Thoughts from a Nurse on Retiring

How I’d welcome the freedom of luxuriously long hours to do what I wanted.  I could smell the flowers in my backyard as I imagined sitting on my porch reading a mystery novel, or taking one of those interesting-sounding classes that meets at 10 a.m. on a weekday, and then lunching with friends.

I’d leave the long, often unrewarding and frequently unappreciated hours on the nursing unit to others.   The endless hours spent in the following activities could be done by someone else:  planning, providing and evaluating nursing care, juggling time schedules, preparing annual evaluations, initiating incident reports, meeting with a dissatisfied family member, arbitrating a dispute between two staff members, running behind interns and residents and getting ready for J.C.A.H.O. 

I’d gladly leave the “rat race” to someone from the younger generation of nurses.  But weren’t these the nurses I had interviewed, hired, oriented and then planned the farewell party when they decided they just couldn’t work all those weekends or evenings, long days or stay over another shift because someone called in sick?  They could take over now.  I had paid my dues!

Actually, I had not planned to retire for seven more years.  That’s when I would achieve that magical combination of age and years of service that the federal government deemed “retirement time.”  I didn’t think I could wait that long; I was impatient to start my new life.  So I decided to resign, invest my retirement money and enjoy life while I could.

After six months of going out to lunch, catching the sales at the mall, and reading a few good mysteries, besides being fat and broke, I realized an important fact:  I was still a nurse!  Someone I had just met would ask, “What do you do?”  I’d reply, “I’m a nurse.”  Their next question, “Where do you work?” conjured up feelings of guilt.  As time went on, a vague dissatisfaction did not go away.

So much of who I am and what I’ve been about for almost thirty years is nursing.  For someone who had spent all those years being fiercely goal-directed, reading Sue Grafton’s newest thriller just didn’t qualify for my type of significant achievement.  Maybe that old saying, “You can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl” holds true for nursing as well.  You can take the nurse out of nursing but you can’t take nursing out of the nurse.  Once I realized this, it was as if a burden had been lifted.  Once more I had a sense of purpose.  I went job hunting!

The position advertised in the newspaper for a Medical-Surgical Staff Development Educator at Riverside Regional Medical Center sounded just right for me.  After all, most of my experience had been in Med-Surg areas.  I had a MSN in Medical/Surgical Nursing with special emphasis on education. 

I had never done much formal teaching and I have to admit coming into a new and different setting after twenty-three years with the same employer was a little frightening!  Doubts began to creep into my mind.  Can I be an effective teacher?  Will I be able to adjust to a different type of health care setting?  Do I still have something valuable to offer nursing?

Well, I’m pleased and happy to say that I’m enjoying my new role as Medical/Surgical Educator in Staff Development at the Riverside Regional Medical Center.  I didn’t feel like the new person for long because the people who participated in my orientation took great pains to see that I felt welcome.  They even took the time to add a historical perspective, which I found to be very helpful. 

Riverside has a rich nursing heritage. I’ve enjoyed reading the old issues of Riverside Nurse magazine and seeing the circuitous route that some have followed to get where they want to be.  I feel very fortunate at this stage of my career to be associated with such a fine institution.

Floanne Hicks, M.S.N., R.N.

Director, Staff Development, Riverside Regional Medical Center


Click here to view story pg. 1 in book.

Click here to view story pg. 2 in book.