Rediscovering Me to Land a New Job

So a few weeks ago I was struggling with juggling nursing and being a mum. Life was tough and I could see no way of making it better. Then followed an even heartier kick in the teeth when I failed to gain the substantive post for the job I have been doing for 2 years. Yep I have to say I was pretty damn low. In fact so low I was seriously contemplating leaving nursing forever and becoming a postman. (I love post, I just think it’s so exciting get stuff through the door…)

Then came a moment in my life where someone actually stood up and basically said don’t be a dickhead. She was right, I either threw my toys out the pram or I picked myself up and dusted myself off. Stopped bemoaning the unfairness of the situation and actually proved I was more than what I was threatening to become.

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It was hard. Almost crippled by self-doubt and the fear of failing a second time. But then I thought about what I have already overcome. The challenges I have faced head on – not least this last year with PND after Pudding. The time had come to stand up, to fight for what I believed and to put myself out there.

So I did. In went the application for a job I never would have applied for a year ago. Every time it crossed my mind over Christmas my stomach did that awful flip-flop. I let myself have moments of day dreaming that I had the job. Every time I did my confidence grew just a bit more. But not just that so did my passion for my nursing career. I felt re-energised for the first time since the children. I felt like me. Not just Mummy but a woman who could achieve her dreams of a career and family.

I planned how I could work and have the kids cared for. I read, anything and everything that might be useful. The interview was confirmed and I redoubled my efforts. Now I wanted this, really wanted it. No longer a pipe dream, I believed I could make this happen.

The interview date came. Sat waiting to be called my hand shook a little, my stomach seemed to twist and dance entirely to its own tune. If I thought the pre-interview wait was bad the post interview wait was a whole new form of torture. My mind analysed it over and over and over until I could barely remember what had even happened! Then finally the moment was there – as the words came out of my managers mouth I couldn’t really understand what she was saying. Let alone believe it! I had done it, the job was mine. Holy Shit!!!!!

So in the next few weeks I will start my new post. Full of enthusiasm and the passion to make positive changes. Will it all be plain sailing? Ha unlikely! I am on the steepest learning curve of my career. It’s going to be tough, a whole new challenge. Not just for me but for all of us as we try to juggle a new working pattern. Will it be worth it? I believe it will, but watch this space…

 

A Day in The Life of a NICU Nurse

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‘Oh wow what a lovely job, cuddling babies all day’ says a Mum when I tell her that I am a NICU nurse. Well yes it is, a great job. A privilege and a huge responsibility. But it’s also an emotional roller coaster. Knowing the life of these delicate babies is often held in my hands.

The NICU can be a loud busy place. Walking through the door you are often met with a barrage of alarms and a flurry of activity. Not all mornings start like that, sometimes there is time to take a breath. But other days you hit the ground running. These little people have you on the hop before you even begin. Such fragile little things that even the most stable on the unit can take a turn for the worse in the blink of an eye. I watch them like a hawk, respond to their needs. Turn them, snuggle them into tiny nests. Providing comfort care when the outside world all becomes too much for their preemie brains to take.

I watch in wonderment as their tiny bodies fight to maintain themselves. Encouraging their parents, supporting them in this most trying of times. Comforting their families as we ride this roller coaster together. The ups and downs of being born to soon. I explain the technical interventions required to keep their precious baby breathing and growing.

I Spend time with Mum, enable her to hold even the sickest of babies. Calm her when her breast milk starts to dry up through the stress of being in the NICU. Feeding her baby is one of her most important roles, but it’s not easy. She is in the unit every day, keeping her vigil by the bedside, she won’t eat properly or sleep properly. Feeling guilty, desperate and alone – my support to her is almost as critical as that to her baby. Bonds are created with families, they are trusting you with the most precious thing in their lives.

The ward round comes and the doctors make their plans. Plans that effect the whole family. Mostly there is hope but sometimes there is none. Hard decisions are made. Babies and their families keep coming. Some have completed their journey and we are waving them out the door. Home to a normal life, after the longest of roads travelled. Others are moving elsewhere requiring treatments we cannot provide or stepping down to local units. Completing that final phase of feeding and growing.

