Is it wrong to plan for your career based on your ideas about the future economy?
November 29, 2007 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Help me get some perspective about my life and career. Is it stupid to make career decisions based on world trends that haven't happened yet? Or is it stupider to make plans based on the idea that everything will stay pretty much the way it is going?

I'll try to make this as short as possible.
1) I'm thinking very seriously about going to nursing school.
2) I've been thinking about it for a long time.
3) I'm interested in it and think it might be a really good career for me but:
4) I'm not sure.
5) My father is a nurse. We are very similar people. It worked well for him.
6) I'm a pretty creative guy. My father isn't so much.
7) I'm 32
8) I've spent the last 12 years doing a weird variety of things. I repaired musical instruments, was an organic farmer, have written for magazines, done photography professionally (at a pretty high level), am a pretty accomplished musician (went to conservatory), have built boats and done carpentry. These are all things that I'm pretty passionate about and love doing.
9) I've made very little money doing any of the above. I'm not a particularly good business person and also because I'm always doing 11 things it's hard for me to get rolling with any one of them as a business. This year I've made more money doing creative things than I ever have before, but definitely not enough to live on.
10) I had a bit of depression a few months ago and was feeling rather grim. I had quite a bit of OCD about the state of the planet/economy along with worrying about energy issues. My basic feelings (without the depression) is that we are running out of cheap energy and that a lot of things we see as a healthy economy are probably going to go by the wayside. But after moving to a new city that I love, I don't feel as depressed about it. But that's sort of what I believe.
11) #10 makes me think that being an eccentric kind of person in the creative economy is not a secure place to be. And that it would be a really nice thing not to have to worry about finding work in the future. I feel like nursing would give me a really solid place to have a job where I feel needed and busy (I hate being bored and do like working), while giving me a flexible schedule to do the things I'm passionate about.
12) I worry that this is kind of a strategy is based on fear, and that I should pursue the things that I'm passionate about, instead of settling for a more standard career.
13) I'm taking a CNA class in December, which I think will give me a lot more perspective on if I'm interested in being a nurse or not.
14)There is definitely a big part of me that is really worried about the future and I feel like part of my interest in nursing is hedging my bets against what I'm imagining is a somewhat instable future. I feel like health care is probably one of the most stable places to be in the economy.
15) But I do have a lot of interest in nursing, and have been around nurses all my life (all my father's friends are nurses). I'm having trouble seperating my desire to be in a stable financial situation with my actual feelings about nursing school. The idea of helping people and being connected to people all day is appealing to me. I definitely need to be around people, and like a chaotic work environment with a lot of activity. I'm thinking about being an ER nurse.
16) I'm very tired of having to start at square one with all these creative pursuits that I pick up. That said, I'm learning to stick with the things I'm doing, focus myself and get more done. But the idea of a steady career is very appealing.

So my question is, given the above, do you think that my idea about looking for a job that is going to be stable regardless of future changes is wise or unwise?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
FWIW, I know friends who are nurses who work less than full time (25-30 hrs) for a handsome, full-time salary. It's not the worst thing to have a stable, well-paying day job, for any artist.
posted by sock it to me monkey at 2:49 PM on November 29, 2007

You know, it sounds like nursing may be a good bet for you. The things you mentioned being good at - many of them are quite technical and hands-on, which nursing is. And if you like chaos and stress, than yes, be a hospital nurse! And I think it's probably a good idea for a creative person to have a way to make money so that they can pursue their creative projects without fear of eviction.

However, I also have spent most of my life around nurses (my father was an EMT, his best friend was a nurse, he now works for the nurse's union, etc etc), so I know that the field isn't perfect. For one thing, you make good money, but you work a lot of hours, especially at the beginning, to earn that money.Especially given the staffing crunches at most hospitals - nurses are taking on more and more work and pressure, which might make it hard for you to have the energy for the creative stuff. Are you ok with having to put the creative stuff on the back burner while you're building your nursing career?

It sounds like the CNA course is a good place to start, at least.
posted by lunasol at 2:50 PM on November 29, 2007

Change is the only constant. Stop worrying about what cannot be known (the future) and start dealing with now. I think you're trying to get there but the creative chicken little-types you're hanging with may well be clouding your judgement.

Sounds like you'll make a great nurse. Do it. Of course you'll keep your creative pursuits -- or at least return to them after school.
posted by trinity8-director at 2:53 PM on November 29, 2007

Everyone likes helping people. But do you like helping sick people? Do you like people who are sick because of their own life choices, who are going to continue to make bad choices and that you will see in the ER over and over again? Do you like taking care of people who are angry at you because you don't have a magic pill that will make them better, or because they want some magic pill that you aren't allowed to give them? Can you cope with bodily fluids and odors of various origin (and there is nothing on earth as abhorrent as the smell of someone who is dying of cancer)?

For me the answer is no no no, ten thousand times no. I can't even stand to wipe a toddler's nose, let alone care for a sick adult. If the answer for you is yes, then by all means, consider nursing. It's okay to consider the economy, but also consider how you'll feel in thirty years if no crash comes and there are plenty of people around you who have been successful with their creative pursuits? Will you be okay with that?

