We continue to celebrate International Nurses Day by paying thanks to all the wonderful nurses out there who make a difference to the lives of the people they care for every day.

International Nurses Day is celebrated across the world on May 12 – the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

We’re fortunate to have some wonderful nurses working at Bendigo Community Health Services to support clients in a variety of services and programs.

In recognition of International Nurses Day and the great work they do, we’d like to introduce some of these nurses to you this week and talk to them about what makes their career special.

Let’s continue with community health nurse Sheenah Van Eck from our Alcohol and Other Drugs team:

How long have you been a nurse?

I have been nursing for 35 years (in many different areas and fields of nursing).

Why did nursing appeal to you in the beginning?

I had no intention of being a nurse. I originally had a scholarship to do Speech Therapy – but there was a 6 month wait until the course started. I had a friend who was a psychiatric nurse, and she took me to great parties and had the funniest stories to tell. The pay was good, so I signed up – intending to quit after six months.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a nurse?

The privilege, and honor of being there when people experience the mess that is Life: Births, deaths, illnesses, operations, addiction messiness. Being part of your patients growth and change.

Describe nursing in one word?


Tell us a story from your nursing career that made you cry?

I cry all the time. That hasn’t changed over my career. I can remember sitting in a hospital room and holding a dying premature baby in my arms whilst his terminally ill mother took her last breaths and went to God. It was the only time in my career when I asked myself ‘What am I doing here?’. I cried buckets. For the last 10 years I have worked as a Forensic Nurse Examiner for the region.  This usually means a call out to a rape or an assault every 2-3 weeks. I have had a few teary moments after a nasty case. But usually my tears are happy ones - New babies, good health news and the funny/sad things that happen.

What about one that made you laugh?

Nursing gives you lots of laughs. Unfortunately, you usually have to keep them on the inside because the patient is still with you. I remember doing three pregnancy tests on a patient. All were negative. I told her that I was going to organise a blood test for her as I was positive that she was pregnant. She said: ‘’Oh, that’s not my pee. It’s Kevins. Does it matter, because he will be the father?.”

What is your most memorable day on the job as a nurse?

Probably being caught in a prison riot at Parklea prison. I was by myself, locked in the Clinic. It is a stand-alone building in the middle of the goal. There was shooting, tear gas, fires, lots of injuries of staff and prisoners. Carnage really. I can remember giving myself a pep talk: “You are going to get hurt really really bad.  But you are NOT going to get killed. So do the job and think of all the travel you can do with the money you will get when you sue the department.” I felt better after that. There is some great footage of me on my knees with my arms through the Clinic bars applying pressure dressings, splinting, medicating, giving oxygen and doing eye and face flushes. Didn’t get a scratch!

What would you say to a young student asking your advice on pursuing nursing as a career?

My advice to a student would be (and frequently is) to just go for it.  Not to get disheartened at the uni training. This is not nursing. It is your prep for nursing. It’s good prep - but the real fun starts when you get out.  The ward is also not all there is to nursing. There are so many options and variations. Try a little bit of everything until you find what makes you laugh. Remember that nursing is the only profession that eats its young! Start getting your peer support network together early in your career. No amount of employer EAP support will ever replace a sit down and debrief with your peers. Some of my happiest support memories are being with other nurses, doctors, paramedics, coppers and fireys – eating and drinking under ‘The Cone of Silence’. I’ve had a hoot of a time.  Done some really weird things over the years and wouldn’t change any of it.

To meet more of our wonderful nurses from the International Nurses Day series click here

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