Glory is usually reserved for those who seek a life and career in the spotlight, but behind the scenes, everyday people may be the ones who really make a difference. Caitlin Ganter spoke to Annabel Pike, a nurse who makes a career out of improving others' lives.
For many of us, a hard day at work involves too many meetings or a run-in with our supervisor. But for Annabel Pike, graduate nurse, a tough day can involve so much more.
“Nursing has many rewards, but there are also challenges. For one, death is part of the reality of the job and you need to cope with it – but that doesn’t make you immune to it. The most difficult moment I have experienced at work was the first time I saw a patient pass away.” Annabel works as an Intensive Care Nurse at Mater Hospital in Brisbane. Every shift, she works with critical-care patients – those who have life-threatening conditions and require sophisticated organ support and invasive monitoring. “Becoming too attached to patients and their families can be a big challenges in this role,” said Annabel.
“Intensive care and oncology patients are long-term patients of the hospital, so I can’t help but get to know them and their families.
“I go through the ups and downs with them. [I] feel their pain and joy, and share in their successes and their hurdles. Obviously, with critically ill patients this is bound to bring personal challenges. However, I really don't see this as a professional flaw or a negative as I think it makes me a more compassionate nurse. In the end, doing what is best for the patient is what nursing is all about.”
Despite the challenges of the career, Annabel always knew she wanted to become a nurse.
“I have always wanted to make a positive difference. I wanted to help those who can't assist themselves, so I was drawn to nursing. I suppose I have always wanted to care for people in their times of need.
“I am also a person who loves to be challenged, so nursing satisfies this desire to constantly set new goals and be able to strive for new achievements. I’ve already had so many amazing experiences, and I think nursing is a career that can provide great opportunities as long as you are willing to work hard and look for them.”
Annabel studied a Bachelor of Nursing at ACU. Due to her considerable sporting and charity achievements while at school, she received early acceptance into the course as part of ACU’s Early Achievers’ Program.
She was also a student ambassador for the nursing program during her studies. “Being a student ambassador was great; I loved studying nursing and was excited to educate future students about the joys of the profession. “I like to get involved, so while I was at uni I took on roles coordinating and contributing to symposiums and projects whenever I could. I was invited to participate in quite a few interesting projects and between these, prac and study I was always very busy!”
Annabel excelled during her studies, including the clinical practicum requirements of the degree.
“Practicum was such a rewarding experience and after my first shift I was elated – I knew nursing was right for me. I have never regretted my decision to become a nurse. “I think I’m very lucky; I’ve always had amazing support. My family and friends have been at the forefront of my success thus far. I have had the good fortune of working with and meeting some amazing mentors who have inspired me with their compassion, skill and professionalism.
“Of course the profession can be confronting and overwhelming at times, but the rewards are wonderful. To see a patient transfer out of intensive care to the ward, or discharged home is such a rewarding feeling. To know that you have assisted with their transition from being a critically ill patient to well enough to go home makes the stressful days worth it.”
Despite being only a recent graduate, Annabel has already achieved success as a nurse. She was awarded Mater Graduate Nurse of the Year, and also took home the award for the prestigious national HESTA Australian Nursing Awards, where she was voted outstanding graduate of the year. The Outstanding Graduate Award recognises a nurse or midwife who has provided exceptional patient care, improved quality-care processes and improved their own skills while demonstrating their value as a team member. Annabel won the award for her holistic approach to patient care, exceptional technical and clinical skills, and for showing leadership in her role as an intensive-care nurse.
“To be nominated for this award was humbling and an honour. Winning was beyond words – I was completely shocked and immensely grateful. It was fantastic to be recognised for my work, but one thing that really touched me was that I had been nominated by a few of my patients.” In the end with all its rewards and challenges, Annabel loves nursing because of the patients. “The trust a patient has in us as nurses is truly humbling. It's an honour be a part of their lives and hopefully I can assist in turning a scary, traumatic experience into something less confronting and positive. There have been times when I’ve been asked to stay and hold a patient's hand while they are being told life-changing news, and I knew I had made a difference.”
To further her skills, Annabel has enrolled in the Queensland Health Transition Program for Intensive Care Nursing. Although this is a one-year course, Annabel has hopes to complete it in six months, so she can commence her Graduate Certificate in July and undertake a Master’s Degree in 2015. “I love my job and all its diversity...I hope to make a positive difference in healthcare for a long time to come. Who knows exactly what my future holds, I have a lot of paths I am interested in taking, but one thing that won’t change is I always want my job to be about the patients.”