Have you gotten treatment for your depression and OCD? It's hard to make decisions with the Black Dog hanging around.
posted by happyturtle at 3:19 PM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

My mother was an EMT who transitioned into ER nursing then orthopedic nursing. My sister is currently in nursing school. She's quite a good student, but even she admits nursing school is rather rigorous. If you've been out of school for a while, it may be a bit of a shock to return to studying, exams, finals and all that rest.

Once you actually get the degree, the biggest thing you're going to need to deal with (at least, from what I've gathered from my conversations with my family) are the patients. You'll be dealing with a lot of different kinds of people, some in very stressful/unpleasant/miserable situations. If you've ever considered yourself "not a people person," nursing might be very trying.

However, finding work as a nurse is very easy. Health care workers are always in demand, especially nurses. They may not be may great compared to responsibilities of their position, and the hours can be quite rough, but it's certainly livable and stable compared to many other professions.

As with the above suggestions, start with the CNA class and take it from there.
posted by Nelsormensch at 3:34 PM on November 29, 2007

They may not be may great compared to responsibilities of their position...

Sorry, that should have been "The pay may not be great...".

(The + pay = They?)
posted by Nelsormensch at 3:36 PM on November 29, 2007

To piggy back off Nelsormensch: Are you okay dealing with sick people? Do you have empathy? Do you have good people skills? Another thought: You might want to see if you do some informational interviewing with nurses outside your family. Find out what they like about being a nurse, what they don't like, if the field is changing and how, whether or not. Stability is one thing but genuine career satisfaction is another. Good luck!
posted by greenchile at 3:40 PM on November 29, 2007

It sounds like a good move for you. What is good about nursing is that it pays well and it offers flexibility in scheduling so you could do 12 hour days and then get 4 days off. That is a nice block of time to engage your creative side. I've known 2 ER nurses and the burnout factor is real, but both stayed in it for almost 20 years before changing careers. Look at it as something you can do now, that you might enjoy and might be very rewarding. There is no reason why you can't change your mind and transition into some other field down the road.
posted by 45moore45 at 3:45 PM on November 29, 2007

It sounds like you would be a good nurse, but with your diverse experience and concern for the planet, I think you'd make a better teacher. You'd have more opportunity to share your expertise, and more influence on the future.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:12 PM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

I went back to school for a shot at a job that would likely exist after the economy collapses because sometimes I have these crushing anxiety attacks about what it will be like. I did pick a career that provides a lot of flexibility and that I think I'll enjoy even if it ends up being in a non-apocalyptic world.

In general I think everyone has to develop their own metric for picking jobs, and you can pick whichever measures make the most sense for you. My parents laughed at my economic-collapse reasoning; but they have picked jobs for what I consider silly reasons, but that were really important to them.
posted by holyrood at 5:15 PM on November 29, 2007

I think being a nurse is a great idea for you. I have heard the same thing as sock it to me monkey: "FWIW, I know friends who are nurses who work less than full time (25-30 hrs) for a handsome, full-time salary. It's not the worst thing to have a stable, well-paying day job, for any artist." You'll be spending a couple years focused on your training and a couple years working overtime if you are wanting to pay off your school loans as fast as possible, and in exchange you'll be able to support yourself on less than full-time work (under non-apocalypse conditions) and you'll have a very important skill that continues to be valuable under apocalypse conditions.

On #10, I'd take yourself seriously and not try to dismiss it as "fear-based." Fear is a real message for yourself. For me, the one time I tried to really ignore fears, I got into a situation that truly was messed up, and as I continued to try to override the fear I missed other signals, made other mistakes, and only felt more and more panicky. Whether or not your fear is based on an accurate prediction of the future, it is something inside you that you have to take seriously one way or another. Suppressing it just leads to things like panic attacks.

Your desire to have a stable fallback will only increase as you age, so unless you expect your #9 to somehow change, it is ideal to find a stable job that still gives you time to bounce around and pursue ever-changing passions.
posted by salvia at 6:08 PM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that nurses don't necessarily work with sick people.

There is tremendous demand in the pharmaceutical industry for nurses. They can assist in recruiting patients for clinical trials, work in the medical communication division, and also function as support staff to the drug reps that are talking to the primary care providers. There is more demand for nurses than supply, and they are well compensated. You could move around a lot with a nursing degree and probably always have some kind of "hireability" to fall back on if you decide to make other creative pursuits for short periods.
posted by dendrite at 8:01 PM on November 29, 2007

I think given what you've said, looking for a stable job is reasonable. I am not sure that nursing is that job for you. The good nurses I've known, like the good doctors, have mostly felt that nursing was their vocation - something specific they were called to do, taking care of sick people. Nursing is a dirty, difficult, smelly, painstaking job; there is a high rate of on the job injuries (I have never met a mature nurse without lower back pain or even slipped discs, from shifting patients); and the emotional toll the work takes on the people who do it cannot be overstated.

