A woman sits on her bed in a darkened bedroom, her closet is open and she holds a scrub shirt in her hands, a box on the floor contains more scrubs and a stethoscope

Career Changes With Alzheimer’s: Hanging Up My Scrubs

Last updated: September 2022

My objective for the day was to undertake a difficult task. I took my scrubs out of my closet today, and as I sit here writing this, there is a lump in my throat, and a heaviness in my breathe. It sits here in my chest, up close to my throat, like it wants to push out a moan or a scream. This heaviness makes it almost hard to breathe.

My scrubs in my closet were the last evidence of my passion - my identity. It was the completion of a hard-earned goal. I was a nurse. To some people, that might just be a career choice, but to me, it was a desire, and it was a calling. It was a journey of becoming who I was meant to be. It was the completion of a hard-earned goal.

Hard work

Becoming a nurse is hard.... Very hard.

I had never worked so hard in my life. In completing that goal, I was proving to myself that I was able to do anything I set my mind to. This was something I never believed about myself until then. It truly was a metamorphosis into who I was meant to be.

My passion was children. I started in post-partum with new mothers and their newborns but eventually went into public health as a school nurse.

Nursing and teaching are my passion

My passion was to teach. Each day was spent caring for kids from 5 to 18 years old. The goal was to provide them with life skills and health education by teaching them how to eat right, how to take care of their bodies, and how to wash their hands.

In the high school, I taught them how to tell someone when they were being hurt, how to handle conflict management, and provided a cabinet for kids who came to school hungry. I coordinated resources for kids who had a need their families could not meet it. I handled health education, medical conditions, medications, injuries, and emergencies.

I made a difference.

Making career moves

In 2019 I made the decision to leave the school nursing position for a job that I had always dreamed of.

I was going to be a NICU nurse, and I was going to take care of the tiniest little nuggets of strength and determination that you would ever see. It was my dream job, and I loved it. I worked the night shift, and there was just something special about rocking those little babies in the dim light, trying to teach them how to eat out of a bottle. It was peace.

Grappling for support

After a year in the NICU, I began to notice that I was having difficulties with the more complex nursing skills needed in a critical care environment. If a baby coded, I could breathe for the baby no problem, but I couldn't breathe for the baby, calculate medication dosages, anticipate lab orders and call the doctor.

I went to my manager for help. I really thought that some additional training would do it for me. It didn't. By the time I left the NICU, I couldn't even put IV tubing together properly. I was diagnosed with EOAD the following year.

A loss of identity

So, my scrubs were the last thing I had that reminded me that I was a nurse. I was a healer, a caregiver, and an encourager. A well-respected professional.

Now I'm not. I look in my closet, and there is no reminder of what I once was, and I know there will come a day that I don't remember it at all. It is a very difficult thing for a young person of 49 to watch the death of their dreams. I stay home now.

When my wife gets home and says something completely neutral like "What's for dinner?" Or, "Did you happen to do laundry today?" I completely turn on her and yell that I am not "the little housewife." She has very strong shoulders. She understands where that is coming from.

Be patient and kind to these sufferers of injustice. Everyone reaches the moment they need to take the scrubs out of their closet.

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