#NURSELIFE – By Kristy Chambers (Author & Nurse)


To pick a single moment in my nursing career as the weirdest or most memorable is sort of like being asked to choose my favourite food, or perhaps, like being asked to choose my least favourite food. Or like giving birth to twins and having to decide which one you’re going to put up for adoption because having two children is really eating into your ‘me time.’ How can you possibly choose?

Nursing offers a unique vantage point, providing a view of people often at their most unflattering angle or lowest ebb and frequently with a bare behind showing through the back of an open theatre gown. Nurses might not know it all (that’s what doctors are for!) but they’ve seen it all. They know what you look like when you’re sleeping, vomiting and when you’re sitting on the toilet. And they know if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.

Distilling a decade in nursing to a single stand out moment is impossible, but certain patients do adhere more stubbornly to mind – for reasons unknown in some instances, and fiercely known in others. I am struck by the memory of the patient who threatened to ‘get me’ as security escorted him from the hospital grounds, and the resultant uneasiness that left me wondering if it wasn’t time for a career sea change.

But on the other hand, there was John the cancer patient, whose mental capacity was so impaired he didn’t understand that he was a patient in hospital. He possessed even less awareness that he was connected to a machine by two metres of plastic tubing, a lack of insight similarly extended to the catheter inserted into his bladder. The catheter was held securely in place by a water-filled balloon, a balloon that John was threatening to dislodge via his urethra after attempting to climb out of bed. I found him sitting on the edge of the mattress, sans pants, with both tubes pulled taut and straining to remain in place; a disaster just about to happen, like Tony Abbott in 2013. Fortunately for both of us, he wriggled back down the bed.

For every sweetheart like John, though, there is a Keith. Keith was equally confused, but where John was pleasant and endearing, Keith was cantankerous, surly and worryingly low in haemoglobin. Unfortunately, a blood transfusion was required, and even more unfortunately, this meant checking his blood pressure, pulse and temperature every fifteen minutes to make sure things were going swimmingly.

“Keith, I just need to wrap this blood pressure cuff around your arm,” I told him, deliberately keeping my tone light and breezy.

“NO!” he bellowed, “YOU ALREADY DID THAT!”

I tried to explain the rationale for repeating his blood pressure measurement, but Keith wasn’t interested. He shook his head furiously and glared.

“Please, Keith, let me put the blood pressure cuff on your arm just one last time,” I implored him.


Ah, nursing. There’s nothing quite like it. 🙂

By Kristy Chambers http://www.kristychambers.net/

Author of: ‘Get Well Soon! My (Un)Brilliant Career as a Nurse’ & ‘It’s Not You, Geography, It’s Me’


Considerations for a nurse’s pouch

Pocket_Dump.jpgNurses need to have a number tools at the ready when on the floor to be efficient.

In general these include a roll of tape, scissors, pen, and a strip of paracetamol. In addition you may also need alcohol wipes, pen torch, note pad, and some even like to have alcohol hand sanitiser. In no time you are weighed down with more accessories than Wonder Woman. If only my abundance of tools included her Lasso of Truth!

Like a tradesman needs a tool belt, a nurse’s pouch is a clear favourite amongst many nurses for organising and easily accessing all the necessary tools while on shift. It is something you can wear and remove at the end of your shift with contents organised in place ready for the next shift.

Alternatively, if you are like me and love pockets, then deep pockets and cargo pants might be more your style. This comes with its own set of problems – when it comes to laundry day, things can get interesting.  Not to mention the entertaining and slightly frustrating pocket searching dance when wanting to find something in a hurry.

It’s known in the industry as ‘a pocket dump’: you quickly have a pile of variously useful equipment and probably someone else’s pen and some useless plastic bits from an IV fluids or line that you collected when you couldn’t find a bin handy.

So let’s consider the idea that a nurse’s pouch is something you are thinking about. 

The Pros

  1. Firstly they are very cheap at less than $30 on eBay or eNurse, and available in any colour of the rainbow you may desire.
  2. They have a strap that is adjustable to go around your waste or over your shoulder like a handbag.
  3. They are specifically designed to hold the equipment you need.
  4. If your hands are full mid-procedure then someone else can grab a tool you or they need from your handy pouch.
  5. You will be organised in a second…Shazam!
The Cons
  1. The infection control risk is high with pouches being worn at hip height – the same height of sheets, bins and patients. Also, your hands are in and out of them all day. The need to disinfect and sanitise the pouch regularly is a must.
  2. Your equipment is on display, so you can’t claim you don’t have your favourite pair of scissors when the person asking can literally see them on your person. Some pouches seclude your equipment as they wrap around you tightly.
  3. When wearing an apron a nurse’s pouch can be difficult to access.
The choice is yours: each nurse will no doubt use what works for them the best in the time, area and type of nursing care they deliver. For some great nurse’s pouch options check out eNurse – they have a great range of various types of pouches available. Just remember to decontaminate your pouch on a regular basis for good nursing practice.
By Liz Coffey

The Nursing Drama!

