As is fitting Leanne hands over to me; she is from my past, from other work places. She says, "Enjoy your night." and I do.
There is no sadness in leaving. There is pride in a good career of 48 years nursing, carried out with as much integrity that I can summon. The years come flooding back. What was the best? That's easy, it's my time spent in theatre, casualty and acute nursing.
Good times? They would be hard to find. That's not what it's about. There were triumphs in lives saved. At the same time there were traumas that took you to the wire, and all of this against the backdrop of your own personal life.
When we were young everything was great and we thought we would live forever. Then fate dumps a dying friend in your care and you walk the line between nurse and friend.
Over my last few years of nursing in Aged Care I’ve met some rich characters; that is, rich in wisdom in their final years. What flowed through them was tranquillity, a quiet endurance and knowledge of themselves and their world. This takes them well into their nineties before life's spin of the wheel catches up with them.
What has been the importance of my work? It's to keep my patients in a pain free, comfortable, peaceful and secure environment and to see a smile on their face. When a little old lady looks up at me from her snug warm bed and says, "It’s so nice to see you again." I know I have done a good job. That's enough, that's the good times.
It's my last night as a nurse. I am on a high. This is the same feeling as when I found I had passed my final exams. It’s 1965; the results are in the evening papers. The Matron rings the hospital reception. "Thelma, are the results out yet?" "I don't know." "Well, has anything unusual happened?" Thelma tells her that I have just come bolting down the stairs and have run out of the building!" "Thank you Thelma, the results are out then." She knew us well. I walk on my rounds tonight enjoying every step.
When the morning staff arrive I tell them it's my last handover to them. They look at me dumbly, they think I’m joking. I give them a thorough handover and then count the drugs for the last time with the new Indian nurse who is in charge of the morning shift. There is none of the old crew to say, "Take care. We'll miss you." They have retired long ago.
I open the glass front door into the rest of the world and as the sunlight hits me in the face I am struck with a feeling of sheer joy. Now it's my time in the sun. I sing all the way home.