Saturday, March 7, 2015

So it turns out, I'm an ER nurse.

It's weird.  My resignation period (2 weeks) will be longer than my regular employment period (1 week).

On the positive side, I wasted as little of everyone's time as possible.  It turns out, I am an ER nurse.

In a prison environment, monotony and routine are prized.  They want everything to be as structured and routine as possible.  I think I actually shuddered a little as I typed that.  I don't know what I envisioned, but it wasn't what I found.  The transition from chaos management in the ED to boredom management in the DOC (Department of Corrections) would be too high a hurdle for me to overcome.  Not only that, but there were some pay and scheduling issues that added to the negative side of the ledger. 

The prison nursing experience will go down as a failure, but not a bad one.  I learned a few very valuable things. 

First, I am very lucky to be able to work like I have been over the past few years.  I have freedom to fix my own schedule for the most part.  At least I get, in my contract, to set up my schedule.  If I don't want to work that shift, I don't apply to that hospital. I can require that certain days off be put into the contract.  Most of the time, hospitals are pretty good at working with me on that anyway.  At the corrections gig, the schedule was set by them - not me, they could assign mandatory overtime, and if they needed to, they could change my shift.

Second, it turns out that working 3 days is better than 5.  Yes, even if they are 3 reeeaaaallllyyy long days.  With 4 days off a week, you can go places and see things.  With 2 days off a week, that gets much harder. I like to have as much of my own time under my own direction.

Third, I have autonomy in many respects.  As an ER nurse, I have the ability in most situations, to do the things I know need to be done without having to wait to be directed to do so.  The vast majority of doctors in the ED appreciate having preliminary lab results and/or x-rays done prior to them seeing the patient if it is going to take a while.  In corrections, everything appears to be very regimented.  There are pretty firm limits on what a nurse can and can't do at any given time.  The reasons behind that are pretty sound, but that doesn't make it chafe any less.

Finally, and I think most important, I felt underutilized.  Weird for me.  I always picture myself as a pretty lazy person.  I thought that decreasing the amount of pressure would be good, and it might.  But not that much.  It turns out that I have a pretty specific skill set that is valuable.  I am a good ER nurse.  What makes me a little special, I think, is that you can take me and drop me into pretty much any ER in the country at the beginning of a shift and I can become a functional member of your team before that shift is done.  I won't be the best nurse on your unit, but I won't be the worst either.  And I will get better as the days progress.  Call me conceited or narcissistic if you want, but I think that makes me special and I like that feeling.  I like doing something that most people believe they couldn't do.

Don't get me wrong, working as a corrections nurse is a fine job performed by good people.  I just don't think it would work long term for me.  So why stay around longer than I needed to find that out?

I feel pretty silly about it all, but I think this whole adventure had value and taught me some important things.

If I'm going to be a nurse, I'm an ER nurse.  Time to get back to it.