By Lucy Osborn MACN (ENL)
This column, The Scrubs that Fit, is all about the highs and lows of being an early-career nurse, from the perspective of an ACN Emerging Nurse Leader. The aim of these blog posts is to help ease the transition from university to grad years and beyond. Find Lucy on ACN’s neo and on Instagram @aussie_nurses.
Happy New Year!
As someone who is usually full of optimism, I’m starting this year with a little more caution than usual. It’s not that I don’t hope this year is better, but I am just trying to stay prepared in case it is not.
I’m a paediatric nurse and lecturer in Melbourne. Like so many others, I have no immediate family close by but am lucky to be supported by my partner and friends. The list of things I missed or didn’t go to plan is very long, however, I know I am not alone. Nobody went untouched by this virus and we all have our own battles. Today’s article is not about what I didn’t have or how sad it was, rather it focuses on why I took time away from nursing and how it has helped me.
You may remember the small break Melbourne had between the first and second lockdowns. During this time I had to go into early isolation as I was deemed a close COVID-19 contact, meaning my lockdown started two weeks earlier than the majority of Victorians. When I finished my isolation , my suburb was locked down and a week later the entire state.
During the hard lockdown my mum ended up in the hospital back in Tassie, she was really unwell with her chronic condition and this was the first time I hadn’t been able to pop home to support her and our family. Among many other things, this was the beginning of my comedown period.
My workplace, personal health care team and mum’s health care team were all supportive of letting me go to Tassie to be with her, but unfortunately, the border patrol said a firm no. I tried over 25 applications, and on the last one, I had a personal phone call from the medical practitioner who was reviewing the application. He was so kind and apologised profusely but his hands were tied and he could not grant me access.
Instead, I had a few weeks of stress leave where I attended some self-care activities and started to feel a little better. This was good for a short period but it didn’t take long for me to return to my lowest when I started back at work. The time came for Christmas leave requests at work and I told my partner that I needed to go home and asked if he would like to come. He said ‘of course’; however, he was worried that we would not get leave as we work in the same emergency department (ED) and that everybody would want to go now that the borders were finally open.
In the end, we agreed It was worth a shot and I spoke to my managers across both my departments, NICU and ED. I am so grateful for the support and compassion they both have given me throughout the entire pandemic. We were granted 26 days off from the beginning of December to just after Christmas, agreeing to return to work on New Year’s Eve as a trade-off.
In advance, I had told all of my nursing commitments (besides teaching because the term started in January) that I was going away for December and that it was going to be a proper break. This meant no looking at work emails or CPD, I was putting clinical and development work out of my mind for the entire trip!
I emailed my mentor and asked to reschedule our meeting to January to ensure I get a proper break. I am usually active and keen to participate but I knew that I not only needed this break, I deserved it.
Throughout my postponing, I made a special effort to apologise only for the inconvenience caused to the other parties, but never for my absence. Too often we forget that it is ok to have a break and to look after our physical and mental wellbeing. I also gave myself permission to do nothing and to do whatever I felt like at the time, making sure that I didn’t tire myself out by trying to catch up with all my friends in Tassie.
I slept a lot, hugged my family, met my new nephew for the first time and spent hours fishing with my partner. It was perfect! I saw some close friends and family, but mostly I spent my time relaxing with my parents, my siblings and their children. Even as a paediatric nurse you forget how much kids grow in a year!
On a side note, when I say it was perfect, I do not mean it was all flowers and laughing the whole time. My family has been through their own challenges and we have all taken different pathways throughout, we all needed support and love.
Leaving Hobart airport to go back home was so emotional. My mum and dad were so sad to see us go and my partner and I were sad too. However, we were also relieved that we felt so much more ourselves than when we arrived. We returned to Melbourne with a fresh head, heart and body. The first shift back is always the hardest and for me this was the New Year Eve night shift (brutal, I know). it was a great shift full of happiness, support and great nursing care. A special shoutout to all those I worked with on the shift for making me glad to be back!
To conclude, it is important to note that not every problem or feeling can be resolved by going on a holiday, but it is a start and starting is often the hardest part. My aim is to continue to heal myself and work hard to support others who have either not been able to take a break yet or those who can’t.
- I have learnt that: Nurses deserve a break, take it and do not feel guilty.
- When you take your break, two weeks is rarely enough, take long enough to make it worth it.
- Spend time doing nothing things like sleeping, eating, Or watching TV. Get outside and soak up some rays.
- Do not be sorry for saying to your network ‘No’ as real friends understand your needs and will support you regardless.
I wish everyone a great 2021! Don’t put any pressure on yourself to make it the best year ever, take it one day at a time and try and enjoy it.