Rewarding Moments in Health Care

Insights from real health care workers

I was not expecting the calibre of thoughtful responses I received, when I asked health care workers and students from different specialties about the most rewarding moments of their studies and careers.

These are some honest and inspiring insights into the emotional and professional rewards gained through studying and working in health care.

“My most rewarding moment in health care is hard to pick. It was little things like keeping people company who were alone, helping them feel like someone was interested and wanted to spend time with them. One lady had severe cellulitis but was otherwise healthy and in the four weeks I was [there, as a student on placement], she never had a single visitor. We had some really good chats while I was dressing her wounds and helping her get to and from the bathroom. It sounds really conceited, but it seemed like every time I came in the room her face lit up. She had a few moments that she was so embarrassed by and I did my best to make her feel better and I hope I did. Partly because obviously I didn’t want her to feel bad, and partly because there really wasn’t anything to be embarrassed by! So, it’s not really moments that have been rewarding it’s been those relationships. There were a lot of other patients as well who I felt valued my company.”

Angela Lowery, Student Enrolled Nurse

“Clinically, there’s nothing more exciting than being the person to pick up on what’s going on and catching a problem before it becomes a big problem. There have been a lot of those moments, and it makes you feel great because you can see that you’ve made a significant difference. This patient is going to receive the right medication or the right treatment and it’s going to make them better, and it was YOU that helped get them there.

Aside from the clinical component, there is the emotional side, and the best part for me is breaking down defences. Most kids are scared and unsure about nurses, because they’re not used to us and we have to touch them and make them take medicines. It’s all very invasive. So, when a kid is just NOT coping with having their vitals done, you have to go really slowly and gently and make it a game. So, we don’t do blood pressures, we do “squeezy muscle tests to see how strong you are” and we make it less frightening. The most rewarding thing is when I can get a kid to relax and play with the equipment, like taking their temperature can be fun when they get to do it to mum and dad as well. Or their teddy bear. And suddenly, they want to see how strong they are, to see if the number was over a hundred and to do the beeps in their ear, and they’re not scared. That’s rewarding, to see the change and the trust they develop in me.

There’s one moment I’ll always remember. I was looking after a five-year-old boy for the day, and we’d had a good day, even played UNO together! At the end of the day, I told him I was leaving and that his night nurse was coming to look after him. I said goodbye, and he had this funny look and said “You… You’re a… A hugging person!” I had to laugh, and I asked if he wanted a hug, which I think is what he was saying. He gave me a big hug around my waist, and I gave him a squeeze. It was very, very cute. A few weeks later, he started to deteriorate from an infection in his brain. He stopped understanding what was happening around, his brain had deteriorated so badly. He died before his sixth birthday, and it was heart-breaking. We’d cured his leukaemia, but he died anyway. I was really upset, it made me question so much of what we do and how unfair life can be. But I remember that day, when he was happy and playful and wanted to share it by giving me a hug. He was a good kid, and I got to share a happy moment with him. So that’s what I try to remember and hold on to.”

Kate Stewart, Paediatric Oncology Nurse

“During my placement, I had a few greatest experiences that really stand out. The first one was following the progress of clients and learning about their struggles in life. You really get to see how much trauma takes hold of their lives, but they keep smiling and no matter what, they still keep humour alive and well.

The other great experience was when my perception of the health professionals was totally altered. I attended a meeting with allied health staff that were discussing a client’s health care plan. I remember seeing the passion in their eyes and the drive behind making sure this Aboriginal client was to have all of his needs met. The communication across the table came from their hearts, not just from what they studied. It also showed me that there was no room for discrimination and only room for saving a life. So, when I hear my people talking about white man not considering their needs, well I tell them this story. Behind the scenes in the hospitals are kind hearted and very passionate people that don’t get acknowledged for what they really do to make a difference for our people. I’m honoured to have been at that table to see this for myself, I just wish all our people got to see it too.”

Delphine Schwarze, Student Aboriginal Primary Health Care Worker