Medical needs in the fictional world of film and television certainly entertain us. We have experienced the high drama of nursing at County General Hospital, All Saints Western General Hospital, Stanton House and the trenches of the Korean War. Hospital dramas and movies have been blessed by many memorable characters that are nurses. Some inspire us (true story: my hair style is inspired by Terri Sullivan the early years) while others infuriate us. Watching a medical drama, no matter the era in which it is set, we can all find faults. Unfortunately many patients often believe what they see on TV as being a true reflection of a hospital experience. If only! I remember explaining my first hospital placement to a friend via text a few days in: ‘It’s going well. It’s kind of like a bad episode of All Saints with a cast that didn’t fall out of a modelling magazine lol’. It’s the dramatic arc of many characters over the years, although fictional, which in my eyes shows some element of truth. These characters and their development show that the role of a nurse is challenging and demanding and can often mould the person that you become. So in tribute to some of the many nurses (fictional) that have graced our presence on screen, here is my list of top 10 female nurses characters in drama series and movies:

Abby Lockhart – ER (Maura Tierney)Abby A dedicated, patient and passionate former medical student, Abby turned to nursing when she had to drop out of out of medical school. She later drops the RN for an MD when she completes her medical studies. She is well liked and respected by all staff. Why we love Abby: She has a very personable nature and is able to engage with her patients while maintaining a high clinical standard. She battles her own demons in dealing with a mother who has significant mental health issues and she herself is a recovering alcoholic. Perhaps due to these hardships in life, she conveys an understanding and empathy of her patients’ experiences.

1507200758627Therese ‘Terri’ Sullivan – All Saints (Georgie Parker) Terri is the Nurse Unit Manager (NUM) on ward 17. A nun – hence a true ‘sister’ – she later leaves the sisterhood and finds love with a doctor!  She is highly intelligent and very down to earth. When there is a difficult patient or challenging situation she is there to support her team. Why we love Terri: Any new nurse would enjoy her leadership on a ward; you can see yourself confessing your sins to this compassionate and caring nurse, while wanting to please her and (Cates first film debut). not let the team down.

Susan Macarthy – Paradise Road (Cate Blanchett) – based on a true story (movie).Paradise-Road-cate-blanchett-12646559-768-432 Susan is a member of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps captured by the Japanese Army during World War II. She is young and somewhat naïve yet shows leadership and integrity in challenging circumstances. What we can learn from Susan: Nursing is not a job, it’s who you are. Also, comradery can get you through the most dire  events. (I highly recommend this film to anyone, as it is based on a true story and is Cate’s first feature film role)

 JULIANNA MARGULIES SET TO LEAVE ER TV DRAMA.Carol Hathaway – ER (Julianna Margulies) Nurse manager of the emergency room at Chicago’s County General Hospital, from the beginning of the series Carol struggles with her mental health issues, financial problems and later finds love in the handsome silver fox of Dr Doug Ross (George Clooney). What we can learn from Carol: Life has its ups and downs but Carol’s passion for nursing is strong. Not only can you find love at work, it’s acceptable to have your long curly hair out in the County ER!

Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan – M.A.S.H (Loretta Swit)MASH Major Houlihan is a member of the Army Nurse Corps and in charge of all the nurses at the MASH 4077 unit. She is devoted to her army career, having been born into the tradition. She has the challenging job of serving in a remote army station though a very dangerous war. What makes Hot Lips so special: Her resilience in dealing with the constant jokes at her expense and being forced to endure the male orientated and dominated world of the army. Hot Lips was certainly someone who was a firecracker and we loved to watch her soften the brutality of war and keep the men on their toes. Her character was baised on a real nurse who served in the Korean War.

Matron Margaret ” Maggie” Sloan – A Country Practice (Joan Sydney)joansydney[2] Maggie was the Matron of small medical practice in Wandin Valley. The rural country town is no stranger to drama and has many medical needs! Maggie is the no fuss, yet delicate nurse who shines through the adversity of remote medicine. What we can learn from Maggie: Every rural town needs a RN like Maggie to dig in and roll up their sleeves!

Bronwyn Craig – All Saints (Libby Tanner)bron Bron is a fun and loving nurse turned ambo, and later agency nurse, who’s father is a successful doctor. Her energy and compassion is engaging, her colleagues respect her and she also has a gambling addiction. Why we love Bron: Her clinical competence is balanced by her smile and charm meaning that she is liked and respected by her patients and colleagues. You know that a shift with Bron would be memorable to say the least.

