Tales of Retirement
By Josette Vigneux
Retired April 7, 2017
Today was my last day of work… ever. After 30 years I signed in for the last time. It was the last time for so many things, and the start of my next chapter.
My alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. as usual, although I was already up with the dogs at 5:45. I fed them, then grabbed my coffee and went back to bed to savour it while I fully woke up.
Once up, I quickly flipped into my usual routine – I put my steel cut oats into the microwave, put an egg on to boil, got dressed, and did my hair and makeup. I put on a new T-shirt, one that I had found months ago, which had the words “Best Day Ever” boldly across the front. Although I truly love my job, and leave it with mixed emotions, I could not resist this shirt.
On the drive to the hospital I was excited… but also melancholy. I have spent so much of my life with the people in that building – the nurses, doctors, support staff, patients and their families, cleaners, kitchen staff, and so many more. We are a community and a family. I kind of feel like I am leaving the nest. Scary and exciting at the same time.
The last time
Today was the last time for so many things:
- Last time to try to find that perfect parking spot close to the door
- Last time to take the elevator to the 14th floor (as usual, it took forever coming)
- Last time to open up my computer, print out a new patient list for the day, lead rounds, and tackle whatever else would be thrown my way
- Last time to calm an angry family when things weren’t going the way they should, or at least the way they thought they should
- Last time to hear a patient say I had made a difference to their stay in hospital
- Last time to say “Goodnight. See everyone tomorrow!”
Over my 30 years as a nurse, I did so many things. What a wonderful career. The 12-hour shifts were great… when I was younger. I found the Monday-to-Friday 8-hour shifts more suited to me as I ‘matured.’ I worked in several different areas of the hospital, so I never felt stuck in the same job. I was a staff nurse on the ‘Willie Ward.’ Urology, officially. This position provided non-stop material for dinner party stories – much to the dismay of the non-medical guests. As co-ordinator of a hip and knee replacement unit, I was proud that we got the place running like an efficient assembly line. For a while, I worked in the Bladder Care Centre. Patients came in for bladder testing – terrified – and left saying, “That wasn’t so bad!” My final position, as leader of a medical unit, was by far my most rewarding position. Not only did I work with the nurses and patients, but I also helped the medical students who were learning to become doctors.
Ice cream treats
It is hard to arrange any sort of get-together while at work, because we still have to be available to our patients and their families. But food usually does the trick. In the morning, I spread the word that there would be ice cream treats on the Unit at 2 p.m., after my last set of rounds. Those who could make it showed up. I handed around ice cream sandwiches and popsicles that I had brought, and we had a good visit.
I had only one episode of tears – that with a long-term colleague who came to see me in the morning to say goodbye – but I generally held it together, much to my surprise. I don’t actually feel sad about leaving, because I am so excited about what is to come next. We’ll see how I do at my retirement party later in the spring, though.
I thought I would leave a little early on my last day, but, as luck would have it, I got busy and ran late. Once done, however, I gathered up the flowers and gifts that people had so generously brought for me. I put on my coat, and said a big goodbye to the medical team who were doing their end-of-day rounds in the area outside my office. I left my key for the person covering me next week and headed to the elevator for the last time. As I was walking through the lobby towards the door, the retirement balloon that had been given to me broke free from its string and sailed up to the ceiling. I took that as a sign… the sky is the limit!
As I was driving home listening to CBC I was thinking of that glass of bubbly I would be having to celebrate. So many people were surprised to hear I was retiring. Some said I was too young (I love those people) and some said what will we do without you? (I love them equally)
My next chapter
Well. I am home now. Bubbly in hand. Toasting with a few close friends.
Today is the first day of my next chapter. I am excited to see how things will unfold as the pages turn. One thing for sure – I will be having coffee in bed tomorrow, with my dogs snuggled next to me.