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The Opt Out Nurse Wants Back in

Back in August this NYT magazine article about the opt out moms wanting back in caught my attention and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Basically, in the earlier part of the millenium, many successful women decided to opt out of their careers in order to raise children. Now that the economy has changed, they want their jobs back. The only problem is that when you leave the workforce for 5 years, it’s hard to get back into it. This scares me.

Many of the moms profiled were previously well connected in their careers, with great educational pedigrees. These women have always had options. From my point of view there are many moms who opt-out only because child care is too expensive. These women include social workers, teachers, and nurses; skilled workers that cannot command a salary high enough to cover child care costs, and then have some money left over to make it worth working in the first place.

I know I’ve been fortunate to have the choice to stay at home, but at the same time, it almost doesn’t seem like a choice. If I returned to my staff nursing job, I would make almost $30 and hour. Take a big chunk out for taxes and then pay a sitter $12 and hour and there’s not much left over. At that point it becomes a labor of love, or in my case, a labor of fear: fear of losing my nursing skills and having to start over.

Of course I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with nursing, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that I didn’t rush back into it. But here I am looking at a nursing license that’s about to become inactive. The economy is still sputtering and it’s hard not to regret my actions. In fact, I did apply for about a dozen nursing jobs, only to be rejected for my lack of recent experience.

I guess the good thing is that my RN license will never “expire.” I will always have the option to take a refresher course and get the license back to active status. In the meantime though, it’s a strange feeling not to be easily employable. I’ve always assumed that the “nursing shortage” would guarantee my easy passage back into the profession.