Trust me, you don't want to know how long ago I left nursing, or how little I have missed it since then...
I had grown to despise the shifts and rotation, the post night-shift dead feeling, and never knowing whether my relief would come in at the end of my shift. I was not unhappy to bid acute care nursing farewell and enter home health care, and then toss the whole thing over when the children came along.
Mostly the problem was about me; I had a lively family of three children and an overgrown toddler at home, a husband who was also frequently out of town on short notice, and no reliable babysitter. On going back to nursing at the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1988, I found things changed but essentially the same; more IVACs, higher patient acuities, more responsibility, and little support for nursing. I had plenty of that back at home! My then-husband *loved* the idea of a two-income family and made a case for me staying in nursing. However, he did not make himself useful in family management, so his grand vision for me, in practice, meant I’d have two full-time jobs: nursing and family management. This was often reflected in his attitudes about work; his work was Serious Business and nothing took priority over it; my job was Just A Little Pin Money and was something to be disparaged when my shift fell at an inconvenient time. Seeing all this, I was determined to work for awhile and then get out again, and I did.
Some things are worth waiting for, I guess. I was surprised to find I have interests and experience that are of value in the world of nursing after all this time. Of course I'm going on the word of a BSN and an MSN, but I'm taking their opinions as authoritative.
At the center where regional nurses go for continuing education, their interview centered around my past experience as an RN and my current computer savvy, which I had thought pretty marginal until I told them about my experience. No, I'm not afraid of computers, I can do email, have a Facebook account, and in general can run the Microsoft Office suite. How did I learn this? Try running a small business without them! I completed a course on Computers for Educators as part of my Education degree. Did I mention having lived in a house where we had 1.2 computers per person? Computer literacy, check.
I've always considered my lack of BSN a liability; I never especially wanted to study for one, but I did want to explore areas of practice beyond patient care in a hospital or nursing home, and back in the day nurses needed a BSN to do that. I explored motherhood instead, then small business, then college; the next thing I knew I'd been out of nursing school for 30 years and in my absence they'd moved all the furniture. Today I see things like holistic approaches to nursing, healing touch, magnet hospitals, a “culture of safety,” and spiritual dimensions of care, that remind me of why I went into nursing to begin with. Maybe there's a place for me here after all, I mused.
The re-entry process for RN's is not simple. We are required to study and pass exams on 24 modules of material involving all aspects of nursing. Then we have a choice of independent study or classes on physical assessment, IV therapy, central venous lines, and delegating patient care. In addition, we need a physical exam, criminal background check, updated immunizations, and malpractice insurance, all before we can begin 160 hours of clinical practice. A person couldn't do all that in a hurry if she wanted to; so I've entered the process. I'm going to let it flow and go with it to its end.
Five years ago I was afraid I was too old to re-enter nursing, but now I'm returning to a workforce composed of a significant number of "gray-hairs", the experienced people like me with gray hair. The average age among RN's in my state is 46.4 years, which means returning to work ought to be like a nursing school reunion. I remember it all, right down to the glass IV bottles and metal bedpans; when discharge planning meant calling a cab to take the patient home with extra dressings, 10 days post-cholecystectomy; and our "gray-hairs" then could tell you how (and why!) to administer a turpentine stupe. I hope this leg of the journey proves as interesting.