Well well well. It's been a very long time since I spilled my heart out. It's been a crazy year! Be warned! it's going to be a long post!
Last time I posted (December 2013) through to June 2014
My parents were having staffing shortage issues at their takeaway when they had "let go" a couple of the staff so they hired me when I finished my last exam last year. It wasn't hard to pick up - the prices, the work, the sandwich making etc. wasn't too bad it just was the customer flow during peak times that was hard and stressful. Being a "new" staff member and keeping up with the flow was quite difficult.
Nearing Christmas it got busier and busier. It didn't help that one of the staff was on an extended holiday as well. So over the busy Christmas lunch rush we had two staff out the back and four staff up front while there was around 25-30 customers on the other side of the counter! Not to mention the HEAT the hot boxes, toaster and hotplates emitted in addition to the Summer 34-38C temperatures!
Oh and I have to mention the pay - crap. But, at least I got paid right?
My uni was probably the last of the universities to start, I think it was the beginning of March. The semester was ok. I managed to get a timetable that allowed me to have two days a week off (or three if I skipped the 1 lecture on Friday *wink wink*) so it allowed me to take a break or what my parents thought - work for them!
I did pretty good in all my subjects and managed a distinction for First Australians. That was a little unexpected. To be honest, the last assessment piece made me think I was just going to be a pass. It was an essay and I didn't really know what they wanted us to do. Finding "good" and "recent" references was pretty much as hard as walking through a pile of glass. Haha, exaggerating. But it was hard! I spent around a week and a half (plus procrastination) looking for relevant works, another week (plus procrastination) talking to friends about the essay and I ended up having to start writing the actual essay the day before it was due, without procrastination haha!
I managed to score a place at my local hospital! Whoo! Last year I had to catch two trains to get to a hospital in the next area over which was both interesting and annoying! Anyway, this hospital placement sure as heck opened my eyes. Last placement we were meant to have gotten a handle on the basics but I was allocated in a ward that had independent patients. So this year I had to learn double quick how to do things as well as keep up with the other students who were placed in dependant wards.
The first week was when the stress cracks began to show. I had just finished up a very stressful week at work (we aren't allowed to work elsewhere during placement), my parents had a massive fight and my youngest sister was continually showing up to school late which caused more fighting at home. I had been partnered up with a few very nice staff members and they were understanding on what I had and hadn't done. Two nurses in particular took time explaining things to me and helped me with my confidence. A very big thank you to them :)
Unfortunately there was a staff member who absolutely crushed my confidence. I won't go into detail but he made me feel like I was incompetent and he was quite rude towards myself. This was probably my breaking point. Thankfully my facilitator was understanding and she helped me though the tough times.
July through to November
I was meant to stop working for my parents when I returned to university at the beginning of the year but my parents pushed me into staying. So I did. When semester 2 came around, my timetable had a schedule conflict with working for them so I had to cut my hours dramatically, aka 1 or 2 days a week. But this gave me more opportunity to study, take breaks *wink* and ideally spend more time with friends. The latter did not happen because of placements which I will get to.
Well it was the week before we returned from the mid-year holidays and we were told by email that we were going on placement in two weeks. This time we didn't have a choice on where we wanted to go and we were given no choice as to which of the two placements we wanted to do first. It was two weeks in a general ward and two weeks in mental health. This was the outline of the first half of my semester-
Week 1: Normal uni week
Week 2: Mental health placement
Week 3: Mental health placement
Week 4: Back to uni //Essay due
Week 5: Uni
Week 6: General ward placement
Week 7: General ward placement//Essay due
Week 8: Uni mid semester break
Week 9: Back to uni schedule
Yep, I had one week to learn as much as the teachers could cram in one class and one lecture on mental health before I walked into the specialised ward. To be honest, I was calm about the placement before the teachers told us about the wards. To add to the fear there were students worried they'd get punched. The planning of when assignments were due was horrible. Last year it was last day of placement as well as a workbook assessment piece due. That was quite hard to cram in as shifts run from 7am-3pm or 2pm-10pm then factor in sleep time and travel time.
Mental health placement
On my first day I was very apprehensive even though it was an orientation day. We were told straight up that we had to wear alarms in case we were caught up between the nearest exit and an abusive patient! Also, we weren't allowed to travel by ourselves in the ward - only with our buddies or as a group with the other students. In addition, the entire ward was basically locked off! Staff only doors required a swipe key! This freaked me out a lot. They didn't tell us about this in uni!
