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A behind the scenes look at Intensive Care nursing

My name is Isabella Alves-Ferreira, I am one of the new 2018 graduate nurses here at Peninsula Health.

I never had a clear direction as to what I wanted to study straight out of high school. I felt an enormous amount of pressure at 17 years old to know what I wanted to be in life and to figure out my career in the short two years of VCE. I got into university first studying a Bachelor in Psychological Science. However, two years in, I found myself unfulfilled. It was after listening to the student nurses in the library talk about their projects that I made the best decision for my career and decided to dive into nursing.

I am currently doing my first rotation in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and so far my experience has been nothing short of amazing.  Starting off as a grad nurse is already daunting in itself. Starting off as a grad nurse in ICU is a whole different level of scary. There are what feels like a million things to learn every single day. New drugs, new illnesses, new machines… So many things that I never had come across before in my three year nursing degree – suddenly, I was faced with them all at once.

During my last year of nursing school I was fortunate enough to have a three week placement at Frankston ICU – it was during these three weeks where I discovered my passion for the unit and where my love for nursing really peaked. I was lucky to have had the exposure to ICU prior to starting my grad rotation, however that hasn’t made the journey any less scary. I was hit with the sudden realisation that I have an enormous amount of responsibility and accountability for my patient as a registered nurse compared to when I was a student. If I used to double check everything I did back when I was a student, then I triple check everything I do now as a grad.

I love so much about being in ICU – it has taught me a plethora of different things. Firstly – the critical thinking. You get to understand pathophysiology better than any uni lecture could ever explain it to me. The array of opportunities you get watching and being a part of critical procedures that are done daily. Most importantly – the people. I have been working full time since I was 17 years old (now 24) and I have never worked with such friendly and supportive people. I feel extremely supported and welcomed into the unit, I feel safe knowing that I have so many people looking out of me and guiding me through these 4 months.

Although ICU has been an amazing experience thus far, it certainly has not been without its many challenges. I briefly mentioned about the drugs in ICU but it is one thing to mention it and another thing to see a sedated/paralysed patient with 10 million different lines and tubes inserted in them and all these new drugs that you have never heard of before in your life. Learning about these has been rewarding but certainly a challenge. It has also been emotionally challenging as several patients have passed away during my rotation and although this is part of life and I am sure I will come across death many more times in my career, it is not something I have been able to emotionally control.

ICU has truly been an amazing experience and I would encourage any new nurses that are interested in the field to settle their curiosity and experience what it is like in the world of ICU.  The staff are absolutely amazing and I couldn’t think of any other environment that is bursting with learning opportunities like ICU is. I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here and hoping to return after my grad year has finished to continue my journey in ICU.