What It Takes To Be An Aged Care Registered Nurse | The Untold Trials & Tribulations of Reality (Prt. 2).

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Over the next eight or so months, my limited knowledge around syringe drivers and performing butterfly subcuts would go from non-existent to standing up and understanding the relevance of how beneficial it would be for a patient/resident to have these machines. As a result, I came home one night after filling in the paperwork of a decreased person, contacting loved ones and family members whilst offering them my sincere and deeply felt condolences on the loss of their loved one and realised, I needed to start demanding education.

I started demanding educational sessions from my clinical manager as I believed it didn’t and shouldn’t resign within the clinical meetings we had once a month.

Instead, as a new Graduate Registered Nurse who had left her institution of education with no skills apart from knowing the difference between sympathy and empathy in a roundabout manner, I started partitioning and vocally demanding for a beneficial educational seminar. As I firmly believed it would highlight, pinpoint and encourage myself and fellow nurses to understand the benefits of certain things, within our scope of practice. But also, to the new changes that were being introduced frequently within our industry.

These educational seminars would be beneficial for fellow Nursing Graduates. As they too would have limited knowledge of wound dressing products, the relevance of sustaining someone’s oxygen saturation levels by administering oxygen and need I say, syringe drivers and the appropriate way of going about a person’s death. I kept on striving the point that it is a necessity for all Nurses, whether they are an Endorsed, Endorsed Enrolled or Registered Nurse.

While highlighting and pointing out, that it states within our guidelines of Nursing, we are to be trained, educated and routinely observed performing correct and accurate proceedings relevant to the current legislation and procedures at that point of time.

Least to say, my CCM started moaning whenever she saw me striding towards her with a determined gleam in my eyes as to what else I wanted to learn.

By October, I learnt to acknowledge my overwhelming desire for continuous education after being told that there would be no further educational seminars due to the cost upon the facility. I also learnt to deal and acknowledge my never-dying passion of picking up textbooks, pads and pens and immersing myself face first into texts.

Ultimately, I made the decision best for me and I opted to return to university for another Bachelor Degree.

Having agreed to go back for another three years instead of opting to do an 18 month Registered Nurse entry pathway, I began reflecting on the prior months and in particular, the journey I had taken on when accepting my placement as a Graduate Nurse and where/who I was as a person.

Upon reflection, I realise I have not only grown up in the sense of becoming a fully-fledged twenty-something year old woman with a permanent part time job and bills that seem to be draining the bank account more often than money actually goes in. But I have indulged in the constant fight of keeping my annual leave and it not being taken off me, especially if I miss a day of work due to sickness.

As well as, experiencing a few of those moments where I’ve contemplated the benefits of stripping and if it would be a higher paying job than being a nurse. Especially moments of where I am being abused by residents and staff for being “late” or “being a downright nasty bitch.” Those are the days that I really do contemplate becoming a stripper or joining the interesting world of SugarDaddies.com and , throwing my registration to the wind for a life of luxury and sin. 

Prior to camera’s being installed at work because of safety regulations in Aged care, there have been days and still continues to be days where I have hidden under my nurse’s desk with my bottle of water and lunch, just so I can eat in peace. Only to be interrupted with phone calls, Residents demanding for additional medications and me politely telling them/staff they’ve received everything.

I also have experienced more moments than I can physically count on my hands and toes, where I have had the overwhelming sheer urge to repeatedly bang my head on the table until I have either sustained brain damage or a significant concussion so I can go home.

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There has also been weeks and months where I have hidden in the toilet and had a bloody good cry because I am sick and tired of all the bullshit going on. Not to mention, the overwhelming and very increased messages that once again, remind me of how I should be “finding time” to complete my case conferences, care plans and anything else that needs to be completed within a short time frame.

Prime example of how overwhelmed I was one night, I burst into tears in the staff dining room because I had been trying to contact a family member for something important and had no response. Several residents had decided to take a nose dive and opted to test out the carpet which resulted in, five areas needing me for the Schedule 8 medication rounds since I was the only RN on for that evening. Because of the nose dives and skin tears sustained with thankfully, no fractures or hospital visits, I also had to deal with being called for every little piece of irrelevant crap.

Once again, I had to be reminded about how I “needed to find time to complete my case conferences and care plans”. Did I also mention, while my residents opted to take free sky diving lessons, I also had to do 2x doctors rounds (lasting anywhere up to three hours in each area) in three areas because I had been ‘allocated’ the position. Because once again, I was the only Registered Nurse on the floor at the time and the other staff, were agency and didn’t know their elbow location to what Resident was who.

