Seriously, I’m asking: what can I do besides nursing?
Among the many other changes wrought by this long, weird summer is the realization that I can’t do what I used to do. I don’t know if it’s because my bipolar has finally altered my brain to the point that it no longer functions as well as it once did, or because the meds I have to take to control it are notorious for causing ‘brain fog’ and forgetfulness. At any rate, I have to figure out what I’m going to do for the rest of my working life, and I’m struggling with that concept because I don’t know how to do anything else BUT nurse.
I have a pretty good thing going with my current job, to be sure. They know me well and understand that I have a mental health condition, and they also get what I’m going through with Will’s cancer. In fact, we’re more like family than co-workers, so they’ve done their best in finding a place for me on the schedule that accommodates both my needs and his appointments. You can’t ask for any better than that…..my last employer certainly wasn’t this helpful.
So I’m on-call during the weekends, going in only to do admissions and the (very) occasional med pass. I’m not fond of working Sundays because I often miss Mass, which makes me feel vaguely unsettled all week; but I’m not going to complain because it’s work, right? Not to mention the fact that I need the money……
But sometimes I wonder just how the hell my life—and career—have come to this. I used to be so adaptable; I could think fast on my feet and cope with constantly shifting priorities so easily that I never even stopped to think about it. Naturally, my supervisors and co-workers came to expect it of me, and I expected it of myself; so when I became less and less able to deal, it baffled everyone….including me.
I’ve been fighting this for a couple of years now, and I’ve reluctantly come to realize that the cognitive changes are permanent and that I’ll never again be able to do the kinds of nursing that I did for so long. I can do what I do now only because I don’t have to be responsible for more than one or two people at a time—I assess their psychosocial status, I ask them questions, I perform a physical exam, and then I hand them off to the REAL nurse and finish all the paperwork.
In the meantime, I’ve just played ambassador for the facility and given the patients and their families what I hope is a great first impression…..all things I enjoy (and am reasonably good at) doing. But I can’t keep body and soul together by working only eight or ten hours a week, and I don’t know what else I can do that pays more than the minimum wage.
So where does an older worker with mental illness (and a host of other medical problems) fit in? Is there life out there?
If there’s an upside to all this, it’s that I find myself actually wanting to do something different, now that circumstances have forced it on me. I’d love to keep my weekend gig and then do something that’s a little more fun and a little less stressful than nursing for a couple of days per week. Or, failing that, I’d like to find a job that utilizes my nursing knowledge and experience, but doesn’t require 24/7 responsibility, a five-day work week, or the ability to focus for long periods of time. I’m done with that. I did it for years, and it damn near landed me in the psych unit. Which is where my p-doc has threatened to put me if I’m ever tempted to take another job like that last one!
So…..if any of my readers have any suggestions for late-life career options, please use the Reply button and let me know what YOU think, because I’m at a loss. Oh yeah, and it has to be at least somewhat dignified and age-appropriate—no streetwalking, no asking people if they want fries with that, and absolutely NO wearing animal costumes that weigh 300 pounds and feel like 300 degrees inside. Fuhgeddaboudit!!