Why a Nurse made A Career Change

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Published: April 23, 2021

Disclaimer: Although I am a mental health professional, all information and reflections are meant for educational purposes only. If you plan to make changes in your life, it may be worth consulting with loved ones and/or your wellness team. Please refer to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service for more information.

Forethought

Many people question me when hearing that I decided to leave my nursing career and make a change. 

It may be uncommon to change careers considering my income, available work, benefits and pension. But… mental wellness was being affected as a nurse and I am a firm believer that you can’t take care of others without taking care of yourself. 

How can I do regular self-care with a chaotic shift work schedule?

I appreciate you taking the time to read my story and am curious to know if it resonated with you, so please comment

Also, the bottom has some reflective questions in case you’ve been having second thoughts about your career choice, especially as a nurse…

Intro

I remember becoming fascinated with mental illness in my early high school years and was thrilled to discover a nursing field where I could provide direct care for those who needed assistance. 

My strong passion to be a piece of someone’s wellness persisted and in 2009 I graduated from Brandon University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychiatric Nursing. 

I worked in a small Manitoban community while caring for adult and geriatric populations for seven years, but after some significant life changes, decided to move to Kelowna, BC.

I was excited to be in a new role of emergency mental health nurse, but quickly discovered that something still felt “off.” Even being surrounded by amazing healthcare teams, paid fairly, and doing what I thought was my dream job, something was missing. 

Fast forward to my nearly ten-year anniversary of nursing, I did something my younger self never would have predicted; I made the decision to return to school.

What Changed?

Sadly, my career satisfaction in a hospital environment began to fade…

Burnout, described as a combination of distressing symptoms of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and lack of accomplishment (Martin, Shepard & Lehr, 2015), became far too familiar. 

I am a firm believer in the importance of enjoyment in the workplace, but one day realized how many adjustments I was making to tolerate a shift. After awareness grew, I was unable to ignore my need for a career modification and accepted that identifying myself as a nurse would be shorter lived than anticipated.

So, what did I do? 

I reflected on what I loved about my work and everything I would be happy to leave behind. I concluded that a private counselling practice possessed the qualities I had been unconsciously yearning for. This contemplation period made me realize how many aspects of the nursing role I actually despised! 

For a better perspective, I will be sharing some of the reasoning below.

Counsel Vs Nurse

Care Limitations

Regardless of what is portrayed in the movies, mental health units are not meant for long-term care. The reality is disheartening as I’ve seen the hope in some patients of a miracle happening during their admission. 

Unless you are at a level of crisis, you will likely be disappointed in what we can provide.

Do not get me wrong, hospitalizations can be extremely beneficial or necessary, but I feel that patient and family expectations are frequently quite high. Socializing, regular psychiatrist meetings, meals (although hospital level quality), nurse availability for emotional support and adjusting medications are just some of the care we provide while you are a patient, but what next? 

You are in a safe, routined and supportive space for however long, so how will a person manage going back to their regular setting and circumstances?

– Hospitalization plans start with the goal of keeping a person for the least amount of time possible. 

-There are limitations in how much learning and encouraging that can occur, especially when the patient is deeply troubled by their illness. 

-Bed shortages for those requiring care is a never-ending battle, so premature discharges occur, and we cross our fingers the person goes to their follow-up appointments.

With counselling, I can work with my clients at whatever pace is appropriate for them. In a therapeutic environment, treatment planning can be flexible and without organizational pressures, working toward positive long-term results is possible. 

Involuntary Versus Voluntary

I am ready to disconnect from a role which includes control

In the name of safety, many units are locked, hospital staff can remove the rights of a patient to make their own healthcare decisions, and restrictions are usually placed. 

My personality at its core is not authoritative, so I do not want to be a gatekeeper or disciplinarian any longer.

Voluntarily seeking services takes a lot of courage and is not an easy decision for many. It is a daunting task finding a person to be vulnerable with, so I want anyone who meets with me to feel respected and supported. 

Valuing the needs and counselling goals a client identifies opens a space for individualized care without dominating forces.

Pharmaceutical Focus

I will never deny the importance of medication for those who have had them prescribed by their trusted physician, but did you know that a chemical substance is only a piece of the puzzle?

Of course, you did, but it is easier to remember a pill than to change your life or behaviours, isn’t it? 

A variety of studies have been conducted regarding medication effectiveness and the benefits of therapy. Even when taking into account the placebo effects, results show there is no one method with a 100% success rate

You need a combination of wellness approaches!

Workplace Danger

If you ever desire to look at the physical and verbal abuse statistics of healthcare workers, you may be surprised by the high percentages.

I worked in two of the highest risk hospital units, so I have seen and experienced more than most, which eventually takes a negative toll. In crisis, some patients believe we have a protective shield against hurtful statements, but not always. 

Changing to a voluntary environment where a client feels more control of their wellness will significantly decrease my risk of being harmed.

Insight

The unique and vulnerable moments I have shared with patients throughout my career are treasured.

Although, I will admit, many were mentally and physically strenuous, I feel a high sensation of gratitude for the experiences and opportunities presented to help in those instances. 

Without it sounding too much like a cheesy reflection, I am truly honoured by the trust, openness and thanks I received from patients over the years.

As a counsellor I know that being present for times of helplessness, life alterations, and eventual celebrations is the role I am meant to fill. 

Creating a voluntary, safe and comfortable space for clients to heal is where my sense of purpose lies and look forward to being part of many more wellness journeys.

Wellness Exercise

Have you been considering a career change?

Weigh the pros, cons and risks involved to see if it is the right time for you! And if it is, get to planning…

Answer the following list of questions for assistance:

1. What do you like and dislike about your current work?

2. Can you make slight changes in an area you already work, or do you need a complete change?

3. Research, Research, Research: What work prospects seem appealing or ignite passion?

4. What are the steps you need to take? (examples: save money, apply for schools, etc.)

5. Financial Planning: What do you need to do to afford this endeavor?

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