I was 17 when I first put on my nurse’s uniform. I’ll never forget that feeling. It was new and exciting. Scary too. But it felt right.
From the very first day, it felt right.
I loved it from that very first day. And I hadn’t even seen a patient at that stage! That would take six weeks. Six long weeks before any of my group were unleashed on a real patient.
We had to learn stuff first. Like how to take a blood pressure and do a bed bath and give out a bed pan. Can you believe I took a full page of notes on how to give a bedpan?! I still have those notes and I shake my head at that studious young woman.
And then we were on. Out in the real world, with bona fide patients, bona fide wounds, bona fide sickness.
But I loved that most of all. I loved being with my patients. Sure, the work was full on – twelve to eighteen patients needing to be showered/bathed, their obs done and their dressings attend to all before morning tea or look out!
But I loved being with them. Chatting with them as I made their beds, or helping them to the shower or dressing their wounds. I loved the camaraderie. The connection.
The laughter, the risqué jokes, the banter.
I loved hearing their stories. I loved the whispered night duty conversations.
I loved that I could help in some way. That I could do something for them that might just ease whatever was ailing them even if only momentarily.
A squeeze to the hand, an extra smuggled pudding, a pulled curtain when they needed it.
I loved bossing those tough guys who’d come off their bikes and landed in traction into rolling bags of laundered bandages for me (yes, we used to recycle bandages!!). I loved listening to stories about grandkids and handsome husbands who could dance the Pride of Erin like no other man and what I could do about my acne from little old ladies. I loved being flirted with by strapping young country boys who’d hurt themselves by doing something (usually) completely idiotic like surfing on the top of a traveling ute or blowing up something that wasn’t meant to be blown up.
I loved being the one who could take away pain with one swift jab. I really loved giving needles!
I loved being greeted like a long-lost friend after the physio had done her rounds.
Above all, I loved the trust they put in me, the way they looked to me for guidance – this kid fresh out of high school.
And man, they told me some crazy stuff. Intimate, personal stuff. Stuff that made me want to stick my fingers in my ears and yell out la la la at the top of my lungs. Didn’t they realise I was just some seventeen year old kid with no life experience and no clue…
Twenty seven years later, I still love being a nurse. I’ve seen some things I’d never thought I’d see, never wanted to see, never ever, ever thought possible to see, never want to see again.
I’ve witnessed incredible joy and devastating sadness.I’ve been humbled and honoured to be there at the start and at the end of life. I’ve had some of the best times of my life in this job. Seen some incredible miracles and witnessed enormous faith. I’ve traveled the world with it and made some wonderful friends. I’ve laughed (and cried) so hard.
And man…I’m going to miss it.
My life is coming to a crossroads. The hospital where I work is closing down and relocating and I think it’s the universes way of telling me to hang up my fob watch. I’m going on 5 months leave next month so I’ll have plenty of time to think about it properly and plan. I may still need to do some nursing in some kind of capacity in the future but I think my clinical days are over. I was sad about that for a while but I’m not anymore. I’ll have more time to write and indulge my creative side instead of living this bizarre dual life. When people ask me what I do I won’t have to um and ah and choose the job that I know will be more palatable for them which is what I do now. I won’t be a nurse anymore – I’ll only be a writer.
So, bring it on!
Do you love what you do for a crust? Have you ever come to a cross-roads in your life? Which way did you jump? Are you looking forward to “retirement” and if so, do you have any grand plans for that magical time?