Has the pandemic put an end to nursing as we know it?

Behind the scrubs: Bouncing back from burnout

January 16, 2024

Did you work through the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, you’ll relate to the nurse who worked in a respiratory ward throughout the Omicron outbreak and bounced back after burning out. This week features Angelica T, an avid baker, cat rescuer and RN who has been in the game for over a decade.

Angelica, tell us your story! Why did you choose nursing?

My Mum encouraged me to become a nurse, so I did. It was a huge learning curve coming straight out of school into a role where I was caring for others and responsible for their wellbeing. I completed my new graduate year in a NSW public hospital in the respiratory ward and the cardiac cath lab. These rotations taught me how to be a nurse, developed my bedside manner as well as how to complete basic nursing care. Over the years I have worked in geriatrics and general medicine on a permanent part time basis whilst picking up work in the casual pool. 11 years on, I have sound skills and experience and am learning new things every day! I get to look after people from all walks of life and have the privilege of caring for them and helping them get better. It’s incredibly rewarding

Where did you start your career?

I trained at UTS with clinical placements in almost all of the metropolitan hospitals in Sydney. The best thing about my training was the friendships I made, we are all still in contact today more than a decade later!
I started nursing in respiratory medicine and interventional cardiology. I then moved to aged care and then to general medicine. These specialities were very challenging particularly dealing with behavioural patients but I have learned so many skills and strategies as a result.

What is a common myth about your job or field of expertise?

That nursing is all about wiping bums. This is true, but we do so much more than that!

Which has been your best nursing job ever, and why?

I really enjoyed working in the respiratory ward in North Sydney LHD. They have a lot more resources and support available than other districts and my team were all so lovely and helpful. It was the best ward I ever worked on.

Tell us about your most memorable patient?

A Vietnam veteran who had cellulitis and required IV antibiotics. He had recently lost his wife and his son due to illness and suicide respectively. His outlook on life and general attitude was just to go with the flow, take life as it is and make the most of it. I remember thinking, this man is so resilient and I admired him for it. When I discharged him, he had written on the care board “thanks for the care.” This was the first time one of my patients had done this.

What do you love about being a nurse?

I love that nursing is dynamic and every day is different. I love meeting all sorts of people and that rewarding feeling when a patient tells me, “thank you” just for doing my job.

What is your proudest nursing moment?

Working in the respiratory ward during the delta COVID outbreak. It was the most challenging and scary time of my career but getting to be part of the team that helped save lives of people with COVID is something I will carry forever.

What do you like least about your nursing job?

Sometimes it’s exhausting, especially when I work overtime on top of my rotating shift work. It’s clear to see the system needs improvement since public hospitals are being staffed off the backs of nurses working overtime rather than building the workforce for the future.

What gives you the ‘ick’?

When some nurses say “that’s not my patient” or “ask your nurse” when it should be a team effort and all nurses should be team players. Our job is to care for all patients and their families, not just the patients allocated to us for the shift.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you in nursing?

I had a patient do the biggest poo 💩 I had ever seen in my life in the toilet. It was so large it would not flush despite multiple tries. So my colleague gloved up and scooped it out and popped it in a bag for the clinical waste bin.

If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?

I would like to be remembered as a kind and caring nurse.

What’s an “insult” you’ve received that you’re proud of?

I’m of southeast Asian descent. I had a confused dementia patient call me a “yellow.” I was honestly lost for words! She didn’t know any better so it was water off a duck’s back, and I’m proud of myself for not reacting in that moment.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten?

I had a patient, who was a no-nonsense retired nurse (you know the type), who told me “You’re a good nurse.” I always get so chuffed when I get compliments on my work ethic, especially by other nurses.

What is your advice for nurses considering a career pathway like yours?

I would advise aspiring nurses to go through the Enrolled Nurse pathway through TAFE as currently it’s fee free. You will get that hospital training which I believe is so important in deciding whether nursing is for you or not. Once you obtain your EN qualifications, and decide you absolutely love nursing, I would recommend further studies to become a Registered Nurse. The job is not easy, it’s bloody hard work, but it is so rewarding.

In your opinion, what are the top 5 important personality traits someone would need to work in your industry/be successful in your job?

  1. A positive attitude
  2. Patience! Lots of it
  3. Resilience
  4. Empathy
  5. Excellent communication skills

What’s one thing about your job/field of expertise that almost no one agrees with you about?

Working in the Aged Care ward is rewarding and enjoyable.

I heard you have a side hustle?

I have a baking side hustle! I also have a love for cats and was previously involved in cat rescues but had to step away as it was too demanding.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your nursing job?

I worry about what the future of nursing will look like. Will the next generation of nurses quit because the hospital is so full on? I hope that they will be as dedicated and hard-working as previous generations.

What’s the single thing that annoys you most that you see other nurses do?

Ignoring the call bell when the patient has been buzzing for ages. I do not like the noise, and like to attend to my patients in a timely manner

What is the best nursing advice you have ever been given?

Vital signs are vital! It’s more than just taking obs, it is how we assess our patients.

How do you de-stress from the juggle of everything you do?

I always put myself first, I’ve had burnout before and it is awful. I take days off when I feel like I need a break, I like to run and go to reformer pilates to destress and switch off my nurse brain.

Finish this sentence: If I could start over again, I would …

Change nothing, everything I have been through has made me the person I am today.

Quick 10 with Angelica

Q: Who has been your most important professional mentor?

A: My previous CNE Jane who is an excellent RN and CNE, I endeavour to be just like her one day

Q: Who or what keeps you motivated?

A: My beautiful Fiancé and cats keep me motivated to keep working lol.

Q: Favourite holiday destination?

A: Philippines

Q: Best place you have ever worked (even if it was for just one shift)?

A: Respiratory ward at RNSH.

Q: What’s the single most important trait you think a nurse should have?

A: Patience

Q: What’s one lesson your job has taught you that you think everyone should learn at some point in their life?

A: How to be respectful of others from other cultures and all walks of life

Q: What’s the quote you live by?

Live every day as if it’s your last

Q: If you could go back and give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

A: Save more money!

Q: What underrated tool(s) are indispensable for your job?

A: A water bottle and of course a pen.

Q: If you could change one thing in nursing, what would it be?

A: I believe that university doesn’t quite prepare new graduates for the realities of working in an acute care setting. It would be great if we could go back to hospital training.

Want to learn more about Angelica? Connect with her on instagram @Angelicattxx

Until next time…Giggle at code brown.

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