An exquisite journey through a life destined to care
Born to nurse… this could be said to be true of nurses worldwide and it is certainly true of myself as I have been nursing 40 years and enjoy it more as each year passes. Like the generation before me women of my mother’s era either became a teacher or a nurse and this trend was still prevalent within my generation. Of the 30 nurses in my class approximately 23 of our mothers had been nurses.
I was born in the Goldfields of West Australia and soon after my birth our family moved to a wheat and sheep farm. Being the eldest daughter of a large catholic family there was never any shortage of nursing experience as there was a plethora of cats, dogs, lambs, kangaroos, cockatoos or one of my brothers, sisters or cousins that needed care. Helping suture the sheep, cut whilst being shorn, or tending to them in the paddock when sick or fly blown, taking care of the chooks, administering feed and tonics to maintain their health. Worming was a fun time because of the multitude of animals on the farm – then making sure the family didn’t miss out on their treatment either.
My first lessons in anatomy came while watching my father butcher the sheep for our table, I was intrigued with the organs and how everything functioned.
We didn’t have many books, but Pears Encyclopedia supported me in my learning, being both descriptive and illustrative of the many diseases affecting the human body. Living remotely, we rarely attended the doctor and relied on very simple remedies. We believed as a family that a good meal and a good sleep would cure most ills. Leaving high school, I commenced teacher’s college but after a year, although enjoying placement and connecting with the children, knew it was not for me. During that time caring for my grandmother at the hospital prior to her death helped me make the choice to become a nurse – entering the career I was born to do.
I distinctly remember noticing a lack of true care of my grandmother and then and there I decided to become a nurse and express what I felt was true care. It has taken me 40 years to truly grasp that you cannot have true care for others unless you are truly caring for yourself. I nursed with the belief that you just had to do for others and forget about your own needs – your needs were not a consideration. Therefore, I experienced being a burnt-out nurse on several occasions.
Despite this I never stopped my deep knowing that every patient was someone’s loved one and treated them with the respect and dignity they deserved. I learnt the art of nursing in a hospital setting and it was always top priority to connect with your patients and not see them as conditions or diseases. I absolutely loved spending time chatting, making them feel comfortable and cared for and I can say I learned so much about life from my patients.
Many a time the hierarchy in nursing and the regimentation distressed me to the point of wanting to leave but after a good night’s sleep the feeling always passed. The illnesses and intensity of general nursing magnified over the years, therefore I decided to change direction, studied and became a midwife thus finding my true passion.
There was both a fascination and magic, about taking care of mothers during and after the birth of their new baby, being able to walk alongside offering support as needed was pure joy.
I just love babies, so in 1992 I studied and became a Lactation Consultant and spent many years helping mums and babies through the many issues associated with breast feeding, which later led me to work with parents and their babies in a mother baby unit with sleep, or lack thereof, being the focus.
After years of night shift I felt the need for a career change. On completing further studies, I now work as a Maternal & Child Health Nurse and Lactation Consultant within the community, supporting mothers, babies, siblings and the family in their roles, monitoring growth and development from birth to school age.
I have seen many changes in nursing, the increase of illness and disease and the impact this has brought on the entire health industry. I know about the intensity of a nursing career and the great need for ways to support nurses who are there at the coalface.
My most significant learning has come in recent years since understanding the importance of self-care and nurturing myself, so that what I take to work is a body that is fit, healthy and vital enabling me to remain present to do what is needed to be done.
I now truly value what I bring to clients and my ability to just be with them in times of joy, stress and vulnerability, supporting them to heal in their own time and way.