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Taking a leave in nursing


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This summer will be my four year anniversary at my current job. A job that was my first in the real world, straight out of school as a scared, wide-eyed, new graduate nurse. No job is perfect, but mine sure is close (I suppose any job is what you make of it). Staff-wise, it’s the perfect combination of well-rounded personalities, a range of experience levels, and a shared sincere and strong affection for children. And that level of perfection, suiting my lifestyle, gets higher the longer I’ve been there. The concept of seniority is HUGE in nursing and the beauty of staying on the same floor for a number of years is that you see your name creep up the seniority ladder. On my floor, seniority equals less night shifts (a perk in itself), less weekends (if that’s what you prefer), less holidays, better pay, accrued PTO time, and of course, longer rapport with the scheduling manager. I’ll touch back on that last perk in a few after I give you some background on the demographics, if you will, of my unit.

I will start by saying that the first year I started, I quickly realized I was the minority in being a single girl right out of school not looking to settle down anytime soon. I bought more wedding/shower gifts than my credit card balance appreciated, I nearly had to wear sunglasses at work to shield my eyes from marveling at all of the brand sparkling new engagement rings, and had more wedding invitations hanging out my fridge from coworkers than from all of my high school and college friends combined. Now don’t get me wrong, it sure was fun. After wedding fever dust settled, it was very closely followed by another wave of events that led me to swear off the drinking water while at work. Babies. It seemed that these newlyweds just had to look at their husbands a certain way and they would come to work green with morning sickness. At one point, we had 12 girls pregnant all at once, with a few that followed shortly thereafter, and more that have “popped” up consistently since. Again, the credit card gods scorned me but what’s more fun than watching a mommy-to-be open up adorable outfits while eating pink truffles in the breakroom for a shower? Not much. To my advantage, I’m living vicariously through all of their experiences (because every pregnancy sure is different) and am taking mental notes along the way so as to avoid any surprises I may encounter when I start my own family in 25 years (I kid). But in all seriousness, it’s so much fun to come to work and countdown days with preggos, receive texts and pictures of precious brand-new-to-life faces in the middle of the night, and hear how the new mom’s have thoroughly enjoyed their maternity leave.

Ah, maternity leave. Now this ties back into the end of my first paragraph. With seniority comes a more developed rapport with the scheduling manager. I’ve had an interesting year, unexpectedly met a great guy, and found myself in a relationship that is about as long distance as it comes: me in the states, him in Southeast Asia. During my 3.5 years on the unit, I have watched (with great pleasure) my coworkers taking honeymoons and staying home for months on maternity leave with their new family additions. Our scheduling manager is great, so I have always gotten my requested two weeks off in the summertimes for family vacations. But outside of small trips here and there, and in light of this extra motivation in male form living in a vacation paradise, I asked my scheduling manager permission to take my own non-maternity leave, an adventure leave, if you will.

Remember when I spoke of perfection? Well, that perfection in job form was reached today as a boarded a plane bound for Southeast Asia. For how long you ask? One full month. People assume when I tell them I’m heading overseas for a month that I’m in between jobs, or am going unpaid. I have proudly corrected all of them. My job has allowed me the opportunity to explore another vastly interesting and fascinating part of the world for a month, while getting paid in the process. Sure, I’m using up most of my PTO, but isn’t this what I’ve been saving it up for? I could not be more thankful for such an opportunity, and have my manager and the nursing profession of three day work weeks to thank. So, as I sit here at 32,000 feet somewhere over Alaska, embarking on my “non-maternity” leave, life feels pretty near perfect.

Nicole Lehr
Nicole Lehr is a pediatric nurse. She can be described in three adjectives: content, thankful and fortunate. All credit for the aforementioned description can be given to the love she has for her profession as an RN. She graduated from University of Florida with her Bachelor’s in Nursing and moved to Atlanta to work at the Cardiac Stepdown Unit at Children’s — her dream job.

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