This is a crazy difficult post to write, and I am already imagining how much anxiety I will feel when I go to click “publish” at the top right corner of my screen. But these things need to be said because 1) they are weighing so heavily on my heart and 2) I feel so much freaking shame about even thinking this, let alone blogging about it, which tells me that’s exactly why I should write about it.
I want to write about the hard shit. The stuff that no one dares to even admit they think about. Because I am so sick and tired of feeling ashamed, and I want to replace those feelings with self-love, compassion and peace.
As usual, I would like to give you a little background so that you may appreciate this story in its entirety.
I graduated from Ottawa University in 2013 with a Bachelor of nursing, and jumped right into my career by working full time in Intensive Care. I loved what I did – sort of. I mean really did love caring for people and accompanying them through some of their most difficult and vulnerable moments. I loved those times when I would feel so connected to someone through something as simple as touching their hand or looking them in the eyes.
I also loved the status that came with what I did. I mean at the age of 22, I was an ICU nurse guys!!! I saved lives for a living, and made pretty good cash doing it too. And that’s what kept me going for a while.
Kept me going? Yeah, well the honest truth is that working as an ICU nurse was brutal for me. First, the 12 hour shifts were killer – working 48 hours in 4 days is so unhealthy and on top of that I was on a totally different schedule than the rest of my friends and family, meaning that I was always missing out on social gatherings. That sucks, especially when you are in your 20s and supposed to be having the time of your life!!
The constant stress I felt while working in ICU totally drained me, and I was perpetually exhausted. It was like I was always on edge – never knowing what patient would become unstable next. I internalized everything that went wrong with my patients, feeling like I was somehow responsible when their pressure tanked, their temperature spiked or their heart stopped. It’s stupid, I know. But that’s the burden I carried around for 3 years.
Until my body said no more, and I had a panick attack, one night at work.
We were short staffed, as was the usual. I was told that I was to stay alone in our removed step-down unit with 4 critically ill (but “stable”) patients, while my co-worker was being pulled back to the main ICU unit where they needed her most.
There is so much more to this moment: months of exhaustion and crazy demanding work conditions leading up to this night. But regardless; I just couldn’t take it anymore.
I started bawling my eyes out (told ya you’d read that line often😅) and soon I was hyperventilating uncontrollably. The hospital coordinator attempted to calm me down, but clearly had no training in how to handle such situations. Between my sobs and gasps for air, I asked her to call a co-worker and respiratory therapist that was working that night, because I knew he would be able to help me (at least better than she could).
He came and sat with me, coaching me through some breathing. But ultimately I had reached a breaking point, and there was no going back.
So I was wheeled to the emergency room where I called my mom and waited to see the doc. I left a few hours later with a note, excusing me from work for the night due to a “medical condition”.
I felt absolutely horrible, that I let down my colleagues like that. That I couldn’t just keep it together like the rest of them.
It’s funny. I’m not sure if this is just my personality, or the training/messaging I received a nurse. But being a registered nurse, I feel such a deep sense of responsibility to the healthcare system and the community at large. I feel like there is so much attached expectations. We are told over and over again that nursing is a vocation.
Fast forward 4 years, and I am standing up at a Nurse Practitioner conference held by the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, talking about this absolute sense of overwhelm I am feeling in my new role as Attending NP in a Long Term Care Home. At this conference, I stood up and spoke into a microphone to the panel and the crowd about how I was about to resign from my position, because I just couldn’t do it anymore.
Again, I felt like a horrible person, for thinking and saying that out loud. The CEO spoke directly to me and told me NOT to resign, and that they would help support me. In fact, I even got nominated, right then and there, as co-chair for a Community of Practice for NPs in LTC.
Boom. The vocation of a nurse.
It was too little (or too much?), too late though. I did end up stepping down from that position about a month later.
It’s been 3 months now since I announced my resignation, and 1 month since I have been off work.
And I feel as overwhelmed and burnt out as ever.
The thought of going back to work as a nurse terrifies me. I just don’t know if I have it in me anymore, to carry around this burden of responsibility that comes with the highly praised title of being a nurse.
Maybe I don’t want to be “Michèle, Nurse Practitioner” anymore.
Maybe I just want to be “Michèle”.
3 thoughts on “Considering my Resignation from the Nursing Profession”
This is deep my Girl ! It made me think and think 🤔
Been a Nurse is not easy… any department.. Lyc.. HOSPITAL… community etc… you’ A brave lady ! Keep it up
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This is super insane! Sorry you have to go through this! You are an awesome human and being such the source, god, spirit, what ever you prefer or find enlightening will guide you to your path. Thanks for sharing.
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Take your time!! I was on sick leave for 4 months the summer of 2017…i felt guilty for being off work during the summer…i felt guilty for being home with my 2 big kids and sleeping or crying mosst of the days…i felt guilty for sleeping almost thr whole day on my sons 10th birthday while he was home with me…i felt guilty not wanting to even get out of my house for milk….i had never been this low….it took four months for me to even consider going back to work…everytime i was scheduled to see my doctor (once a month) i would have massuve anxiety for just thinking she may send me back to work!! Thank god i had a great supportive doctor(ive known her since i was 11) who knows me well….anyways…fast forward two years, now, and im loving my job more then ever! I mean yes i would love to stay home but bills have to be paid and i dont mind coming in to work everyday 🙂 so take the time you need to find yourself, and everything will fall into place!! You have a whole bunch of people behind you cheering on!!