We are in the full throes of summer. Gone are the painfully scheduled days of the school year, and in its place, we have complete mayhem. We’ve exchanged book bags for beach bags and tattered school clothes that barely made it through the year for … more tattered clothes. My kids have finally settled into their summer pace, but my pace remains at rocket speed. The shifts keep coming; the laundry keeps piling up, and we try to cram in as much fun as possible!
This summer also marks a milestone in my life. I am transitioning out of the ER and into a management position. Since my graduation from PA school eight years ago, seven of them have been in an ER. This career step for me is gut-wrenching at best. I have an affinity for the ER. The pace, the energy, the gratification of helping someone who is teetering over a cliff is something that will always appeal to me. But, I need a change.
Normally, the strenuous schedule in the ER is manageable. Sure, I am tired a lot. And I miss a few holidays. And most of my friends hang out on the weekends while I work. But the payoff, both financially and in job satisfaction, made it worth it. Then, my life forever changed. My kids started going to school. Yes, the pesky, daily, irritating education system seriously screwed with my mojo! Before then, my family finally had seemed to be settling into a nice rhythm, and we all understood the agreement. Kids and mom sleep in as late as possible. Kids play all day and get dirty and sweaty. Mom either goes to work and leaves their mess to the nanny, or mom stays home and gets dirty and sweaty. See? It was simple.
But last fall, my two oldest children both started their school career, and the rhythm got all screwed up. We had to wake up at 6 a.m. five days a week. If I worked late the night prior, those kids sound like hippos in the morning, so sleep was never uninterrupted. I never truly understood tired until that alarm went off day after day after tiresome day. Then, a new ugly reality set in. I could only see my kids in the evenings and on the weekends. Those are the prime ER shifts, and I felt like I never saw my kids. I learned that I actually kind of like them and didn’t want to miss out on the good stuff!
I pleaded with my employers, begged to try and arrange something more conducive to my family’s new, inflexible schedule. I suggested a job share, which was promptly squashed. I felt terribly torn. How do I leave the practice setting that has been so fulfilling for all of these years?
I started looking for a new position. I dusted off my résumé, updated a few cool experiences that I am proud of and got cozy with my computer. I soon found myself out of my scrubs and into my ol’ interview pantsuit. The top button of my pants may have been left undone, secondary to baby weight, but that is beside the point. Within a few months, I found myself with a job offer and a very big decision.
This wasn’t just any job offer. This was a career move that will give me experience in management. The schedule will make being a “PA mama” a little less stressful. Leading and educating other PAs and NPs sounds exciting, but in a different way than the ER. I will be moving out of a position that is almost 100 percent clinical into a position that is 80 percent nonclinical. I have mixed emotions about this. The ER has shaped me, defined me, and I am proud to have worked there. Am I compromising myself for corporate America? Am I turning into … ”the MAN”?
The ER gave me a sound clinical base, but this new position will be an opportunity to grow a different skillset. Transitions are always hard, and I am so comfortable in the ER. It is my place; it is my people. But, as scary as this next step is, I am excited to be able to shape a practice and be an advocate for my new people. I am also excited to wake up on Christmas morning and not have to kiss my sleeping babes goodbye as I leave for work.
I am still on the fence about whether or not to send my kids back to school, ever. Summer is bliss! As awesome as this new opportunity is, I will still hate waking up at 6 a.m. to get the kids ready for school. And there will be no more “worked-late-last-night” passes. As I gear up for this new transition in my career, I hold on to the hope that change will bring good things to my family. I am banking on this quote from an unknown author: “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.” For now, my destination is the park with the kiddie pool!
Rachael Jarman, PA-C, works in the ER of a busy Minneapolis hospital and as a pre-PA admissions coach, and occasionally, as a guest lecturer for PA programs in Minnesota. She is a graduate of Philadelphia University’s PA program.