Recently, I breathed a sigh of relief after completing a biennial milestone: the renewal of my nursing license.
In typical fashion, I didn’t have any of the 24 hours of required continuing education credits done as my renewal deadline loomed. And, since I was in the midst of a time-sensitive client project, I didn’t see a window for getting them done.
However, our governor was gracious enough to extend the renewal deadline by a month, so I bought a package of CEUs and finished everything online with plenty of time to spare. Then I visited the website for the Florida Department of Health, completed what was needed, paid my fee, and was relieved to get the needed confirmation that my license is valid for another two years.
You may be wondering why I go to all that trouble since I don’t practice clinically anymore—and have no intention of returning to the healthcare setting in that way. It’s not just that I don’t have a desire to do that at this point in my life—instead, God made it very clear two years ago that wasn’t part of his plan.
A humbling journey
As we headed into the summer of 2018, my freelance work had fallen off a great deal, and I talked myself into the possibility that I was supposed to return to clinical nursing in some way.
Although being a freelancer has a long list of perks, it isn’t for the financially faint of heart—since the flow of work can often take on a feast-or-famine dynamic. That’s why I’d always told myself that as long as I kept my nursing license, I’d be able to find a job.
After all my somewhat-anxious-and-unconvincing self-talk about this being the right thing to do, I was certainly surprised to find that getting a nursing job wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d thought it would be.
Now, I have to say that I have a strong resume, wonderful references, and was even still certified in hospice and palliative nursing at that time. So, despite the humbling journey I was on, I still felt confident about what I had to offer.
However, the long list of potential employers I engaged with apparently didn’t see it that way.
Instead, they didn’t seem to appreciate that long stretch of working for myself, and apparently didn’t consider my years of family caregiving or healthcare writing to be the type of experience that would allow me to step back into a clinical setting after eight years of being away.
In hindsight, I believe they were right, but that wasn’t what I felt at the time. Instead, then I felt pretty discouraged and my self-esteem took a hit.
After all, I’d wrapped up my identity in being a nurse for so much of my life that I didn’t know what to think of this new predicament I found myself in. Even though I hadn’t practiced in a clinical setting for so many years, I had always felt that door was still standing ajar and only needed a nudge to open it if I decided to step back into that part of my career.
I eventually lost count of all the jobs I applied to. But I did become more accustomed to hearing what I had come to expect: “Thank you for applying…Unfortunately…”
Most of the organizations that turned me down didn’t give me a reason for doing so, which added to my frustration and discouragement. It wasn’t until someone in human resources from the prison called that I received some kind of explanation. She said the nursing director felt it had been too long since I had worked with patients.
Although my experience in correctional nursing amounted to a whole two days during much younger years, I thought maybe this was a ministry God was calling me to—since more traditional settings didn’t seem to be working out.
But turns out it wasn’t. And all the rejections that preceded it culminated there for me: in a final answer that returning to clinical nursing in either a direct-care or leadership role wasn’t part of God’s plan.
Being grateful for “no”
Now, one minor-but-major tidbit I haven’t mentioned just yet relates to a simple, but consistent prayer I had been praying throughout this time: “Lord, please don’t let me get a job you don’t want me to get.”
I can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am that God heard and answered that prayer!
I believe part of the reason I had to travel that journey was to see clearly that it was time to firmly close the door on that part of my career—so I could more fully step into the things God has for me within the current season of my life.
For me, that has been about fully embracing my writing career in various ways, and continuing to seek God’s purposes for developing and using this passion he has given me.
Which brings me back to my opening, and the reason I keep my nursing license active.
Although God has made it clear he doesn’t want me working within a healthcare setting anymore—he has made it clear that he wants me to apply my nursing and leadership experience to my freelance work, and I’m blessed to get to do that.
One thing I’ve learned from all of this is that while learning to balance the old with the new can be a good thing—hanging onto something that may somehow be holding us back probably isn’t.
So, now I’m “retired” from clinical nursing, but am still a nurse who is a healthcare writer. Shifting my language in that way took some getting used to—but gradually I’ve been able to fully and gratefully embrace the evolving identity God planned for me.
And once I emerged from the doldrums of rejected job applications, God clarified his hand in my journey by blessing me with client work in the following season that made 2019 the best year ever for my business.
Of course, in the era of COVID-19, my nursing credentials have suddenly become popular again—which is why my inbox is now full of offers to rejoin the frontlines. But I know without a doubt that season of my career is over because God took me through a journey of making that clear.
So, when I’m whining after a long day at my desk runs into the evening, I remind myself that I could instead be working a shift at the hospital or heading out while on call—all while knee-deep in the challenges that healthcare workers face today.
And I whisper yet another of my many prayers of gratitude that God answered my prayer according to his perfect plan, instead of the one I had concocted on my own.
This post is adapted from Sue’s Perspectives column in the latest edition of The Empowered Traveler™ Newsletter. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can do that here: Subscribe to Sue’s newsletter.
Feature Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash.