Ever since I graduated from nursing school, I always felt that working in health care meant that I’d enjoy perpetual job security. I can say with complete conviction that these days, this is not a guarantee.
Throughout my 35 years in nursing, primarily in perioperative nursing, I’ve barely survived multiple takeovers and acquisitions of hospitals and surgery centers.
So far, I’ve gone through four facility closures, and I somehow landed on my feet by finding another nursing position at another institution. It doesn’t get easier each time it happens. After every closure, I’d ask myself, “What does this mean for me and my colleagues? How do we start over? How will this affect our everyday lives?”
How will I be treated at my new job?
Finding a new job means getting to know a new group of people and sizing each other up, so to speak. How will they treat us? Each time, I would wonder if we’ll all get along. Because let’s be honest, we’re not always our best selves every single day. Will my new colleagues be fair, hospitable, and hard working? But it’s more than all those things.
Each time I start over, there is a vibe or a feeling that is hard to define as soon as you walk in the door that you’re either going to be accepted or not — either you fit in, or you don’t. Are these people my teammates? Are they accepting of outsiders with different backgrounds and a different set of experiences? Are they patient when teaching newbies?
My belief is that nurses are generally resilient and are capable of enduring a lot to survive any work environment. I’ve worked with the good, the bad, and the very intolerant. I prefer the first of the three groups.
Will I fit in?
Reluctantly, I have to admit that as I get older, I am not nearly as quick-on-the-stick in learning new skills and new procedures associated with complex technologies.
Sometimes I feel like that old, injured workhorse that’s in danger of being taken out back. These days, it simply takes me longer to adjust and assimilate, to grasp new skills and new ways. I’m quite familiar with the phrase, “This is the way we do it here.” But I have patience with myself and with others. And I have a lot to offer.
When I started my first nursing job at a large teaching institution, I was called a “young chippy,” by slightly older and more experienced nurses whom I thought were a bit crochety and impatient. But I was determined to hang on, gripping tightly and finding my place in a stressful environment.
All these years later, I’m a bit afraid that I’ll eventually become the crochety, impatient nurse that I swore I’d never become — not as a consequence of age and fatigue, but from being forced to find a new job…and then another. But it hasn’t happened yet.
I consider myself kind, patient, and understanding towards the new grads and less experienced nurses who are insecure about their skills. I’m glad to share all I know about nursing with them.
Just a few months ago, I was one of the new nurses learning the ins and the outs at another new facility. Every day I ask myself, will this new job work out for me and will this institution continue to operate smoothly, or will it hit the bumps in the road I’ve traveled over before?
No matter what lies ahead, I’m ready to face it and add another chapter to my nursing journey.
Editor’s note: Soon after submitting her nurse story, Cohen faced another facility closure. Cohen will, once again, search for a new work home where she can share her wisdom and experience with her new colleagues.
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