I won.

In nursing, it sometimes feels as if you are swimming against a super strong current. This actually once happened to me…I underestimated just how strong a current was while swimming and you have two choices: a) drown or b) become stronger than the current.

When you start out in this profession, it takes time to become strong. There is a learning curve and it takes a while to master it all: your skills, interaction with people from all walks of life, hospital politics, the system…it’s a lot to deal with and juggle. And if you are a little bit ambitious and wish to climb up in the ranks, there are just more and more things to learn and master. 

The shocker is this: even as you get higher up on the nursing ladder, you are often rendered powerless. Because at the end of the day, if something from way up top is decided, you have to do it. And that hierarchy is pretty steep.

So what’s my point?

There will be times that you know that you are absolutely right about something. Absolutely 100% correct about something. Something big or something small, it doesn’t matter. And someone will try to say you are wrong. If and only if you are absolutely certain of what you are saying DON’T BACK DOWN. You fight and show them what you are made of. Because in nursing, your decisions only affect you a tiny bit…but they affect the patient a hell of a lot. 

I am a firm believer in choosing one’s battles. And when it comes to some battles, you look at them and think ‘this is an impossible one’ or ‘nobody will significantly lose or benefit if this one swings either way’. This can sometimes feel demoralizing and that current rears it’s ugly head and you begin to feel like you can’t breathe. But stop, take a few minutes to breathe and keep on keeping on.

But when a significant one rolls around, you get on your surfboard and ride that wave like a pro and show everyone that you mean business and they are the total wipe-outs.

And I am saying this because it happened to me quite recently. Since I’ve been recently promoted, I often feel like I’m drowning and like I don’t know anything and I’m back to square one. But then, it happened: there was a situation and I knew I was right. I was facing a lot of opposition but hey, I do have 11 years of nursing under my belt. It doesn’t always feel that way, but I actually know a lot. A great deal really. And I AM good at my job. I stuck to my guns and I didn’t back down. 

And in the end, I was able to make the opposing party see my point of view and it was my plan of action that took place.

And I won. 

I fucking won. For the first time in a long time, I finally felt on top of my game. I did my happy dance near the nursing station. Admittedly, it was a tiny victory. But it was indeed a victory. And my God, did I need a win.

You want to know what’s the beautiful thing about scoring a win in this profession? It’s that it’s never a win on your own. A win for me is a win for the team, a win for the ward and everyone in it. And winning alone is no fun, right?

Never underestimate what you know and your own strength of character. When you do that, becoming a winner is easy. 

I like riding the waves of triumph. This could become a habit. 

   
  

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2017

At this time of year, I always reflect on all that I’ve been through and most importantly what I have learned.
I begin to wonder if I will ever have a year where I look back and think ‘hey look, nothing major has happened!’ I guess the only way that could happen would be if I lived in a hole for twelve months.
But isn’t it funny how we can possibly judge what something ‘major’ may actually be? If I lived in a hole, it could be a visit from a spider. We are all a product of circumstance and that’s what shapes us and molds us.
So this year. This blessed year. I have been through so much personally and professionally. It was incredibly hard but I feel like I have learned and grown in so many ways. So I suppose it was all worth it.
Towards the beginning of the year, I had to accept the fact that I will probably never have biological children. We took almost everything science had to offer us, but nothing worked. It was a very bitter pill to swallow. Being a mother was the one thing I thought I knew I wanted. It is so funny how things I never particularly thought about came to me rather easily: a husband, a career, my masters degree; all of which I am fortunate to have. But all I ever really expressed a wish for was to have children. And in a weird twist of fate, it is one of the few things I simply cannot have.

But I am not sad. Now. I was very sad. I was devastated. I am most certain I would have made an excellent mother. An unconventional mother, but a good one. And I had to mourn. I experienced grief for what I would probably never be. At that time I honestly believed I would never be happy again. I am glad to say, it is not the case. I have learned that you may not get what you want in life, but you can still be happy. When my second ivf failed, so many people told me ‘don’t give up! Don’t give up!’ However it was my dad, the only person who spoke some sense to me. And he said plainly: ‘listen…if you want to give up, just give up. This isn’t like you are climbing a mountain and you are being encouraged to press on because you know the top is there somewhere. There may never be a ‘top’. And there is only one you. Take care of you.’

