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Work

I have a confession to make. I kind of love my job. No, really.

I am a nurse practitioner and have been for the past 9, going on 10 years. Before that I was an RN for 10 years for a total of 20+ years in the medical field. Not all of it has been rosy. My first job was as a nurses aide while I was in school. I worked on a med/surg unit with an ALC unit. ALC stood for something like alternate level of care. It was for patients waiting for nursing home placement because there were precious few beds available back then. After that job I swore I would never work on a unit like that unless it was to pay the bills. I subsequently worked in home care and on the post partum units at the hospital and later the Level III NICU, which I loved. For all of these jobs, I was beholden to a shift schedule and there was little flexibility except a little bit when I did home care and I *may* have taken lunches with my friend that were longer than an hour. Ahem.

After NP school, I decided I didn’t want to be an NP and went to work for a law firm temporarily and gave some consideration to attending law school. I was burned out on medicine. Slowly, I changed my mind and went to work in a nursing home. I loved the patients but ended up hating the facility so I left and went to work for the VA visiting retired or disabled vets at home for primary care. LOVED my vets!! Unfortunately I gave birth to my twins while in this position and taking care of twin babies and working full time is not a great combination and I suffered for it, I eventually left the position and worked part time as a private duty nurse for a year. When I decided to go back to work as an NP I went into rheumatology part time and stayed there for 4 1/2 years.

Office life is WAY different than both the hospital and home care. Here’s a group of mainly women who work in a setting where there seems to be a lot of time for gossip and interpersonal conflict, something that there is no time or opportunity for in home care. In the hospital there was some of this but I was a little better at staying out of stuff. After 4 years I still felt like an outsider at my job and since I am not a gossip I was the last to know even the important stuff. There was also zero flexibility because there was always a patient waiting for you in 15 minutes. They didn’t care if you had something else going on or your kid was sick. They were there and expected to be seen in a timely fashion (nothing wrong with this but sometimes I prayed people wouldn’t show up just so I could have a breather.) This is similar in the hospital. No rest for the weary. Those hospital nurses work their tails off!

Physicians have it no better and maybe worse. Is burnout inevitable? Does work stress have to do us all in? Is THIS what we have to look forward to?

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(I can’t find where to attribute this to so my apologies. It is just really funny!)

I can’t help but thank God that I went back to school and have more choices for employment. I am also thankful that I was frugal enough and leery of debt so that I could work part time for the past 6 years. It may not have done wonderful things for our bottom line but it certainly helped in the mental health area of my life. But recently I started considering full time work again. I knew I didn’t want to be in my office full time and never see the light of day. That would pretty much have guaranteed burnout on my part. So I did some soul searching to decide what area of medicine I would like to work in and came back to geriatrics. Although I wouldn’t go back to the facility I worked at previously, there are plenty of other facilities locally. Our local hospital then advertised a position in geriatrics which I thought was in the hospital but lo and behold, the position was for long term care (nursing homes)! I am happy to say this is now what I am doing and I couldn’t be happier.

First, I fully acknowledge that I am lucky to be in a field where it is relatively easy to a. get a job and b. be a bit choosy where you work. It also pays well and that’s a definite plus. I know people in other fields that have a much harder time finding work. I am grateful if nothing else.

Second, I am lucky that I have had the support of my husband so I could work part time for so long and decide the return to full time work when I wanted to. If it hadn’t been for some early influence by Mary Hunt*, Dave Ramsey*, Elaine St James*, Doris Janzen Longacre * and the Tightwad Gazette*, I wouldn’t have been in this position. Although I have been far from the picture of frugality, I have tried to keep things under control.

I now have as close to the job of my dreams as I will probably ever get. I have the privilege of taking care of our older adult population. I don’t have someone waiting for me at 8am with their toe tapping. I can stop and go eat something when I am hungry and go pee when I need to do that (nurses will totally be jealous of that one…). If I have an appointment I can leave and come back and finish what I was doing. I can spend an extra few minutes in the morning to help get the kids off to school. I feel like a big weight has been taken off my shoulders even though I still do a lot of work. It feels like a reward after “paying my dues” for the past 20 years. I wish everyone could have this experience!

But really, why couldn’t they? I mean, we were created for work and work was meant to be pleasurable. At least, until Adam and Eve disobeyed and messed it all up for us. Now work is tedious and back breaking. It crushes the soul. It seems that all we do is toil under the sun and that all is meaningless (read Ecclesiastes. Most depressing book of the Bible. Its great.). Yet, I do not believe it has to be that way. Isn’t there something we can do to enjoy our work? What do you do when you hate your job? Is there a way out? Here is what I have done:

  1. Let your faith guide you. I feel like I have been “called” to the medical field. I have the privilege of taking care of other people and helping them get well again or helping usher them into the next world through death. What you do doesn’t have to be profound however. I feel that any work I  do should be done as if I am doing it for God. Even if God allows me to have a crappy boss.
  2. Brainstorm. What do you really want to be doing? What do you need to get there? Is is realistic? Is there something more practical that you could be doing that would be fulfilling? At 60 it is unlikely that you will become an astronaut but maybe you could find work at an observatory? Write this stuff down and think about it a while.
  3. Go back to school. I am so glad I did this. To do so I had to pay off my debts, work part time and move into my parents basement for a couple of years. I also worked as a TA to pay for school. Totally worth it.
  4. Find an outlet. Find someone to talk to and get advice. Do something you enjoy after work. I enjoy cooking (unless I am exhausted, then I want tater tots) and going out for a drink with friends. Make time for something you enjoy.
  5. Get some perspective. You could be living next to the railroad tracks in Indonesia. I have told myself and other people this countless times. It makes you grateful for whatever you have. Really, watch THIS.
  6. Get out of debt and save money like crazy. Retire early. Really.

So my advice holds no magic bullet. I pray you have fulfilling work and if it is not, that you can find some way to make it fulfilling. Most of us have to work, at least for a while. How else could we pay our taxes? 😉 (you know that’s a joke, right???)

Liz

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