Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's the End of My Leave as I Know It (and I feel fine)

Well, dear Reader, tonight marks the end of my six-week medical leave of absence from my full-time job, with Monday morning's return to my Nurse Care Manager's desk in approximately 14 hours from the time of this writing. So, what did I accomplish on this leave of absence, you ask? For posterity and my own edification, allow me to enumerate:

Resignation: first and foremost, during this period of time for reflection and self-care I came to the earth-shattering conclusion that I can no longer sustain the pace of my position, and I submitted my letter of resignation. While I return to the fray tomorrow at 9am, I enter only briefly, knowing full well that, come January 18th, my tenure at that position will have come to a timely end. Saying goodbye to beloved and respected colleagues will be difficult, but most challenging will be terminating my relationships with dozens of patients, many with whom I have shared a great deal over seven years. Be that as it may, the decision feels right, and I'm sure I'll process some aspects of it here on Digital Doorway. It's like giving up a part of my identity, both as a person and as a nurse, and the letting go (and grieving) process has already begun.

Hospice: I have applied and been hired for a position as a per diem hospice nurse at a small residential hospice not far from my home. I hope to complete my orientation there quite soon, and begin to pick up shifts as they become available. A goal long postponed.

New opportunity: I have contracted to serve as a Nurse Consultant for Nurse LinkUp, an online nurse networking community for which I previously provided occasional articles. When the site is re-launched, I will be providing original content, recruiting members and advertisers, and using my experience as a nurse to influence the development of the site.

Self-care: acupuncture, a sleep study, psychotherapy, rest, exercise, rejuvenation, solitude, writing, reading----I have had almost as much of these as I wanted (though a few more naps would have been nice......)

Home-care: laundry, organization, an enema for the basement, cleaning, winterizing---good medicine for the nurse with OCD.

Business idea: the development of stress management and burnout prevention workshops for nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Technological upgrade: we did it---we switched to Mac from Windows, and I am reveling in the change! Eat your heart out, Bill Gates!

The importance of decreased stress: the most crucial accomplishment and realization of these six precious weeks has been the need for decreased stress in my life. How else could I have cultivated the needed distance to realize that my stress level was leading me on a path of chronic stress-related illness and dysphoria? Without such a radical decision (with thanks to my wife Mary for pushing me), there may not have been a renewed commitment to self-care, and a realization that working full-time, 9-5, was just not working for me anymore. Not working? Nay, it was not working, and I was not fully living. I was caught in the maelstrom of stress compounded by a workplace wherein there was relentless demand with too few mitigating factors. A release was needed, and six weeks was only a taste of what that release might look like.

Granted, a professional life which is a patchwork of per diem positions, consulting, and self-employment may seem to some to be a self-made purgatory (and perhaps I'll feel similarly in a year or so), but for now, such freedom of movement and broader parameters are just what the, I mean the nurse....ordered. Prescription received, and the co-payment? Priceless!

Good-byes: and now the goodbyes begin, and this long-awaited and dreaded separation can get underway. I realize that there is much to grieve, much letting go to do, and sadness and doubt are inevitable. Still, in my heart of hearts, I know that it's for the best, and I consistently remind myself of the line by Michelle Shocked which I have mentioned here before: "The secret of a long life is knowing when it's time to go."
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