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On Leaving CCU

Recently I made an announcement that may have made a few people think I was half a bubble off level.  I’m leaving CCU.

I’ve worked in CCU (and CVICU) for 14 years.  5 years ago I had a baby, and reduced my hours to one day per week.

It took me just about all of those 5 years to fully comprehend that one just can’t keep up with all there is to learn working only one day a week in CCU.  The basics come back to you if you have enough experience with them (ventriculostomies, for example) but the New Stuff is coming in droves and is being implemented constantly – new therapies, new monitoring machines, new procedures.  When you can’t make the in-services given during the week, it falls to the weekend coworkers to bring you up to speed, and I was feeling very guilty about that.

“Why not just put the kids in daycare and work more?” one could ask.  And one would have a point.  But…

I recently had a patient that almost any CCU nurse would thrive on – unstable, many drips, lots of titrating.  In years past, I enjoyed the dance we do when trying to stabilize a patient, my brain happily bathed in adrenalin.  But this time, although my brain was still bathed in adrenalin, I found the dance… boring.  Tedious even.  Now that is an interesting feeling – all jazzed up and bored about it.

Thinking about it later, I realized that although my last several employee reviews were good, I could never come up with “new goals for the next year.”  I had no desire to be an open heart nurse, take care of patients on balloon pumps, get my CCRN, or learn anything else, really.  Although I have plenty of skills, I just didn’t want to learn any more about critical care.

So although I had a great-paying job with great flexibility and seniority, I found myself contemplating leaving it all behind.  But to do what?

Over the course of my career, I realized that I enjoy working with the patients that are close to having or are having life support removed.

Why?  I’m not sure.  Why does anyone like anything?  All I know is that I felt a great deal of satisfaction when I was able to see a patient through to passing peacefully.  You form an almost instant bond with others when in that situation, and not just the patient, who was usually unconscious by that point.  I have always enjoyed working with family members.

So I decided to become a hospice nurse, and there was a company out there nice enough to hire me despite my total lack of any actual hospice experience.

When you tell someone you’re a nurse, they usually ask “what kind; what do you do?”  When I would respond, “critical care,” they’d say, “Oh! Wow.”  When I told my coworkers I was leaving to become a hospice nurse, I got a few “Oh… uh, interesting…” and lots of “oh, you’ll be great at that.”  But the prize for best answer goes to one particular doc:

Me: “This is my last weekend.”

Doc:  “Oh, why?”

Me:  “I’m going to hospice.”

Doc: “…. but you don’t look sick.”

Ah, hospice humor.

I have nothing but the highest respect for my former employer and my former coworkers.  They are a huge reason why I stayed so long and I consider several of them family.  But every time I think of the new direction I decided to go in, I feel a little thrill of excitement to learn something completely new.  Hopefully with enough tweaking and HIPAA-nating, I can share some of my experiences with you all.

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Hi Gina. Nice posting. I have always liked and respected you a lot. When I heard you had made this choice in career, I first of course felt a little sad because well you would not be in CCU. Then I next felt positive for you and all of us in CCU because through your experience here with and through together, you have chosen a career path that is both valuable, rewarding, and contributes a great deal to your own career and the lives of so many.

I think you would do excellent work wherever you chose to practice nursing and I believe your nursing care and service will benefit the lives of many as you go forward into hospice care.

It takes a lot to be a hospice nurse, you are capable, and you still have all of us in CCU to call on, consult with, and just talk to.

We will miss ya each weekend, but we are proud of you also.

Aw, Michael, thank you! What sweet things to say. I appreciate the encouragement :)

I think that is a great move. You need to do what you really enjoy and I think it definitely becomes clear in your heart when you no longer enjoy the sort of nursing you do. It’s not just about it being a great job, it’s about it fitting with you, your family, your emotions, your enjoyment. Bravo!

Good for you Gina! I made a similar leap from a step down unit to hospice nursing last year and I couldn’t be happier.

I made the decision to leave CVICU 9 years ago after doing it for 8 years. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I realized that doing the open heart dance had changed from “I’m SuperNurse!” to “God,let me and patient please make it through the next 12 hours”. Way too much stress. I ended up in long-term care, which was the last place on the planet I’d ever thought of working. 9 years later and I’m a director of nursing and guess what? I love it. Who knew, right?

