Well….this is it – my last official day. It feels….ok. Maybe that’s because I’ve already agreed to help orient the new students for a couple of days in the beginning of winter quarter. It’s not easy to say “no” and I think I knew that the beginning of the new year my assistance might be requested. I’d like to think that it’s because I’m not that easy to replace, but that’s not exactly true…….not precisely…. SO as a safeguard I made some plans very soon following the holidays….but still I held out a little….knowing, thinking…..hoping it wouldn’t be THAT easy.
It’s been a quarter of finals. Final clinical, final group of students to mentor, final team meeting, final FINALS, final End of the Quarter Conferences……and all the final goodbyes. These past two weeks have just been crazy busy with finishing up everything, meeting with my students for the last formalities and cheering them on to finish their final exams strong. They work so hard and give all they have. I really don’t know how they manage. As a young student nurse I lived in a nursing dorm attached to the hospital and though we were bussed out to the local college for our sciences, we pretty much ate, drank, slept, studied, and worked right there. We really didn’t have much else to worry about – our meals were provided and we had to be in bed at 10:30pm – they checked! I completed my diploma and then, when married, became an undergraduate to finish my BSN. I didn’t even have to work, but still I felt overwhelmed with all my responsibilities. I had learned a bit about organization, how to cope and good management by the time I had three kids and was in grad school, but I certainly didn’t have to worry about holding down a job, as well. Some of our students do it all while in school full-time. I worry about them, try to teach them good self-care, but somehow most of them make it and the final celebration is something to behold. Yes….I did get to go to graduation, and while it was their moment they honored me unexpectedly. Thankfully this one was not my last. I’ll still have students in my rotation that will graduate this time next year, so I can ease into that FINAL…final.
I really don’t think that I’m going to have a problem with the fact that I’m not working. Unlike many other employees, I haven’t held a full-time position consistently since I got married over 40 years ago. I feel very fortunate that I got to work where and when I wanted for most of my adult life and most importantly took a break to be home with our children for many years. My two best buddies from nursing school and I worked for a year following graduation and saved our money to go to Europe. It had been our secret impetus that propelled us through one horrendous quarter after the other. We’d dry our tears after a particularly terrifying conference with our nursing dean, Sister Martha, and then plot and plan our way accross Europe. By the time I worked a year in an intensive care unit, I was so burned out I didn’t care if I’d ever worked as a nurse again. I got over it and soon realized that any other job paled in comparison. We ended up staying in Europe a year, working non-medical jobs and traveling. Near the end of our sojourn we were all sitting in a cafe and over heard someone behind us excitedly gushing over that fact that the next day they’d get to sleep in. My friend, Gloria, turned to us and exclaimed, “I can hardly wait to get home and get a job so I can have a day off!” Crazy as it sounds we knew exactly what she meant.
No, I won’t miss the early 5am mornings, or the piles of paperwork, nor will I miss the intense pressure from being responsible for the safety of lives that are cared for by brand new nurse wannabes, but I will miss those students. What I’m grieving over is the thought that I’ll no longer be a nurse. I told our new graduates the other night, “Once a nurse, always a nurse”, and it’s true, but I just don’t know what that means yet….or how it will look and feel. Unlike other jobs, I have always felt a calling to be a caregiver. It never occurred to me to inquire about what nurses were paid when I began my studies – it really didn’t matter. So here I am now…on my last day and I know I’ll figure it out. I am certain I can offer care in so many ways.
Today I talked to a woman from my church who is in charge of our Out Reach program. I was inquiring about what I had to do to be able to take Holy Communion to my dear neighbor who has to remain in the hospital following surgery. I told her that I had been a Eucharistic minister at our parish for a while and I know this will mean a lot to my friend. I explained that I am a nurse and have observed volunteers bring communion to patients and how uplifting it seems to be. As we discussed the details for my bringing the Eucharist to my friend this woman asked me for my email address. “I am very interested in you, she said, ” I don’t want to lose contact. We have home visits that are needed too.” -Here we go! I’ve been warned to take it slowly, to consider what I’d really like to spend my time doing, but I have little fear that I won’t find others that need my care – even if I have to drag someone across the street against their will. Nor am I worried that the identity I’ve built over the years as a professional will be lost, for I truly believe what I told our students – that once a nurse….always a nurse! Now I just have to make it through Christmas….
This is how I set up my final conferences – I’ll miss all my students the most!
The hard part…closing doors. The fun part…opening new ones – oh, and parties and presents!
Those who know me well understand the significance of owls in my
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