Reflection on my nursing career
My nursing career started right after high school, or actually before this, as I worked the last two summers of high school as a dietary aid on the psych ward of our local hospital.
Looking back in time, where it all began.
Back when I started my nursing career, the training took 3 and half years to complete. It began with 3 months of classroom and an exam, and then the work began. Every month we had one week of classroom, and when working there were clinical classes on the ward. In addition, of course you were expected to always be studying.
To keep track of our progress we had a clinical practice booklet, in it were listed all kinds of skills we were to master. Each skill had to be demonstrated to a senior nurse up to 3 times and then signed off. At the end of the year, a number of skills were need before you could write your year end exam.
There was the final national exam at the end of the 3 and half years to graduate.
Moving on after graduation.
After graduation in 1981, I moved to Arnhem and enrolled into psychiatry nursing. However, an incident forced me to quite in my first year. I then started working in “Het Dorp”(The Village). A place, a village built for handicapped people, with streets and house numbers, all connected with corridors so you would not have to go outside. There was a store and a church on the premises. Each person, or couple had their own apartment, and care was available 24 hours. This included personal care, but also laundry and ironing. Meals could be consumed individually or communally.
And back to school.
From there I went back to school to become a public health nurse, a 2-year full time course in Nijmegen. It was intense and a lot of fun, with great teachers and classmates. The clinical part included a practicum, for which I went to Apeldoorn. It was a combination of home care, pre- and postnatal care, elder care, preventative care, baby and toddler clinics and home visits. I loved this time, and worked for a few months during the summer. Transportation was a bike. Holland is a small country and the bike paths are great.
I was quite broke after having been in school for 2 years, so I moved back home for a while. I did some agency nursing, and hated every minute of it. To get a call at the last minute, not knowing where you had to go, not know the facility, the staff, layout of the building, the patients or residents, was not my thing.
Immigrating and raising a family.
Well and then I immigrated to Canada, got married and had 4 kids. For almost 15 years, I had nothing to do with nursing, until 2000, when I was able to get some funding to enroll in the refresher course. That was after a mayor struggle to get all my papers translated, which mostly I did myself with a family friend. This package was send to Calgary where an agency verified everything, eventually signed of and I was able to enroll in the course at Red River College.
Back at nursing.
At that point, it had been almost 20 years since I had done any hands on hospital nursing. What can I say, getting back on track took some effort. The final practicum was done out Portage Hospital, on the medical ward. I remember the first morning I walked on the ward, I had one look at everything and everyone and was ready to turn around and never come back. Talk about being shell shocked! Thank God for my preceptor, bless her heart and her patience; she got me through the first very awkward weeks. I had to (re)learn everything, from drawing up syringes to giving injections, and then some.
Progress and learning new things.
As a student nurse back in Holland, we were not allowed to do IV’s (intravenous), we could change the IV bottles (glass!), and I think discontinue but that was about it. Antibiotics were given by IM (intra muscular) injections, ouch! Everything else was the doctor’s duty. Now I had to learn to start IV’s, give medicine, and learn to operate pumps and so much more! I am forever indebted by my preceptor; her patience and guidance were my saving grace. After I passed the final exam, I started working on the Medical ward and I have not looked back since.
Learning new skills.
A term position came up on the pediatric ward, so I worked there for a while. Still feeling that I needed to know more, I took a term in ER/ICU, and then got a permanent position there. I worked there for almost 4 ½ years. Never really got to like ICU very much, but did love the ER. It could get pretty crazy there at times, but it was the diversity and the people I worked with that I really liked. There was always something new to learn.
When the shift work was becoming too difficult I moved on to home care, . First as a direct service nurse, and eventually as a case coordinator. During this time I also worked for almost 2 years as a clinical resource nurse out one of our personal care homes, however this proved to be not really my thing, so back to home care and case coordination I went.
And finally home care.
And this is where I am now, just over 2 years in the Portage home care office.
I have loved, and sometimes hated every minute of my job. Numerous are the people that left a lasting impression on me. People I laughed and cried with. Those that taught me and caught me during the first years, those I have had the privilege to guide and teach in small ways.
Then there are the patients, residents and clients that have touched my heart in many, many ways.
Nurse truly are a breed apart, maybe we are even from another planet, who knows…
The work we do is often times hard, and to put it into words: almost impossible.
Thank you all for the privilege of working and sharing those years and for having been able to be a part of your lives.
I have done many different things in my nursing career and I am forever grateful for the richness and the wonderful opportunities I had. It has helped me to build a life for my family, a life we would have never had otherwise. It was not always easy, as anyone who has been in nursing knows. But I cherish the memories, the people I have gotten to know, the friendships I have built and those 18 years will always have a very special place in my heart.
What I do not miss.
O and there are a few things I will NOT miss; like the physical and verbal abuse; the long hours; the never ending policies and changes; and the endless paperwork.