Handover | Issue 42 - July 2018

Caro Swanson

Service user lead

Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui

Recently I faced a serious health issue in which I ended up in hospital for two weeks and had a vital, lifesaving operation. It was an unexpected and terrifying experience which thankfully ended well. It has been a long time since I have found myself helpless and powerless in an unknown strange environment. I had no choice but to absolutely trust the health professionals around me and give myself over to that. Without exception the surgeons, doctors, specialists, registrars and nurses responsible for my treatment and surgery were remarkable – I am so thankful for that. There wasn’t a moment when I felt excluded, judged or uninformed. The very best of these were nurses. They were my sounding boards, information sharers, worry dissolvers, confidants of my fears and tears and my advocates. This was SO important because on top of the physical health issues, I was terrified of losing my sanity. At times I truly felt like I was – I was far more scared and anxious around my mental health than I was about the surgery and recovery I was facing.

The nurses who supported me were amazing. There were medications I was worried about having to take, some known to have a negative impact on mental health. My nurse listened to me, understood my concerns and got hold of the pharmacist and together we discussed this and found a better alternative. This was just one example of many. Sometimes it was just telling me how well I was doing – a little conversation over blood pressures, heart rates and oxygen levels that uplifted and steadied me. This experience reminded me powerfully of the impact of nursing on recovery and wellbeing – of the small things done every day that mean the world and more to people accessing services in desperate times. Physical and mental health emergencies and crises feel the same, urgent, uncertain, painful, confusing, terrifying and lonely. Nurses end up being the life rafts, the people that are beside you in the dark and the butter (or olive oil spread) between you and everything else in the sandwich of worst times.  

In this final issue of Handover, I really, really want to acknowledge the role nurses have in making every day easier, wellbeing-focused, less life-limiting and less frightening and lonely for people. The role they hold in the healing of minds, bodies and souls. I want to acknowledge the skill, knowledge and care that that takes and thank you. My experience has been a mighty reminder of the restorative power of nurses.  

Ngā mihi 

Caro