Good luck in your future endeavors. Sounds to me like you made a great decision :)

I have followed your blog for several years and have no doubt that the ICU will miss you dearly. However, you will love hospice. I have done hospice and palliative care for the last 8 years, with a home health agency, and can’t imagine doing anything else. It is rewarding beyond measure, and although you won’t get (or need) the adrenaline rush, you will learn and develop new skills to allow your patients to die in comfort and with dignity. And to help support their families through their journey. God bless you and your decision!

I think it’s a great decision! The progression from ICU nurse to hospice makes so much sense. I have been out of the game for a while now but I always feel like if I go back it will be to hospice nursing. Yes the adrenalin dance is fun but after awhile we have to ask ourselves, what are we dancing for? Best of luck and hope we get to hear more about it in this blog!

You literally just described my life. I have been working in ICU and recently have been feeling the same things you described. I used to love the challenge and now I feel bored. I have oriented to every machine and role in the ICU I work at…. still there is this part of me that feels like someday hospice is where I will end up. Who knows? Congratulations on taking the leap and thanks for sharing about it. :) I’m glad I’m not alone.

This is going to be me some day! I love the crazy get-em-stable stability dance that comes with a critical patient, BUT, my most memorable and meaningful experiences as an ICU nurse have been with the patients and families who have decided to withdraw.

Someday I hope to go to hospice too, when I start to feel like you do.

Congratulations on what sounds like a great decision, and thanks for sharing it. I am looking forward to some “tweaking and HIPAA-nating”!

Sounds like you are very in tune with your needs and wants. That’s great!

We can’t always explain why we feel a certain way, and we can’t usually determine how events will unfold.

Good luck with your transition!

I too decided to leave ICU 6 months ago after 18 years because I was bored. I also left because hospitals are no longer the place with the best benefits. I moved into community health working for a native American community. Love it. I am making a difference before they hit the wall and require hospitalization. I wouldn’t trade my experience, but it was time to move on.I’m grateful to have chosen a career that gave me great options. I understand your decision because I am in the same boat.

Thanks for sharing about your career change Gina. As they say, sometimes “a change is as good as a rest”.

I know in my own nursing career, some of the changes I made were so needed and even when things didn’t necessarily work out as expected, I was happy I made a move. I try to live by “no regrets” type of philosophy. That way I can’t say I “wished I had”, “should have” etc

Thanks again for sharing. Looking forward to hearing about your new experiences.


I’ve just transitioned to home hospice too, after working as a MICU nurse & nurse educator over the past 5 years. I think ICU nursing is FANTASTIC experience to bring to hospice. It’s a big change, for sure. I’m trying to get over the lack of adrenaline but there are many beautiful moments to be had. Best of luck to you on your journey!

I left the MICU recently to work at an inpatient hospice unit. I had some compassion burnout, but also felt the same way you did about the “new” stuff.. I worked every weekend and I felt like I was slipping behind with new policies, equipment, etc..even though I was very confident and capable in my role there.

Hospice is a good place to transition to from a unit. At first I was afraid I’d lose my “edge”…but now I think it’s making me sharper- I have no labs, vitals, cat scans, or x-rays to rely on anymore. Just my assessment and my instincts. You will love hospice!

Just wanted to say Thank You for giving me the cajones to leave critical care and join a small hospice team. Please keep on blogging! You’re an inspiration!

-Andrea, RN, CCRN
ICU RN my whole damn career until now.

WOW! This is a great comment, and I was so happy to see it! I hope you are enjoying your career change as much as I am :-)

What an inspiring story. I work with Barco’s Nightingales Foundation, and our mission is to recognize the courageous heart of nursing and inspire others to embrace the profession. We regularly feature nurses’ stories and would be honored if we could share your story on our Facebook page. Please visit it (www.facebook.com/BarcosNightingalesFoundation) and let us know by sending us a message on the page while you are there. Many thanks for your service and example.

I feel this nurse made the right decision. There are so many different aspects of nursing. Therefore, if you become bored or just don’t enjoy doing what you do anymore – make a change. I feel if your heart isn’t into the job than how can you be your best for the patients.

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  • profileI am Gina. I have been a nurse for 15 years, first in med/surg, then CVICU, inpatient dialysis, CCU and now hospice. This blog is about my experiences as a nurse, and the experiences of others in the healthcare system - patients, nurses, doctors, paramedics. We all have stories!

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