Thursday, August 11, 2016

Thoughts on career change

To those of you who are wanting to change careers, to willingly choose to leave an established career for something new, I can honestly say I know exactly where you're coming from. I had a great career going -- job stability, great pay, awesome benefits, pension that is probably among the best in Canada, fully paid vacation time. It really was the 'golden handcuffs' that kept me there longer than it should have.

Some/most of my extended family thought I was nuts for even thinking of leaving such a job. But yeah, "soul sucking" is the perfect expression for a job where you show up day after day, only the money, and eventual pension. Many colleagues were equally unhappy, and repeatedly told me to "just think of it as pensionable time".  knew I had sooo much to give and was wasting my real potential in this established career.  I wanted more out of a career than just looking at it as 'pensionable time'. I wanted to be doing something useful, where I could contribute something of value -- something valuable to others and of value to myself.

And yes, I totally appreciate that I had the privilege of being able to even think of switching careers. I fully recognize that many people would maybe love to change what they're doing, but have financial obligations that don't allow them to. In making the decision, I had the support of a loving spouse who has a good job, and typically, we mostly lived off one income and saved our money, which ultimately helped me leave the workforce for a few years. It was not a 'spur of the moment' decision. Far from it.

Honestly, making that decision to leave my job was THE hardest one of my life. Transition sucks -- it is a time that brought out all my insecurities and fears. But knowing I was going into nursing made it a bit easier...knowing that there are jobs and that I would be working.  I just had to trust that it would all work out -- I was going to work hard and give it my all.

Once the decision was (finally!) made, there was no turning back. I was lucky enough to have a leave of absence from my work for 8 months. I was able to do my first year of nursing school, and my employed held my job. If for some reason, after one year, I thought it was the wrong decision, I had the option of going back.

When I did go back for a few months after first year of nursing school, that was when the decision to leave became crystal clear. After 8 months away, I was back at my desk for a few months to make some extra money before finally leaving. However, in that first week back, I looked at my work week, and realized that I was still going to be attending the SAME meetings, the same issues were being discussed, with seeming little or no progress. It was like a time warp had happened, where I had had all there interesting experiences in nursing school, and now was suddenly back to the work environment, and it was like I hadn't even been away. I had a feeling of relief the last day I walked of my first career, knowing it was really, truly over. That was the moment when I finally felt some relief about making the decision -- it was DONE -- and I could focus on moving forward.

Fast forward a few years -- I graduated magna cum laude, won an award for the student in my graduating class who, "consistently demonstrated exemplary professional deportment, consistent grades and superior clinical performance throughout the four years of the nursing program", passed the NCLEX and am now in the middle of orientation of my dream job -- in a busy emergency room, 10 minutes from my house. And I should add, I'm back to having a full pension and benefits!

Financially, I'll never re-coup what I lost in earnings over those four year of school. I make less now that I did before, but I do have those benefits health/pension benefits again. I'm working 12 hour days and days, nights, weekends...but I can honestly say, I now look forward to going to work. When I leave the hospital, I have a sense of satisfaction that I was able to do something good for people. Patients won't remember me or my name, and I don't care about that -- but I do know that some will remember that nice, red-headed nurse who helped them.

I have a feeling of inner peace when it comes to my work. I am proud to tell people who ask, that I'm a trauma nurse. I feel fortunate to be able to have skills that can help people when they're feeling at their most vulnerable. This is a career where the opportunities are endless -- research, teaching, mentoring, changing specialties, taking more courses, becoming a NP, clinic nursing. There is a niche for everyone in nursing, and one never feels stuck in one area.

Yes, I'm still a new nurse -- not yet frustrated and cynical and tired, like many I see. Yes, there are many frustrations in nursing, as elsewhere. I'm not wearing rose-coloured glasses and only seeing the positive. I'm well aware of negative aspects too -- of having too heavy a patient load, demanding/rude patients and families, feeling overwhelmed at times with work to be done, staffing issues, etc. However, in every shift, there are so many positive examples of patient interaction, that I'm able to focus more on that, instead of the negative. And my career path was so different than the vast majority of my colleagues -- I truly wanted to be here, and in some ways, sacrificed a lot to get here.

And I am so grateful to be here. I honestly love my job/career now. It was an incredibly hard decision, but overall, definitely worth it.  That's my story.