When unsatisfied with their job, many nurses question whether or not they should go back to school for an advanced degree. I myself have been to nursing school 4 different times! I began as a LPN, then acquired my associate’s degree, BSN, and finally went back for a graduate degree (nurse anesthesia).
I had been to nursing school so many times in my career in hopes of having a better life as a nurse. It wasn’t until I was a year into the CRNA program that I realized I didn’t want to pursue anesthesia anymore, so I dropped from the program.
After dropping from the nurse anesthesia program, I made a rash decision to apply to family nurse practitioner programs. No one in my family knew I had dropped the program except my mother, father and brother. I didn’t want to let anyone down, especially my grandmother. My grandmother has always been my biggest fan and she was excited I was pursuing a graduate degree in nursing. She was the main reason I quickly applied to FNP programs after anesthesia school.
Only I still didn’t realize what I wanted to do with my life. I soon realized the harsh reality that I was only applying to school to make someone else happy.
I thought long and hard about my future and what I wanted to do with myself now that I was out of school and back in my old unit—the place I so happily left almost a year and a half before. I had to ask myself some tough questions: Do I want to continue being a staff nurse in a busy ICU until retirement age? No, I didn’t. Do I even want to work at the bedside anymore? No, I don’t. Do I really want to pursue another nursing degree if I have to put up with the same things I loathe as a bedside nurse? Again, a resounding no.
Naturally, people asked me questions when I came back to work. When people asked if I was going back to school to become a nurse practitioner, I told them “No, I may not go back to school for another nursing degree.” It wasn’t anyone’s business what I decided to go back to school for, if I even decided to go back to school.
Word got out on my unit that I didn’t want to pursue another nursing degree.
Guess what happened?
I was called into my manager’s office and questioned about not wanting to be a nurse because I don’t want to pursue another nursing degree! Not because I provided low-quality care to a patient, or had too many absences or tardies, but because someone whom I thought I could trust reported this distortion of the truth to my manager.
Even if I did decide to pursue a non-nursing degree, is it such a crime to want to do something different with your life? Yes, I am a nurse, but it should not define who I am as a person. If my patients are well taken care of, why should it matter to anyone whether or not I continue to pursue nursing?
After more contemplating, I decided I couldn’t take physical and emotional toll working at the bedside takes, I wanted more control in my career, and last but not least, I couldn’t stand the backstabbing that runs so rampantly in some units. I graduated from a FNP program last month and I believe I will thoroughly enjoy my new role as a practitioner.
I tell you my story because I want you to avoid making the same mistakes I did. You DO NOT have to pursue higher education if you want to change the course of your career. Sometimes it’s necessary, but in many cases you don’t.
If you do want to go back to school, what are the reasons you want to pursue that degree? Is your main focus to continue up the nursing ladder or do you need a change and just want to get away from the bedside?
Think about your true reasons for going back to school. I thought I wanted to become a CRNA, but it actually turned out that I was going to school to get away from the bedside. For me, I needed to reinvent myself and change my career path. I’m still a nurse, but I have found a way to use my nursing skills and expertise in a non-traditional manner.
And guess what? It didn’t take an additional degree!
One last word of caution: If you do go back to school prepare yourself for backlash from some co-workers and possibly management. It's a sad, but true reality!