And like that, I realised that although I cannot have children, it did not make me any less of a human being.Even though giving birth to a child will be an undying wish, I have come to the conclusion that maybe this is so for a reason that is bigger than me that I have yet to comprehend. And sometimes we are so clouded by what we think we want that we shut out all other possibilities that could be knocking on our door.

2017 taught me to grab at those possibilities. It also taught me to let go and move on and to accept that the universe will unfold as it will. And that can be a very positive thing.

I also learned about dreams. You can have more than one. And they don’t all have to be fully attainable. You can fulfill half a dream. Or a quarter. Or none at all. Or you can have the dream and it explodes in your face. The thing is, it’s all fine, because out of failed dreams, spawns a new dream that you never thought you could ever have. And you discover a strength you never thought you knew.

This year, I got promoted to nursing officer, or charge nurse, if you prefer the new nomenclature. And the way the system works is that according to your placing during the interview, you get to choose where you will work. If there is a vacancy for charge nurse in your ward, all well and good, providing that nobody who scored higher than you wishes to take that place (this actually happened to me when I became a deputy…there was need for a deputy in my ward, but someone who scored higher than me took the position, bumping me to another ward.) History has a lovely habit of repeating itself, so once again I got bumped out of where I was and I had to dive in to somewhere new.

Being a nursing officer is mega hard, especially in a new ward where nobody knows you and you don’t know them or how they work. The learning curve is steep and the time you have is limited as the ward needs to be run, regardless of if you’re ready or not.

To be honest, I don’t believe anybody is actually ready. And that is another thing 2017 has taught me: if you wait until you are ‘ready’ to do something, you probably would never do it. There is no real such thing as ‘being ready’. I think it’s all just ‘do or die’ and since I have no intention of dying, I do the best I can and bravely face the consequences when I fuck up. And trust me, I do fuck up. But I fuck up once and learn to never let it happen again.

Two years ago, I took up marathon training because it was a dream of mine to run a marathon. I ended up stopping due to fertility treatments and all the paraphernalia that comes along with them. This year, I have decided to pursue it again, without interruption. My progress has been phenomenal, I run well, faster and at longer a distance. And on the 25th of February, I will run that 21k. I won’t come first. But I will do it, mark my words.
2017. Not an easy year. But nothing worth having comes easy. And I’m still standing.
And the most valuable lesson I have learned is that I am a woman of strength. And the world has thrown so much at me that could have broken me, but it didn’t. And in some ways, these experiences have changed me: they have made me even kinder, even more empathetic and have put a fire in my heart to do more good than I have ever done before.
So take that, 2017. You did your worst. But you never anticipated Wonder Woman as an opponent.

Heh. Screw Wonder Woman. You had Marie-Claire. And that broad is as tough as nails.
Happy new year everyone, and all it brings! Lots of love and prosperity and whatever that means to you xxxx


The most wonderful time of the year…for rudeness.

I have been a nurse for a really long time now, four years of training and eleven years of practice. However, people’s rudeness still astounds me. Still! I am totally ok with the excrement, sputum, blood and vomit but the sheer rudeness of the general population still stops me in my tracks and shocks me.

Now I am incredibly understanding. I get it. It’s Christmas time, you are in hospital and you are shit scared and surrounded by strangers. I get it. Manners are not high on your priority list right now. But the weird thing is, being an obnoxious brute seems to be way up there on the priority list, and it is excercised frequently. 

Here are some scenarios:

1) one guy rings the nurse call button and when you go to see what’s up, he keeps you there with demand after demand. And don’t think he asks nicely: nurse, panadols! Nurse, coffee! Nurse, arrange my pillows! This guy is far from helpless, he’s up and about and can easily make his own coffee….but no, his taxes pay for my wages, so he wants the full experience. I considered throwing the coffee in his face so he could also experience the burns unit, possibly even the ophthalmic department. 

