*I want to add a disclaimer that I know very well that there are people who hate their jobs, and need to work to support their families. I understand that. For you, I hope that someday things will get easier and that you too, will have options for how to best spend and fulfill your life.*
I have been contemplating quality of life a lot lately. I quit my 0.75 FTE nursing position (translation: 4 days/week) in a pediatric clinic at the end of November last year in the hopes of returning to school to become a nurse practitioner. I stupidly and somewhat idealistically thought that a job in the hospital working just a handful of 12 hour shifts a week, and making a lot more money per hour, would give me the time, satisfaction, and finances to make my dream possible. I should have known better. The job was an hour away each way and involved 12+ hours of being on my feet, skipping breaks and meals, and working to utter exhaustion. It made me far less available to my family, especially elderly grandparents who we have been trying to help out more, but also to my husband and children. Even though I was only working a few shifts a week, I was so stressed about the work that I was doing, decisions that I would have to make and patient care-that I was a wreck. I was gaining weight, my adult acne was coming back despite being on a prescription, I wasn’t sleeping, my self-diagnosed anxiety was through the roof. My days home, even when numerous were spent worried about returning to the hospital. I didn’t keep that job for a variety of reasons and told myself I was giving it up to be more available to family- which is indeed true, but what was also true was that the job was quite possibly the worst match for me in all of human history. No joke. Which makes me think why is it OK to quit a job because it doesn’t work for my family but not because it doesn’t work for me personally? Some nurses love hospital nursing and they’re reluctant to leave the bedside well, ever. I can tell you firsthand that I hated most of my nursing clinical rotations in school with the exceptions of the emergency room and labor and delivery, and I hated every second of my short time as a hospital nurse even though I could learn how to take care of the patients… I couldn’t learn how to take care of myself in the process.
|My happy place is with these people 💕|
Let’s go further into my history shall we? I got married right out of high school at age 18 to my high school sweetheart. Many of you know that we were married for 10 years and have two handsome sons together but we were an absolute mess. During that time I struggled to work full-time in a dental office while obtaining my bachelor's degree in psychology and eventually my teaching license while taking my first teaching position. I went to school at night and on weekends, sometimes during the summer to obtain my master's degree in education. I set aside many, many hours of my relationship with my then husband, as well as time with our infant children, to earn these certifications. I worked tirelessly, as if driven by some inner demon to complete this process. I taught for a little less than five years. I mainly loved it, so why did I leave? I had wanted to be a nurse when I completed high school. Well to be perfectly honest, I had wanted to be a doctor but that was never going to happen when we needed me to work as well. I resented my husband so much that we could not make it on one income due to some poor choices we had made financially, so I couldn't go to nursing school, work and raise 2 kids often alone (he was a cop at the time, and I did have a TON of help from family...but STILL). I’m not even sure he knew how much I resented that because I was working as a teacher. I had a career and so did he, and we mostly attained those without financial sacrifice (except heaps of student loans). When we went through a bitter divorce after 10 years of marriage it was my first time I really got to ponder what I would do with the rest of my life. When I met and married Barrett, he encouraged me to fulfill my dreams- letting me know that we could make it on one income -while not indefinitely, for a while for me to pursue nursing. It was a huge GIFT, and I ran with it.
Retrospectively I should have known from my undergrad degree in psychology that you were never supposed to make a handful of large life altering decisions all around the same time. I should have made myself stay and teach for another year or two and settle into my new relationship. Would that have changed things? I’m really not sure because I was determined that I needed to be a nurse. I will begrudgingly admit though that I did not know myself as well as I thought I did (and still working on that), and that I sometimes--- and I cringe to say this--- regret the decision. I was pretty happy as a teacher… Not always, but overall, so why did I think that needed to change? I did hate the amount of work that I brought home and that it took time away from my kids or coming home exhausted and not feeling like I had the energy to deal with my kids after being with other people's children all day… But I also loved the creative process and have missed a creative outlet so much and the interaction with students so much. I think because I taught health sciences, I felt like I was missing “doing" something. I must say though, I derive no satisfaction from running IV fluids, placing a catheter, or really doing many other clinical skills. Many nurses truly love this… I think I wanted to be one of them, but if I am 100% honest, I am not one of them. I'm pretty apathetic to that aspect. MREH would be the right term. I can do them. I can learn them. I don't care. The part of nursing I enjoy the most is education & interaction with patients, especially when I have the opportunity to work with children and families. I am not super interested in adult medicine, but I am in peds.
