I work on the casual nursing pool within my local health district. Although I originally applied for the job because it was the first in 6 months or so of looking that came up, it is actually perfect for us at this stage of our lives. My shifts are usually only 7 hours, which means that T can work the same evenings that I work days (saving us from working 7 days a week). I can work at any of four hospitals in the district, meaning that there’s no shortage of work. I can be explicit about only working early shifts while MasterL is still breastfeeding in the evenings. I get casual loading on my hourly rate. And I can cancel shifts whenever I need to. Like last week when T got a late-notice acting gig that required him to work massive days for a week or so, in return for a generous sum of money. Or when he had several hundred auditions to get said part. Or when we really just need to get away for a few days. You can’t do that when you’re employed in a permanent position.
On my first day on the casual pool I wandered down the corridors of the hospital and calculated that I had not worked as a ward nurse since late 2008. My days in between had been spent in clinical facilitation, project management, GP practice nursing and the emergency department. I was sent to a geriatric medical ward and, along with an AIN, had nine patients under my care. Most of the patients had dementia and incontinence. They all had very complex medical conditions. I was TOTALLY out of my depth. I ran from start to finish, I had super short meal breaks, and I honestly had no idea who I was looking after. I couldn’t tell you what was wrong with them, why they were there, what the plans were for their ongoing care. Between meds, showers, toileting, redirecting, re-washing, redirecting, toileting, obs and meds, the first time I had a chance to look at their medical records was when I was writing progress notes 15 minutes after my shift was supposed to finish. I spent the day working my butt off, yet felt as though I’d accomplished very little. It was awful. I did not provide good nursing care, and I was extremely unsatisfied professionally.
I haven’t been back to that ward. Maybe they begged management to keep me away (I honestly felt like such a crap nurse that day). Maybe I’ve just been lucky. Since then I’ve worked in both medical and surgical wards, in pre-admission clinics, in day therapy areas, in endoscopy and in emergency departments and thankfully have not had such a sense of professional shittiness since.
Walking in to work this morning I knew that I was going to have a heavy shift. Although working on the casual pool means being sent here there and everywhere, lately I’ve been lucky enough to be spending my days in familiar places like ED, which has been a bit lovely. This morning I had a sense. The sense that niggles away at you and says ‘it’s been ages since you’ve been in a heavy geriatric medical ward… today is it’. And it was.
I had a pang of anxiety. And then I thought bugger that…
And I did!
The ward was a shambles. Honestly, my first thought was ‘you guys couldn’t organise a shag in a brothel’… but I chose awesome. I was working with a scattered-and-extremely-whingey nurse… and I chose awesome. I had a really busy day. I accepted offered help and returned the favour when I could. I smiled and laughed my way through the shift. I nursed with compassion and whole-heartedness. I did what I could and didn’t stress when I couldn’t. In the end I got everything done, and then some… and it was awesome.
When did you last choose awesome?