Hey guys! Today I’m talking about retirement because it's been two years since I retired from nursing! And for anybody who's been with me for a while, you've heard me talk about the challenges of retirement, and there certainly have been some. There have also been many blessings and we'll talk about those too, so let’s get to it!
The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory
Becker's Clinical Leadership article: Crisis Looms as 800,000 Nurses Plan to Exit the Workforce by 2027
Top 10 Financial Mistakes After Retirement PDF
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[00:00] Michelle: Hello. Hey, guys. Today I'm talking about retirement from nursing because it's my second anniversary since I retired. And for anybody who's been with me for a while, first of all, thank you. And second, you've heard me talk about retirement and the challenges of retirement, and that's certainly what it has been. So there's this thing called the social readjustment rating scale, and I've linked the PDF to it, and it's a list of life's most stressful events. They list 43 of life's most stressful events. And guess what? Retirement is listed as number ten. It's in the top ten. And it's there for a reason because it is a major life change. I was preparing for this episode, and I found an article in Becker's Clinical Leadership: Crisis Looms as 800,000 nurses plan to exit the workforce by 2027. So this is January 2024. That's three years from now. That's going to go by so fast. And we're going to lose all those nurses. And of course, they're not all retiring, right? So some of them are just going to leave because maybe they're burnt or they won the lottery and became independently wealthy, but there are many reasons they might just want to shift professions. So that's huge. Many of you will join this group of retired nurses, and retired medical professionals. So this episode is just my take on things. There have been many blessings, and I will get into those. But first, I want to talk about the challenges. So let's get into it.
One of the challenges of retirement is the loss of the caretaking identity. And it's still difficult to think of myself as retired after two years and possibly that I will never work as a nurse again. It breaks my heart in a way. I was on a walk the other day and I was thinking about this need to take care of someone or something and how it keeps coming up. And then I thought to myself, why didn't I replace the someone or something with yourself? And for the most part, I have done that. I have paid much more attention to my own physical and mental health. I've talked about being in therapy for a long time, since my 20s, really, but most recently for retirement in terms of what to expect and how to navigate away from nursing as my identity. And I recently watched a comedy special by Trevor Noah on Netflix. And he was talking about the differences between America and Europe in terms of our jobs or our professions as our identity. And he was saying that when Americans meet someone, say, at a social gathering, the conversation goes like this. After all the introductions, we, the Americans, tend to ask people, so what do you do? And he was making fun of it a bit, but he was saying that Europeans, for the most part, they're not as tied to their jobs as an identity. If asked what they do, they might say, well, I travel or I have a pet. And if you have a chance to see it on Netflix, it's really funny, but it resonated with me. One of the things I've done to stay connected with my nursing identity is to volunteer as a nurse at the only free clinic in my county. And we see indigent patients, that maybe don't have insurance. They kind of are the people who fall through the cracks, but they have a lot of needs. And we see the patients once a week, and then we fill prescriptions twice a week. And that's been such a fun experience, working with other nurses, physicians, translators, and clerical, it's filled my soul in a way that I didn't see coming. It has been a big challenge for me because my entire career, I've cared for infants and children, and now I see adults who take adult meds and have adult problems, and that's been a real challenge. So learning all the medications and so forth. But believe it or not, there were many times as a nurse that I couldn't believe. I got paid to do what I do. And at the free clinic, of course, I'm not getting paid, but I'm still loving it, and it's very gratifying. During my working years, I served on my institution's bioethics committee, and I continue to serve as a community member. But there's a built-in perk. Because of my nursing background, I understand what's being presented, and I can collaborate with the multidisciplinary team. So, again, that's something that has brought me a lot of joy. And many of you have heard me say that I knew I might not do well in retirement. So I started this podcast as a way to stay connected to the nursing community, and it has certainly done that. I am learning what other nurses do, why they do it, what they love, and how they are changing the profession, and boy, are they changing it. It has expanded my knowledge base. It's been challenging, and it's helped me grow again in unexpected ways. Going through retirement is such a major life change that it can bring up a lot of feelings of loss or trauma that you've had in your life. And for me, this is what's happening. I lost my husband in 2016, and let's face it, as wives, we care for our husbands, both physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And with him not in my life, I have this void of love that a husband can give, companionship, and, of course, caretaking. We also care for our children. I have a beautiful daughter. She's grown. She cares for herself, so I don't have that type of caretaking. We care for our pets. And I had two dogs for a very long time, and they were our dogs. Juneau, I gave to my husband shortly after we got married. He was a beautiful American Eskimo puppy. And then the next year, for my birthday, my husband gave me Maximilian, this sweet little Yorkiepoo. And together we cared for those dogs. So when my husband passed away, I became the sole caregiver. And it just felt really weird and strange, and it felt like another huge loss. A few years after my husband passed, the dogs both died within a year of each other. And I do not doubt that they lived good doggy lives. They were both 16 years old, and some people have suggested that I get another dog. But after the dogs died, I promised myself that I would wait until I was retired to become a pet owner again. Because pets need your time, right? Like, they want to be with you. They don't want to be left alone all day. So I'm still thinking about it because it's a big commitment, but it is on my mind. Another huge loss was just the day-to-day interaction with my peers, my coworkers, my friends and colleagues, my friends, my coworkers would come to my desk and we'd chat about this and that. I felt part of a team because when we were short-staffed, I would jump in and take care of patients or do a feeding here or there, do a medication or admit a patient, whatever needed to be done. And so that helped me feel part of a team. I've talked about things like missing grand rounds and wearing scrubs, but I think what these things represent is professionalism, collaboration, and teamwork. I was so blessed to have such a fantastic team in the NICU, I don't think many teams are like that, and that's been another great loss for me. Last but not least, I missed the patients. I missed the babies. I missed seeing them overcome their challenges, grow, and speak in ways that transcend verbal language. And then their parents. I've said this before, they're a package deal. And seeing the parents on day one versus day 121, was such an inspiration to see them go from scared, terrified, knowing nothing, to feeling confident and competent that they can take their child home and care for their child. So I miss that a great deal as well. Retirement brings financial fears. I'm going to include this article in the show notes. It's the top ten financial mistakes after retirement. And this was from the Securities Exchange Commission. I retired in January of 2022. And if you remember, that's when the economy took a rapid downward slide. 