Why I hung up my Stethoscope and became a Web Developer
I took the plunge and switched careers despite my successful career as Head Nurse of Cardiology. Now I'm a developer. Find out why in this article.
I'm Simona, a German web developer living in Amsterdam. I'm crazy about all things full-stack: front end, back end and recently devops as well.
This is quite a recent development. However, my journey started differently.
Once upon a time I was ...
... a nurse. Yes, I know. "How did that happen?" This is a question I'm happy to answer everyone who asks.
I only ever had two lifelong dreams:
- be a heart surgeon
- build a robot
I hit my first roadblock very soon after school; my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. My mother had been battling illnesses for a while as well so I had to adjust my road map a bit. Instead of studying medicine I decided to go for a medicine-adjacent career before switching tracks back to medicine - I would be earning money and knowledge from day 1 instead of spending several years at university.
As a nurse I was able to care for my father and the family. I graduated from nursing school back in 2015 and became a cardiac nurse.
It was an amazing time: working with great and intelligent colleagues, while also learning from and teaching doctors. I enjoyed the thrill of saving lives, given that we were a high risk ward for cardiac arrests, blockages and many, many other heart related problems. Often there was nothing better than a cold beer (or several) at 7 in the morning at the local hospital bar after a particularly rough night shift.
I climbed ranks quickly, I became an official student mentor, came up with safety programs, and towards the end of my nursing career I was one of the youngest head nurses of the cardiac wing.
Why did I ditch my scrubs for slacks though?
Burnout is real, and a serious problem in the medical world.
I believed I would thrive as head nurse of cardiology - I mean, I was young and had already achieved so much in just 3 years. I thought I knew what the role would entail, and it seemed quite doable to me.
But it came with many downsides that I soon discovered, including:
- Zero work-life balance. I often worked 12-14 days in a row with all kinds of shifts intermixed in that time frame, with only 1-2 days of breaks in between.
- Increasing amounts of responsibility and unfulfilled promises. The job was supposed to come with two second-in-commands to delegate various tasks to. Unfortunately we were understaffed and overbooked, and I had no assistance during my time as the head nurse.
- Everyone was miserable. My colleagues, doctors, patients — it was such a negative and borderline toxic environment, you always took the misery home with you.
My boyfriend, a lifelong developer, was not happy that I was not happy. Back then we were in a long-distance relationship and he kept urging me to switch careers.
"Become a developer, you will love it! I think it's something you'd be great at!"
I didn't quite believe him then as I couldn't even think of leaving the world of health care, I still had so much passion for medicine, nursing and cardiology.
But towards the end of 2018 I had to take sick leave for a week to recoup after a particular rough patch. That week turned into three months of trying to get over the severe burnout I was going through. I never returned back to that role, or that hospital.
As a nurse, I found myself sleeping when I wasn't working with no time for my hobbies. I wanted to focus back on them.
Coding was one of those hobbies — or should I rather say "coding". When I was about 12 years old I joined the computer club at my school and learned how to build small, blinking and loud websites with HTML and CSS. I was hooked.
A bit later I read all of the Lord of the Rings series and a few friends and I thought it would be super cool to learn Sindarin, the Elven language made up by Tolkien. Unfortunately all resources on the subject were only available in English, and my friends spoke only German. I had the idea of creating a dictionary and lecture platform, German <> Sindarin. HTML and CSS wouldn't be enough. I had to store the translations and lectures, and more importantly allow searching for words in the dictionary. I learnt PHP and MySQL, the most popular and easiest combination back then to do this, especially in Germany.
I decided to dust off my coding boots, and get back on the road. I started learning some Python and refreshing my HTML skills, but found it a big hill to climb by myself.
Moving to Amsterdam, surviving a coding bootcamp and getting my first job
Fast forward to the end of 2019. My boyfriend had moved to Amsterdam some time before that and it was the perfect time to bridge the distance and move to Amsterdam. I was thinking of being a nurse here as well, but to be a nurse in the Netherlands, I would have to re-qualify, and also be a proficient speaker in Dutch. This would take some time, and I kind of needed a change as well for my mental health, so I started weighing my options. My boyfriend heavily suggested I give up being a nurse and switch to development.
Studying computer science for several years was not an option for me. I wanted a job as soon as possible as I already had work experience of nearly 8 years.
A coding bootcamp was the answer for me and I believe it is also the future of web development education. During the time it would take to get back to the role I'd just burnt out from, I could switch careers to a hobby I'd started to enjoy again. I interviewed with quite a few bootcamps in Amsterdam and eventually decided to accept the offer at Codaisseur for their intensive 11-week full-stack web development course.
It was the best decision I had made in a very long time.
I found my first job as a full-stack developer in March 2020 (within two months of graduating from the bootcamp), and guess what:
I joined a health care company that provides a platform for freelance nurses to choose where they want to work! Talk about a match made in heaven.
That is it for my introduction, more posts will follow soon!
I will be talking more about my career switch, my experience with bootcamps, everything about my first job as a developer (and how to get one if you don't come from an academic background) in this blog series From Scrubs to Slacks.
But I will not only talk of career-related topics but also provide tutorials, tips and tricks around web development.
I have taken so much knowledge and help from the dev community, it is time to start giving back. ✌️
One more thing:
I'm building my frickin' robot!
More on that project in the next coming weeks here.
I talk about all things Node.js, TypeScript, IoT, web development, robots — but also about switching careers to coding, how to survive the journey towards your first role and more.