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Retiring from nursing? For her, it’s a contradiction in terms

Susan Hennings-Lowe of Huntington on her last day

Susan Hennings-Lowe of Huntington on her last day of work at Syosset Hospital last summer. Credit: Susan Hennings-Lowe

I stopped for gas today, and when the attendant came to the window to announce that I owed him (a shocking) $18, he noticed the stethoscope (with the little sock monkey dressed in scrubs) hanging from my rearview mirror.

“Doctor?” he asked.

“Nurse,” I replied and an unexpected smile appeared on my face. My nursing profession has always brought me great joy, even during the difficult days, the sad days, the impossible shifts, etc. Anyone who has ever been in a hospital or has had a loved one under care knows the drill.

I retired from nursing, specifically the OR [operating room]where I usually worked wherever I went, in September last year. It was with very mixed emotions, but the current circumstances were such that I felt it was time to go. I had heard from friends and relatives that they knew when it was time to go and that I would, too. I tried to imagine it but couldn’t.

Once, I wandered into an unusual store somewhere in Pennsylvania that was filled with military articles. I made the mistake of telling the man behind the counter, whose age and attire I noticed a little too late, that I knew someone who was an ex-Marine. “Lady,” he said, “there’s no such thing as an ex-Marine. You’re either dead or retired.”

Most of my co-workers were younger, and the choice to retire wouldn’t be fiscally prudent for a while, but nevertheless, they expressed frustration in not being able to join me. Nurses by nature are nurturing, and these people became my family, my brothers and sisters, all with different roles to play in my life’s journey, and their journey will continue even during the hard times because of who they are.

When I graduated from Kings County Hospital Center School of Nursing in Brooklyn, my mother was bursting with pride. My father said, “Well, dear, we are very proud of you and you will always have this to fall back on, but now you can go to secretarial school like your mom and work for an important law firm.”

To say I was shocked is an understatement. His words echoed from time to time during the hard days, but I stuck with it, and with a “short” 20-year hiatus to stay home and raise four children, I continued to stay with it, and it has been a true blessing.

Being a member of the first class of baby boomers, I am doing what I suspect many of my classmates are doing — baby-sitting grandchildren, so I will be staying on Long Island until [or unless] it becomes financially impossible.

My grandchildren are very lucky and so are their parents. Not only do I love them all most of the time, I find that my professional nursing skills are called upon almost daily.

Yes, I miss the “job” and I miss my friends, but I’ll always be a nurse. Semper Fi!

Susan Hennings-Lowe,


STAYING OR GOING? Retirement. It’s a dirty word to some who love their job and want to keep working until the last whistle blows. Work provides a purpose, a social outlet and a welcome paycheck. But after clocking in every week for decades, many longtime employees look forward to leaving behind the daily commute, company downsizing and humdrum routines.

Are you staying or going? What are your plans if retiring? Baby-sitting grandchildren or climbing mountains? Returning to school or taking piano lessons? If you’ve retired, is it as good as you thought it would be? If you have no intention of quitting your career, what’s keeping you there? Share your thoughts for possible publication. Email or write to Act 2 Editor, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747. Include your name, address, phone numbers and a current picture if available.

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