The Call to Nurse…and To Write

edited picture.Nursing: 1. The profession or practice of providing care for the sick and infirm.

Nurse: (from the Latin, Nutrix) 1. Someone who nourishes and cares.

In 1860 Florence Nightingale wrote that nursing is the act of utilizing the environment of the patient to assist him in his recovery.

Almost a century later, Nursing Theorist Virginia Henderson wrote that the function of a nurse is to “assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to a peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will, or knowledge. And to do this in such a way as to help him gain independence as rapidly as possible.”

I think that’s a pretty ‘wordy’ definition and perhaps it can be better summed up in her beautiful poem titled, “To Make Complete” which forms part of the definition of what nursing means to me.

“To make complete,
the nurse is temporarily the consciousness of the unconscious,
the love of life for the suicidal,
the leg of the amputee,
the eyes of the newly blind,
a means of locomotion for the infant,
knowledge and confidence for the mother
and the mouthpiece for those too weak or withdrawn to speak.”

As I ponder these words, I also think of the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible.

“A Samaritan traveling along the road came to a man. When he saw the man’s condition, the Samaritan’s heart went out to him. Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan went to him and gave him first aid. The Samaritan poured olive oil and wine on the man’s wounds to soothe and clean them, and bandaged them. Then the Samaritan put the hurt man on a donkey and took him to an inn where he was cared for and nursed through the night.” (Luke 10:34)

I know this story is traditionally used as a parable about loving our neighbors, but it’s really a story about loving others. About loving everybody. When Jesus asked “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”, the answer was obvious – “the one who had mercy on him.”  Because this reply was correct, Jesus simply said, “Go and do likewise.”

And that, for me, is what nursing is all about. Be the Samaritan. Have mercy on others. And do what Jesus asks. Be a neighbor.

If you’re a Christian, you might know that Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is to “the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second commandment is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I like to put it this way: “Love God, Love People, Love Life.”

To authentically love God means I show mercy to those in need – I am serving God and loving Him when I care for others.

To genuinely love people means that I am a neighbor to others, meeting their needs. (And my neighbors aren’t determined by race, creed or gender – they simply consist of every single person made in the image of God.)

Author Francis Chan says that “nothing you do in this life will ever matter unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made.”

This statement really resonates with me because it defines and explains the third part of my “Love God, Love People, Love Life” motto. And that is this: It is impossible to love my life if I don’t love God and I don’t love His people.

Therefore, each day as I choose to worship God and I choose to show mercy on others, I am enabled (by God) to also love the life I have been given.

When you ask me what it means to be a nurse, I might refer you the following quote by Kateri Allerd (the link to the entire article can be found here.)

I am a Nurse. I didn’t become a nurse because I couldn’t cut it in med school, or failed organic chemistry, but rather because I chose this. I work to maintain my patient’s dignity through intimate moments, difficult long term decisions, and heartbreaking situations. I share in the joy of newly born babies and miraculously cured diseases. I share in the heart break of a child taken too soon, a disease too powerful, a life changed forever. My patient is often an entire family. I assess and advocate. Sometimes I wipe bottoms, often I give meds, but that isn’t the extent of what I do. There are people above me, and people below. I work closely with both, without them, I could not do what I do well. I chose this profession and love almost every minute of it. I know I am not alone and I appreciate all of the nurses who work alongside me. Many of them have shaped me into the nurse I am. Someday I will shape others into the nurse they will be. This wasn’t my plan B, it was my plan A, and I would gladly choose it again.

But I’ll add this:

People might describe nursing as a job, or a profession, or a career or even a calling. And yes, nursing is all these things. But it is, above all else, also a privilege. It is a privilege to be able to stand with people and share in their moments of greatest triumph and joy and also in their moments of greatest tragedy and sorrow. To hold the hands of a mother as she welcomes her new baby into the world. And to hold the hands of those who are leaving this world.

So, when did I receive this “call” into nursing?

I don’t remember exactly the moment I knew I wanted to be a nurse but I was probably around 16 or 17. In saying that, I think I was probably destined to be a nurse from birth. My favourite Aunt Jan is a nurse and her favourite Aunt (my Great Aunt Dulce) was also a nurse. So you could say that nursing is in my blood. I took subjects at school that would lead towards a career pathway in nursing. However two things stood in my way. Number one was failing grades in Biology and Health & Human Development and the other was my father. At the time (in the late 1980’s) nurses in Australia were in a constant state of industrial action, fighting (rightly so) for better pay and better conditions including improved nurse to patient ratios. Many nurses were on strike and my father, not being a ‘union’ man, talked me out of nursing due to the instability of the profession at the time. So when it came time to attend University, I chose a Bachelor of Commerce instead.

