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!