Sunday, November 06, 2005

Occupational Hazards

Identifying as a caregiver in this world is a sword with at least two edges. Being a caregiver---"giving care" as part of one's daily work in the world---is in many minds a noble cause and profession. This may be true to some extent, yet it brings with it many hidden occupational hazards. As I have discussed before, "compassion fatigue" is always around the corner, along with many of the other so-called "negative" emotions. Direct care of other human beings is a tiring occupation yet offers numerous rewards of spiritual, if not monetary, value.

Teaching brings its own rewards, as I have discovered. Having been offered a position as a full-time teacher/program coordinator, the pull of education has had some influence in my world, yet my hesitation to enter that sphere full-time is quite strong. Being dedicated to caregiving, I understand that I would need to continue to work in a direct care setting even if I accepted a position as a teacher. How else can a nursing professor teach the art and science of nursing if not him- or herself still immersed in the world of patient care? So that career choice would still necessitate having multiple jobs and multiple professional roles. I was also just offered a position as a nursing supervisor/manager for a local office of a corporate nationwide visiting nurse agency. As a man in a predominantly female field, I would then join the ranks of men who have risen from the ranks of caregivers into that of management, adding to the perception that men rise more easily to management positions in nursing in large part due to their gender. True or not, this is a prevalent dynamic in the field and one which I am hesitant to become a statistical member of.

For all of its flaws and shortcomings, I still feel an emotional and professional allegiance to my current full-time position, providing care in a cutting-edge nurse-run organization which may eventually serve as a model of delivering medical care to underserved chronically ill populations around the country. Taking into consideration the stress, the tension, the huge caseload, the frustrations, it still feels like home, for now at least.

And teaching new nurses? Does it still hold my attention? Yes, yet the cognitive dissonance comes in the knowledge that continuing to work forty-plus hours each week in a full-time job on top of a committment to teaching a four hour class one night each week is wearing me down. The amount of my leisure time hours spent in preparation for teaching eats away at my overall peace of mind, a consistent feeling of having "more to do" hanging in the air of my home. As much as the act of teaching is enjoyable and satisfying, doing so in the context of so much other hard work is a definite source of stress and unrest. I am currently quite clear that I will finish out the academic year at the school, seeing my current group of 23 students through to graduation, and cease my teaching activities, simplifying my life both at work and at home. If one's health and happiness begins to suffer from one's professional choices in life, one must make changes that will ease the tension and dissonance that such choices can bring.

I realize that this missive is quite self-indulgent and introspective, but remind myself that it is "blogger's license" at its self-centered best. Where else can one ruminate in an unedited fashion on the vicissitudes of one's life and career? If you made it through this rather banal piece of writing, thanks for your indulgence.
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