Hanging up my stethoscope

Hanging up my stethoscope feels like losing a limb. I’ve been a nurse, a nurse practitioner, and a nursing instructor for all of my adult life.

Over the years I have listened to thousands of patient’s stories, listened to their hearts, their blood vessels, their bowels, and their lungs. I have touched patients, held their hands, hugged them, made them laugh, and held them when they cried. What a privilege! I can’t say that any day working as a nurse was useless or boring. Over the years nursing became part of my identity, a way of looking and being in the world.   

Since March 18 I have been seeing my patients virtually because of Covid 19. Sometimes the visit took place over video, a little like the Jetsons, but most visits have been phone visits. Virtual patient visits are an odd, surreal way to fade away. So many things are missed over the internet. A patient’s glance or affect, how they are dressed, how they walk, how they smell, what their skin feels like and how they are breathing.

I haven’t picked up my stethoscope once during these past six weeks. I’m not totally complaining, there are some benefits to virtual visits. Family members hang in the background asking questions and giving helpful information. One of my visits was with a patient on a tractor in his garage. I got the chance to meet his daughter and to hear his children playing in the background.

I am so grateful for having been a nurse. It was more than a career, it was a calling. I always felt closer to God when caring for a patient than I ever did in a church service.  

I have also loved the science of it all, and the tremendous mystery of the human body. The more I learned, the more I knew I didn’t know and would never know. To this day we have lots of knowledge, but the gap between what we know and what we still need to learn about the human body is infinite. This becomes so clear with Covid-19. We have dealt with viruses for millennia, but never this little thug. So many new questions needing to be answered.  

Nursing is not only a profession that is science based, but it is relationship based.  I believe that all healing occurs in the context of a relationship. It is not just the patient-nurse relationship that is rewarding, but nursing shares common bonds with all the other health care players. There is a comradery working with other members of the health care community in caring for patients.   

I also loved teaching NP students. They brought with them a wealth of nursing experience and a hunger to learn. They were mostly fun, kept me on my toes, and made me laugh. The best part of having been a teacher is running into former students in professional meetings and health care settings and seeing how they have grown as professionals, full of confidence, knowledge, questions, and skills. So many of my former students stepped in to precept and mentor my newer students.

It’s been a great ride. So today I hang up my stethoscope. Or maybe not.

42 comments

  • Catherine Hershey

    Oh dear, that brought on tears. Mostly appreciate your statement that we learn how much we do not know.. I think the best nurses are not only caring, but brilliant. Such are you, and perhaps your reduced need to double check the mechanics of the profession made more room for the love you shared. Thank you for sharing this! Blessings, Catherine

    • sbusch

      Hi Catherine,
      Thank you so much for your kind words! Give Phil a hug for me.
      Blessings to you both
      Sue

    • Annie

      Beautiful tribute to your profession, Susie
      And so apt right now as medical professionals show up to care for and fight for patients in extraordinary ways . Bless you and all the nurses , like my mom, who gave and are giving so much

      • sbusch

        Hi Annie,
        I had forgotten your mom was a nurse. Hope you have a Happy Mother’s Day and Grandmother’s day.

  • Cricket Rumler

    Oh Susan, you will miss it, AND you will love the next adventure of life ahead of you. You are, and will always be a nurse. You will quickly learn to describe yourself as a “retired or former” nurse; this becomes apparent the first time you hear the phrase pass your lips, describing yourself as an “old nurse”. ? Oh what adventures await you and Art. Enjoy!

    • sbusch

      Hi Cricket,
      I still have your 2014 email in my inbox. We were planning on meeting half way one of these days/years. For now stay safe and sheltered.
      Sue

  • Kathleen Bennett mcCurdy

    Sue Ellison Bush, you are one in a million. I am honored and blessed that God put me on your cousin path/journey.

    • sbusch

      Kathleen Bennett McCurdy–I am also blessed and honored to have you on my cousin/path journey.
      Hope to see you soon!
      Sue

  • Kristina Nero

    Wow, what an impact you have had. In the moments you are longing to be back with patients, may the many connected moments you have had serve as a comfort. Love you, Sue.

    • sbusch

      Thanks Kris,
      Lets get together soon. I am loving some of Marissa’s posts on Facebook. Hope you are all well.
      Sue

  • Lior

    Susie,
    You will always be a nurse, and…from now on, you just won’t HAVE TO be one.

  • Mary LOU

    This was so beautifully written. I have always admired you ! You are the epitome of the best of the best. Bless you and enjoy your retirement. I am not far behind you.

