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Recently, someone asked me why I am not working. I haven't heard that question for awhile, and it took me by surprise.
The person who asked didn't know me well, and was only responding to my now automatic answer when she asked - "So, what do you do?"
I replied with my usual I'm a retired nurse routine. She looked at me quizzically for a few seconds and remarked that she had heard there was a nursing shortage right now, implying that since I looked somewhat normal that I should really be wearing scrubs and schlepping my stethoscope around.
Which brought to mind what a difficult process it was to arrive at that humbling decision to leave nursing.
I really do miss working as an RN, specifically when I was working in a dialysis unit. Dialysis is a process that purifies the blood of waste products - taking over the job for kidneys that don't work anymore. Once the orders are written by a nephrologist, a dialysis nurse functions very independently, which is one of the reasons that I enjoyed that job.
I am a control freak. I admit that freely. Just ask John or the kids. Being a dialysis nurse just fed that freakiness to the max. I miss those days that I'd blow into an ICU, dialysis technician and machine following closely behind.
"Hi everyone, need the chart, labs, most recent chest film, oh, and move that bed, willya?"
With monitors beeping and blood pump whirring, seemingly miles of clear tubing would fill with dark red blood. Other staff members who were acquainted with my mode of operation knew better than to even look too closely at my patient or my machine. Once Nurse Julia was at the dialysis helm, nothing escaped my examination. Staff nurse giving the patient meds? Ask Julia. Need lab work drawn? Ask Miss Control Freak Nurse. Surgical resident trying to examine the very large blood catheter required for blood access? Back off, Buster!
Nobody - but nobody - administered any kind of care to my dialysis patients except me, and for very good reason. When performed competently, dialysis is a life-saving measure, especially in a critical care situation. However, since it requires at least one fifth of the body's blood volume to be chasing around in the dialysis mechanisms at all times, and drastically changes the blood's chemistry and water components, the potential for significant injury is also present. Hence the Julia the Obsessive/Compulsive Bulldog Nurse routine.
I loved it. Powah! Bwahahahaha! Oh, yes, and I'm helping people.....
Fast forward several years, and I was feeling the effects of Sjogren's fatigue and brain fog. I found myself checking and checking and re-checking my work. I came home and collapsed, both physically and mentally. I lay awake at night, rethinking my decisions and skills. "Am I giving good care? Am I making the correct decisions? Will I make a mistake? What is happening to me? "
In evaluating my situation, I soon came to realize that the importance of giving excellent patient care far outweighed my need to work. With great reluctance, I made the decision to quit working as a nurse before I made a mistake that would impact someone else's health and life. For Julia AKA Florence Nightingale Nurse, this choice was extremely difficult.
I missed those days when I felt I could complete a very complex task competently. My new schedule provided very few opportunities when those around me say - "Thank goodness she's here!", and I could protest modestly that I'm only doing my job. Aw shucks, folks....
I have concluded that there is an enormous lesson for me to learn in all this. I am suspicious that the powers that be have decided that my ego needed a serious infusion of humility.
I could see St. Peter peering down from those heavenly gates and commenting to the angel next to him, "Check out this lady - she thinks she's a real hot shot. Won't work up here, will it? Let's help her make a big attitude adjustment. Let's see.....let's give her something that really takes her down a peg but isn't very obvious to others. Something that forces her to acknowledge her weaknesses as well as her strengths."
Well, thanks, St. Pete. I guess. I think I'm in the remedial class for this lesson. Hope I can graduate from this school soon.