Confessions of a nurse - the beginning

When I was in high school I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with my life. I don't think anyone really knows at that age. There's a huge pressure put on kids to decide their future careers so early on. It crossed my mind a few times to do nursing. I clearly remember sitting in my year coordinators office and being told I didn't have what it took to be a nurse. His wife was a nurse and dealt with disgusting stuff like smelly wounds and he didn't think I had the type of personality to handle such things. I just laughed as I do at such ridiculous comments and walked out of there thinking I'll show you!! Eight years on and I've done my Diploma of Enrolled Nursing, Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Postgraduate Diploma of Midwifery. I would just love to waltz into his office today and say oh I didn't have what it takes?! Maybe you don't have what it takes to be coaching kids on the biggest descions of their lives. So much for motivation and encouragement hey? 

I absolutely love being a nurse! I think it's the best job in the world. I couldn't think of any other way to spend the last few years of my life. Nursing showed me the most vulnerable side of people, when people are at their lowest, their weakest and most in need. I love being the one to care for them, not to judge and to provide the smiles. Never underestimate the power of a smile, a touch on the hand and a sense of humour. These are all in my nursing toolbox right next to the panadol! 

At the young age of 17 I walked into the Tafe ready for my first day of the rest of my life! I had been accepted into nursing and was over the moon. Last month school, this month nursing! Before we hit the books the usual checks were in order, paperwork, first aid and... a needle. If there's one thing I'm petrified of, it's needles! Let alone a needle in front of all my new classmates! To say I was nervous was a complete understatement. As the line drew smaller I spotted a familiar face, a girl I recognised from school. I went over and we started talking, we bonded over our fear of needles and that's where our friendship began. Now I call her my best friend and Oli's Aunty fleur! That wasn't the only gift I got from my 18 months training. I was now qualified! I suddenly saw the world in a different light. Becoming a nurse didn't come easy, there was a lot of blood, sweat and tears involved, quite literally!

I had hardly seen anyone naked before and my first placement I was showering at least four people a day. I was suddenly helping grown men in the shower! Of course this could have been the most awkward situation the the world but you know what? I wouldn't let it. I would get on with the job, make them feel comfortable and ease the situation with chatting. I have been so lucky to have an insight into peoples lives through many a bathroom conversation . Learning about their families and friends, not many people get that privilege on a daily basis. 

Of course not everything was pretty. I'm not referring to the wounds or operating theatre placements. The most horrible things that have stuck with me are when I have been treated badly. Not by patients, not even by grumpy doctors...by nurses! My goodness can they be brutal. A tip to all nurses out there, if you don't want a student why don't you be up front and refuse! It would make everyones lives much easier! I was allocated this nurse who clearly didn't want a bar of me. For half of the morning she ignored me and when that got old she tore me to shreds in front of our patients. I had been on prac for about two days, I was as green as they come! I didn't know how to take a pulse, especially on a semi conscious elderly patient with the thinnest little wrists I'd ever seen! After trying for a while I said I couldn't feel it, this nurse grabbed my wrist and squeezed it so hard while saying "do you think you would ever be able to feel a pulse when you are holding so tightly! you are stopping the blood flow!" Ahh okay, I was in shock after that! I also failed at taking a manual blood pressure on the same patient when she blasted me about my lack of skills versus all of her knowledge and experience. Like I said I was two days into my placement, never been in a hospital in my life. I cried all afternoon and she was consequently banned from having students. That bitch! I will never understand nurses who are full of knowledge and experience yet won't share it. Some people are just nasty!

The most difficult but precious memory I have of my Enrolled nursing training is when I was caring for a palliative care patient. The elderly gentleman had faced a long battle with cancer he was able to live independently with only a few hospital admissions here and there. I admitted him at the start of the week for an increasing cough and he was feeling pretty lousy overall. After a few days he started to rapidly decline, and on the Friday I was holding his hand as he died. I was the only person in the room. He had no family, no friends. As his breathing began to change I had said to him "are you alright?" he responded "I'm stuffed" and shortly after passed away. Even typing this now, takes me right back there to that room. It's the most surreal experience to be in the presence of someone leaving the earth. I felt so many mixed emotions scared, upset, horrified, sad. Now I look back and think I was so blessed to be there, he was lucky to have me and I was lucky to have him. I often think of him and all of the lessons his passing has taught me. I've been witness to quite a few deaths now but I will always cherish that memory. I think the most difficult part was that he had no one. There was no one with him and no one to notify of his death. This upset me the most. 

There is nothing in world that forces you out of your comfort zone quite like nursing. Well perhaps mental health placements take the cake? Two days in to our mental health prac in the big bad city, Fleur and I were in tears working out how we could crash our car so we would have to go home to Albany. Anything to stop us having to return to the locked mens wards. When I say tears I'm talking full on breakdown, howling to our parents down the phone after we couldn't even face turning up for our shift!  My brother came and picked us up and took us to the pub for a drink, we then had to face our preceptor who was honestly about the scariest thing in the whole establishment! I remember Phil saying "Whats she going to do?! Lock you in the chokey?" Fleur and I looked at each other and started bawling! That was a real possibility! It turned out she wasn't as bad as we thought and was quite reasonable in trying to convince us to stay and finish our prac. I don't think we have ever zoomed down Albany highway so fast away from Perth on that last day!  I think every one of my nursing friends can relate to this experience! It still gives me chills down my spine. I have done other mental health pracs since which I quite enjoyed but when your 18, away from home, have no support and have lived a beautiful sheltered life in the country it was rather challenging! 

After the most exciting, scary, and fun 18 months of my life I stood on the stage graduating in front of family and friends as proud as punch. I went from being a school girl to student nurse and now a qualified nurse!  Next stop - move to Perth and start my graduate program. A whole new life. Stay tuned for the next instalment of confessions of a nurse!