I have dedicated 35 years of my life as a nurse: in the ICU for 33 years and behavioral health/intensive management for the last two.
I thought it would be time to take a break from ICU nursing. Surely behavioral health would be a lot easier — kind of a slide into my near-future retirement.
I entered into the land of psychotics and schizophrenics, bipolar, homeless, dangerous patients from prison, like those serving time for killing people or assaulting them. Then there were the non-compliants that looked away from treatment, therapy and medications — the revolving door.
It wasn’t the Land of Oz. We weren’t in Kansas anymore.
I’ve enjoyed these quite interesting last two years. What an intriguing nursing profession. And I’ve learned a lot.
First: to be kind and gentle and listen and care. Your compassion for that person may be all that patient has received in a very long time.
Second: I also learned that I absolutely can’t tolerate nursing bullies. There always seems to be one cruel nurse in the bunch. I don’t do well with them. I avoid them. I definitely can’t confront them. They scare me, but they also make me angry. Because I know the fault is not in me but in them. I try to analyze this kind of nurse. Did she grow up with such anger, maybe neglect, and she’s acting out? And when management turns a blind eye to this behavior, the environment becomes toxic.
I valued my safety and the safety of the staff and the patients. And when management chose the budget over safety — even though they professed to be “the best” after seeing and hearing of dangerous incidents one after the other — I knew I’d have to look for a job yet again.
Maybe I’d go back to ICU at a smaller hospital with lower acuities. Maybe I’d find myself as an ER behavioral health professional who provided 24/7 public safety officers.
I applied to three different positions.
I’m 65 years old. And I have 10 months left before retirement.
I would think with my 33 years of ICU experience, my last few years in behavioral health/intensive management, that I’d be an easy “yes.”
But all three turned me down.
Was it because I only had 10 months left to retire?
Or was it because I lost my “filter”?
I lost the “right” things to say during an interview.
Question: “What are your long-term goals?”
My answer: To take a long, much-needed vacation to the Bahamas. I deserve it (chuckle).
Question: “What would you bring to the table here in the ER with all of your expertise?”
My answer: First, I’d buy you a brand new coffee pot! I have to have my coffee. And you all definitely need a better brand!
I thought they’d catch my humor?
Obviously, they did not.
I was honest, though. Sometimes they don’t want you to be honest.
But during this Zoom interview, I also added my years of experience, my current, and active certifications, that I was a killer at starting IVs and that the most important lesson to ever learn or carry out with patients is kindness and sincerity.
Both of these go a long way. And whether a patient is in the ICU, ER or behavioral health, they’ve all been injured, mentally, physically or both.
In my long years of being a nurse, kindness has to be at the top.
I was turned down, one after the other. I felt my self-worth had hit rock bottom. I use to be this “famous” ICU nurse, and now I’m this fading 65 year old.
So here I stand. 10 months to go. Maybe these other jobs just weren’t meant to be.
Maybe I can no longer filter out what they want to hear.
I’ve had 35 years of incredible memories, incredible nurses and physicians and respiratory therapists, all of us connecting the dots in life through work, through our “grits therapy breakfast,” and through our trauma and triumphs in nursing and our own lives.
I guess I’m just supposed to “stay put” until the winds blow me into my next journey in life.
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