    • sbusch

      No–You are the best of the best! Let’s keep in contact. I have loved running into you in unexpected placed like Disney World a few years back.
      Sue

  • Deni Webner Lewis

    Susie,
    Congratulations on your retirement. You deserve it after your years of service. When you left Miami to go back to Cleveland to pursue a nursing degree I was sad to loose you as a roommate, but I knew it was the right move for you because you are compassionate individual and would be there to help so many people. I’m sure you will find ways in your retirement to still be helpful.

    • sbusch

      Hi Deni,
      So nice to hear from you! I think of you often. It has been so many years since I’ve seen you. Now that I’m retired, lets plan to get together and catch up.
      Sue

  • Christine Armstrong

    Sorry to see you leave the profession but happy for you to start your next chapter. I was truly blessed to have you as an instructor and later as a nephrology colleague. Thank you for your dedication to your patients, profession and students. I for one consider my self fortunate to have had an opportunity to have experienced your vibrational field. God Bless and happy travels.

  • mary E ciesa

    Oh Sue!
    Beautifully written, heartfelt, kind and caring like you! So happy to know you in our careers! I identify with all that you have said. Letting go of that stethoscope is such a huge decision. I admire you and applaud all that you have done for humankind in your career! My best wishes to you on the next part of the journey! May it be full of wonderful and meaningful experiences just as the calling of nursing! Cheers my friend!

    • sbusch

      Hi Mary,
      I feel blessed to know you in our shared careers as NPs and writers. Hope to still keep in contact with you.
      Sue

  • What a wonderful summation of a truly meaningful and inspiring career. I hope the next chapter brings you as much fulfillment. Still looking forward to getting together with you Art and Loreen when we come out of our current challenges.

  • Mary Pat Moriarty

    Your kindness always touched my heart. You always wanted the best for me. I do not think you can just walk away.

  • Janet Fuchs

    Congratulations Sue! I know that you will be missed. Now on to a new chapter in your life.
    Hope to see you on the trails soon! Enjoy!

  • Robin M Phillips

    I always loved working with you. And I have always been amazed at productive you are in so many ways.

  • Ruth A Mundy

    Sue, Love this description of being a nurse — ALL OF IT! And I share in your thoughts in what being a nurse and now a nurse practitioner has meant to me. You have had some wonderful experiences in this, as we all have. And then there are the times when we also cry with our patients. It’s been not just a pleasure, but a privilege to learn under your tutelage and then to be a coworker. You will definitely be missed! God bless you and Art.

  • Sue: That was a great discourse on your nursing life
    May Our Lord Jesus Bless you and keep you

  • Pat Bull

    Beautifully written, Sue! You were a wonderful nurse! Wishing you much happiness in your retirement!

  • Hope Kucinski

    You are truly an inspiration and will be greatly missed. I enjoyed working and learning from you.. Good luck in retirement.

  • Louann Bailey

    Sue, my friend, colleague, fellow educator, brave mother, philosopher, and spiritual soul, who has touched so many people in so many profound ways. You may have hung up your stethoscope, or not, but you will never be without your caring smile, friendly greeting and trusted thoughts and never ending wit.
    You may say you retired but you will never retire from making a difference in other peoples lives.
    Enjoy your new freedom my friend

    • sbusch

      Thanks Louanne. Are you and Kathy in the thick of things these days? We’ll get together when the world opens up again.

      • Louann Bailey

        Yes we are both working with COVID pts. Kathleen is on a Airway team but thankfully she has not had to intubate anyone with confirmed COVID. I am working with COVID medical pts (non critical care) as a hospitalist. Thankfully these pts are stable but we have had to send a few back to the unit 2/2 decompensation.
        It is stressful and I must admit I am exhausted mentally at the end of the day. Just thinking about, maintaining proper PPE can be fatiguing.
        This too will pass, just not quick enough.
        Yes we will get together soon. If you want to go hiking/walking sometime, my schedule is pretty flexible for the most part.
        Stay safe and well

  • Eileen Sizer

    Congratulations, Sue, on a lifetime of healing service! Your words were so eloquent and moving. I could tell it truly was a calling, as you said. It was so much more than a job. I’m sure the Lord is very pleased with all your dedication to serving the body of Christ! I pray you’ll be very blessed in/with your next chapter of life!

  • Anne Lucas

    Congratulations on your retirement!
    I remember working with you years ago. You were always so positive!

  • Anne Lucas

    I’m kind of retired too-I’ve been on disability dt MS since 2010.
    I’m a stay at home mom with my 2 girls:
    Paige (17) and Holly (14).

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