When is a Nurse No Longer a Nurse?


When does a nurse stop being a nurse? Or does he or she ever stop? I ask because someone sent me a note the other day saying that I should stop calling myself an RN because I no longer work in the field.

When does a nurse stop being a nurse? Or does he or she ever stop? I ask because someone sent me a note the other day saying that I should stop calling myself a nurse, an RN, because I no longer work clinically or in the field. I had to stop and think about my reaction to that and how I felt about it. Is there a time when someone stops being what they were once trained for?

If an accountant leaves the profession and becomes a carpenter, is she still an accountant? If a dentist leaves dentistry and becomes a high school English teacher, is he no longer a dentist? Do those designations they earned (CA or DDS) not count any more? If they no longer pay annual dues and have no intention of ever working again in their previous field, are they relegated to saying “I used to be…”?

I went back to school to take some courses about 14 years ago when I realized that I really did love to work with languages. I took a course called Adult Education — how to teach adults – and the professor was an accountant before he decided to go into teaching. I asked him this very question because I was hesitant about leaving my training behind, the years of experience and work that went into being a nurse. To this day, I’ll never forget that conversation. He told me that he will always be an accountant, he will always be able to read a ledger and understand accounting – and that I would always be a nurse. What we learned, what we lived, can never be put aside and it is always a part of us, forever.

So, now I no longer work clinically. I’ve worked as a floor nurse, a head nurse, a camp nurse, a supervisor and more, but now I only do writing and editing of medical and health issues. To me, that’s education to both the professionals I write for and to the general public. It’s education that I can provide precisely because of my nursing background.

As for the use of RN — should I continue to do so? I pay my annual dues to my provincial association. By law, I can’t say I’m a nurse if I’m not on the roll with the Order of Nurses. I guess I could drop my license and not claim to be a nurse any more – but many of my clients hire me precisely because of my background and my nursing experience. Some don’t want me to use RN, others do.

I think it’s a fair guess that some nurses reading this blog are no longer working as nurses. They may be retired, burned out, or just in a different profession now because of a desire to do something else. I don’t think they shouldn’t say they’re no longer nurses and I don’t think they should say that they’re former nurses — unless they want to.

To me, I’m a nurse who now makes a living as a writer and editor. Will I ever work clinically again? I doubt it. I have some issues with my back that make clinical work very hard, but I would never say never because we don’t know what life will throw us when we’re not looking.

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