Hi fellow crunchy nurses!
I graduated nursing school last year and was 100% sure I wanted to do either maternity nursing or NICU. I ended up getting hired into the NICU at an inner-city hospital where I had some clinicals senior year. After orienting there I worked in the stepdown nursery, and loved it at first. Stepdown nursery was all “feeder-growers”, babies who no longer needed high-tech interventions, but just needed to put on some weight and transition from NG feeds to breast or bottle before going home. We had a great lactation program at that hospital. I really enjoyed the parent education and support aspects of that job. But after 6 months at that hospital, I realized that I was a brand-new nurse with very minimal nursing skills, other than putting down NG tubes, treating diaper rash, and teaching babies how to eat without choking. Also, although the pay was great, the one-hour commute and the night-shift hours were horrible on my family life. I was either gone, asleep all day, or a cranky zombie for all but one or two days a week.
So, in the interest of my family (and also to become more comfortable using my nursing skills), I called up the manager of the general pediatrics unit where I had worked as a student, and begged her, “Take me back!” (She had offered me a very PT position when I graduated, but I turned her down in favor of the shiny big hospital experience). She hired me back PRN in November, and it was definitely the right choice. I now have a 20 minute commute (as good as it gets since I live in the boonies) instead of 60 minutes each way, and although I don’t have benefits as a PRN, I love the freedom of deciding who many hours I want to sign up for from week to week. No more begging for time off for vacations! I am required to work a minimum of 6 hrs per week, but lately we have been so short-staffed that I work 20+ hours a week, and could pick up a lot more hours if I wanted to. I still work occasional nights, but more evenings than any other shift. This works out great for my family, as my mom and MIL don’t mind watching DD for a few hours a couple times a week.
Being back on a more general unit has been great for my nursing skills. We take care of newborns up to age 17, for all kinds of diagnoses, and also we take a lot of overflow GYN surgery pts, so I get a lot of preop and postop experience that way. There are still areas that I know very little about (ie don’t send me any pts over age 50!), but I feel much more well-rounded now than I did working in the stepdown nursery.
I always thought I would eventually become an LC, but at this point I’m very happy working in peds, just because I have such a great work-life balance at this point. I may eventually try to transfer to the childbirth floor and become an LC, but probably not in the near future.
Pele, as for being “squished by other nurses”, I did have a few times starting out where older nurses would roll their eyes at me during shift report, but that was all at the big hospital. And most of the nurses there were happy to answer my questions. At the little hospital that I came back to, I think I am in the loveliest, friendliest unit I could ask for. None of my coworkers ever act put out about my still-frequent questions, and they are always happy to help out when I get swamped. I am 32 wks pg, and most of them are great about making sure I get breaks.
As for the first year out of school, I have been out 10 months, and I am amazed at how much I have learned and how much more comfortable I feel doing routine nursing tasks now. Just the other night I was chatting with a family while hanging an IV antibiotic for their child, and I suddenly realized, 1) wow, I no longer need my entire brain to focus on programming an IV pump! and 2) I feel fairly comfortable answering the random questions that parents ask! Cool!
I think the hardest part of the first yr has been learning to manage multiple pts (my school *never* gave us more than one at a time
, so making the leap to 4 pts was a big deal) and getting comfortably talking to doctors (I found out that 97% have no desire to eat me alive like I thought they would
Several of my coworkers work PT evenings/nights and homeschool. And on the associate degree issue, my manager and director both have associates, and the hospital is paying for them to get their BSNs with classes held at the hospital. I actually get teased somewhat for having a BSN, because the majority of the nurses both places I have worked have ASNs.