Behind the scrubs: Elle is certainly not ‘just’ a nurse

November 21, 2023

Welcome to Behind the Scrubs where each week we follow the journey of one of our uPaged nurses as they share their stories, experience and wisdom.

Have you ever thought about a career other than nursing? Say hello to the nurse who chose nursing over law school and has never looked back. This week features Elle, who is “JUST” a nurse and proud of it! 

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

Initially, I really didn’t want to become a nurse. I had this strong repulsion to nursing as a career when I was younger and I didn’t really ever know the reason why. When the time came though, I ended up tossing up between becoming a nurse or a lawyer, Fortunately, my parents encouraged me to get into nursing. I have no absolutely regrets choosing to be a nurse, and if given the chance to change my choice, I’d still choose nursing.

I trained overseas, have worked in various parts of the world and eventually decided to settle in the land down under.

What was the best thing about your training? 

The best thing about my training was the diversity of the healthcare environments I was exposed to. It gave me various experiences and equipped me with a myriad of knowledge and skills in different settings where nursing exists. On the contrary, the worst thing about it was even during my training, we were treated as salaried staff and they expected us to perform duties out of our scope because they were so understaffed and they had to utilise every little bit of help they could get.

What specialty did you start your career in? 

I started with general medical-surgical and then progressed to intensive care. The change was the best thing I ever made in my nursing career. The journey of patients admitted to intensive care from being very poorly, with all the tubes and attachments, to becoming independent again … It reminded me why I made the decision to remain as a nurse.

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

The common myth about nursing is that not all nurses have a passion for nursing. See, in nursing, you always put others first. You disregard your own hunger, your own pain, your own bladder, your own heartaches … just to be there and be present for other people and provide them with the care they need. If passion does not exist, even a tiny bit of it, then I don’t think anyone could just do that and overlook their own needs for others.

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

Working in the ICU has been my best nursing job so far! It gave me an avenue to grow as a nurse and provided me with experiences that honed my skills and prepared me to work wherever.

Tell us about your favourite patient?

My favourite patient was a small, old man I took care of at the stroke unit. He had left-sided weakness and I attended to his needs and helped him with his rehabilitation. He was always polite, always endearing and respectful. When he finally got discharged, he told me “Oh, if only I was born a few years earlier!”, I smiled and looked at how happy he was with his progress and recovery. It reminded me of the impact nurses have on their patients.

What do you love about nursing?

What I love about being a nurse is the ability to make an impact and an actual difference in other people’s lives. It sounds cliché but nurses often overlook this fact. People actually remember you – the person who took care of them and showed them compassion during one of the darkest moments of their lives; a stranger who cares for them as if they were their family member. And that’s what makes nursing so worthwhile.

What is your proudest nursing moment? 

My proudest nursing moment was surviving long hours of shifts in the ICU and dressed PPE during COVID and seeing the patients smile and cry as they were wheeled out of the unit.

What gives you the ‘ick’? 

Like any other nurse, someone who takes your pen and does not return it! I mean, who does that? That’s a serious offense to nurses. 🤣

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

There was a power outage in the hospital and we didn’t know how long it would last. Everyone was so anxious as we didn’t know if our spare oxygen would last for all our ventilated patients. We were so short-staffed that day that if the oxygen ran out, we would have to bag the patients manually with a ratio of one nurse to three patients. Luckily the power came back on before the oxygen supply ran out!

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

The insult “You’re JUST a nurse” is often used to degrade nurses and to inflict on us that we are just a higher-paid nanny or a doctor’s puppet. I always remind myself that people who say this have the least amount of knowledge of what nurses do and can do. And although I am JUST a nurse, the people who actually know the extent of my job know that I AM a nurse, and I’m more than proud of it.

And the best compliment?

The best compliment I’ve ever received was from a student I was mentoring during her placement. She wrote me a letter saying, “You are what nurses should be. Now I know who I want to be”. My heart felt so full reading her letter. 

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

Before you consider a career change, ask yourself if you would be able to commit to this job and would you not regret making this decision in the long run. If you have firmly decided and answered those questions without hesitation, then go for it!

In your opinion, what is the most important personality trait/strength someone would need to work in your industry/be successful in your job?

The most important personality trait you must have to be a nurse is resilience. Throughout your nursing career, you will be faced with challenges at different levels and intensities. Without resilience, you will quit at the first sign of adversity, which normally happens in the daily life of a nurse.

What’s one thing about your job that almost no one agrees with you about?

Working in intensive care is fun! Almost everyone sees the ICU as a dreadful environment to work in because you are faced with the most critically ill patients. But, amidst the chaos in the unit, you will find that you will learn so much and experience a lot of things which makes it a fun environment to work in.

What is your passion outside of nursing?

Photography. I love how you can make thousands of interpretations and draw out so many emotions with just a single photograph.

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

The biggest challenge is working on skeletal staffing and/or being so understaffed that what is normally done by 3 nurses, is done by one nurse only. It takes a heavy toll on you in the long run and you barely notice it until it becomes worse.

“Not everyone will appreciate the work you do, but always know that there is someone out there whose life has changed for the better because of meeting you as their nurse. So just keep moving forward”. Elle

Quick 10 with Elle 

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

A: I’d like my patients to remember me as “The stranger who was there for me”.

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

A: I normally travel and try new things to de-stress and refresh myself from all the strain of nursing.

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

A: You don’t have to be so hard on yourself. You deserve to be happy and you can choose your own happiness. No one has the right to tell you otherwise.

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

A: A pen torch. You can use it to check a patient’s consciousness, GCS and a great tool during night shifts as well when you don’t want to wake your patient up by turning the big lights on.

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

A: The staffing. Definitely. Almost every part of the world where I have worked as a nurse always felt like they were skimping on staffing. I know it’s hard to get more nurses but it’s not impossible and it would greatly affect the retention of nurses if the staffing is properly managed.

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

A: Start my overseas journey earlier.

Q: Who or what keeps you motivated?

A: My family

Q: Favourite holiday destination

A: Switzerland 🇨🇭

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

A: Resilience

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

A: Don’t let anyone tell you your worth. You are more than enough.

Want more? Check out the Behind the Scrubs archive

If you’ve got a great nursing story, we’d love to hear about it.

Let’s face it, Nurses do the most incredible work, and everyone has a story to tell. 

We want to hear about your experience – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the extraordinary. We’d love to share it with other nurses who are contemplating agency, travel, or rural and remote nursing. Raw and real is fine. It’s your story – we want to hear it in your words.

We’ll credit your uPaged account with 1,000 uCoin for your original story. Include a relevant photo to your story and experience and we’ll credit you with a bonus 500 uCoin. Tell us your story here.

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