401 ks went down, inflation went up. And so there was that worry because obviously, I had budgeted for a certain amount that I was going to be bringing in between my retirement and some other things. So I had to really rapidly switch gears. And that was a worry. I know I stressed out for a long time about, is my money going to last? Should I go back to work? I think every month for the first year after I retired, I would reassess and I'd say, okay, how are things going? How are you financially? How are you emotionally, and spiritually? Do you need to go back to work? And then I would do a reassessment, and I would take a pause and I'd say, no, I don't think I need to go back to work. And then the next month, I would do it again. So that struggle was so real. Another thing that I had to do was obtain commercial insurance because I had excellent insurance from the institution where I worked. I went from paying about $100 a month for my premiums to $800 a month in one month. And I had to. Man, I was not prepared for that, let's just say that. So again, I had constant fears that my money wouldn't last. And why did I have to get commercial insurance? Because I'm too young for Medicare. But that's another episode. This will sound totally crazy. If it resonates with you, please let me know. I noticed after I retired, I became much more aware of how much money I was spending. It felt like when I was working, I was earning someone else's money, and I was the one earning it. I was putting in the hours, I was putting in the work, I was getting the degree. I was educating myself. All of those things that we do to be able to wear a badge that says registered nurse. Right? But I still felt like it was someone else's money. And if you think about it, it was. But when I retired, I had to start pulling from my retirement from my 401, and I was like, oh, this is my money. So I became much more careful with it. Again, crazy. Let's talk about time. I went from having my entire day scheduled to having my entire day wide open. For the first couple of months, this was like heaven, and I cannot underscore that enough. But then as the months wore on, I started to lose focus on what my goals were for the day, why I had to get out of bed in the morning. And something that helped for me was a calendar. And of course, at work, I had always used a calendar, so it was something I was familiar with. I started using a calendar to put things like 07:00 a.m. Wake up 7:30 breakfast 8:30 go on a walk. I know that sounds very odd, but for me, it worked in terms of having focus, having a goal, and having something to look forward to. And I would say that I did that pretty religiously for the first six to nine months. Now, honestly, I don't like seeing things on my schedule, so that's just me. Time also in the sense of how much time I have left on this earth. When I was working, I wasn't thinking about that so much. But after retirement, I became much more aware of my mortality. So those have been some of my challenges of retirement. Again, I'm not alone in experiencing those. I know if you are retired, you can relate to a lot of those, but there's also been many blessings. One of those blessings is my grandkids. I have two beautiful, fun, smart, courageous. I don't know what other adjectives I could use, grandkids. And that's been such a blessing. When I was working five days a week, I couldn't spend the time I wanted to spend with them. So having more time is certainly something that I have enjoyed. I've been able to help out in their classroom, pick them up after school, have playdates, go to their sporting events, enjoy the holidays, and all those things that foster and nurture the special relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild. Travel has been a blessing. Being retired means that for the most part, I have the time right. I don't have to allocate my PTO. I don't have to grovel for time off or swap shifts with coworkers. And there's a lot of freedom in that. This year I went to Seattle for a vacation that I won, and I went to Dallas for a most epic wedding. I don't think any wedding is going to trump this one in a very long time. So that was so much fun. But in 2024 I'm having a milestone birthday and I want to plan a trip to see the Milky Way galaxy. So if you know of a great place, please tell me. DM me on Instagram @theconversingursepodcast or email me the firstname.lastname@example.org and you can always find these links in my show notes. So if you know of a great place to see the Milky Way unencumbered, it's on my bucket list. I want to do it this year. So those are some of the challenges and blessings that I have encountered in retirement. Now I'm going to have some advice for those who are retiring soon or who have already retired. Okay, we've talked about the challenges. We've talked about the blessings. Now I've got some advice for those of you who are retiring soon, or maybe you've already retired. I'm going to link this article in the show notes. It's excellent. It's from Takingcare.com and it's how to emotionally prepare for retirement. So do some self-reflection or self-inspection, whatever you want to call it. Do you need to retire or do you need to take a break? Do you need to take a leave of absence? Are you burnt out? Is retirement going to solve the problem that you're having? So really look at those items. Talk to a financial advisor. Explore all your options for income. If you haven't already, start developing an identity other than your nurse identity. So become more well-rounded. Take the European stance and when someone asks you what you do, tell them what you do. You travel, you make art, you're an athlete. Do you have a social life? Do you have friends, or family? Because this will become even more important after you retire. Your social connection that you get from work, at work will change. Obviously, you won't have that. I've been really blessed. I know I've said that word a lot. To stay connected to some really good friends. We continue to get together, some are working, some are retired. And of course we always talk shop and we talk other things too. But that has really enriched my life. So definitely get a life outside of work. Okay, well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I think I really like where I am and I want to hear what you guys think about it. If you've retired, let me know your challenges, let me know your blessings, let me know your highs and lows. And if you are a retired nurse, I would love to talk to you on the podcast so you can go to my website, theconversingursepodcast.com and you can click on be my guest and fill out the form. It's super easy, but I would love to talk to a retired nurse, somebody who's also been through it. Thank you guys for listening today and I'll talk to you soon.