2) I just walked in the ward at 6.45am, I open my office and begin to take off my scarf and jacket to take handover from the night nurses, when a pajama clad old male patient just storms in and begins to quiz me about his health. I have literally just arrived from home. I only really know about the health of my cat at that moment (independent, definitely not nil by mouth). I couldn’t even be sure exactly of my husband’s health as he was still in dreamland when I left that morning. And when I ask him to give me a minute, he just talks over me, demanding answers. 

Patient: how are my blood results? Will I get discharged today? Did my urine test show anything? Would you like some sputum?

Me: I just walked in, I still need to take handover, then I’ll answer any questions you have…

Patient: aren’t you the nurse in charge??? You’re supposed to know! 

Me: oh yes, of course, Mr. New-admission-whom-I’ve-never-met-before! Your haemoglobin levels show that you are going to turn into a unicorn! Yep! I think I will take a stool sample, take it to the lab and have them examine it for glitter, just to be sure. 

Of course, that is not what I said, but you can see what I’m dealing with here.

3) we have exstensive visiting hours at hospital. 11.30am-13.00 and then from 15.00-20.00. Why, oh why do people want to come in that hour and a half in between to visit their loved ones? And must you really call me names under your breath when I ask you to leave?

4) relatives, I understand that you love the patient and feel helpless in the face of illness and that you really want to help. But by doing so through approaching the nurses about some ridiculous need perceived by you and not the patient is not the way. I overheard this conversation in one of the rooms during visiting hours:

Visitor: shall I get you something?

Patient: no, I’m fine.

Visitor: I’ll go ask the nurses to make you tea…

Patient: no, I can’t have tea today…

Visitor: of course you can! I’ll go tell them!

And sure enough, this woman oozing with self-importance comes bustling up to me at the nursing station.

Visitor: my relative wants some tea! You can make her some!

Me: actually, I can’t…

Visitor: well, if you won’t, I will, my goodness!

Me: no, no…she has to remain nil by mouth, no food or drink as she has a procedure this afternoon…

Visitor: oh…

Yes, ‘oh’. Now get out of my nurses station, troglodyte. 

So yes. The most wonderful time of the year. And yes, I am an absolute river of ongoing patience and understanding. But I draw the line at rudeness and treating people who are helping you with a disrespect most blatant. Maybe it is because of our Mediterranean blood that makes us so hot headed and boisterous. I know it’s difficult, but sometimes it is beneficial to all parties to put that gear into neutral for a while.

And yes, your taxes pay my wages…but it costs nothing to be a decent human being.

  
  

A very merry Christmas.

Christmas has rolled itself around once again. I usually love this time of year, but it’s usual merriment is kind of marred by the fact that I have changed my job and I now run a ward.

And it is a fantastic, wonderful ward with wonderful people in it. They are truly shining stars, every last one of them. The nurses, the nursing aides and carers, the cleaners…all of them first class.

However, it is very, very stressful. 

1) I took over from the ward’s previous nursing officer, whom the staff all adored. And with good reason, she is great. I am constantly worried that I don’t measure up and that they are all saying ‘how I wish the other nursing officer comes back and we can get rid of this red headed ditz.’

2) I have been away from ward life for a year. A lot of things have changed in a year. I am constantly learning new things and as the leader I feel like I should know more than anyone. But the fact of the matter is, I don’t and it makes me worry that my staff will lose confidence in me.

3) The shift and leave system is majorly complicated. I don’t wish to change it because the staff are happy with it. But it will take me time to really get used to it. However, in the meantime the staff can’t stop taking leave for my convenience. Which leads me to my next point:

4) I am so afraid of making a mistake. Because if I make a mistake the staff will suffer which is precisely what I absolutely don’t want.

