most importantly, it has opened my eyes to the fact that I need to make some huge changes in my life. Most of all, I need to find my compassion again. But this time I am unapologetically focusing my compassion on myself, first.
So, in light of this discovery I am 100% accepting and honoring these uncomfortable feelings. I am using them as a catalyst to make changes in my professional and personal life. My mental and physical pain will be an opportunity for growth and finding self-compassion.
I rarely take the time to do nothing and reflect. This is a good year for more of that.
I am on a mission for self-compassion.
You know how when you fly in an airplane, there is the safety warning before take-off? Passengers are instructed to put the oxygen mask on themselves first, then help others around them. Because if you pass out from lack of oxygen, you’re not helpful to anyone!
So, here is me putting the oxygen mask on myself first. Some of the changes I am making are professional and some are personal. But they are all things I have been wanting to do for a really long time but haven’t because I was thinking about others’ needs before my own.
Here are my new personal nurse self-care and self-compassion goals:
#1. Work two 12 hour shifts a week instead of three
This one is hard for me because it equates to a significant decrease in pay (and I really like money!). With two toddler age children, child care is our biggest expense (besides housing) and it’s not going away any time soon. But fortunately, we are in a position to afford it for the time being and I want to use the extra day off to spend more one-on-one time with my adorable babies.
In addition, since most hospital shifts are 12 to 13 hours I don’t get to see my children at all on the days that I work. I am also staying away from working back-to-back shifts, because I just don’t want to be away from my children for more than one day at a time.
#2. Work less holidays and as few weekends as possible
After I had children I really hated having to work on holidays. I have missed so many birthdays, Easters, 4th of Julys, Thanksgivings, Christmas and New Years to be working at the hospital. At some point I started to resent missing that time with my family. Working on holidays is the norm for many nurses, and I expect to work some. But since I will be working a little less anyway this will also equate to working less holidays as well. Same goes for weekends.
Self Care for nurses is more important now than ever.
#3. Continue working per diem
There are a lot of benefits and drawbacks to being a per diem nurse. For example, I love that I can schedule myself to work on the exact days I WANT to work. However, it also means that if I am not needed then I get canceled at 0400 and then I don’t make any money for that day. And since I end up paying for a nanny regardless, that’s a double whammie.
The best part of being a per diem nurse is that it offers me a much better work-life balance. When I worked as a career nurse it was almost impossible for me to secure childcare because my work schedule was always changing. Some weeks I got the schedule I needed and others I didn’t. So on the whole, being a per diem nurse is the right choice for me and my family.
#4. Continue writing and growing my website to help other nurse moms
In 2016 I became a nurse blogger. My venture was born out of my frustration with burnout as a registered nurse and my desire to create a more flexible work-life balance. Writing about nurse lifestyle topics that interest me and exploring ways that nurses can take better care of themselves helps me to take care of myself better too.
My little blog is even starting to make a small monthly income, which absolutely thrills me. I have a dream that if I keep working hard my website will make enough money that I can work one day a week instead of two.
#5. Take a comprehensive course in website management and blogging
Last week I signed up for a comprehensive blogging course that will probably take me the next 6-8 months to complete. I honestly haven’t been more excited to do something for myself like this in a really long time. In fact, I can’t wait to see my progress over the next year!
#6. Explore other medical related career options
A few weeks ago I interviewed for an aesthetic sales position. Although I didn’t end up working for the company, it did open my eyes to the fact that there are so many other great opportunities that I could be interested in and also fit my skill set as a nurse. A nursing practice can take many forms and I am giving myself permission to continue learning about other nursing career options.
#7. Focus more energy into my family and friends
One of my New Years resolutions this year was to “choose fun.” So many studies have shown that spending quality time with family and friends is incredibly helpful in decreasing stress and improving burnout symptoms. Since I will be working a little less I will have more time to focus my energy on the people who matter most to me.
#8. Enjoy my new fancy gym membership (with childcare on site!)
