I was a sick nurse…

Storytime, dear reader.

Many years ago, in fact it was LAST CENTURY, I worked as a nurse. (Think 1980s. Think Princess Di, shoulder pads and Estee Lauder, All Day Berry Basket lipstick…)

I trained in country Queensland and once I obtained my certificate, I toddled off to the big smoke (aka Bris Vegas, aka Brisbane), where I found THREE jobs in one day. I kid you not. Nurses were in hot demand back then. As they bloody-well should be.

I took a position at a large, city hospital and much to my shame, settled in begrudgingly.

I was a terrible nurse.

But not for the reasons you might think.

I actually found nursing ‘easy’. And stimulating. It came naturally to me. I excelled in my exams, understood ward and theatre protocol quickly, and was a gun at getting shit done.

But my heart wasn’t in it.

After four years on the wards, I was invited to work in Nursing Administration. This was a dream position for many burnt-out nurses who needed to step back from the coalface and, well, get some emotional and physical rest.

I seized the opportunity.

Now here’s the bit that might be of use to you, dear reader, as you grapple with the push and pull of your heart vs the practicalities of your life.

During the admin orientation, Matron (a terrifying woman who would later inspire my characterisation of Matron Pluckrose), commented that I, yes me, Nurse Storer, had one of the highest sick leave records of any nurse in the hospital. (And this was a BIG hospital.)


I had never held a record until this moment…

Matron said my sick leave was a BIG BLACK MARK against my name but because I was smart and cheerful and, when I actually turned up for duty, I was hardworking and kind, she was willing to overlook my criminal record.

And give me a job.

In the office next to hers.

Dum de dum…

No matter.

The thing is, the cringey truth is, I took a truck load of sick leave when I was a nurse because, in the background, I was studying at night school. (That’s what we called it back then. Night school. I LOVE that term!)

And what was I studying at night school?

Year 12 literature, history and drama, of course.

You see I jumped, nah, bolted out of home at 16 and didn’t finish high school.

And after flailing around, deeply unhappy and deeply dissatisfied with my life, I decided to go back to school.

And in so doing I discovered poetry.

And Dickens.

The causes of World War 1.

Tom Keneally.

Helen Garner, Judith Wright, Eva Cox.

And my world (and my imagination) cracked open.

I knew then that my time as nurse was limited. I knew, without the shadow of a doubt, that I was destined for other things. I was a round peg in a square hole and it was up to me to sort things out.

And so I prioritised my future, my creativity and my dreams.

And when I had timetable clashes, exams or assignments due at school, I took sick leave from the Hospital Situation.

I braved peer-group ridicule, punishment and/or dismissal because I had a bigger plan. A new future. The tug inside my heart (to something as yet undefined) was stronger than my fears (and trust me, I was sweaty scared of the Powers in nursing admin).

I had a dream that emboldened me. A dream more compelling than my deeply ingrained, people-pleasing tendencies.

Am I proud of my selfishness, ungratefulness and bravado?

Not particularly.

Am I glad I did what I did and followed my heart?

OMG, YES!!!!!

And this is what I say to you, dear reader.

Your beautiful heart knows.

It really does.

Listen to it.

Respect it.

See it for what it is—your greatest, wisest and most enthusiastic ally.

Sending love in a crisp, white frock

Jen xo

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2 Replies to “I was a sick nurse…”

  1. Oh my gosh! Loved reading about your previous life, Jen.
    I can’t believe how our lives paralleled! I was from country Queensland too. I left school at 16 – no school beyond that in Hughenden in those days. We came to the big smoke, Brissie. I worked in offices (mostly for bad male bosses. One was a crook with an alias – but that’s another story) for 7 years. Saved money and travelled overseas.

    Then, I went back to High School as a 24-year-old at Kelvin Grove HS for mature-age students! What a brilliant idea it was. My boyfriend, a Physics man, (now husband) taught me how to study and write assignments.

    I chose my favourite subjects – English, literature and all; Modern History, Geography and Art – excelled in all. Headed into Early Childhood Education at Teachers College. I loved it! But then life took another sidetrack with the birth of our son. I didn’t want to go back.

    Ended up becoming an Adult Literacy teacher, and worked in Boggo Rd jail with Murri male prisoners (loved it!), and then went to Art School, and then became a writer for children. Been doing this for 22 years and will never change a job again. 🙂
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Jen. ♥

    1. How did I not know all this about you?! We’ve been crossing paths for years, but I guess there’s never been an opportunity to trip down the old lane! Thanks for sharing, Sheryl. It’s so cool to read this!!!

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