5) Christmas time is a nursing officer’s nightmare. Leave, nobody wants to come in for overtime, everybody has events they want to go to, Christmas and New Year’s concessions to organize…

The problem is that I care so much. I really, really do. Last week, I made my first mistake: I told someone they could not take leave when they actually, clearly could because I had read the wrong page on our roster book and got confused. And somehow, at 11pm it occurred to me that I might have read the wrong page and there was nothing I could do about it. I got so horribly upset. I could not believe that I did just what I was trying so hard to avoid.

It was all ok in the end, but I still feel really bad about it. But I know I’ll never make that mistake ever again.

I always think the same thing: it’s almost a virtue to be able to not give a shit. I stress out so much because I am really, really trying to do my very best.

I just hope it’s good enough.

God bless us, everyone.

   
 

Here we go again.

I had worked in the endoscopy unit for 6 years as a regular SRN until I got promoted to deputy charge nurse. Since endoscopy already had a deputy charge nurse, it meant I had to transfer to another unit or ward where there was a vancancy. And that’s how I ended up at the day surgery unit.

And four years later, history repeats itself. I got promoted to charge nurse now and once again I have been uprooted. 

It’s like being in an entirely new job. Yes, I’m still a nurse. But the differences between wards are huge. There is so much more to nursing than one’s skills. A lot of it involves knowing where stuff is and the logistics and systems of that ward. 

And of course, the people. The staff. The patients. 

The first three days are always the hardest. When I walked in on that fateful Monday morning, there they were, my new underlings, so-to-speak, staring at me. And even though I have been working in hospital for 11 years now, I did not know anyone, bar two of them who were students of mine aeons ago. And I know what they were all thinking:

Is she a bitch?

Is she going to change everything?

Are we going to hate her?

Are we going to love her?

Is she going to love us?

Does she have skills or is she an office princess?

The thing is, I was not the only one going through a major change; they were too. The nurses and nurse’s aides and the rest of them. And it’s not easy no matter which side of the spectrum you fall on.

It’s really hard, because I need to lead, but at the same time require a lot of help from those who are meant to follow me. 

I remember once in my previous setting, I lost my temper during a phone call with a care worker. He couldn’t handle it and tried to pass me on to someone else. Not realizing I could hear every single background noise, he said ‘listen, can someone talk to the dragon of the day care unit?’

I was stunned. I always considered myself innocuous. Is that how I was seen? As a fire-breathing dragon?

The hospital grapevine is long, entwined and very strong. I only hope that such a reputation does not precede me.

It’s been a week now and I’m slowly finding my feet. I’m getting to know everyone and they are less wary of me. They can see for themselves that I’m not going to turn them into kebabs with my apparent pyrotechnic abilities.

Change is good. It’s scary, but it’s good. Especially when it comes to career. It prevents you from growing stagnant and boring. I’m a firm believer in taking life by the horns and grabbing at it and having as many experiences as possible. Otherwise how can you say you have really lived?

And maybe I really am a dragon. Just not one that breathes fire. More like a magic one, who lives by the sea. A protective one. 

Only instead of frolicking in the autumn mist, I bustle about in chest infections and uncontrolled hyperglycaemia.

Here we go.

    
 

Run for your life.

dog

Fun Run. Never have I seen more of an oxymoron in all of my life.

Fun pub crawl.

Fun shopping trip.

Fun restaurant.

Yes. Those are fun things.

Running, is not fun. At all. It is sweaty and painful. It makes me nauseous and causes my chest to heave. It makes my face redder than a horny cat’s knob. It almost makes you feel like you are about to die.

However my two main mottos in life are ‘if it comes easy, it is not worth having’ and that ‘life begins at the end of your comfort zone’. So I run. And I can assure you, it’s not comfortable.

And because I never do thing by halves, I have decided to sign myself up for a half marathon. Yep. 21km.

I must be out of my mind.

Correction: I AM out of my mind.

To date, the longest I have managed to run is 12km and it took me two hours. And yesterday my coach wanted us to pick up speed and I really struggled and that was only 4km.

How the Hell am I going to run 21km by February???