In the spirit of investing more in myself, I started 2019 off with a gym membership. It has been a complete game changer for me. In fact, the old me would never have never splurged on a fancy gym membership. Making regular time to work out always makes me feel great, clears my head and gives me more stamina. And my 1 year old loves the Kid’s Club, so its a win-win.
As a nurse and mom my life basically revolves around caring for everyone else, and I am SO GRATEFUL to be able to do that. But if there is one thing I have learned through my own compassion fatigue it is that I need to put the same care into myself as I do into my patients and family. So in the spirit of self-compassion, I am metaphorically putting on my oxygen mask first, before helping those around me.
#9. Practice more yoga
I have been regularly practicing yoga for 14 years. Finally, in 2o15 I completed Yoga Works’s 4 month Urban Zen Integrative Therapy program for medical professionals. I learned how to teach simple yoga, do guided meditation and perform Reiki. It was amazing!
However, in recent years I have not been practicing as much as I would like, and that is going to change. My goal is to incorporate yoga into my busy schedule every single day. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Yoga helps me stay balanced in times of great stress, gives me flexibility (both physically and mentally) and has been extremely grounding. In fact, I recently started teaching my 3 year old daughter a series of yoga poses and it is bringing us both great joy!
These two are already happy about self-care goal #1: Work two 12 hour shifts a week instead of three. Job flexibility has never been so important to me.
Nurse self care matters. If we don’t care for ourselves then how can we expect patients to listen to our health advice and education. I am taking this opportunity to give myself compassion and hopefully lead others by example.
If other nurses find themselves feeling as unappreciated and burnt out as me I encourage them to find ways to care for themselves first. Otherwise, we are perpetuating a broken system that does not acknowledge that nursing burnout is a real issue and ignoring nurse health and well being.
So nurse, what are you going to do to take care of yourself today? Leave a comment!
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Going back to work after maternity leave comes to an end can be a daunting, emotional experience. Just when you have gotten used to spending day after day bonding with your baby and developing a routine – just like that – you have to go back to work. Much of the time, many moms aren’t even getting close to a decent nights sleep, and what they do get is usually fragmented and interrupted at best.
It is hard to trust another person to come into your home and take care of your precious baby. After all, you know how to care for your child best, where the diapers are, when they need to eat, what to feed them, where and what time they sleep, and what their favorite snuggle blanket is. Going back to work is hard, but leaving your baby in the hands of other is so much harder.
The only thing you can do it prepare the best that you can (and remember, its probably way harder for you then it is for them!).
7 Essential Items You Nanny Needs From You
Here is a list of essential items your nanny needs from you so you go back to work without worry:
Moms know that nasal aspirators are great tool to unplug baby’s tiny nasal passages. And nanny’s need to have one available so they too can unplug stuffy noses when mom isn’t there. Because infants nasal passages are so small, having a stuffy nose affects their ability to breathe, eat, and sleep which makes the nasal aspirator an especially important need for the nanny.
Having a First Aid Kit available for the nanny is a no-brainier. Because you just never know if or when an accident might occur. In addition, let your child’s caregiver know that it is 100% OK for them to call 911 if there is any concern for your child’s safety. It is always better to be safe then sorry.
Despite what many caregivers think, you cannot measure a baby’s temperature by feeling their forehead or skin. You need a digital thermometer to accurately measure a bay’s temperature to know whether or not they have a fever. An easy thermometer like this one make it simple for the nanny or caregiver to assess babies temperature correctly.
Initially I didn’t realize that our nanny depended on having a diaper bag as much as I did! But it makes perfect sense as they need all of the items inside to take care of our child when we were not there: diapers, diaper cream, wipes, extra clothes, sunscreen, set of extra keys, baby toys, ect…
Our nanny used our diaper bag when we were not there and took it where ever she went with the baby – for a walk or to the park. This is the exact diaper bag that we have been using for years and it is still is perfect condition, even considering how much wear-and-tear we put on it.
This is peace of mind at your caregivers fingertips. Make sure your child’s caregiver has important numbers they might need in an emergency so they can notify your doctor, pediatrician or veterinarian in seconds.
