Note: The events in this article occurred a few years prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
Last Fall, I made a decision that most people will agonize about.
It’s a decision that nurses face every day. But for some nurses, it’s often extremely difficult to follow through with it. And I get that. But what’s disheartening is that we sometimes have all made an even more difficult decision– choosing not to do anything at all.
Back when I was in nursing school, working in critical care had always been one of my goals. And in my nursing career, I’ve had the opportunity to work in the emergency/trauma rooms in a number of Trauma I facilities.
I loved the thought of not knowing what was coming through the door. That kept me excited about the possibilities in nursing and also kept me on my toes. I thought I would never get bored and that the environment would always be welcoming.
Also, as in any profession, I believe that I can learn something new each day. So I appreciated the learning curve that came along with the fast-paced environment.
At one particular facility, I was working per diem in the emergency department which required just 4 shifts in a 6-week period. And although I was required to work very few shifts, I found myself working a full-time schedule in the very beginning to make the most of that learning opportunity.
And I was really enjoying my work!
But then things began to change.
I was exhausted waking up in the morning, even on my off days.
I was working way too much in the ER/Trauma department while also working on-call shifts as a forensic nurse. Essentially, I was working a full-time (plus) schedule despite being on-call and per diem in both positions.
Then, the requirements for my per diem position in the ER/Trauma department changed.
The requirement went from 4 shifts to 6 shifts every 6 weeks and a requirement to work evenings and nights. And I know this schedule change was a cake walk to the majority of nurses with whom I worked with, but for me, I no longer had MY choice.
At that time, it really felt like the beginning of a change of how I had chosen to live my life, making me give up what I had worked so hard to find… working how I wanted, on my schedule, on my terms (especially the change from working only day shifts to evenings to nights).
That became the non-negotiable.
Around the same time, I was in the middle of starting my own business, a boutique travel firm where I would tour clients around some of my favorite places in the world.
On a few international trips, I had found a new love of travel, and my new business would give me that opportunity to “travel for fun, not work” as I had coined as a new tagline.
With this new opportunity to start my own business, I began to get excited about the day-to-day again. But at the same time, my new requirements at work began to put my dreams on hold, stifling them day by day.
So I began to resent work.
I began to work harder at switching my evening and night shifts with those who now had the new opportunity to work my coveted day shifts.
And that was a job within itself!
My life began to revolve around my work schedule again, instead of the other way around. My schedule and my time were no longer my own.
And, I felt as if I was going backwards… instead of forward in starting a new opportunity in business that I was truly beginning to love.
So, a day came one October when I found myself in my manager’s office.
I told her the truth after hiding from the exhaustion and disenchantment for so long.
It was then that I decided I must follow my dream of really moving forward with my plans of starting a business. Plus, there was a conference for nurses in business that I had just come across and really wanted to attend.
But, of course, I was scheduled to work.
I was at a crossroads.
I could either keep going in my current position at the hospital, dreaming of where I should spend my time or make the leap and take the risk to do what I was really drawn to do in my heart.
I was a bit fearful of the decision that I had to make. Not because I was afraid to actually quit my job, but because I was afraid to “quit” others and was concerned about what they would think of me.
But then reality hit… My life was not about living it the way others wanted me to. It was about living how I wanted.
So, I decided on me.
I decided to face my fear of disappointing others, and made a decision to support myself and my needs.
I spoke to my manager despite feeling truly horrible about my decision of disappointing her and the department, gave her an official notice, and then left her office.
After leaving, I felt so free!
And for some reason the sun shined a little brighter, the birds chirped a little bit sweeter, and on the drive home, I felt so much better!
Okay… that may be pushing it a bit… But honestly, despite the guaranteed pay check and increasing opportunity to earn more money because of the slim staffing, I felt free.
And even now when I think about it…
It was the best decision for me.
And in making that decision, I’ve learned some valuable lessons from the experience of quitting something that no longer served my purpose.
5 LESSONS I’VE LEARNED FROM QUITTING MY NURSING JOB
And note: these lessons can apply to any major change in your life.
1 – There’s never a right time.
Sometimes we get caught up in the thinking that the timing is not quite right to make a change. We’ll often say… “Oh, I’ll do it when I have more time, more money, more education, or more [fill in the blank].”
Truth is, the timing will never be perfect, and if you choose to wait, you’ll miss out on many opportunities that will present themselves as time moves on. I made the decision to make the leap at an inopportune time.
And I didn’t have a cushion of finances, time, or the best knowledge to move forward, but in my gut, it felt like the right decision.
And since that time, I’ve had many opportunities come my way simply because I was available to receive them. So, the right time is now, maybe even yesterday, especially if you’ve had that gnawing feeling for so long.
2 – It’s okay to take care of yourself.
Sometimes this is hard, especially for nurses. We spend so much of our time taking care of others, often neglecting our own needs. Then, it spills over into our home-life as well. But, you must find the time to take care of yourself and listen to your mind, body and soul.
Listen to your intuition.
If what you’re doing doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
And that’s not always an easy decision to come to and one that you shouldn’t take lightly either. It’s taken me a while to do this for things I truly don’t want to do because I often placed others before me, with a need to please them no matter the expense to myself, my time and my health.
So don’t apologize for saying “no” when it’s in your best interests. You’ll often discover that this is the best way to take care of yourself.
3 – When one door closes, another opens.
It’s okay to go after your dreams. And it’s okay to simply quit things that are no longer making you happy.
When I left my job that October, I immediately found time for engaging in things that I enjoyed. Best of all, I had the opportunity to do more with my business at that time than I had ever thought possible.
And after I made the leap, I began blogging more, contributing pieces as a health writer, hosted a live event, was a speaker for a popular nursing event during nurses’ week, completed tours in Greece and Turkey with private clients, was interviewed on a podcast, and much more…
All because I decided to close a door on one chapter of my life. Had I not, I would probably still be waiting for the best time to follow my heart… in which that time would probably never come.
4 – Money is a means, but can also be a hindrance.
For years since college, I remember thinking how I couldn’t wait until I could finally get a real job, make a little bit of money, and save up to go on a real vacation… some international trip where I saw tourist attractions all day and sipped on umbrella-adorned drinks all night.
I finally realized that it really doesn’t take too much money to travel. In fact it’s often cheaper in some areas of the world to live than it is in our cheapest of States (as you see below in my $9 per night at a charming little place in Bali).
I could have done it all along, but I just always thought travel was out of my reach because I felt I needed more money.
The constant need for more money hindered me.
5 – Life is really too short.
Yes, this is cliché, but it is the truth. Just think about a dream or desire you had 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago. Have you accomplished it, or have the years flown by and it’s still out of reach?
What can you do about it now? I’m sure that dream is still waiting on you!
Have you been thinking about making a major change in your life or career? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to comment below.