I’m Ally; I’m 23 and work as a Critical Care Nurse in Newy.
My parents pushed me into nursing. That sounds weird. But it’s really, very strangely, true. I nailed my HSC, had always been an academic achiever, and if I had gone with my gut or my guidance councilor’s advice, I probably would have become an economist. But my parents told me for as long as I can really recall, that I should do nursing, despite my personal interest in writing, economics, politics and the humanities.
As a profound sufferer of ‘middle child syndrome’ I felt my parents didn’t believe that I could achieve anything more…you know…’prestigious’. Admittedly, I was a pretty reckless teenager; I felt emotions strongly, and often felt disconnected to my purpose and my place in the world, especially in the insipid country town I lived in. I took the nightly news to heart, I was emotionally invested in the world and I didn’t understand the intricacies of humanity. I escaped into arts and writing because of this disconnection, and frankly was quite narcissistic. Both my brother and sister went into Law with loads of encouragement from my parents: But they said to me; “Al…you should be a nurse”, and half because I’m a bit of a pushover, and half because I didn’t believe I could do anything else…that’s what I did.
I hated uni. I didn’t find the classes challenging; the teachers weren’t inspired; the pracs were bed-making 101; and I felt nothing but despair for what I believed I’d wasted my formative years doing. I took up surfing, sunbaking, and reading economic journals, occasionally showing up for class. I got distracted with a few different boyfriends- a german exchange student, an artsy-poet type, and even a girl. My world was nothing but the blue abyss of the sea.
Toward my last half of nurse training, I met two chicks who were stunning, smart, witty, cool, and totally called to nursing with a passion. I freakin’ loved these girls, and we moved in together. They opened my eyes to the fact that nursing might not be this bottom-rung profession, that people could actually ‘choose’ and not ‘end up in’ (yes, I was very naïve). They were excited about their future as nurses, and out on our sunny back deck, we studied the science, talked about what kind of area we wanted to specialise in, what kind of nurses we wanted to be, and where we might travel with our jobs.
It was after meeting them that I had a prac in ICU (the one I work in now). This place was epic alien world. The staff were super-smart, engrossed, motivated, passionate, caring, funny, talented and just really, really cool. I watched 3 nurses manage an arrest with barely any input from medical staff. In 4 weeks I had had patients with traumatic brain injury; cardiac arrest; multi-traumas; septic shock; respiratory failure; renal failure; the works! I went to a seminar about the future of ECMO in their unit in the coming years (now up and running). Yup. It was on. I was completely and utterly obsessed. But more importantly, I had real exposure to families and patients, saw pain, grief and suffering, as well as joy and hope-and learned that I could be involved, and have a place and a purpose here.
A lot has happened in the last 6 years to get me here to “nurse-adulthood”- many long days, long nights, long cries, long laughs, long surfs and long blacks. Until right now I haven’t really reflected on my journey of how I came to be an ICU nurse- Maybe I was worried that I would regret my choice, or that I never really had one? As I’ve grown up (finally)- I realise I have, at last, become connected. I’ve become deeply linked to humanity at its best and at its worst. I’ve become profoundly connected to my role as a carer, a nurturer, an observer, an advocate, a health-care provider…as a nurse. Just as I really needed to grow up into adulthood, I really needed to grow into being a nurse.
I think back to the way I was parented now, and from a new perspective I can start to see why my parents envisaged me as a nurse. I don’t think it was anything they saw as ‘lacking’ but rather what they identified as my prominent features. I think they identified that I needed something that had a real purpose-not just a paycheck, but a career that meant…something. I think they saw me as an emotional being-able to identify strongly with the human condition. They knew I would never, ever suit a repetitive job, and needed freedom to learn constantly, to grow constantly, and be outwardly expressive.
Despite 13 years of indoctrination in catholic schools, I am profoundly atheist and have no concept of the ‘divine’ or ‘afterlife’ or ‘heavenly-reward-system’-so resisting the urge to become a complete existentialist is quite difficult. Having a tangible purpose to hold onto in reality is important for someone like me. And, so often, I think nursing may have provided more for me, than I, for it. My friends often ask me if I enjoy my job and I find that a really hard question to answer-because nursing isn’t enjoyable, in fact, its often quite devastating. If they asked me: am I right for my job, and is my job right for me?…I would say…hell yes.