Kitty-Foreman-70s-show_lKitty Forman – That 70’s Show (Debra Jo Rupp) Kitty is a classic, dedicated and focused nurse and mother. Her passion for youth health  care – and not doing drugs –  is front and centre when the 70’s show gang are not falling off the water tower. What can we learn from Kitty: Every nurse needs a poker face and a sense of humour!

Yvonne ‘Von’ Ryan – All Saints (Judith McGrath)von Von is an EN who later completes her studies to become a RN. Her mature and straight-laced character shows resilience in getting on with the job and not letting your emotions – or gossip – get in the way. What we can learn form Von: Having life experience is vital to the career as a nurse; we will all most likely have a nurse in our careers that remind us of her. You know you would hear her say ‘Stop the gossip and get on with the job!’

love childMatron Frances Bolton- Love Child (Mandy McElhinney) Frances is a strict, no-excuses matron who presides over Stanton House, a home for unwed pregnant young women. What we can learn from Frances: Getting down to business and working hard is what you are there for. And everyone has a past.

By Liz Coffey

A Book Review – Get Well Soon! My (Un) Brilliant Career as a Nurse

Get well soonI am aware I am no longer in grade 3…however if you are a nursing student or new nurse you must stop and read this review. Keep Calm: it’s not a text book! You wont need a highlighter and there is no in text referencing involved.

Think ahead a few years to when you are an experienced nurse, and perhaps a bit jaded by your experiences on the job, and you want to share your story. If you were honest, it would probably sound a lot like this great read.

Kristy Chambers unloads with the reality and hilarity of what being a nurse is really like in Australia.  Get Well Soon! My (Un) Brilliant Career as a Nurse delivers the goods. I laughed, cried and now have some cracking one-liners up my sleeve thanks to her great writing.

Portraying the role nurse in print is no easy task and Kristy successfully resists the temptation to gloss over the gritty, unpleasant and sometimes downright disgusting but real details of the actual job. The educational value of this book is outstanding; I often found myself stopping and googling a procedure or term and increased my nursing vocabulary. Kristy’s ability to write an account that has you believing you are on the ward with her is amazing.

Thanks to this book, on my first hosptial placement I found myself being wary of agency nurses that jingled like the tooth fairy adorned with headlamps and other superfluous equipment and the mere suggestion of the word melina made me hide.

Some may find this book bewildering in its directness and failure to make it sound like your on the set of ER or Grey’s Anatomy. As many nurses suggest that to do the job successfully you need a sense of humour, this is a great way to test the water. My well-thumbed copy has been read by more than 5 friends who really enjoyed its honesty and humour.

This is an incredibly funny and easy-to-read book that had me laughing out loud. Kristy shares stories of patients that have touched her in ways you would never imagine. She tells the untold but very real story and you won’t be disappointed.

Get a copy here at UQP or as an eBook at Amazon. 

Happy Reading!

The Textbook Conundrum

With the need to study there is the need for textbooks. Alas, with the ever-increasing preference in nursing education for journal articles in assignments, many students spend hundreds of dollars purchasing textbooks and little time using them .

I like textbooks…actually I love and collect them. I use them as much as I can in my study and love nothing more than being able to go to the library, pull out a book and have it in my hands. However, I have friends that use them as minimally as possible.

The internet has made accessing information for assignments very easy. Unfortunately, Wikipedia is not an acceptable place for information when it comes to university assessments; journal articles that are peer reviewed are the golden ticket! If you can get used to sourcing them then you’re well on your way to improving your GPA.

So how does a student on a tight budget get the quality out of a text?

Firstly check which text you require, including which edition, and get a quote of the full price of the book new.

Next, find out if there is an earlier edition available and how old it is.The golden rule with textbooks is ‘no more than 10 years old, and preferably 5 years’. (The same rule applies to journal articles, by the way).  Always look at the publication date of the edition for clarification (check inside the front few pages). Often the university will be specific about the edition you must use. However, if books are popular the publisher may release a new edition every year with minimal changes – often all that changes are a few page numbers and the cover design! You might be able to check with your university library, lecturer or previous students to determine what has changed in recent editions.

From here you can look on several websites like gumtree, eBay, university textbook group forums or Facebook groups for second hand books. Be aware these will likely have marks or highlighting in them. This is where you use the price of the book new to negotiate the price. Shipping is additional to the book on most occasions.

If no luck there, try some good online stores like book depository or the co-op bookshop they often have texts available without the cost of shipping.

Think outside the square!