It’s safe to say Dearest Reader, I had most certainly reached my increasingly growing maximum level of patience and the urge to smother someone with a pillow was for real.

On top of it, I had been informed by my mentor, staff had reported to them that I was a workplace bully, a “bitch” and was known to be a reluctant nurse with helping them lift, lower and assess a resident post fall. Least to say as I stood there trying to understand how I can bully someone when I couldn’t even fathom how to do that (points of being someone who has been bullied for a majority of her life).

I stood there with my mouth flapping like a fish stuck on dry land and stated, “I’ve got no fucking idea how to be a bully. Let alone, know how to actively go out of my way to make someone’s life a living misery”.

After being told by my mentor that it clearly was lies because he/she knew I wasn’t like that as a person and I had character about myself, my anger and distrust over the months slowly began to grow. Until one evening while on my shift, I burst into said tears in said dining room and had to be comforted by my EEN. Personally, I do not know what or rather, how I would cope without my favourite EEN because I can clearly state my life as well as many other’s would be boring as anything and it would be utterly miserable.

There is something, Dearest Reader, about hearing your nickname being called out down the hall and a green shirt with open arms comes barrelling towards you, only to be encased in a beautifully warm and luscious hug. There is something beautiful and warm about it and when it ends, I am going to miss it severely.

Having initially walked into the job position as a recent Graduate RN with no concept of time management, skills relating to how one should be caring for another person but a sense of desire to learn and be educated, my final seconds had come. As I found myself hemmed in by a solid wall of glass windows and doors and the overwhelming factor of any minute now I would be buzzed for something stupid and beyond my IQ capacity to handle it professionally, my hand skimmed over the overflowing pieces of paper.

My once glorious thought about saving people’s lives and being rewarded with power derived from knowledge and education had now resorted to the instincts of survival.

The pile of papers seemed to grow larger in size and diameter by the minute and as a result, I didn’t have the heart nor the energy to start ticking things off my list. For I knew, as if I were staring down at the back of my hand and tracing the various sizes of veins and capillaries that lay hidden under my skin, were a series of lists containing things that had to be done or hadn’t been done. The never-ending chart of 27 wounds that either required dressing, reviewing or needed to be evaluated by the Clinical Nurse due to further deterioration and the less than friendly reminder of what an Aged Care nurse is really all about.

I moved the pieces of paper as well as the audit task that seemed to gleefully remind me of exactly how much my colleagues and I had fucked up over the month. How the knowledge that if these tasks weren’t going to be completed this month due to various unforeseen circumstances and incidents, they certainly weren’t going to be completed next month or the month after that. No doubt, resulting in being left voice messages informing us of our greatest fails and being publicly shamed at the next clinical meeting.

With the final second giving way to new life and another year as a Registered Nurse, I sat down at my nurses desk and began filling in the several incident reports required to be entered and completed by a Registered Nurse. Listing the causes repeatedly as my brain switched off, I ignored my accumulating burn out as it was forever constant present and the ever growing weight of being unsuccessful was once again rearing its ugly head.

I finished my final report some thirty minutes later, on why and how several of my dementia diagnosed residents had decided to defy gravity and the law of physics; before releasing the cramp in my hand, after having sped-typed my way through those reports and 27 wounds that needed documenting and completing.

Reading through my reports for any grammatical errors and lack of correct insight, in case my notes were to be presented in front of a court, jury and in a deposition of ‘what exactly had occurred during my shift,’ I blankly stared at the lines of information telling me about how those had sustained skin tears of various lengths, widths and degrees of tissue and skin loss due to incorrect handling positions, carelessness and the general sense of having so much to do in so little time.

I read about my politically correct respondence as to why I administered haloperidol to a neurotic patient, who had lashed out at a staff member and narrowly avoided hitting a resident with a piece of wood. What I hadn’t bothered to mention nor write in my notes for it wasn’t clinical based was the emptiness I had experienced, when watching this person wave the piece of wood around their head and before realising that staff and residents’ needed me to act quickly and professionally.

Having administered the haloperidol and backing out of the room slowly, as I did so with my hands up in the air as two fingers clenched the syringe tightly because my kidney dish had gone flying across the room; I resisted the urge to lock this man in his room for not only his safety as I prayed that the medication hopefully kicked in, but also for the safety of other residents’ as they continuously shuffled out of their rooms and down the hallway, due to their confused and agitated state of mind.

