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The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to reassess our lives, presenting unprecedented change. But continuous learning and personal aspirations can lead to new opportunities.
Recently, I was privileged to chat with a very special health professional, entrepreneur, and coach whose work I have been following closely on Facebook. Sunie Nelson-Keller has been a registered nurse (RN) for 43 years and a registered dental hygienist (RDH) for 40. She also is a legal nurse consultant and health coach. Nelson-Keller just might be the spoonful of sugar some of us need as we navigate our careers during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. She lives in northern California and describes life as a series of obstacles that, if overcome, teach valuable lessons.
When Nelson-Keller became an RN at 20, she knew she did not want to work weekends and nights for the rest of her life. She wanted to earn a BS but was not sure what she wanted to do with it. Her brother-in-law, a doctor of dental surgery, said, “What about dental hygiene? Good hours and pay.” Nelson-Keller ended up liking both professions—nursing and dental hygiene. She worked in both for 30 years, with 2 RN and 2 RDH jobs. A typical schedule would include working as a hygienist from 8 AM to 5 PM and then a 7 to 11 PM shift at the hospital, with 12-hour shifts on weekends.
Nelson-Keller’s schedule suited her until she wanted to get married, have a child, and take life a bit easier. After 10 years and a more relaxed lifestyle, her marriage fell apart and Nelson-Keller thought she would never regain stability in her life.
She turned to legal nurse consulting and did well until attorneys stopped calling. Then she remembered a hygienist friend telling her about health coaching. Four years later, Nelson-Keller had her feet planted on the ground, but her balance was still slightly off. She assessed her life. This time she was willing to do whatever it took to make a difference for her and her daughter. Health coaching was the best decision she made for her financial security, and she was helping hundreds who had given up hope of being healthy again.
Nelson-Keller still loves hygiene and works part-time as a clinician but can choose her workdays. She has a passion for making a difference in her patients’ lives.
Working After COVID-19
Just as Queen Elizabeth II referred to 1992 as her annus horribilis (meaning “year of disaster” in Latin), wrecked by the collapse of 2 of her children’s marriages, 2020 was an awakening for all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic stunned and forced us to reassess our lives, presenting unprecedented change and opportunity.
I spoke to Nelson-Keller about positive changes dental practices and individuals may choose to make after COVID-19. For businesses, changes may occur for any number of reasons, such as making value shine brighter with a happier, more flexible workforce that is also more creative and diverse.
For individuals, the pandemic has changed thinking about careers. We may suddenly find that a pre-COVID-19 job is no longer a good fit. As Nelson-Keller and others have discovered, change through adversity does not have to be negative. Here are some tips Nelson-Keller and I came up with that you should keep in mind in 2021:
Sunie Nelson-Keller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Her main passions are health coaching, tournament waterskiing, and playing the violin.