I am quitting my job. To make one thing clear: I am not here to air my dirty laundry or bash my employer. Nope.
I’ve quit many jobs, but always due to re-location. And those jobs were usually low pay, part-time, no benefits, no future type jobs. Of course, we’ve all quit at some point.
I also hope not to quit entirely, but keep a registry (per diem) position in a less stressful environment. That is, until we move on from our current town…which is a change happening quite soon.
We are quitting this town too. I’ve made the best of the last seven-ish plus years. I’ve made genuine connections with fabulous/unexpected folks. But it is time to move on. Quit. (I just like the word. Quit. Quit. Quit.)
But to quit means to begin. (Imagine those words with a runner in the sandy desert going towards a sunrise). Seriously.
The summer was a “rough patch” as one might say. I agonized over the decision to switch from full-time to part-time. Luckily, I had the choice to make this decision. We don’t have children to support, we live in a tiny apartment with another housemate, and our expenses are quite low. Frankly, we live as though I am still in college (minus our couple international trips, and another on the way!)
The change from full-time to part-time was a shameful experience. Of course come the blaming/shaming “Why?!” questions and generalized assumptions about finances and “this generation has poor work ethic” et cetera. I was temporarily uncomfortable with my decision (“Should I switch back to full time?” “Am I really just lazy?”), but then I shrugged it off. As Dr. Seuss might say, “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.” Besides, that decision belonged to me. Nobody else.
Besides, those people are the exception. Overall, my co-workers are lovely folks. Okay. “Lovely” might be the wrong word. They are feisty and hilarious and dedicated and weird. I will miss them. I will miss our camaraderie and med room laughs and obscene amount of chocolate consumption.
There are things I will not miss. 10 minutes of scarfing down food & only drinking 355 mL of fluid in a 12-hour shift. Lack of staff. Panicking to simply do the job and meet “patient satisfaction” requirements.
I know, I know… “That is just nursing today!” “Deal with it!” Meh. At least I’ve had some marvelous people to “deal” with…
Like there was that day when there were two nurses, no secretary, and no nurse’s aide. Mary and I were putting in orders (prior to CPOE/physician order entry) and trying to give patient care (we each had 4 or 5 relatively high-acuity patients). No phone calls were answered that day. People wanted their mornings medications and baths. There were the usual procedures to coordinate and deteriorating folks that needed x, y, and z. One physician asked why the patient hadn’t “been walked” yet. 9 AM meds were given at 1 PM. While I was trying to figure out how to enter a stat order into the computer, my patient had ripped off his gown and was going to launch himself out of bed to the floor. I sprinted to him, he was incontinent urine and feces, and he flopped back into bed. We cleaned him up while he yelled insults and some dude in a suit showed up to give us an in-service about new glucometers. Mary and I started laughing uncontrollably and the whole time a helpless office employee was standing at the printer…just staring at us mad cackling nurses.
So, yes. Looking back, nothing seems as crazy or dramatic or intense as it was in the present moment. It almost seems like an absurd caricature of reality, or a challenge that was overcome.
(Just to clarify…the above scenario happened a long time ago, and has absolutely no impact whatsoever on my quitting). To a nurse, that might even sound like a “typical” day. But I really don’t want my “typical” days to be like that right now and everyday. I don’t want a “typical” day to mean giving poor patient care.
Sometimes you just reach a point when you realize quitting is the best option. There are nurses who have worked the same job 20, 30, and 40 years. They are good at it. They have experienced many changes and they adapt.
I respect them. But I can’t stay. I have worked on my unit (a step-down/PCU/intermediate care) unit for just shy of three years (not 20 or 30 or 40). This is my first RN job. It has taught me a lot. It has challenged the crap out of me. But I can’t stay.
I’ve reached that point. I’ve reached the point where quitting seems like the best option. I need a vast/sweeping/grand change.
One of my favorite moments on PCU was on a horrific/almost-in-tears kind of day during my first year. One of my patients made me a paper airplane and gave it to me by launching it into the hallway when I was passing by. I wrote in a journal entry titled “Another Day In Hell”… “Good thing: My patient made me a paper airplane.”
I didn’t write many nursing day journal entries (probably from exhaustion and mental block), but they all have very melodramatic titles. And some very “good things.”
My quitting isn’t a random impulse. Like the agonizing decision from full-time to part-time, quitting introduces a new slew of challenges and this decision was not made lightly. Quitting also provides a much needed release, a deep-breath, a let-go.
There is a panic/anxious gait/efficient/angry/on-edge/sharp/impatient edge to many people I meet on the street or at the gym or in the hospital. Souls in upheaval. Waiting. For the next thing/the better thing/struggling through the current thing. I see this in myself and it scares the crap out of me. I don’t want to be a soul in upheaval.
I realize I have this choice & privilege to quit. And I choose to quit because I don’t want to be ambitious right now. I don’t want to have the best paycheck and the best job and the highest rank. I want to make art and read books on social justice and make real (if only little) changes. I don’t want to quit nursing for good. The good thing about nursing is there is always something else. Something that doesn’t even resemble your last job…if you want that. It exists.
I want to make paper airplanes for people who are having a bad day. I want to remember why I was filled with overwhelming/bursting/hysterical joy when I walked through the Body Worlds exhibit and saw all the arteries of the body laid out in Plexiglas.
I want to taste my food.
(Photo is from one of our several recent “burning” sessions…burning old writing/negative past. Thanks to Erica).