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When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a Nurse. I had read a book about a woman who went to Nepal and she was a Mountain Nurse travelling on horse back, yak back or donkey back and she delivered hope, health and help to those poor people in need of her care.
I decided that I wanted to be a Nurse and, like my heroine, Florence Nightingale, heal people and make them better.
As a small child, it seemed very reasonable to assume that if someone got sick, a Nurse could make them better and everyone would have a nice day. My late Dad found my opinion very amusing and dubbed me " Nurse Nice Day. "
I had a Nurse kit that my parents bought - a hat, an apron, a pretend stethescope and a few paddle pop sticks that I could place against Teddy's mouth or Dolly's mouth and declare that they indeed had a temperature and had to go to bed and, thank goodness, Nurse Nice Day could and would make them better.

cartoon nurse image 14

At seventeen I embarked on a career in nursing. My belief that all could be healed with love and a nice day was naïve  but honourable.
I excelled at biology and was a super whiz kid at all my classes. On the ward? Not so much.
I saw people ill. Not sick. ill. Really ill. They often had this thing called Cancer and it couldn't be healed with kind words, a gentle word or a hand softly held. They were doing something that I had never encountered first hand before: they were doing this strange thing called " dying. "
I had never seen " dying " before.  I had never seen " cancer " before. "  These things were foreign to my life and vision of healing. I had misread the idea of being a nurse. To me, in my naïve world, being a Nurse was all about healing. Not looking after people dying.  Dying was not what I signed up for.


I looked after an older lady who was a terminal cancer patient and she was blind, in the last stages of her life and I was tasked with bathing her. I was splashing the water on her and we were laughing, having fun. When I dried her off, I grabbed some talcum powder and squeezed it so that she felt the spray of the talc on her body. She giggled, grabbed the container and sprayed it back on me.  We emerged from the bathroom and, covered with talculm powder, only to see the Ward Sister, hands on hips and a very Nurse Ratched look on her face.

Apparently, having fun with a terminally ill patient was not part of my job description.

Incidentally, that dear lady used to get a bottle of guinness stout every day to build up her health. How times have changed.
After three months, I resigned. I knew that I would never be a Nurse.

The matron said to me " you are doing so well. You are top of the class. Why are you leaving? "
I replied " People are dying. I can't deal with death. I wanted to be a Nurse to help people not see them die. "
She agreed that I was not cut out for Nursing and it was probably for the best.

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Decades later, my daughter became a Nurse. What we , down under, call a " Bush Nurse. "  In rural western Queensland. She did her training in one of the last " in hospital " training programmes in the country. Incidentally, she used her nursing to fund her way through University and has now completed her PhD and is a lecturer in an associated discipline.
She cared for kangaroos, men gored by bulls and old diggers who thought that they could still play rugby and then realised that they were not that ten foot tall and bullet proof after all.
Being in an ambulance and rocking and riding over a bull dust road and hoping like hell that she didn't let the drip fall out or that the patient was still alive at the end of the trip to have a " Nurse Nice Day " moment.
She trimmed the old men's toenails, fetched them back from the pub when they escaped the dementia ward and tap danced her way around the hospital and pretty much ensured they all had a nice day.
In fact I recollect her telling me about how so many of her older male patients died when she was given them a bath.
" Mum I don't understand why my men die when I bathe them. What am I doing wrong? ? "
She obviously forgot that she was 18 years old, drop dead gorgeous and blonde.


She had a situation when she had one of her old dears passed away and she took him down to the morgue. It was in the bowels of the hospital. Late at night. Dark. Spooky.
My daughter had fetched his false teeth from the ward and taken them with her so that he could be ready for being " laid out. "
It was hard work getting those teeth in but they finally sat in his mouth.
Unfortunately, my daughter took the wrong teeth. They belonged to a different patient.
Sadly, Rigor Mortis had set in and it was impossible to remove them. She rang me and said:
" Mum, I hope he doesn't have an open casket funeral. "
" Why? " I asked.
She replied " because they will be saying ' why does Granpa look so happy? ' "
Poor Grandpa. Still, at least he looked happy when he died.

Incidentally, my daughter got to Nepal and while she never rode a yak, she spent three weeks with her host family and slept in their house with a yak. She said that he was a bit smelly but very warm. 




I suppose my point is that we all want to be Nurse Nice Day. Solve the world problems. Make everything good again. We don't like death and we don't like illness. We want it all to be just back to normal and we can all have a nice day again.
My daughter made people happy. Her dancing and laughter and joy were and still are infectious. Of the good kind. Not the covid kind.  The kind of infection we all want to get.
The infection of love and having a nice day.
But it doesn't work like that anymore.
Does it?
Fun is verboten and nursing is , well, more about Nurse Ratched than Nurse Nice Day.
In fact, Nurse Nice Day may as well be riding a yak somewhere because caring is a fast disappearing emotion.
Maybe we need to laugh a bit more and well, just be ALLOWED to have a nice day.

So everyone reading this, have a nice day;  and don't forget that laughter, love and kindness are the kind of infection we need. Let's spread it around.


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