I find that one thing missing from my own work as a doctor is creativity. I am engaged to be creative in chatting with patients and engaging them in treatment plans, but when it comes down to rendering diagnosis and treating disease, there is no room for creativity. I'm afraid that there's even less room for creativity in nursing. I know that I have never been particularly pleased to learn that a nurse has interpreted my orders "creatively," for instance. There is too much on the line.

A lot of the things you've mentioned in number 8 above are things I do as hobbies; the others are things that I've never tried but love to do. That's because my work in delivering health care doesn't exercise that creative part of my soul, not one whit. The best nurses I've known have been pretty stolid, salt-of-the-earth types, and given what you've said I'm cautious about lumping you in with them.

I'd definitely encourage you to candystripe (volunteer in a hospital nursing station) for a couple of weeks at least to get an idea of the day in, day out of what nurses do before you take this leap. And I'd encourage you to consider other options too. There are a lot of easier ways to put in your 9 to 5 and make a steady buck.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:55 PM on November 29, 2007

er, that should read: things I've never tried but would love to do.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:57 PM on November 29, 2007

As long as you can handle poop and blood, it sounds like a great idea.

I like the suggestion of teaching, too, perhaps because I'm considering making the same professional transition in the next year or so for similar reasons. Someone as creative as you might enjoy a daily outlet like that.

Good luck!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:46 AM on November 30, 2007

BTW, in some states, including mine, you can get big sign-on bonuses to become a nurse, and education programs are cheap, if not free, because they are subsidized by an industry facing an acute shortage of staff.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:47 AM on November 30, 2007

I'm an RN. I went to nursing school in my 30's after years of doing numerous odd jobs, creative things I loved and wanted to experiment in. I wouldn't trade that for anything because a lot of that stuff was a younger person's game. But later I was ready for something more stable and I had always thought about nursing, but waited because I thought I wasn't serious enough for it. For me that turned out to be the right route through my 20's and 30s, and now bedside nursing in my 40's.

I think you should try it. You won't know until you get your feet wet. If you like learning it is a wealth of continuous and fascinating information.

The CNA job will tell you if you have the desire for nursing. That is a great way to introduce yourself to hospital culture and intimate patient care. CNA's help patients with some of the more personal aspects of care: cleaning, toileting - things that require sensitivity and awareness for private behavior that is no longer available for that person.

You might also consider phlebotomy training which is great for becoming familiar with blood work and finding veins, or the unit secretary, who schedules all lab and diagnostic tests for all patients. That job is a great way to get a grasp of how patient care is a collaborative effort between many teams: the doctors, the nurses, diagnostic techs, lab workers and people who work in transportation. Each has a role in getting the doctor's orders done.


A big note about nursing school:

In my opinion, nursing school is a game of endurance. The people that make it in and then make it through - simply endured everything and kept going forward. Do not forget that. Many things and people along the way will tell you flat out you're wrong for this, but only you will know that. Don't listen to the hate. Just keep jumping the hoops.

Many of those who did not finish might have made wonderful nurses. Some of the students that do make it through seem like borderline lunatics. Some of the professors are there for a love of teaching, others seem to be there because they hate all other aspects of nursing and this job gives them weekends, nights, holidays and summers. The second group make nursing school very difficult. They are full of outdated notions that seem ridiculous. They make strange and often incorrect generalizations about cultures in an effort to be "culturally sensitive." They will tell you some outdated medical information that they will then test you on. You'll also hear stupid generalizations about how men are and how women are which will make you wish it was 1955 where it was probably more progressive. It will be infinitely frustrating and unlike any other education experience you've had. All nursing schools have these professors - even the best.

As an "older" student - be open. Don't be that person who is set in their ways and always complains. That 19 year old who talks like a dingbat but gets the best test scores can show you something about taking exams and studying. Be open. Be respectful to everyone. Your life experience will help you deal with all the different people you will have to work with along this path. That life experience is a gift.

Enduring all that, recognize that nursing school is not about nursing. It is training to pass the boards. You'll learn how to be a nurse when you actually work as one.


Now about nursing - it's very hard at first, harder than anything in nursing school, but it gets easier. Nursing needs diversity and creativity like nothing else. I like working at teaching hospitals because the doctors, fellows and med students are more inclusive of nurses as part of the healthcare team. It's a stereotype, but many older doctors really are stuck in this old notion of nurses being their servants or something.

Some days I come home completely exhausted: physically, mentally, intellectually, emotionally. But that makes me really use my time off FOR me. I have issues with depression but this job sometimes helps that - my perspective of what I have of personal value is more obvious after working with those that have lost so much. I am almost strangely more confident, stronger than I was before, and I know that is from working towards getting things done for my patients. I really love that effect it's had on me. Before nursing, I worried that my passive, sometimes sad nature made me a wrong fit for nursing, but nursing has helped strengthen me like nothing else in life.

It's a great life. I could talk forever about this but I've already written a book. Email if you have questions I'd love to be any help. My blog has some of my early experiences in nursing school, and my work as an assistant in an emergency room. Best wishes.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:59 AM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

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