Articles often highlight the rosy career change success stories where all is well once you find the “career of your dreams”. But the truth is, the career change is littered with many uncertainties and difficulties, and one needs to prepare for them.Read More
In 2012 I made a brave leap - not just to move to Australia but to try out new careers. One of the careers I tried was nursing. I chose the "work while you learn" approach rather than jump into a full-time degree. The plan was to start out as a carer first, then study up to be an enrolled nurse and then registered nurse.
I ended up working in aged care - at a nursing home, and as a carer who visited the home of the elderly (or community care worker).
In the end, I'm really glad I took that approach as I decided not to be a nurse in the end. But did I regret trying to be one? NEVER. Being a carer was an eye-opening and earth-shaking experience for me. I learned:
1. To accept my mortality. Seeing the brave souls at the nursing home wrestle with serious illnesses and their impending deaths traumatised me at first because as a person, I wanted to be in control over everything, even my death. As strange as it sounds, accepting that I will die someday from something taught me to appreciate life even more.
2. That I love the technical side of nursing: How you move patients, reposition then, ensure their health, administer medications. What a wealth of experience.
3. I really preferred the research part of medicine rather than the hands-on. As much as my patients taught me about accepting my mortality, I couldn't handle seeing them suffer. It broke my heart each and every time eventhough I wore a happy and composed face. It also helped me get over the slight regret I have for not having the means to pursue medicine. I think I would have made a very unhappy doctor!
4. How to handle difficult patients and to be a better leader. I marvelled at how stern I could be! When you're desperate for your patients to take their medicine, to talk them down from their hallucinations, you'll plumb your own personal depths for a solution!
5. That you can get love from unexpected places. I still remember bursting into tears when one patient, who suffered from advanced dementia, consoled me when she caught me crying in the bathroom one day. I felt as if God was speaking to me through her. It was an earth-moving experience.
6. To embrace change: Every day was a new day like you won't believe.
7. To stop sweating the small stuff: I used to get so upset over the smallest things. When you've literally faced down death with your patients, a petty spat with a colleague seems like nothing. Oh, I still get mad over office politics, but it rarely lasts longer than an hour.
8. To never take life and health for granted.
9. To appreciate nurses/carers like hell. They work their asses off.
10. To quit when it's no longer working. It takes courage to pursue a new career or try something new. It is also courageous - maybe even more so - to admit that something is no longer working. But I held on longer than I should, and really cried when I finally let go. (Uhm, my last day at work was rather dramatic.) But when I did, it freed me up for a new phase in my life. I could've chosen the easy way out and continued studying to be a nurse because it would have been a way for me to live in Australia. But I knew it wouldn't be true to myself, and I would be unhappy. I am damn proud that I chose not to hang on to something just for the sake of security and because it was practical.
So don't be afraid to explore something new, even if it doesn't work out. Because every 'experiment' will teach you something new. Be brave, friends!
This post is a little late, because I just ended my tenure as a student. Still, it was such a fascinating time to be a student that I had to write it down.
I signed up for my Aged Care course like I planned. Initially, I was supposed to head to Barossa Valley to spend a month at a winery picking grapes and labelling wine bottles, but when I found out about the South Australian government's Skills for All initiative, I cancelled it. I qualified for the scheme, so this meant that the government will pay for my course. Instead of paying $2,000, I only paid my college's $260 registration fees (Padman Healthcare). Though, at some colleges you pay almost nothing. But I chose the college because I felt that as the company ran nursing homes, they'd ensure that the training given would be the best there is - especially since the organisation does take in some of its students as carers.
(Anyway, it is lucky that I applied then, because the slots for that benefit quickly dried up after two months!)
I chose to live near my college and found a place about a few kilometres from it. Some of my classmates, who manage to find accommodation that's around $100 per week or so commented how expensive my place was (it's about $150). But I save a lot on fuel (I don't have a car) and transport because I either walk to college or cycle there. (I bought a cheap bike from Gumtree.) Plus, hello - unlimited high-speed Internet!
I mean, every morning I get to walk past houses like these:
And the weather in August was still chilly but not too chilly, and flowers were starting to bloom ... it was lovely to be out around walking or cycling in Adelaide.
I underestimated how hectic college could be, however. Classes run from 9am to 4pm every day. There was endless amounts of assignments, and there was one time where I woke up at 6am to complete work that was due at 9am!
I found the Aged Care course very, very fascinating and my respect for nurses and nurses' aides (or personal carers) are certainly much higher now. This is why I'm so surprised and dismayed that many cultures look down on personal carers.
The first thing people think of when it comes to becoming a personal carer is this: "Yuck! I have to handle urine and faecal matter?"
I admit that when we started studying about personal care, and when shown confronting videos of how we'd literally take care of people's toilet and hygiene needs, I wilted inside - I wasn't sure if I could do it. But as the classes went on, my respect for the profession grew and grew. A great personal carer will make a great difference to their clients or patients. They are at the frontline of healthcare and need great physical stamina and emotional strength to do what they do.
It's a really honourable profession, and they deserve more than what they're getting now. And I'm not just talking about the pay, which (for a full-time staff member) is around $18 per hour, but the regard society has for them.
I once read a book about shit (yes, literal shit) - how we dispose of them over the centuries, the people associated with the task - that said that the closer some people are to the task of disposing waste matter, the lower their prestige in society. Yet, the task of disposing waste is one of the greatest technological advances of civilisation because it has improved mankind's welfare and health by leaps and bounds. YET, the people associated with such an important task gets no respect.
Life is shitty that way, isn't it?