In celebration of International Nurses Day, which was celebrated on Tuesday, May 12, the Tumut and Adelong Times has spoken with Tumut District Hospital Nurse Catreena Kuhn about her career, the high’s and low’s of nursing life, and what it is like being on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic.
TATimes: How long have you been a nurse for, and what made you first want to become one?
Catreena: I have been a nurse for nine or ten years now, and I decided to become a nurse because my first time as a patient in hospital was when I had my first child and that was up at Tumut. I didn’t know any of the nurses up there and they were amazing. I thought it was pretty cool and I wanted to do what they were doing. So, I went and did a course to become an assistant in nursing and then started working at Gundagai Hospital, and then went on to do enrolled nursing and then registered nursing.
TATimes: Over your career, what has been the most challenging part of the job?
Catreena: For me, the shift work and missing out on important family events while everyone else is off work. And I guess in a small town too, looking after people who are quite unwell that you know. [You have to] look after them as a nurse, but also know them as friends or family.
TATimes: Is it very much like that; you know the patients coming through, whereas in the city it would be much more anonymous?
Catreena: Yeah, and I guess because it’s a small town you either know someone, are related to someone or know of them. Whereas in the city, you’d have no idea who’s coming through the door really.
TATimes: On the other side, what is the most rewarding part of the job?
Catreena: The privilege of looking after people when they’re at their most vulnerable, and then seeing them get better again. And also in a smaller town we have a lot more variety. So one day you might be working in emergency, the next day in theatre, you might look after pediatric patients or working in the community. We have a pretty good variety.
TATimes: Is that because there isn’t as much staff in regional hospitals, you have to take on more work?
Catreena: I don’t think it’s because there’s not as many staff, I think because I guess we’re a little bit isolated we have to learn to be a jack of all trades rather than specialise in one area.
TATimes: What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
Catreena: Being lucky enough to work alongside friends who have become like family. Also I went to the Philippines and did some volunteer nursing when I was at uni, and that was probably a highlight going over there and seeing the difference in the third-world country and their health care system compared to over here.
TATimes: I’m sure that would have been an amazing experience, and very eye-opening.
Catreena: It was a huge eye-opener. They had dogs and cats roaming through the hospitals, they had guards out the front of the hospitals with guns, some of the beds had two or three patients in the bed – completely different to here.
TATimes: Over the last few months the world has been taken over with this Covid-19 pandemic. What has your experience been like on the frontlines of the virus?
Catreena: In some ways I guess it’s business as usual, because we already wash our hands hundreds of times a shift, we use masks, gowns, face masks, all that sort of stuff normally. I guess now we’re seeing a lot more of it.
In other ways, though, it has changed a lot. We’re really more mindful of the shortage of masks and PPE worldwide. When we use it we’re just a bit more mindful I guess.
We assume everyone has Covid until we assess and approve otherwise. We do temperature checks of everyone that comes through the hospital, whether its staff, patients, visitors, anyone at all.
One thing for a lot of the nurses up at the hospital up there, we have young families; we work shift work and then we come home and do home schooling with the kids during the day which has been a bit of a challenge.
TATimes: How has it been working in a regional hospital during the pandemic?
Catreena: We do a lot of preparation. Our educators are really great. Kelly, she runs a lot of mock scenarios just so we know what we’re doing and we’re prepared for things that come through the door. We have daily Telehealth conferences with the Murrumbidgee [Local Health District] about any changes or updates with Covid. And the logistics I guess of the hospital have changed a fair bit, just to try and maintain the social distancing and isolating patients in the emergency department and in the wards.
TATimes: Lastly, is there anything going on behind-the-scenes during a pandemic that people might not know about, or think about?
Catreena: Everyone at the hospital has a change to their role, it’s not just the nursing staff. The cleaning staff, they’ve had to really increase what they do. All the admin staff do temperature checks so that adds to their workload. Patients, they have reduced visiting hours… it affects everyone, not just the nurses. We can also get sore faces from wearing the masks for long periods of time, and the face shields. We’re flooded in the media with it, so I don’t think there’s a whole lot behind the scenes that people aren’t aware of.
TATimes: I think it’s been hard for people to escape coronavirus over the last few months.
Catreena: It’s like we live it, breathe it at the moment.