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From Mansfield to Frankston – meet graduate nurse Mel

Graduate Nurse Mel

The below blog is written by Melanie Challen, a 2019 Graduate Nurse at Peninsula Health.

Hey team,

My name is Mel and I’ve spent the past 4 weeks settling into my new position as a Graduate Registered Nurse at Peninsula Health. To begin with, a little bit about my background. I hail from Mansfield- a small country town in the North-East of the state. Mountains, lakes, national parks and rivers surround Mansfield; come the weekends and the town bursts at the seams with tourists interested in snow skiing, water skiing, bike riding, horse riding, four-wheel driving, hunting and fishing for example. Contrary to my new home on the Mornington Peninsula, Mansfield is yet to discover traffic lights, fast food outlets or elevators, a “quick dash” to the supermarket is a forty-minute round drive from my home, and the heart of the town is the twenty-four-bed hospital. After 22 years in Mansfield, I have recently moved to the Peninsula to be with my boyfriend, to “spread my wings” and to be apart of the exciting changes happening at Peninsula Health.

So, “why nursing?” has been a question that I have come across extensively during my studies at university and during the beginning of my career; this question is usually followed by comments of either “I could never be a nurse”, “I don’t know how you do it” or “nurses are amazing, good on you”. I could write pages of reasons for why I wanted to be a nurse – the main reason was to follow in the footsteps of my biggest inspiration – my Mum. Mum is a nurse and midwife in Mansfield; she is the kind of nurse I dream of being. Which leads to the other reason I wanted to be a nurse; thus involves the privilege that comes with this profession. Hospitals are the epicentre of an array of emotions and events that occur in the life of patients and their families. From ward-to-ward, patients are experiencing the best days of their lives, the worst days of their lives, the first days of their lives, or the last; and nurses are there for those experiences and everything in between. To think that a nurse can hold a baby taking its first breaths, go to lunch and then return to hold the hand of a patient taking their final breath, and to be paid for that privilege…  lets move on before I tear up!

I have commenced my Graduate Year on Ward 5GN, where the primary focus is Gastroenterology and General Medicine. Prior to commencing on 5GN I heard an array of positivity about the ward, particularly regarding just how friendly, helpful and welcoming the staff were. After working on the ward I am happy to attest to this. A nursing mentor of mine once told me “all good nurses spread their glitter everywhere they go”, and I love catching glitter from the nurses on 5GN. So far I have found that my shifts are always extremely busy, everyday is different and organisation and time management are essential. But I’m getting there. I have had shifts that have made me sit in the car park and cry because no matter what I did, I just couldn’t keep up leading me to wonder if maybe teaching would be a better option for me. But I have also had shifts where I have high-fived the ANUM after doing a skill that I have put off thinking “I could never do that” until thrown in the deep end. Over the past few weeks I have enjoyed developing my understanding of the Gastrointestinal System, the pathophysiology that can occur in this system and the associated treatments, as well as how to maintain GIT (gastrointestinal tract) health. To this end I have been able to work with a variety of Allied Health team members to assist the patient to a successful discharge – this understanding of a variety of roles within a hospital has been invaluable.

The first weeks of my nursing career have been stressful – overwhelmingly so at times, exciting, nerve-wracking and extremely rewarding. I have found comfort in a few notions – the advice that it’s ok to make a mistake, but the goal is to only make it once. That I am feeling these emotions because I care about my patients, my role and my colleagues. I know more than I give myself credit for. It’s ok to ask questions, and it’s ok to say “I don’t know”. Progression is more important than perfection. I can do it. During orientation the “Grad-mothers” stressed to us that we should “switch off” when we left work, with an extremely busy mind, this has been something I have had to actively work at and improve – waking up in the middle of the night remembering that I forgot something for example is not effective in what is a 24 hour job. To prevent myself from these stressors my new technique is to carry my thoughts, my stresses and my worries on my access card. As I swipe my access card to exit the car park after a shift I also swipe away the problems of the day – when I swipe my card the next day I give myself permission to switch back on these concerns but majority of the time I find that they’re not problems anymore. Sometimes this means sitting in the car park a bit longer after a shift and reflecting on my shift, but I know that as soon as I swipe my card I have to let it go, and so far it’s working.

The moments that make it worth it – a kiss blown from a patient as they walk out of the ward to return home, a thumbs up from a patient that is unable to communicate with speech, the debriefs with colleagues, introducing myself as “your nurse for the day”.

Until next time, keep spreading that glitter.