From Nurse to Writer

In July of 2015, after working as a registered nurse for 32 years, I made a major career change and became a full-time writer. My dog, Tehya, celebrated – Mom home all the time was music to her floppy ears!

In 1984, at the age of 22, I started my first job in nursing. As a nursing supervisor on an inpatient hospice unit, I learned the art of being with someone as they face the end of life. I cried with them, held their hands to let them know they weren’t alone, massaged their backs, medicated them for pain and supported their families. This was the year of the first known AIDs cases in Minnesota, and I watched many young men succumb to the cruel disease.

From there, my career took me to a hospital in downtown Minneapolis (Mount Sinai) where I continued to work with AIDs patients. Mount Sinai was connected to the University of MN AIDs research program, and became a part of a medical community that was committed to finding a cure for this devastating disease.

From Mount Sinai, I moved to the University of Minnesota, where I spent the bulk of my nursing career. Initially I worked in the hospital on the neurosurgical floor, and then became the nurse manager of the Neurology clinic. From there, I transferred to the Epilepsy Specialty Clinic where I worked in drug research; many of the drugs we studied then are now used in the treatment of epilepsy.

From there, I attempted to find jobs that were less stressful. I worked as a school nurse (loved the hours, hated the sadness), a clinic triage nurse and a telephonic nurse case manager. Oh, and I also worked for a “flu shot” company. I still say I’m the best shot giver in the state of MN!

In my final nursing position, I worked at a private pay home care agency. I was hired to work 32 hours/week, but ended up working 50, or more. In addition, I was on call 24/7 – something that wasn’t told to me upon hiring. I was responsible for setting up medications, assessing new clients and training/supervising the aides that were providing the care. The turnover rate was over 100% - something I had never witnessed before. I had no say in who was hired, and my concerns over some of the caregivers were not taken seriously.  The stress of the job took its toll in a major way. I saw my doctor several times who prescribed medication for anxiety, medication to help me sleep. But, as soon as I would fall asleep, the phone would ring with another emergency, or another complaint about the care that was being provided. For the sake of my mental health, I decided to quit. And, when I put in my notice, I decided that I had given all I could to the nursing profession.

I had already started taking writing classes at The Loft – and so, with the support of my family and close friends – I decided to take on writing a book. And, soon enough, The Best Girl went from a possibility to a reality. And, for now, I feel this is exactly where I want, and need, to be.

Have any of you experienced a major career, or lifestyle, change? How did it feel at the time? How does it feel now?