Catherine has left the nursing profession after many years of dedicated care for others, including more recently, close family members. Writing memoir offers her a way of exploring this caring journey, its origin, progress and the inevitable detour at the fork in the road.
Career counselling in Form 7 identified law and journalism as paths out of high school. Instead, France called and I answered putting all thoughts of the future on hold for a classic Kiwi OE. On returning home a series of admin-type jobs filled the next two years. Insurance claims processing, data entry of health statistics, law clerking and, lord knows why, the first year of a Certificate in Commerce at Auckland Technical Institute.
Then a pause, restless, my family fracturing, I embarked on solo travel around New Zealand. Just prior to this I had applied to the Auckland Hospital Board School of Nursing for placement in their training programme. While I was away the acceptance for interview came through. Without any idea of why I had decided on this as a way forward, I flew through the process. It was only when I buttoned up my white tunic with its “introductory” epaulettes and stepped onto the ward that I realised I had found the perfect match. I had entered a world purpose built to fit my nature and nurture. Already a fixer, an empath, a smoother, a soother, a listener, a problem solver, an intuitive carer, I had followed neither career guidance nor conscious decision making to get here. Perhaps the road chose me.
Thirty-five years on, a fork in the road appeared in the form of my father’s failing health. As his daughter I found being confronted with his frailty surprisingly difficult. Similarly, reflecting on my own profession and its systemic failure to care for him at that time was a shock. The dual role of nurse-daughter became the double-edged sword with which I would fight for his rights. I cared more for him than I ever had and the system cared less for him than I ever could have imagined.
I lasted one more year in nursing, leaving to care full time for my mother as she withdrew little by little into her contented dementia. My nursing experience enabled me to honour what had been her request, articulated some time before diagnosis, that she wanted to remain living at home, in her community until she died.
The road travelled today is paved with all that has gone before and stretches out waiting to be chosen each day with each step toward a time of greater caring for myself. I choose it.
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