I just read an essay written by a nurse sharing how the job she loved changed into one she dreaded. Budget cuts, staff reductions and excessive paperwork finally caused her to throw in the towel. She moved on to a job that paid less but gave her increased patient contact and satisfaction. It got me thinking about job changes—specifically my own.
I’ve been a nurse for 40 years and have had just five jobs, only one of which I left by choice. Jobs number one and three were ended by my husband’s out-of-state job transfers. I left job number four to give birth and be a stay-at-home mom. Technically, that falls into the "by choice" category, but I didn’t see it as a choice. It was more like a given; have a baby, be a full-time mom. Archaic thinking to some, but I’ve never regretted it.
My current job is non-traditional—I’m a nurse who writes about nurses and nursing. During an interview with Diana Mason, editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Nursing, we talked about the looming nurse shortage, which resulted in my apologizing for not doing my part to ease the problem. She graciously told me that I’m doing my part by promoting the profession. Just a simple comment but it’s surprising how often it comes to mind and keeps my radar scanning for opportunities to publicize nurses and the important work we do. I love this job and I'm not planning to resign anytime soon.
So, that brings me to my second job. A job transfer had taken us from a big city to a much bigger city. I’d left a job as head nurse in a hospital-based out-patient department (OPD) for the medically indigent and was fortunate to find the exact job in my new location. Well, maybe not exactly the same job. In this case it was the same title, same department, but an entirely different set-up. In the original job I oversaw about 30 specialty and sub-specialty clinics, all grouped together in a single-story hospital wing. In the new job I managed just eight clinics, in separate units scattered around the hospital. Each one was its own little world—the staff of one clinic barely knew the staff of another, so it was nothing like the cohesive group at my previous job.
The new job wasn't terrible. The staff was pleasant, cooperative and hardworking but I felt disconnected and unhappy. Those things, however, didn’t seem good enough reasons to call it quits—I figured I’d work my way through it eventually. Besides, I was raised to live up to my commitments, to follow through with anything I said I’d do, to not disappoint anyone and certainly not to casually change jobs. Then, an attractive job opportunity at another hospital fell into my lap—an opportunity made vastly less attractive by the fact that I’d have to (duh!) resign my current position.
Chalk it up to youth (age 25), lack of life experience (age 25) or my genetic predisposition to accept guilt for just about everything – including being responsible for the nursing shortage – but, for whatever reason, I AGONIZED over having to tell my supervisor that, after a mere four months as the OPD head nurse, I was leaving to take another job.
I knew that each time a hospital brings in a new hire, a chunk of change moves into "the red" column. I felt guilty about the time and money spent orienting me to the job, the work involved with finding my replacement, and that I was letting them down by not sticking with my commitment. All of that weighed heavily on me; enough so, that my face-to-face verbal resignation, accompanied by a written letter, was a tearful one.
Two weeks later I was ushered into my supervisor’s office for my exit interview. She hadn’t yet arrived. All these years later, I can’t remember if my employee file was open or if there was a note clipped to the front, but my eyes were instantly drawn to a mention of the lachrymose or ‘tearful’ display resulting from my revealing I was leaving —followed by the words, flashing in neon, "emotionally unstable." Oh, come on! I didn’t throw myself across her desk and sob and wail—I’d shed a few tears. Big deal!
Well, that pretty much erased any guilt I’d had. In fact, it helped cure me of taking on (almost any) future guilt. Expressing regret hadn’t won me any points. I told myself that, henceforth, I would do what was best for me and let the chips fall where they may. I’ve never had the opportunity to test that promise to myself, which is fortunate. While I talk tough, I’m really just a big marshmallow who still feels bad when I renege on a commitment and, yes, sometimes a tear or two is involved. One of my nursing school instructors used to say that, in her opinion, there is something healthy about a damp eye. If that’s the case, I’m the World Champion Healthy Lady. Not a bad title to have—I’ll take it. The new job, by the way, was great—a perfect fit!
Who else has stories of changing jobs that fall to the lighter side? Please share them, even if they’re not-so-light. I’d like to hear them.