A pathway to a healthier you

Support – why we need to expect and give it more

In her graduate year of nursing, Lou found herself questioning why nurses and midwives don’t receive more support to manage the daily stresses of the job. 

Lou Nuttall began her career in healthcare over 8 years ago, as a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) in aged care, then as an EN and now RN.

“I worked as a PCA for a few years while I studied a Diploma of Nursing to become an EN. Following this I transitioned to the Nursing Degree and worked as an EN while I completed my studies over two years.” 

“I finished my graduate year in March this year and I now work in the perioperative setting. I have heard from both early career and senior colleagues that somewhere along the line they have asked themselves why they are staying in the profession,” she says.

Education and preparing us for the reality of our work

Lou returned to university to gain her nursing degree during COVID. She found that universities are not preparing graduates for the reality of working in our health care system. 

“Most nurses and midwives join the profession because we want to make a difference and while we understand that we are in a caring profession, we deserve to be cared for too.”

Psychological preparation – add it to the syllabus

Universities need to consider how they prepare graduates for joining the workforce, according to Lou. “Should we look at what we are delivering so that we prepare our nurses psychologically for the challenges they will face? I think graduates are coming out of university with very little support and this is having an impact on our mental health. I nearly gave nursing away because of this.”

Talk to someone who has been there

Having access to a national nurse and midwife led counselling service would help manage the stress   over of working in an overburdened health system, Lou says. “It really is important to talk to someone who has a lived experience and understanding of what you are going through. You can debrief with a partner or family member but it’s tricky if they can’t relate to your situation.”

Support your peers, share your story

Lou says peer support can also help nurses and midwives manage the ups and downs of work and life. “I have always been committed to supporting my colleagues. I have shared my own story openly so that people know it’s ok to talk about the struggles they face. We need to let people know how we are really feeling and hopefully they will respond with compassion.”

Respond with and expect compassion

Long waiting lists for treatment such as elective surgery procedures in hospitals increases the pressure on the health care workforce, Lous says. “I have seen people getting really stressed because they are waiting so long for attention or because their elective surgery keeps getting cancelled,” she says.

“When I am confronted by a patient who is feeling frustrated at the system, I empathise with them, show compassion and provide emotional support to the individual and their families. These situations add to the pressures nurses are under.”

You are not alone

I think we should support our colleagues and be kind and compassionate. We need to consider where each person is in their professional journey and what they need to make it work. I would have benefitted from this during my graduate year. I worked in one setting that was very new to me and I felt that I was out of my depth. During that time, I only had three supernumerary shifts and no other mentoring or support. It was a lot to deal with and I lost my confidence for a while. Now that I have found my voice, I want to let other people know that we all go through hard times. You are not alone. Having open and transparent conversations is important.