This card includes areas to write your police, fire, doctor, pediatrician, pharmacy, utility companies, your address & phone numbers, emergency contact names and phone numbers and an area to write other important information.
Who knew that establishing a good eat, sleep and poop schedule could be so important? Since your child’s caregiver probably doesn’t spend as much time with your baby as you do, they need a guideline for what your baby does on a normal basis.
Also, it is a written documentation for you as well so you know what happened with your baby when you get back home. We used this exact baby journal for the first 10 months of both of our children lives and it was so helpful!
If you have a hidden key outside of your house then it would be wise to show your nanny where it is! We didn’t show out nanny exactly where we hid our spare outside – and on the one single occasion that she locked the keys inside- she was unable to find (resulting in my husband having to leave work and let her in). One thing I have learned is that it is important to have at least one backup plan in place. And that includes having a spare key that our nanny has access to.
Are there anything other essential items that you would add to this list? Please leave a comment below!
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I remember leaving our 10-week-old daughter with a nanny for the first time. My husband and I were finally going for our first adult evening since becoming parents. To say I was anxious would be a massive understatement. I think I texted our nanny at least 3 times before we even got to dinner!
When we arrived home our little Zoe was snuggled up and sleeping soundly. In fact, I don’t think she even knew we were gone.
A few months later I went back to work as an Emergency Room Nurse
, two days a week. I know that may not seem like much, but my shifts at the hospital are about 13 hours a day. And that is a long time for a mom to be away from her baby!
So, in the spirit of being overly prepared I made this comprehensive list of important information to leave with the nanny or sitter. It’s displayed right on our refrigerator so you can’t miss it. I want to make sure our nanny has easy access to any important information that she could possibly need in case of an emergency.
Thankfully she has never needed it. But you never really know when a disaster or other emergency can strike so it is always best to prepare in advance.
Important emergency information to leave with your nanny or sitter:
- Names of all family members (include pets in the house)
- Names of neighbors, and their children
- Your address
- A list of your child’s allergies
Specific contact information:
- Your cell phone number
- Information about where you will be while you are out
- The name and phone number of someone else to contact in case of emergency (if you can’t be reached)
- Local phone numbers for police, fire, poison control, and emergency services
- Note – make sure your caregiver knows that it is OK for them to call 911 if they are concerned in any way for your child’s safety. Always better safe than sorry!
- A photocopy of your child’s health insurance card
- The name, address, and phone numbers for your child’s pediatrician
- The name, address, and phone number of a nearby hospital
- Information about any medication your child takes (including dosage)
- A list of the house rules (what kids can or can’t eat, bed times, anything that is not allowed, etc.)
- Homework information, if necessary, in order to help school-age children
- Show them where to find the first aid kid, flashlights, fire extinguisher and any other emergency preparedness items
Do you have your child’s important information ready for your nanny or sitter? Now would be a great time to gather this information and put in in a handy spot in case of an emergency.
Additional Recommended Reading:
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I am a second-career RN who took an unconventional path into the nursing profession.
I began my first post-college career as a medical device sales representative selling medical equipment to hospital operating rooms. Then after nearly 10 years in the business I decided to go back to college and earn a Bachelors of Science in nursing.
I hear about nurses becoming second-career medical device or pharma reps all the time. But I have never known anyone who worked in medical device sales and then went back to college for a nursing degree. Not once.
Here is my journey from budding journalist, to corporate sales manager, to nurse… and the lessons that I have learned along the way.
As a young college grad, my priority was making money.
After graduating with a BA in Journalism in 1999, I was ready to start making money. After all, I was broke and tired of being poor. I was also passionate about living a healthy lifestyle, so a sales job in the healthcare field seemed like a natural fit.
Over the course of my decade career in sales I worked for a fortune 500 company and a few startups. I covered huge territories and at one point even spent almost an entire year living out of a hotel. It was a lot of hard work, but the money was there.
But I got better every year, despite a gnawing feeling that my calling was somewhere else. My twenties flew by before my eyes.
