More than a boat, loaded with heavy metal

I never had a plan. But it’s a fair bet no one else did, either.

[rewind, do you know how rare it is for me to find the courage to start an entry with ‘I’?]

In hindsight I approached my life like a cross between Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali. A sentence naive in itself because even I know most painters, despite their abstract leanings or pop-culture methodologies meticulously plan their works before setting pen to paper. I’ve been to the Warhol museum, by the way. It’s in Pittsburgh. I’d like to go back one day.

School was an endurance trial, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. We knew we needed those little bits of paper, in order to climb higher, or at the very least leave the situations we were currently in and travel somewhere else.

I left school twenty years ago. A child of Star Wars (born between ’77 and ’83, we’re now a generational subset, apparently) raised on analog but exposed to digital before it found its stride. We forget how slow the world was back then. And despite my age I see now I was very much a child. Uncomfortable in large groups, defaulting to silence when someone posed a question outright, and adrift during a time most teens find their feet.

Three years to find my voice. then the world changed and I’ve spend the last seventeen trying to catch up.

And here we are.

I got promoted this month.

A vacancy was posted in the hospital where I work. I applied, got an interview, interviewed, crushed it.


And while the general rumour was positive that I’d get the job, it didn’t feel tangible when it happened.

Just another example of the fallibility of the goal-orientated Western society we all aspire to. The belief that if we obtain the boyfriend/husband/house/children we will be whole. We will no longer feel inferior to everyone around us.

What utter bollocks (as Brits say).

As far as I can tell all this job consists of is a larger role in the running of the department, a minuscule paycheck bump, and a LOT more responsibility.

I’ve never had a problem with any of that. Responsibility in healthcare is hammered home in nursing school; understandably patient-centric and concerning your own practice towards them. Now I’ve got people, nurses and assistants underneath me, expecting me to know the answers.

That is more than responsibility, that’s leadership.

Something I’ve never openly sought, nor experimented with, at any level of my life. And now it reads “Team Leader” by my name.


When I was growing up, the activities I excelled in were individual in nature: swimming, karate, climbing, yoga, etc. You win or lose on your own merits, I never had to face down a huddle of expectant faces, all looking to me to make the right decision. So, without base experience to draw on, I’ve had to look back at all the memorable leaders in my life and it’s an eclectic mix. The teacher in high school who could split atoms by staring at them. Autocratic, stern, foreboding mofo; a ginger Hitler. Short too, obviously possessing a major Napoleon complex. They’re direct and effective, and, when they’re going full auto, hilarious in ways only reached by a Marine Corps drill sergeant. Unless you’re in their gunsights. Then it’s decidedly less funny.

The real gems were the empathic leaders. Men and women, masters of psychology and button pressing, yet they temper their requests with amicability and genuine interest in the feelings of those they’re leading. You run through walls for such people. Yet, their gentle, proactive approach often doesn’t work against the unmotivated, which is, in turn, where the autocratic Hitlers have their merits.

That’s the first time I’ve used the word Hitler and merit in the same sentence which wasn’t preceded by the phrase “The death of…”. Weird.


I’ve already had quiet explanatory conversations with other seniors, explaining to me the facts of life. I.e. temper the laughter, focus on the details with a greater sense of professional culpability, be friendly but don’t engage in scuttlebutt, don’t slander seniors, don’t gripe in front of the juniors, and on, and on…

Some of these I have little problem with, others I’m going to have to focus hard on, to change my nature. Especially the idea of quoting policy like scripture. When I was training, nurses were taught to be advocates of patient care. That is a solid declaration, set upon a foundation that can be interpreted in a number of ways, not necessarily rooted in the promotion of policy, over the sake of patient’s safety.

On my final placement, I was placed under the auspices of a Matron known only as “Sister Owe” (pronounced ‘Ooh-Eee’). A Burmese woman who was barely five-foot, but being closer to the ground allowed her to walk faster, spot all the things you hadn’t done, or had yet to do, and heaven help anyone without a valid answer for leaving them undone. She wouldn’t chide in public, obviously, instead she’d wait until nursing handover at the end of the day, or the following morning and ask why the dirty sheets weren’t in the laundry hopper, or why Mr. Jones’ paperwork was incomplete before the 3pm ward round. No shouting, no swearing, just a quiet focus that could melt lead. Aimed at me.

I had my final appraisal with Sister Owe. I think I sweated half a stone in the hour it took to run through all my paperwork.

And now I’ve been given a possible career path for senior theatre nursing, one that includes appraisals for junior staff.

I can’t be Sister Owe. I can’t be a Bill Parcells either, an F-bombing Jersey Girl, all mouth and attitude. I can only be me. Lead by example, be as fair as I can, don’t suffer fools, but don’t berate them in public, either. Control my passion.

And the last one is the hardest one, because my passion is my engine. Yet, engines can burn out, or blow up. It’s really going to be a test to see if I can cope with my career now, given these new caveats now added to the mix, but I’ll give it a shot, it might not be fun, but it won’t be boring.


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