Challenging, rewarding, heartbreaking and euphoric: there is no career quite like nursing, which is why Chris Connor and Letecia Kearney are hooked.
In honour of International Nurses Day held on May 12, these two career-long nurses based in the New England North West share their experiences as a way to reflect and remember the important role all nurses play not just in healthcare, but in our lives.
As a HealthWISE Primary Health Care Nurses, Chris and Letecia travel across New England Northwest communities and even further afield, and - alongside two other team members - have integrated themselves as more than just visitors.
Working for the specialist provider of rural and remote health services, they cover towns in and in-between Armidale, Glen Innes, Gunnedah, Goondiwindi, Inverell, Ipswich, Moree, Narrabri, Tamworth, Tenterfield and Walcha.
At the tail end of 30 plus years of nursing, Chris has continually been surprised and humbled by the power of her job. The power of teamwork, of endurance, of passion, of community spirit - and the value of life.
Letecia has learned to never underestimate the resilience of people when they come together, and the support and encouragement they can give each other - as communities, as families, and as teams.
Chris has just about done it all since she started nearly 40 years ago, and now her passion and enthusiasm for her current role infuses every story, every word.
"My mother wanted me to go into teaching, but I trained as a nurse instead - and I've never lost that love for it," she laughed.
"In my role now, part of that is going to schools and to deliver health messages... so I guess I do both now!"
"You see all the different components of life, whether they're welcoming in a newborn or grieving over the loss of a loved one, and it really makes you realise how valuable life is."
From putting together events marrying up entertainment with health check-ups and flu shots for men and women in villages like Gravesend, to helping organise a gentleman from Yetman to see an optometrist in Warialda - and see his sister there for the first time in years - the varied and rewarding nature of the job sustains her.
"We are so privileged to go into these communities and to work with all the other services as well ," she said.
"It's about creating healthier communities. And while we are nurses, we look at the health component... but we also look at the other components, mental health, how women are traveling, how men are travelling."
Letecia, on the other hand - whose footprint is from Nowendoc to Tenterfield - only knew she wanted to "work with people". Now, she thinks it's quite funny that nurses are organising comedy events, but finds it "incredibly rewarding".
"It's not what you think of as traditional nursing, but we go into the small communities an bring them together over food and laughter, and underneath that we had lots of health messages, and offers of support, and it struck me how diverse our roles really are," she stated.
"I didn't really know what I wanted to study, but I knew I wanted to work with people and that is what drew me to nursing in the first place. I just kept going and I've been doing it for nearly thirty years now!"
After helping the region's communities through droughts, floods, plagues, and COVID, Letecia has been encouraged and rewarded by the changes and assistance herself and her fellow nurses have been able to give.
"I've got to do lots of different roles as a nurse, and I've met some wonderful people, go to some amazing places," Letecia noted.
"I think after the recent disasters we've come to realise how important nurses are, supporting individuals, families and communities.
"I suppose it's important we celebrate nurses like this because of the amazing work we do," she noted.
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