I read with interest the article by Janet Blake concerning the right time to leave nursing (“When Is It Time to Leave Nursing?” Viewpoint, May). I decided to retire after 51 years when I felt my skills were declining.
I think the decision depends a great deal on the discipline of nursing in which you work. I worked in cardiovascular surgery and recovery and found that fulfilling my job requirements became harder with age. Advanced cardiac life support skills were physically demanding, for instance.
Staying current with the changes in our profession—the technology, the medications, the new treatments—is part of the job. But, like the author, I felt my confidence lagging and questioned my decisions. I had trouble keeping up and took too much time with patients. I think that just as impaired nurses are given the help they need, so, too, should older nurses be given alternatives and support as we age and our cognitive and physical skills decline.
Leaving nursing is difficult. Our vocation is one of caring, teaching, and giving. When we leave, there's a void in our lives. I loved being a nurse. It's been hard to adjust to no longer having that role.
Even if we feel like we have more to give, it isn't always possible to find a less-demanding role, and you can't always control the circumstances you face. But is a nurse ever not a nurse? Volunteering, being a mentor, and being an advocate are all ways we can continue to help people. As we age, our friends and family age too, and we can be there to help them. We may have changed, but we will always be nurses.