Many textbooks come as an online edition or even an app version. This is the future: simple, light and compact. The textbook companies make their money on with this cost also, so be aware they are not free.

You may also want to ask previous students how often they used their textbooks, to save you purchasing something that will remain closed during your course. If it is something that previous students only used for certain parts of the course, perhaps you could borrow a copy from the library. Keep in mind that well used and liked textbooks are in top demand and often hard to come by second hand.

Twice a year Lifeline do a bookfest in my home city of Brisbane. I have found this a great place to get pre-loved nursing texts. This was particularly the case in my first year when I found some incredibly useful texts and saved myself around $80. The downside is they are all lumped together in the reference section amongst accounting, IT, law and economics, which means you have to sift through them and find what you are looking for.

Lifeline Bookfest

Some texts you will love and cherish forever and use in almost every assignment. For example, I consider my Harvard’s Nursing Guide to Drugs my bible and take it with me on every placement. Others you may be able to sell on once you are finished with them.

Buying your first stethoscope

A guide to buying and owning your first nursing stethoscope.

Investment in a stethoscope is vital to any nursing student at the beginning of their studies. You may have images of yourself in future years cruising through a hospital ward in your scrubs with the ultimate accessory –  a cool looking yet useful stethoscope around your neck! It’s great to have a vision…however, the reality is that in most hospitals in Australia the accessorising of a stethoscope for nurses is saved for the few who work in areas such as emergency, intensive care or rural and remote clinics.

As a new apprentice nurse, though, you will need to learn how to use a stethoscope for many assessments of a patient’s condition, e.g. blood pressure, cardiac, respiratory and digestive assessments.

Single head stethoscope

But what type, brand, price and, most importantly, what colour should you be looking for? Many types are available from medical stores, university bookshops and online, with prices ranging dramatically from $30 to many hundreds of dollars.

I was told many years ago that when it comes to medical equipment ‘you get what you pay for’. So, if you are short on funds will a cheaper stethoscope work just as well? Well – ‘yes’ actually, it will for, especially in terms of what you will need at the beginning of your nursing training. You can always upgrade later.

However, there is one important consideration where a more expensive stethoscope trumps the $30 variety: the quality and clarity of sound. For those who are hearing impaired (like me), this can make a vast difference. That being said, if you are in a room full of chatty nursing students attempting to learn to take a blood pressure for the first time, you won’t hear it accurately – no matter how good quality and expensive a stethoscope you have!  Should you choose to buy an expensive stethoscope or are lucky to be gifted one from loving family or friend, be prepared to have it lost, stolen, damaged and soiled in your years ahead.

So where do you start to look? Often it’s easier to look from within your own circles first. Ask your friends, other medical professionals and do a quick Google search. If you have the opportunity, try different brands to see what you like. Dashing out to buy a litmann cardiac for over $300 will leave you strapped for cash and perhaps getting a few glances at nursing prac as to why you would have a stethoscope that fancy when it’s not required at this novice level.

A stethoscope can be broken down into 3 major parts. Head, tubing and ear pieces.

Dual head stethoscope

The head: Some have single heads, with just a diaphragm. Others have dual heads: one side being a diaphragm for listening to chest sounds , while the other is the bell used for digestive sounds. (The switch between the two directs the sound from one or the other, you will need to know how to do this by twisting the head).

Tubing: The tubing has a variety of differences, some have single tube from head to the ear pieces, others have double. The thickness of this tubing does vary often according to the price. The thicker the tubing, the greater the quality of sound.

Ear pieces: Often considered the most important aspect as the level of comfort in using one varies from person to person. The cheaper varieties tend or have hard plastic ear pieces, these are most likely interchangeable with softer ear pieces. Some more expensive, high-quality stethoscopes come with a number of different earpieces to choose from.

Most of the parts of a stethoscope can be replaced, depending on the make and model. The more popular brands like litmann have spare parts available, so when you lose one of the ear pieces all hope is not lost!

enurse.com.au have a great starting range of stethoscopes and also deals in other assessment tools such as blood pressure cuffs, nurse pouches, watches and the like at reasonable prices.  I have found them fantastic to deal with and very fast with shipping.

medshop.com.au stock a wide variety of all types, brands quality and colours. The additional offer of engraving your name on the bell of your stethoscope with your purchase decreases the risk of losing it. My most recent purchase was for a littmann classic II for around the $100 mark. They also have many spare parts to purchase.

The need for you to be skilled in application and use of your stethoscope – rather than its accessorising your outfit -is paramount to your nursing career. Remember these instruments touch patients bodies and are a great point for transmission of infections; good infection control practices are required to care for this equipment to allow you to care for your patients.

Good luck with your purchase!