I lasted six weeks.

Fast forward almost 18 years.

I married my high school sweetheart and in quick succession a few years after we were married we had four beautiful children. We chose for me to be a stay at home Mum for this busy season. In the meantime, just after our youngest was born we ‘planted’ a church and for the next ten years I was involved alongside my husband, on a volunteer basis, helping out with pastoral care matters. Before long, it became apparent that pastoral care wasn’t a particularly good ‘fit’ for my personality. I wanted people to take my advice and get better. I wanted to fix people. To heal them. I’ll never forget one person telling my husband that she knew that everything I said was what she needed to do, but she wanted someone else to tell her in a slightly more caring kind of way!

Not long after our youngest son started primary school in 2006, I remember saying to my husband that I was going to take a year off to just enjoy myself and do whatever I wanted to do. He laughed, knowing my complete inability to enjoy myself doing nothing. And then it happened. All it took was one innocuous conversation at the supermarket with the girl behind the register. She was my age and her youngest child had just started school like mine and she was so excited that she had this new part time job. I don’t recall much else of the conversation except that, upon returning home, the first thing I remarked to my husband was that “when I’m 40 I do not want to be swiping groceries behind a checkout”. Confused, he looked at me and replied “Well, what do you want to do then?” And then it just came out. “I want to be a nurse.”

Of course, then there was the “what’s stopping you” conversation and the “I’m too old” conversation and the “how will we afford it” conversation and then finally the “I’m just going to do it” answer.

And that was that.

Literally the next morning I made some inquiries and by June 2006 I had enrolled in the local TAFE (Community College) where I took bridging courses in Maths, Medical Terminology and First Aid and finally commenced a 12 month Certificate IV in Health (Nursing) in June 2007. This was followed up with a further 6 month course in Medication Administration and by the end of 18 months, at the end of 2008, I was an Endorsed Enrolled Nurse (EEN) which, at the time, was called a Div 2 Nurse. Half way through my Certificate IV I started work as a Personal Care Assistant in a local nursing home and by the time I’d finished my course I started working as a Div 2 at a local Private Hospital.

In January 2009 I enrolled at Deakin University where I spent the next three years completing my Bachelor of Nursing degree. During this time I continued to work casually at three local hospitals, gaining a small amount of experience in a vast array of wards and locations – everything from Cardiac Care to Rehab to Oncology to Orthopaedic, to Paediatrics to Plastics to General Medical. For a short season I even worked as a practice nurse in a large city GP practice, working the after-hours and weekend shifts as the only nurse alongside two GP’s.

In January 2012 I commenced my Graduate Nurse Year where I worked two surgical rotations, one in a combined Renal/Orthopaedics ward and the other in a Colo-rectal ward.

In January 2013 I was then offered a position in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and at the same time I was accepted into a Post-Graduate Critical Care course at Australian Catholic University in conjunction with a large Private Hospital in Melbourne. For the next 12 months I worked 4 days a week in ICU and 1 day a week I attended lectures in Melbourne, gaining the Post Graduate Certificate in Clinical Nursing (Intensive Care) at the end of 2013. Without doubt, it was the most difficult year of my nursing studies to date. I have just finished 18 wonderful months in ICU and have transitioned into my latest challenge – working in a busy Emergency Department.

Just as my decision to become a nurse seemed to appear out of nowhere, the idea of writing a book also seemed to come out of the blue. I knew I was always called to be a nurse and I have always known that I would one day write a book. For as long as I can remember, (even back to my school days at Morongo Girls College, Lakefield Secondary College in Canada and later, The Geelong College), writing a book was something I always wanted to do.

I couldn’t imagine though how I would ever have enough words to write a novel. As I was pondering the idea of writing a book, two friends, both authors themselves, gave me the same piece of advice, days apart.

Just two words.

“Just. Start.”

So I did.

My debut Medical-Rural-Romance novel has just been picked up by Momentum Books (the digital imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia) and I’m currently waiting for a release date.

So…stay tuned for the next part of this adventurous life! And PLEASE follow my Author blog here!

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