Year in Review.

What an unusual year to reflect back upon.

At the start of the year I was working as a student at my dream paediatric hospital in their cardiac ICU unsure of what lay ahead for my nursing journey as I wrapped up my final year. Only to have it cut short by almost one month because of COVID-19. To finishing off the year as a NICU RN in a career I dreamed about since being a young kid.

2020 has been full of ups and downs, from graduating nursing school only to be rejected by said hospital for what I thought was my dream job. Only to accept a job offer across the street a few weeks later and end up loving the experience, the unit, and the people much more than how I felt when I interviewed for the first job. How by a twist of fate day of the interview was on my grandpa’s birthday who had just passed. The immense amount of comfort I felt during that interview knowing in the end I walked away with my dream job and was being well looked after by my new guardian angel.

It still makes me sad to think I will be entering a new year without my grandpa being in it. Slowly I have begun to surpass the ‘first’ of the holidays without him. Slowly I have started to show myself more compassion to myself over the guilt I carried having not spent more time with him as he got older. The diagnosis came so fast and I thought I had more time to prepare and once I finished school had planned to spend more time with him. But that time never came and I never had that chance. The immense amount of pride he carried for his family, work, and grandkids is something I will carry forward.

2020 has taken a lot from people. Namely their jobs, businesses, homes, access to their loved ones, big milestone moments (ie. graduations, weddings, funerals) and overall happiness. The lack of excitement that filled walking around Toronto to now essentially empty subway trains to and from work. I really can’t complain when I have been fortunate enough to be able to be well employed and put in motion plans that will open up opportunities for my future. I’m also lucky to be able to go to work and get outside of the house working with some pretty amazing people who keep my spirits up even on some of the worst days.

It has been disheartening though working on the frontlines seeing people have complete disregard for others, complaining about having to wear a mask or self-isolate for 14 days after coming back from a VACATION that they chose to go in the middle of a GLOBAL PANDEMIC arguing that their work is “essential” when questioned to find out the job is very much the opposite. It’s frustrating to see how intertwined my jobs are with my medical professional colleagues and friends suffering because of the those choosing to ignore public health professionals and government officials because of psuedoscience or a blatant mistrust of government and believing their liberties override those of others.

It truly does break my heart to think of all that we have lost as more people struggle to cope with the ramifications of universal lockdowns and restrictions. Let alone the children who have lost the ability to form and maintain meaningful relationships with peers and learn in a classroom environment with the supports needed to adequately succeed moving forward. Let alone the milestones and transitions that were lost (ex. graduations). The parents who have had to readjust their lives to factor in child care or adapt to working from home and balancing family life with young kids to care for, feed, entertain and now educate all on top of their own job requiring their attention. To say 2020 has been cruel to many would be an understatement.

While things have started to settle, I still have anxiety about the next couple months until things have been officially locked into place. I’m not quite ready to share whats in store so publicly yet, I am excited to know that at that point things are well on their way and that’s all I can take comfort in knowing. I feel fortunate to be surrounded by so many people who have offered advice, insight, and moral support with such a big decision and i’m excited to start putting the pieces together to make things my own.

Despite the downsides of 2020 like my grandpas passing, not being able to celebrate finishing nursing school with my peers, missing celebrating important milestones with friends and loved ones, the year has had some positives. I have officially been a registered nurse for 7 months now, a NICU nurse for a little over 6 months, and a correctional nurse for 4 months now. Nursing is stressful to say the least, that pit in your stomach that drops as your baby’s sats or heart rate plummets is indescribable. But despite the scares I am so fortunate to be able to sit at the bedside with parents and chat with them about life as they make the NICU their home away from home or to cuddle babies when mom and dad can’t be at the bedside. Part of being in the NICU is knowing that at times there will be set backs, namely being infection which often results having to take two steps back with oxygen requirements, feeds, or being place back in an isolette from the crib they had just been put in. But the most rewarding part is being able to see our NICU graduates and the updates we get along the way.

Even though I am still a baby nurse with some much room to grow and learn, it makes me feel slightly more confident to hear families tell me how helpful i’ve been or how i’ve made their NICU admission better just by teaching them something small or encouraging them to be involved with baby. Having a parent tell another nurse that they like “that nurse” that just walked by honestly makes my day and reminds me why I came into this profession. I’ve been able to learn so much from each and every parent i’ve come across in showing grace and humility in the face of darkness.

The passion my colleagues have for carrying for these tiny humans is amazing. I loved celebrating my frist Christmas in the NICU and watching all the efforts that went into making sure the babies and their families first Christmas was as amazing as could be. Each communication station had its own theme from Candy Land to Star Wars to even a Hawaiian themed Christmas (see photo post). Despite all the hardship there always is some light that shines through. I’ve learned a simple act of kindness can go a long way.

Along the way I have grown to like correctional nursing. I know my passion isn’t in adult bedside nursing so correctional nursing is a happy medium for me in being able to work with a population outside of babies and still keep some of my adult nursing skills relevant. I enjoy working the the population and as a nurse there is some degree of respect that the inmates give us knowing that for the most part we are there to help/treat them. It’s been interesting to see how addiction can impacts ones’ life and the dynamics that go on behind the scenes with inmates living in close quarters of one another.

As a whole balancing three jobs and full-time school focusing on perinatal intensive care this year has been tough physically and mentally at times, but being able to see the rewards that have arisen has made me excited for what lies ahead in 2021. I am grateful for that that the because of the lockdowns I grew to appreciate being outside more exploring and hiking nearby trails and taking solace in still being able to communicate with loved ones despite now alway being able to be physically present for those big moments.

I have no idea what the year ahead holds with us currently fighting the second wave of COVID-19 but I have hope that 2021 will be a lot kinder and that as a whole society is able to take a sigh of relief especially with the change of hands in the US.

Here’s to hoping 2021 brings much happiness, health, and good fortune to all of us. That 2021 will allow us the return to some form of normalcy and the ability to keep our loved ones close. That 2021 will allow all of us to get out of the constraints that kept us close to home and allow us to once again appreciate freedom and live with joy.