Fast forward to now. I was able to hang on to my job at the clinic as a relief nurse even during my short time as a hospital nurse thankfully. I was not able to hang onto a spot in pediatrics though and often work in the urology department and fill in for pediatrics as needed. I began my family nurse practitioner graduate program about three months ago. It is very time-consuming, stressful, and takes up about 30 to 40+ hours per week though it’s not necessarily difficult at this point-my class averages are 94 and 98% in my 2 courses. Being an online program, a lot of it is self taught to be perfectly honest- but I knew it would be that way going in. I only work a handful of shifts per week and they are not 12 hour shifts, but I still come home feeling absolutely exhausted and spent when in urology (my time in peds is not so). My quality-of-life is somewhat better than my short time as a hospital nurse, but decidedly not much better. I feel like I am unable to keep up my house or have the amount of time I would want with my family and to be the kind of student I want and need to be to pass this program.
Can I be perfectly honest? I’m not entirely sure why I am doing this. I think because of that dream to be a healthcare provider. I’m not saying it’s a bad dream but I’m beginning to question what drives it. I mean, I want to help people, but I already do. Is it just the money? Status? Because those things are not of God. He doesn't care. Neither does my family. They just want me. Is it proving that I can do it? That even though I married young, I'm not a total disaster. 😏Because I know I can do it… But just because I can, should I? I would love to talk to some professional out there be it a doctor, lawyer, engineer or nurse practitioner and ask them were you only kind of, sort of interested in becoming what you are? If so, how was that enough to drive you through your program?
|Exploring is also a HAPPY place :)|
On another note, why do I always feel like I have to strive for more? What is in me that I inherently feel like I am not enough? How much time have I stolen from my husband, children, or even myself in the pursuit of what I “have to be” next?
As I write I am at a crossroads in my life. I am halfway through term one of seven of my nurse practitioner program, and though it has definitely cost money, it also feels like an OK stopping point if I were to drop out of the program, take a leave of absence...whatever. Going much further though means I can't stop...I mean that is just wasteful in terms of cost and effort. I have an interview for a school nurse position today. I shadowed the current nurse and though not incredibly, overwhelmingly impressed with the position from those few hours, I came home excited for the first time in a long time by the possibilities of what I could do with it. I wrote down pages of ideas for assemblies, bulletin boards, teams and needs for the area, and things I'd want to change. The residing nurse who is retiring is AMAZING-a total role model, but I have some fresh ideas and excitement. The atmosphere, working with the students, opportunities for education, and of course working with the population that I love the most all floor me. The only real thing it has in common with being a nurse practitioner is the amount of autonomy the position affords (which I do desire as I hate having docs waiting on me or feeling like I can't use my clinical judgment and assessment skills). Other than that, obviously the job is completely different. The money is poor but the time off is invaluable. Let's do the math. Most full-time clinic nurses (because we know I don't want hospital!) work 5 days/week 52 weeks a year. That's 260 days of work. Factor in 2 one week vacations, and that's still 250 days of work. School nurses work about 192 days per year. That's 58-68 days LESS that can be spent doing other things you love. It's working 26% less often overall through the year. *Even working 4 days/week is 1-2 weeks more annually depending on if you take time off and how much.
When I feel closest to God, one of the absolutes of my life is that I know without a doubt that I am supposed to work with children. Why I shrug this off sometimes is beyond me. I am most at home working in schools, with students, teachers, parents, and my favorite group of human beings ever though they are indeed challenging: teenagers. It should be mentioned that I thought about being a psychiatric nurse practitioner specializing in work with adolescents. I was also accepted into a program for this, but declined due to just how specific it would be as well as again being perfectly honest with myself, the thought of just being the prescriber of medication without necessarily time for the therapy to go with. This is what many psych NPs do-prescribe and manage meds. I have no problem with psychiatric medications per se, but not sure I just want to be the dispensary for these things. I’m passionate about mental health issues especially in the teen population, but I’m not sure that’s the angle I want to approach with. I imagine more education for teens to know when to seek help, giving parents resources. That's my bag.
This is a lengthy, pouring out of the heart post and if you made it this far- thank you for still reading. I am sure that I annoy some of you. Hahaha. I saw an old coworker yesterday and she said “I just love keeping up with you! I never know what you’re going to do!“ And I replied “neither do I!" If the answer is blatantly clear to you I am always happy to hear your unbiased advice though might not necessarily heed it. I feel like there are many pathways for us. I used to think that we had just one calling to use the gifts that God gave us, and I struggled (well obviously still do) knowing what that calling was. I no longer think that is entirely true. I think we can excel in many different settings, but some will feel like a death to our souls and some will inspire us to grow and fan the flame of our gifts even more. I kind of think that school nurse could give me that… I also have toyed with the idea of returning to teaching completely. I know, craziness. At the end of the day, I don’t think I need the success of being a nurse practitioner and may continue the course if I feel called to do so… I am not yet saying I am throwing in the towel mind you, but have some soul-searching to do. Success is how we define it. I’m beginning to think that success for my life is a career that gives me satisfaction most days, as much time with my family as I can get, and also time for myself! Time for me to paint, take care of my health, relax, travel, read books that I want to read, and derive happiness in just living instead of planning for more.