As I disposed of the needle in the sharps container and turned to observe my wandering residents for any further signs of increasing agitation or hostility, a part of me wanted to rebel and join them. Because sundowners appeared to be highly fun and amusing. But also, I simply wanted to experience five minutes in an ever increasing amount of frustration, where I didn’t hate life or reality and I could simply have a moment or two to  breathe. 

However, the other half of me wanted to pack my bag, print off the letter I had typed and held onto for so many months ago. Before, walking out the front door after having said, “I fucking QUIT!

As I sit here in the comfort of my lounge room with my cat, resting on the arm of my chair and across my lap as my unborn child settles its self comfortably within my ever-expanding womb, I feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

I have not only overcome obstacles and hurdles that have presented themselves in so many different ways until they started resembling one big blur. But, I have also overcome extreme periods of fatigue, sleep deprivation and my body yo-yoing in weight from shifts where I’ve been able to eat a decent meal to those of where oxygen and visualisation of food were all that lined my stomach.

However, I also overcome defeat and self-destruction when I sat there in a clinical meeting and admitted, I was personally struggling with the amount of work and pressure being placed on my shoulders. Before dropping the final bomb in front of my work colleagues and fellow staff members, that I was the only one brave enough to express this out loud and I knew that we were all reaching a moment, where we simply needed to take a step back and have a moment where we can take a deep breath without feeling like we were being strangled or held over a boiling cauldron.

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The very next day, I handed in my certificate and a hand written form, asking for an absence of leave from my current position for a duration of four months. Having spoken to my boss and highlighting the concerns both my Mother and Doctor were speaking of, I informed her of my increasing amount of anxiety and depression that was having a negative impact upon my newly announced pregnancy. As well as, my underlying and reoccurring fear of putting myself and that of my unborn child’s safety in danger due to the newest influx of highly irrational and deranged residents and the unpredictability of these people.

As a result of having taken sick leave for the past four months or so, I have been able to experience once again what life and reality is like outside of an allocated eight hour window. There is something beautiful, wonderful and slightly luxurious about taking the time out of your busy and hectic life to be able to redefine and establish a normal sleep pattern, after having spent two years living and existing on adrenaline and Googling for no unlimited hours, ‘how many cups of coffee is too much for an unborn child?’

In return, my once-anxious state of mind and physical lifestyle has shifted and changed and no longer resembles something you’d expect to see on a television screen when seeing images of an impending tropical hurricane and the destruction and chaos after it’s departure. Alternatively, I woke up in the morning to the sound of birds cheeping away outside my bedroom window or the sound of my future brother-in-law puffing, as he races past like he’s trying to outrun a heard of zombies or contemplate if he’s going to die in the driveway.

My consumption of coffee was once allocated and began the moment, I turned my engine over at 5.30 am and I had to have consumed every last drop of caffeine by the time I pulled into my carpark at work. Now, I get the guilty pleasure of being able to leisurely sip away at my coffee mug whilst watching the sun settle in the sky, outside my front door as I listen to those birds chirping and not experiencing one iota of guilt about doing so.

The once-anxious state of my mind including the negative toll it was having upon my emotional and physical wellbeing has been replaced with various different emotions and  feelings as I now feel grounded, centred and whole for the first time in nearly six years. In fact, I am enjoying not knowing or feeling as if I have to structure my days into a series of allocated minutes and hours for various tasks that need to be completed or commenced. This has resulted in my brain being open to new ideas, formats and rediscovering the joy, I once shared and possessed, when formulating ideas and paragraphs for blog posts.

So much so, I have discovered and learnt some amazing new things regarding layout, processes and the future. But, that is for another time and blog post, Dearest Reader.

Over the past four months and having spent the opportunity to simply unwind, decompress and reflect upon what has happened within the twelve months of being a Graduate Registered Nurse and beyond; I have discovered a lot about myself. In particular, the trials and tribulations of what it takes to be an aged care Registered Nurse and more importantly, what it takes to make bloody good and decent Registered Nurse, at the end of the day.

Least to say, if you are a nurse of any registration and you are asking what it takes to be a decent nurse after all of this: I suggest you hand in your resignation, look for another career pathway and go about educating yourself in that field because you are not meant to be a nurse. Particularly, if you cannot bring yourself to being compassionate and empathetic. 

Simple as that.

With much love,

Eliza xx

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