Actual angels in plaid scrubs… yes plaid. The Wesley kit their surgical team out in only the best.
In September I applied to a new degree. I’ve just completed my Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Criminology, which hails from a time where I was going to be teacher, and next year I’m starting something new. The very first thing I ever wanted to be was a nurse, before I even really fully understood what it meant to be one, before I moved on to wanting to do medicine in year 10. I decided I wanted to be a teacher after that and nursing was forgotten until my second year of university. I remember suddenly missing the medicine, exacerbated by long study sessions in the Mater Hospital library where a table of happy nursing students let me sit with them while I studied a potent combination of physiology, statistics, and modernist literature. They were so nice and incredibly grateful for my physiology knowledge which more than once helped quash the frightened stares that ensued after one of them would read a tricky question. Hearing them quiz each other on nursing topics and being more interested in said topics than my own coursework changed my mind soon enough and I began to research whether switching to nursing was a thing that I could do. That was when I found the awesome graduate entry degree Master of Nursing Studies which lets you do a nursing degree in 2 years after your undergraduate degree, as long as you’ve done at least one undergrad science course (thanks physiology!).
That was it. But even so, I was pretty sure I was only imagining what I wanted and, like anything, I questioned if I had done the right thing. Changing a well thought out plan to something completely new has that affect, and my head swam with possibilities. Should I just go to medical school? Nope, too much chemistry…and one first year anatomy class taught me that I was not great with cadavers, or origins and insertions for that matter (thank you nursing and your awesome mannequins that are NOT cadavers!). Should I just be a science teacher to get the med feels back? Not when the biology curriculum is 62.5% plants and animals,25% genetics, and 12.5% human stuff. No, nursing was certainly what called me the most; I had sort of, kind of, felt the calling. A very recent experience changed all that, I felt the calling for real and I knew it was for real because I’d never been more sure about what I wanted. Like a nun seeing a vision of Christ, I felt changed.
The moment came last week as I sat in a tiny room in a rather billowing hospital gown with an angel in plaid scrubs (yes, I said plaid) named Mel. She was sweet and kind, and was the first of many nurses that day who would try to keep me calm even though I was petrified. She made jokes about the attractiveness of theatre attire and complimented my hair as she tried desperately to get it out the way of pretty much everything she was doing. Mel was the first but not the last of these angels in plaid scrubs who helped me through my surgery. These women were amazing and it wasn’t a superhuman gesture that made it so, it was every small gesture. It was the way the nurse running the board gave me a toasty blanket and asked “you good?” with a smile as I was transported to theatre; the way the nurses in the post-anaesthetic care unit reassured me, promising me everything was okay as I woke up in my drug-induced confusion; and the nurse in recovery who tried her best to decipher my chart and provide me with some answers in an attempt to quash the anxiety that nothing had been found. As I went into the theatre, and met the rest of the surgical team, I thought how much I wanted to be just like them when I became a nurse.
The nurse who I absolutely wanted to be more than anything was the anaesthetics nurse who held my hand and cracked jokes as the anaesthetist tried to find a vein (I’m apparently a terrible stick). She seemed in love with her job, even the part that included getting me tissues. She came to see me to ask the standard set of questions a third time over when I was in the holding bay. If you’ve never been in one, it’s a little curtained cubicle where you wait to go into theatre and you are pretty much all alone. It’s guaranteed to shake the confidence of even the calmest surgical patient, because when you’re alone with your thoughts you often realise how scared you really are. It hit me hard because I was already nervous, and the person who comforted me the most was this amazing nurse. The anaesthetist and my surgeon also came to see me; both were unwaveringly kind and greatly comforting, but something about this woman was even greater. I’ll never forget the look on her face as a chime was heard over the hospital intercom and she excitedly told me, “That means a baby’s just been born!”. That’s an awesome hospital feature by the way, but she looked so happy that it made me feel less sad. Even the anaesthetist, who was still helplessly looking at my apparently veinless arm, looked cheerier. I went home after my surgery feeling like if I ever had to do it again I’d be able to. Better yet, I felt the calling. I knew absolutely that I was destined to be a nurse, to spread happiness and kindness even in the darkest of times; to be optimistic and reassuring even when the patient feels helpless. That’s what I want to be.
I’d been thinking for a while that I wanted to go into paediatrics because I work with children at the moment and for the most part I adore it, my students are awesome and surprise me every day. While there are some that annoy and frustrate me quite a bit, I can always find something about them that makes me smile. Paediatric nurses seem kind of like superheroes to me and I wanted in, and maybe I still do – we’ll see what practical placement brings, but now I may have other plans. Being a surgical nurse, or maybe even anaesthetics, seems like an area I want to explore now because of the amazing people I met. Perhaps still with children, but I’m considering adult surgery more because it’s even more scary to be completely grown up but still find yourself at your most vulnerable. I would empathise with so many of my patients, knowing their fears and concerns because they were once mine. The strength of nurses in any area is admirable and something to aspire to, but I feel a particular affinity with several areas. It’s something I look forward to exploring as I complete my degree.
Expect much nurse blogging in 2016! Feel that calling with me 😀