A co-worker of mine just retired after 40 years in the nursing field. She and I have been friends for the last 13 years, since I moved to my current job. I know all jobs have issues and struggles. Construction is physically draining. Sales is emotionally draining. Administration is tedious. But let me tell you, nursing is all of the above. Not only is the job physically rigorous, but it’s a dirty job. People suck the life from you with endless demands and dissatisfaction. You see people and their families at their worst. When people are stressed and sick, they have to vent and it usually comes out on the nurse. Doctors and nurses often have a complicated working relationship, which can make nurses feel underappreciated as well.
That being said, nursing is the best job out there and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. (Other than blogging :). Don’t get me wrong, being a wife and mother always comes first. But I have to work. I spent my first 20 years of my life preparing to go to college and get a job, so I actually feel like working was in the plan my whole life. But, nursing is more of a calling then a job. The miserable nurses, which there are plenty, went into this field for the wrong reasons, and end up hating it and getting burnt out. But for the ones of us that were called to nursing, we stick it out, year after year, making the most of it. We rely on the bond that all nurses have, and the humor that we find in mankind.
Patients always ask me “how long you been a nurse?” I often wonder why, is it because I look like I know what I’m doing or because I look middle-aged. Anyway, I proudly reply “19 years”. Wow, 19 years is a long time. It even catches me off guard. I have been a nurse longer then I have been a wife and mother. Being a nurse, was my first identity.
If you are like me and in your early 40’s, then the sad truth is that 19 years at a job is only almost half way to retirement. What! If I retire at 65, then I still have another 24 more years at this. Mind blowing. How can it be that far? How can I last another 24 years? I think of 24 years ago and I was 17, a baby. And now I realize that much time has to pass in order for me to retire. Oh boy. I am not sure I can handle that.
When I graduated college in 1997, I could not wait to get my first job. The process of employment seemed like it took forever and I could not wait to start. I was ambitious and eager to learn. I looked at the middle age nurses for wisdom and guidance. As the years have gone by, I somehow transformed from the young new nurse to the middle-age nurse.
Even though 40 is not old, from the perspective of a 20-year-old, it is. Now, my job is to help and teach the new generation, and not only about nursing, but about life. These young women, born of a different time, need a loving mom figure and I have adopted them. As nurses, we don’t just take care of patients, we take care of each other.
My co-worker that just retired was my mom figure. She helped me through 3 pregnancies and then after. She even made to go into labor with her famous meatballs. She has listened, asked, cared and supported me and my family though these past 13 years and I am going to miss her dearly. Her leaving, transforms the staff as well. I am now one of the “senior” staff . The torch has passed.
So from here on out, 24 years and counting, I have to carry this torch. I have to fill the shoes of wisdom and guidance. I have to do what my friend did for me, in her absence.
Even though I am only half way to retirement, I realize that work is a privilege. It is an honor to be able to affect so many lives, both clients and co-workers, and to be an active part of society. Yes, I am exhausted and frustrated at times, but it has molded me to be the person I am today. Whatever you do, work at it whole heartily, and do it for the Lord. Colossians 3:23. That is why it is so important for us parents to direct our children to do what they love, because 45 years at a job that you hate, is a waste of a lifetime.
So, retirement, are we there yet? Not even close! But I’m glad, this torch is still on fire.