After a few days in the ward, I settled in with the other two students. It wasn't too bad but to be honest we were a little jumpy around some of the patients. The two other students were really friendly which was great. We could talk to each other without feeling uncomfortable since we were same age and we had the same group of patients to look after.
I was partnered up with a few great staff members which was awesome. One in particular, EB, made us students feel very welcome. The most annoying part of the placement? Students aren't allowed to have their own swipe cards. So we have to wait at doors all the time! I get how the staff want the patients to be safe in the controlled environment but I was waiting by the staff only door for FIVE minutes to get to the staff bathroom! I had actually wanted to go earlier but there were no staff members near the door then so I decided to wait.
A suggestion? Maybe make some student swipe keys so we can at least access the bathroom and the meeting rooms!
My choice to leave health care
I guess I'll start at my first placement this year. It wasn't the best placement I have had but that's not purely the reason why I chose to leave. On my first day working on the ward there was a death on my ward. I guess it was a big shocker that woke me up. I didn't know who he was, I don't know why he passed but it just sent shock waves through me. The staff knew he was about to pass but it was, to be very blunt, the first time I had experienced someone in the same area as I who had died. //note: My entire family lives overseas so my immediate family is the only family I interact on a regular basis. The closest death to me was my grandma but I basically didn't know her at all since I met her when I was 3, then at 4, then again when I was 15.//
A matter of days later, I had a patient who was complaining of leg cramps and sore feet. My buddy and I knew about it as he had been complaining of it for a few days and the doctors were aware and monitoring that. The end of that day was the last time I saw him. I was told at the end of that week he was transferred to another hospital then back to where we were and he had passed overnight. The death of this patient hit me hard, harder than the death on my first day. Then I got partnered up with the worst staff member I have ever come across.At this point I started thinking twice of being in health care, in particular nursing. I guess I took it harder than anyone the things that he told me, the tone of voice he spoke to me, the way he acted as if I was the worst student he had ever come across. Again I won't go into details but he had completely crushed my confidence to the point where I was pouring tears out of my eyes.
I spoke to my facilitator who helped me gain confidence about what I was doing but I never reached the confidence of the other students. At my worst, I was dreading each shift, each procedure I was doing and every single piece of paperwork I had to write. I was very tempted to stop nursing right then and there but I pushed myself to finish the placement. Thankfully I did, I met the most amazing three patients after this incident. There was a patient, she was unable to speak and my buddy and I picked her up from emergency one night. She was frightened and she didn't know how to express it. She had a tendency to grab things, anything from extra blankets to IV lines, so the staff kept things away from her. I was standing next to her, checking her IV line and she grabbed my hand. At first she grabbed very hard so I pulled away from her but she went for my other hand, this time more gentle. Since it wasn't hurting, I let her hold my hand and she held my hand for a very long time as we sorted out the paperwork and special care. I know we aren't meant to have favourites but I got attached to her. The next day I was allocated different patients but I could hear a commotion coming from her bay so I walked in. As soon as she saw me, she quietened down and when I walked in closer, she grabbed my hand gently. I didn't get to see her again as she left to go back home. She was re-admitted into my ward a few days later because of an incident at home. The first and last time since readmission I saw her was briefly as I was going pass her room - she was sleeping. On my last day on the ward news had travelled from intensive care that she had passed away.
During my mental health placement I had some thoughts of leaving but it never got as bad. It was here in the two weeks as a mental health student nurse that I realised to be a good nurse, you have to be a strong, dominant figure with the sensitivity of being a friend, helper or companion. Some of my friends would disagree, but I'm not a dominant type of person. I see myself being sensitive friend and I can stand up for what's right but I feel as though my dominance isn't enough to be a nurse. This year I have also lost the passion to be a nurse. Not that it was a large passion, I was forced into nursing by my mum. My biggest fear of being a nurse is not picking up something and it goes unnoticed which then causes the death of someone.
If I had to finish nursing in some far away dimension, I would absolutely become a mental health nurse, even though it was sometimes overwhelming with all the emotions in the ward.
This is not to warn people away from nursing. Nursing is one of the greatest, most rewarding jobs you can do. You will see people at their worst to when they are good enough to go home (the most rewarding part). It's just that nursing is not for me.
What am I doing now?
I am on leave from university until next year. I applied for a science course which I was accepted into, hopefully I'll enjoy it. In the meantime, this massive break has given me a chance to reflect on my past as well as ponder on my future. I've also started writing again.