Why I Finally Left Corporate America To Be A Nurse

Like Peter Gabriel, I "walked right out of the machinery," and I haven't looked back since.

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Why I finally left corporate america to be a nurse
Why I finally left corporate america to be a nurse

I began my first post-college career selling medical devices to hospital operating rooms.  Then after nearly ten years in corporate America, I went back to college to become a nurse.

I took an unconventional path that led me from inspired journalist to corporate sales manager, to RN –  and I learned many valuable lessons along the way.  

As a young college grad, my priority was making money.

After graduating with my first degree in Journalism, I was ready to start making money.  I was broke and desperately wanted to pay off my student loan debt and credit cards.  I was also passionate about healthcare, so a sales job in the healthcare field seemed like a good fit.

Throughout my decade career in medical device sales, I worked for a Fortune 500 company and a few startups.  I covered vast territories and, at one point, even spent almost an entire year living out of a hotel.  It was a lot of hard work, but the money was always there.

Despite a gnawing feeling that my calling was somewhere else, I stayed put.  My twenties flew by before my eyes.

One day after a near mental breakdown and a lot of soul-searching, I decided I wanted to go to nursing school.  My sales counterparts couldn’t believe I would leave the medical device industry after what most would consider a very financially successful career.  I tried to explain the best I could – that I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself.  And working in the corporate world wasn’t doing it for me anymore.

At 22, my priority was making money.  I knew if I worked hard in medical device sales, I could earn more then most college grads my age.

I wanted to jump into procedures as a part of the medical team.

Even though I wasn’t an actual healthcare professional when I worked in the corporate world, I still got to work in hospital operating rooms and observe almost every kind of surgery.  It was through those experiences that I learned I wanted to be more genuinely clinical – instead of just repeating sales pitches to each new physician I wanted to sell my products to.

More specifically, I wanted to jump into the procedures that I was selling products and be a part of the medical team. Not sit and wait on the sidelines for hours until they used the product I was selling (if they used it at all).

More importantly, though, I was continually drawn to help people and learn life-saving clinical skills.  I was tired of going home every day feeling as if I wasn’t doing enough with my life to make the world better.

Sounds a little cliche, I know.  But this nagging voice in my head kept telling me that one day all I was going to say about my life was that I was a “salesperson.”  And I wanted more than that for myself.

Nursing school is the hardest thing I have ever done in my professional life.

I paid my way through my nursing prerequisites and another college degree.  And let me tell you – college is so much more expensive now then it was in the year 2000.  I was lucky that I had decent savings from my prior career to help get me through.

I also worked as a bartender at night – sometimes until midnight – and then had to be at a clinical rotation by 0700 the next morning.  I studied nonstop for three years. 

To my surprise, nursing school was even more stressful than my career in corporate sales. Still, I pressed on, feeling like I was going to get kicked out at any moment for failing a test. (And 1/4 of my classmates actually did get kicked out, so it wasn’t out of the question).

Here I am exactly one year after leaving corporate America, in my first clinical rotation.

I worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant in nursing school.

I felt ambivalent about being a CNA.  It was such an honor to give care to my patients in some of the worst times of their lives.   I tried to give my patients humility.   I helped people feel human when they felt invisible.

But being a CNA was also so challenging- both physically and physiologically.   For the first time in my life, I was not at the top of the food chain.  I sometimes felt like just a staff person boss around.  No longer did I have my salary plus commissions, my company car and expense account, my catered lunches, my bonuses, and my stock awards at the end of the year.  I missed that.

I finally attained my RN, BSN title.

I began my career specializing in a neuroscience and stroke unit and earned certifications as a Stroke Certified Registered Nurse and Public Health Nurse. In 2017, I started a new phase in my nursing career as an emergency room RN. In 2018, I started freelance writing about my experiences as a nurse and about various healthcare topics.

No matter what I do, it is important for me to keep learning.

I have had the opportunity to see more disease states, complex injuries, and unusual diagnoses than I ever could have imagined even existed. It would not be an exaggeration to say I learn ten new things every day at work.

To top it off, I work with some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Many of my co-workers have the same drive for helping people I do. There is always motivation to continue learning.

The corporate world helped shape who I am as a professional.

My experiences have given me a much different perspective than many of my nurse peers. 

Working in the medical sales industry gave me valuable business and communication skills.  I met a lot of great friends with whom I am still close.  My organizational and time management skills are more fine-tuned, and I learned how to be a professional in the workplace.

I like to think of myself as being a little more well-rounded now. After all, the businesswomen in me still exist.  But now I have the clinical prowess and expertise to match.

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