Featured Image: Taras Vyshnya on Shutterstock
To the new remote nurse,
Congratulations on your new job. I know your lecturers scared you into thinking you were never going to get one, that you would get stuck doing something you did not enjoy if you did not write a award-winning selection criteria or if your last name was not on top of the pile.
But you did it. Well done!
You are so excited for your next adventure. You picked a place on the map at random and decided that this job is where you are going to build the next stage of your life, in the middle of nowhere. And you got it.
You will drive through tiny towns and park outside service stations surrounded by barbed wire and wonder what on earth you have gotten yourself into. You will meet your new life partner in a tiny town that neither of you come from. You will learn to drive five hours to do grocery shopping once a month. Yes, you will pick up store orders for the hospital while you are there. You will play too hard and burn out because you have not worked out a work life balance or lived your young life yet, and you will learn how not to do this.
It is a process, be kind to yourself.
Moving here will give you a sense of resilience and independence. You will learn to rely on yourself, to be intentional about maintaining your relationships. You will take less for granted that you have access to all the time in the city – haircuts, groceries, fuel, your mum just around the corner. You will learn to be more comfortable in your skin and feel more capable with doing it alone.
Within your first two weeks you will escort ambulance transfers with sick toddlers that you feel totally unprepared for. You will learn to not let flustered nurses fluster you and to not push yourself into things you are not ready for yet. Nurses will tell you that you should not be here if you are not qualified to do these things. If they do, remember that you are a graduate nurse. It takes time to become a senior nurse. Try not to feel guilty for needing help while you are new.
You will talk about this with your mentor, and they will reiterate the importance of advocating for yourself and your patients. You will call a non-nursing friend the next night and cry for an hour, worrying that the other nurses in the nurses’ quarters can hear you. You will realise how burnt out you have been feeling and how close you were to writing off your job as something to struggle through. From that day onwards you will decide to advocate for yourself and your patients to the best of your ability, and to reflect on this every single day.
You will carry this experience with you for years.
You will learn the skills of prioritising, and phlebotomy, and how to be a good nurse. You will fail before you succeed, just like in university. You will feel so empowered when you recognise your nursing process, and when you work with students. You will learn not to get so caught up in everyone else’s politics, and to recognise yourself improving. You will push for what you need, and learn to practice with compassion, empathy and holistic care.
You will learn how to be part of an incredible emergency services team. You will not be working with the multidisciplinary team you find in bigger hospitals. You will be working with ambulance, police, fire and emergency services, and everyone else will be several hundred kilometres away. Being so far away, you will often be the hands of the doctors. The police who you will see three times in your first week will tell you, “we all wear the same uniform”. You will be fighting for the same goal: to advocate for yourselves, each other, your patients and the community.
Your first three months will be the hardest, and the most exhausting of your life.
You will face the mental exhaustion of not knowing what you do not know, what questions to ask, where anything is and being put on shift with new staff. You will very quickly learn the importance of debriefing and fatigue management, and of reframing the way you think of your weaknesses. You will learn to be proactive and confident in asking to do things, and to stop comparing yourself to nurses ten years your senior. You will learn to celebrate the small wins and recognise that learning curves will happen over and over and over again. You will learn to reflect even when you do not feel like it, especially when you do not feel like it.
You will start to recognise yourself and decide who you want to be as a nurse. Your graduate program and the transition from student to graduate is when you start to perfect the ‘art of caring’. You will start to see yourself as a nurse – compassionate, empathetic, strong, resilient. You will get excited at all your successful first procedures, when you do not feel the need to ask so many questions, when you recognise yourself using initiative.
You will remember the first days you successfully set empathetic boundaries. You will have crazy busy twelve hour shifts and be home half an hour when ambulance callouts come through. Rather than being exhausted, you will be excited. The days will invigorate you and energise you – they will fuel you instead of burning you out. You will have more and more days like this as you become more confident in your role as a nurse.
This whole year will be learning to advocate for yourself. This self-advocacy is not just in your nursing practice; it is in yourself, in your relationships, in the way you talk to people, in the way you think about and see yourself. You will learn to think of yourself with grace and empathy and respect and compassion and strength.
Today, a child saw you at the supermarket and said, “I remember you. You fixed my burns. It’s all better now.”
Do not be scared, new nurse. You are going to love it. I promise.
A graduate nurse in the middle of nowhere
Monica Dellaca MACN
Monica is a new remote nurse who completed her graduate year in remote hospitals in the Goldfields of WA. She is passionate about advocating for patients and overcoming barriers to provide quality care to people who live in some of the most isolated parts of Australia. She is also an alumna of the ACN Emerging Nurse Leader Program. Monica is now working in a tertiary hospital Emergency Department and is excited to explore many different areas of health care.