I don't know how I feel about that...

Do you ever experience times when you are asked a question that you find difficult to answer because of conflicting feelings on the subject? I don't know about you, but I hate it when that happens. It's very unsettling and causes me to have to expend significant mental energy thinking about it.

Why, at my age would I want to make a major change in my education? The reality is, it won't benefit me financially to do so. I make more in my current career than most do with the proposed change in/addition to my credentials. (Side note: I often have difficulty expressing what I feel, want or need. It's like a force field rises up inside me and prevents any words from leaving. This results in awkward silences during live conversation.) So, why?

The most sound reasoning is that I'm no longer providing bedside care to patients. Throughout my career, I've done many different types of work - all related to the care of people. Many times it was strictly bedside, sometimes it was a mix of bedside and administrative. The role I find myself in now is strictly administrative - not just administrative, but regulatory at that. Perhaps the furthest away from the bedside a caregiver can get. I've asked for opportunity to help out during times of critical staffing only to be told by HR that it's not possible.

As I typed the paragraph above, I heard whispers in my head (not the first time) 'you're not good enough any more, you can't do it, you're not relevant, you've lost your competence'. As a hiring manager, I've had those thoughts when interviewing an older person. My profession has changed greatly over the past 20 years. If a caregiver has not kept up with the technology and stayed current, they would have a very difficult time in modern hospitals. The thought that the knowledge, skills and abilities that I've worked an entire lifetime to build could be suddenly irrelevant and not good enough to be valued by others that frankly don't know half what I do is mortifying. This passing thought has had me considering leaving my administrative role and returning to bedside care 'before it's too late'. I wonder if my health would allow me to keep-pace with reality that is mid-pandemic America. Maybe the whispers are right.

Another possibility is that I've long had an interest in psychology. I find it fascinating. Much like watching a patient recover from, say a surgery, and the satisfaction I get from seeing the progress, I feel the same when talking with a friend and helping them work out an issue. I've been told I'm a great teacher. In my mind that is what therapy should be. Teaching the client how to work out their own issues, how to think critically about their own situation(s). In healthcare we've adopted 'Patient Centered Care', which theoretically puts the patient in charge. I don't know if the mental health professions have a similar credo, or if they still operate from a top-down, I'm the expert, listen to me culture. The therapist may need to ask hard questions that the client is unable to ask, sometimes even imagine, themselves. Those that want to resolve their issues will work through the questions, those that want a quick answer (which never works) will be frustrated by the process. A few will be so relieved to have a non-judgmental person listen to them, they will find some relief just talking.

Both of these things are entirely feasible and could stand in their own right. A combination of both is very likely. When I began my advanced education I considered what it might look like to be a Registered Nurse with a Masters in Social Work. At the time I was on a nursing leadership and management track, so I let go of the thoughts of the MSW. I think now of the work I want to do as I age. I consider that perhaps the field of nursing, which I love and which pays the bills quite nicely, may not offer me the satisfaction it once did because I will likely not have patient contact. I sit on the board of two non-profit organizations, both in their own way providing some measure of social justice work. As I reach the age where the politics of hospitals becomes tiring, and the need for personal finances diminishes why not add skills that could assist the non-profits with their work? The Masters Degree will be a bit expensive, but the cost will be roughly the same if I do a nursing degree or a psychology degree. One of them will happen. Both of them will allow me to teach if that is something I want to pursue.

Which do I choose?

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