Not-so-new-grad RN returning to nursing
March 25, 2012 8:53 PM   Subscribe

[Nursing filter] Not-so-new-grad RN needs advice on returning to nursing after a year of soul-searching.

Some background: I graduated in May 2010 from a BSN program; I did quite well academically, but lacked confidence at the bedside. By my final semester of college, I felt more drawn towards public/community health, but at that point had accepted the fact that I would need a year or two of inpatient experience before specializing. After a few months of job hunting, I took an RN position at a sub-acute/LTC facility. Here's where the crap hit the fan: I ended up quitting that job two weeks before orientation ended due to a major panic attack set off by an incident with an aggravated patient. I spent two months in a deep depression, then decided to attend to massage school (something I had personally wanted to do since I graduated high school, but my mom had adamantly opposed). For the last six months, I've worked as a massage therapist, but I feel like I'm on autopilot most days, and now I want to give nursing another shot.

The situation now: Over the last year or so since I quit that position at the sub-acute/LTC facility, I've had plenty of time to recover and understand why I had such a huge breakdown about that job and nursing in general. Part of it was that I went into nursing for the wrong reasons (job security, good income), but another part was that I had stopped listening to my gut and took that position even though I knew deep-down that I had never wanted to work in a nursing home. The time I've spent as a massage therapist has helped me realize a few things: one, that I have a real desire to help people; two, that I am most comfortable working one-on-one with people for extended periods of time; and three, I love working autonomously. For that reason, I think I would probably do best working in an outpatient office or school setting, with the eventual goal of moving towards public health nursing, perhaps specializing further in epidemiology or biostatistics.

Currently I am in the process of applying for a school nurse certification program that starts in the fall, and I will be taking an RN refresher course over the summer.

My questions are:
1) What should I do after I take the refresher course? Can/should I focus on school nursing, or should I try to get a position in acute care to provide a solid foundation for what I truly want to pursue?
2) I fell apart so soon after graduating, in part because I wasn't prepared for the realities of nursing. What can I do this time around to keep my spirits up?
3) Is there anything I'm overlooking? What are some questions I really need to ask myself before pursuing nursing again?

If you've managed to read all this, I really appreciate your time, and thanks in advance for any insight you can provide.
posted by constellations to Work & Money (5 answers total)
You should talk to some of the people who were in charge of your program (the BSN) and get some support, advice and guidance from them. It's important for them to know what a struggle you had going from classroom to bedside, and they will likely have resources to take you through the whole process of how to re-enter nursing, what to do, what to avoid, etc.

I've been peripherally involved with a project looking at just this situation ie the challendes inherent in transitioning from school to work in nursing. It's widely known and acknowledged that situations like yours are not uncommon; while there is tons of support and mentorship and preceptorship for new physicians, nurses are expected to hit the floor and work!
posted by lulu68 at 9:09 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know much about nursing or jobs related, but I would think if you just keep going back to the classroom your turning away from something you might be afraid of, which is actually getting out there and doing the job. I think you need to dive into nursing again and as soon as you can. Take the refresher course, get into working at a place that is not too demanding/more low key-- maybe hospice? school setting? outpatient office, like you mentioned. Start working and then return back to school after you felt out the job a little bit. The more you try the more you'll see what you like and how much you can handle.

When you go into your new job make sure you tell yourself I need to stay here X amount of time. Usually I feel 1 year is a good amount of time before I feel comfortable at a job and can really get a clear view of what I can handle and not handle.
posted by melizabeth at 9:24 PM on March 25, 2012

something I had personally wanted to do since I graduated high school, but my mom had adamantly opposed

Why did your mom oppose that (asked the massage therapist)?

Being on autopilot at your work as a massage therapist says something about the way you are approaching your work, not about massage. All three things you are looking for are available as a massage therapist. Maybe you need to challenge yourself to learn new modalities, or to veer towards medical massage if you are just doing relaxation massages, or to start your own pratice instead of working for someone else. I don't necessarily think that going back for nursing yet again will help, you may find yourself posting again in a year or two when you're unhappy with that.
posted by parrot_person at 11:03 PM on March 25, 2012

Do you think that you would like home health nursing? Its pretty autonomous and one-on-one. However, you'll probably (definitely) want to get some experience on the floor before you take on such an independent position. Maybe you could look more into that and keep it as your end goal.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:36 AM on March 26, 2012

Doh, just saw your questions.
1. OK, I am a nursing student and have grappled with this SO MUCH. Just look at my question history! I am lucky/unlucky that my program is very clinically-intense because clinicals made me want to find an empty room and cry. The anxiety you describe around patient care sounds so familiar. I heard all about how we should take a job in med/surg after graduation to get our feet wet. However, the idea terrified me and I was sure that i was going to ignore the advice and look for a job in a clinic or a school.

However, after six months of 2-3 days a week of patient care I am JUST NOW starting to feel the anxiety subside. It's definitely still there, but I can actually "critically think" in clinicals rather than just try to keep my head above water. How were clinicals for you? Did you feel supported? I totally understand your desire to look for a less-stressful job. However, my personal opinion is that you shouldn't avoid acute care out of fear, so give yourself the chance to succeed on the floor! What helped me was realizing that it is okay to be balls-to-the-walls stressed as a student / new nurse. What you feel is totally normal.

2. Do you ever go to the allnurses forum? After I've had a particularly rough day I like to go there and read posts from new nurses. It's comforting to see others grapple with these insecurities and succeed. Reading the encouragement from other nurses also helps. If you end up deciding that you really do want to work in a clinic or a school but decide to go back to a sub-acute/acute setting to gain experience first, maybe it will help to keep in mind that it's not a forever job and you have an end-goal of being a home health nurse / school nurse, whatever you decide.

3. Nursing is a cool field because there will be a job to fit your needs / strengths (at least where I live, as it's not too hard for new nurses to find jobs). If whatever job you decide to take doesn't work out, remember that you can always switch it up and stay within the field of nursing.

me-mail me if you want encouragement! God knows I hear you loud and clear.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:54 AM on March 26, 2012

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