Our group is divided into the beginners and the advanced. The advanced ones run so beautifully. They look like gazelles. Hardly a touch of redness, just the healthy glow of good circulation. Their breathing is rhythmic, easy. They laugh and chuckle when they finish their laps, saying things like ‘oh, that was a tough one!’ and they would have done 8 laps in comparison to my three.

I do not look like a gazelle. I tend to channel frustrated-hippo. My skin turns into a ripe shade of puce, kind of like a pickled beetroot. I breathe like an elephant with a peanut wedged up his trunk. When I finish my three laps, I can’t speak, let alone chuckle. More like up-chuckle, as I try to control the waves of nausea.

However, I do feel oddly alive. And like I am part of something great. And the sense of achievement is immense. And with every training session, it honestly gets easier. My legs get stronger, my technique gets better. Even my breathing has evened out somewhat.

So many people have approached me saying they admire me but are ‘too unfit’ to try take up running. But all it takes is getting on some trainers and pummelling the pavement. Start slow. First walk one kilometre. Then the next time, walk it faster. The next time, break into a jog and slowly but surely, you will soon be able to run. A lot of it is in the mind. The whole ‘I’m too unfit’ thing is a vicious circle at the end of the day: if you are too unfit to run, how do you plan on getting fit? By not moving? Or by just thinking about it? It all starts with one step and the courage to take it.

Speaking about courage…my lovely little cousin (well, not so little anymore, she is 23 now, I think) had the brilliant idea to create a team for us in order to raise awareness and possibly funds for breast cancer. So not only are we getting fitter, but we are doing so for a good cause. She called our team ‘Putting your breast foot forward’. One can tell we are related.

So running. Yes indeed. I do it without a hint of grace. But I do it. And hopefully I can run a half marathon and live to tell the tale.

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Murder because she wrote.

I wasn’t going to write about this because I thought what can I say that others didn’t? But at the end of the day, I felt a kind of inner need to write as I do have something to say, whether it’s deemed cliche or whether the subject has been deemed exhausted.

For those not in the know, on the 16th of October a Maltese journalist and blogger was brutally murdered by a car bomb. Her name was Daphne. 

That’s what all the headlines said.

What they did not say was that this woman was a wife and a mother. She was somebody’s sister. Somebody’s best friend. She was young, in her early fifties. She adored her children. She was proud of her son who won a Pulitzer Prize in journalism. Yes. An actual Pulitzer for following in her footsteps.

On the night of the 16th, I could not sleep. I could not stop thinking about her family, her parents…I couldn’t stop thinking what could be running through their heads? The grief. The anger.

And then I couldn’t stop thinking of all those who have been murdered due to their jobs…there was a social worker who got killed in her car I think in the 80s…I thought of Karin Grech who got murdered in her father’s stead…and other journalists like Daniel Pearl…

I’m not going to go into the merits of her writing. Because, frankly, I do not care. I read her work pretty religiously, so I say ‘frankly, I do not care’ with responsibility. Because she was more than what she wrote. 

However that, her writing , is what got her killed, some may say. It’s not what I say. 

Wanna know what got her killed?

Cowardice. Cowardice got her killed. Because she found out stuff about people and they were scared. Scared that life as they know it could come crumbling down because of the scribblings of one woman. 

I believe anything and everything can be worked out. That is if one has the courage to admit they were wrong and face up to a problem with honesty. As I grow older, I realise that the very concept of courage is becoming more and more of a mythical fairytale. 

Daphne was brave. She knew how the siege mentality works. She knew that there was a chance that something bad could happen. But she stood for something. And if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

And to make Daphne fall, the most deadly of bombs was required, which although morbid, is really something.

Her death shows that someone, somewhere has something to hide.

And the truth does come out. Sometimes it’s not so obvious. But it surfaces eventually.

You know how we are constantly warned how whatever is on the internet is out there forever and can never really and truly be deleted? Heh heh heh. Yes. 

May she Rest In Peace. May her family find a way forward. 

May we all find a way forward.