Is Anyone Safe?

February 27, 2009

The current state of our economy is affecting everyone.

We hear it every day. Just turn on the television, the radio or listen to the conversations that you, your friends, and family are having. The current state of our economy is affecting everyone. Of course, as nurses we have heard for many years that one of the best things about nursing is that you know you will always have a job. With the aging of the baby boomers, more and more people needing healthcare, nursing schools are over booked and understaffed, hospitals were offering large bonuses just to get nurses to come to work for them. But is that still true? Are we still safe? According to the popular press and online job searches, it is. If you are in healthcare then you are safe. But what is the reality of that? Sure, I bet I can always have a job. But what kind of job is that? Will that job compensate me fairly for the work that it requires? Will APNs be working as staff nurses to make ends meet? I know that in my own very large metropolitan city, the story for healthcare isn’t as bright and sunny as the media might have you believe. First we heard that one of the major medical centers let go of five vice presidents. Then we heard that another academic medical center had to borrow money from the university with which they are affiliated just to keep the doors open. And finally, another prestigious medical center had to let close to 500 employees go in the last month and that including nurses. To me that does not sound safe. To me, it is as scary as every other person trying to hold on through the storm until we eventually reach the other side.

I am a new advanced practice nurse and although I know there are some positions available in other institutions around the area that would need my qualifications, for now I’m staying put. It’s too scary a time to start a new job without the assurance that you will still have that job in a month or two or six. Last one in, first to go. At least where I am now, I have some stability, some longevity, and perhaps a little more peace of mind. But that does not mean I am not affected here. The vice president of nursing at my hospital has decided to make this upcoming budget season “transparent.” Everyone knows where we stand. Everyone is being asked to come up with ideas on how to reach our goals while still assuring the security of everyone’s jobs. It’s not an easy time.

We are being asked to reach deep inside and decide what is important. Maybe that’s the lesson in this for all of us. What is important? What do we really need? Not just in our jobs but in our lives. We have all gotten to the point that we forgot what we needed and pretty much focused on what we wanted. And we expected to get it. Maybe this is the time to take a step back and say, “What do I really need?" In my job, what do I need? As a nurse, what do I need in order to be the kind of nurse that I want to be? What makes life easier and what is necessary? I did not become a nurse just so that I could make a good salary. The things that I love about nursing, I will be able to continue to do. I may have to work harder to do it. It may not be in the setting that I would prefer it to be. But I can do it.

Is anyone safe? I guess it depends on what you consider safe. Will I have a job? I’m pretty certain I will. Will it be the dream job that I’ve always wanted? Perhaps not. But I will be able to do a job that I love doing. I will be able to live in a comfortable house and have food on my table and pretty much have the things that I really need. And just maybe I’ll find a way to get some of the things that I really want too.