Of course there are cuddles. A break from the routine of caring for the sickest babies. A quick snuggle with a feed whilst Mum gets some rest. It is short-lived. The page has gone another baby needs the team. We race down the corridor, emergency bag in hand. Sometimes we know what to expect when we arrive. We know that this is a premature baby that will require our support. Other times it’s a term baby who hasn’t delivered as expected. The adrenaline rushes through your veins, it’s not excitement, it is a fight or flight response. I am trained for this, technically I know what needs to be done. But I never feel relaxed, this young life deserves my all, the best of my abilities. This family is counting on us.

There are times when as a team we are shocked to the core after events. You can’t help but become emotionally involved with these tiny babies and their families. Whilst everyone maintains their professionalism, ultimately it is the compassion and empathy that we feel that makes us the doctors and nurses we are. In the hardest of circumstances we are there for each other, who else could understand what this job does to a person? Tea and coffee are drunk by the bucket load and biscuits are consumed in vast quantities.


Yes this job is a privilege. It can be both beautiful and terrifying in equal measure. Watching these babies grow, flourish and eventually go home with their parents is one of the most satisfying parts. The journey is hard, for everyone. As a nurse it is technically challenging and emotionally wearing. I can’t imagine doing it without the amazing team of doctors and nurses around me.

After 12 long hours the day is finished. Notes are written, babies are tucked into their beds. But the NICU doesn’t sleep. The next shift is here. Their turn to ride this train. Continually watching, responding, comforting and caring for the babies and their families. For me its time to return to my own family, to try to decompress from the events of the day. Do I spend the day cuddling babies? Sometimes; but there is a lot more to a day in the life of a NICU nurse.

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Nurse or Mum is it time to choose between the two?

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I find myself in serious contemplation of my career. A career I have worked hard for, but that now appears inflexible and a destructive influence on my family. How many times can I leave my four-year old in tears, carefully remove his arms from my waist and whisper ‘Sorry darling, Mummy has to go to work’. To shut the door and still hear his sobs of ‘don’t go again Mum…’

The problem is that no matter what people say nursing does not lend itself to a family friendly life. The shifts are long and unpredictable. The work itself is both mentally and physically draining. I personally can’t walk out of the hospital door without thinking about my patients and their families. Being a nurse for many is a vocation. It’s not just a job, or a profession. The training is hard, the job is harder. You have to love what you do, or you just wouldn’t keep doing it. Always chronically understaffed and overworked, the patients come first. Other people’s families constantly put above your own.

The level of responsibility I and my fellow nurses have is huge. No longer are we the profession so often portrayed in old films. You know the ones where we meekly follow the Doctors round and do their bidding. That went out the window with our hats and aprons many years ago. Nurses are now more autonomous, more skilled and more educated than they ever have been. In my opinion this is fantastic but it comes at a price. That price is stress. A stress that grows almost unseen, but bubbles over into family life.

Here we have a profession that is predominantly made up of women, that doesn’t lend itself in any way to family life. Lets face it flexible working isn’t an option. I can just imagine my managers face if I said I wanted to come in at 10am some days or finish at 5pm. I would have to pick her up off the floor she would be laughing so hard! Patients need 24 hour care, nurses have to provide this.

Obviously I can’t work from home that is a ridiculous notion. Where would I put all the equipment? Besides I can’t see the ward round stopping by my house to make a plan of care or the x-ray team trundling up my drive… So flexi-homeworking not an option. Of course we are a minority in that our family has two nurses that work inflexible long shifts, which only compounds the problems. Some one is always tired, someone is always at work and both of us are inevitably stressed!

Is this my choice? Well kind of but not really. I often think that if I really had a choice I wouldn’t go to work. But then I remember that I like having my own money and I like having something that is mine and not the children’s. It’s not a selfish thing to want to have some time where I am a nurse and not ‘Mum’. I think in many ways it makes me a better Mum when I return to the children. Or it would if I wasn’t so shattered after work! But the children hate it. I hand my children over to my husband like I handover my patients to my colleagues at the end of my shift.

No one I speak to has the answer. It feels as though the day is coming when I will need to make a decision. I either am a nurse or I am a mother. I raise my children, but lose everything I have worked to achieve. There doesn’t appear to be a happy medium for me. Its my career or my kids. There is no competition in my eyes. If somethings got to give I know what it will be. That doesn’t make it ok and it doesn’t make it any easier.

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