One day after a lot of soul searching I finally decided to go back to school and earn a BSN. My sales counterparts couldn’t believe I would leave the medical device industry after what most would consider a very financially successful career. I tried to explain the best I could – that I wanted to be a part of something bigger then myself. And medical sales just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.
At 22, my first priority was making money. I knew if I worked hard in medical device sales I could earn more then most college grads my age.
I wanted to jump into procedures as a part of the medical team.
Even though I wasn’t an actual healthcare professional at the time, I got to work in hospital operating rooms and observe almost every kind of surgery. It was through those experiences that I learned I wanted to be more truly clinical – instead of just repeat a sales pitch with each new physician who gave me the time of day.
More specifically, I wanted to jump in to the procedures that I was selling products and actually be a part of the medical team. Not sit and wait on the side lines for hours until they used the product I was selling (if they used it at all).
More importantly though, I was continually drawn to help people and learn clinical life-saving skills. I was tired of going home every day feeling as if I wasn’t doing enough with my life to make the world better.
Sounds a little cliche, I know. But this little voice in my head kept telling me that one day all I was going to say about my life was that I was a “sales person.” And I wanted more than that.
So one day, l quit my career and went back to school to earn my RN.
Nursing school is the hardest thing I have ever done in my professional life.
I paid my own way through my nursing prerequisites and another college degree. And let me tell you – college is so much more expensive now then it was in 2000. I was lucky that I had such a large savings from my prior career to help get me through.
In addition, I also worked as a bartender at night – sometimes until midnight – and then had to be at a clinical rotation by 0700 the next morning. I studied nonstop for 3 years. Nursing school was so much harder then medical sales, or my first college degree for that matter. In fact, I didn’t even know school could be that hard.
Still, I pressed on, feeling like I was going to get kicked out at any moment for failing a test (and 1/4 of my cohort actually did get kicked out, its a miracle I wasn’t in that group). To this day, nursing school is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my professional life.
From medical device sales person to nursing school student (this is the only photo I have of myself in my nursing school scrubs).
I worked as a Certified Nurses Assistant in nursing school.
I worked as a CNA during my last year of nursing school and I both loved and hated it. It was such as honor to give care to my patients in some of the worst times of their lives. It was primary, basic care – and it was important! I tried to give my patients humility. I helped people feel human when they felt invisible.
But being a CNA was also so challenging- both physically and physiologically. This is because for the first time in my life I was not at the top of the food chain. I sometimes felt like just a staff person boss around. No longer did I have my salary plus commissions, my company car and expense account, my catered lunches, my bonuses and my stock awards at the end of the year. And I really missed that.
I finally attained my RN, BSN title.
After three years of nursing school and a lot of sweat and tears, I finally graduated with my BSN. I began my career specializing on a neuroscience and stroke unit and earned certifications as a Stroke Certified Registered Nurse and Public Health Nurse. In 2017, I began a new phase in my nursing career as an emergency room RN.
As I nurse there is always an opportunity to learn.
While being a nurse is exhausting and I have moments of extreme burnout, I do feel that nursing is my calling. I am a closet science geek and the love cerebral stimulation that I get as a nurse. I have had the opportunity to see more disease states, complex injuries and unusual diagnoses then I ever could have imagined even existed. It would not be an exaggeration to say I learn ten new things everyday at work.
To top it off, I am surrounded by some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Many of my co-workers have the same drive for helping people I do. They motivate me to keep learning.
I am thankful for the professional experience I received in the corporate world as a medical device salesperson.
In fact, I am so grateful for my time in medical sales. My experiences have given me a much different perspective than many of my nurse peers. And I see my experiences as a huge advantage for my professional development.
Working in the medical sales industry gave me valuable business and communication skills. I met a lot of great friends with whom I still have close relationships with. My organizational and time management skills are much more fine-tuned and I learned how to be a professional in the workplace.
I just like to think of myself as being a little more well-rounded now. After all, the business women in me still exists. But now I have the clinical prowess and expertise to match.
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I would love to hear stories from other second-career nurses. What did you do in your first career and how did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Leave a comment below!