Purpose and Passion

After training for four years between Perth and Adelaide to become a Registered Nurse, Shirley entered the workforce and discovered the many different paths that nursing can take you. 

In 1957 Shirley ventured to Melbourne to obtain her midwifery qualification, but before doing so, she met her future husband, Bob. 

“He was an Adelaide man and we met in Adelaide; we were set up on a blind date would you believe it!”

“His friend and my friend set us up and begrudgingly we got together.”

“But he was such a lovely person, right from the word go.”

“I went to my friend Judy after she set us up and I told her, ‘I am going to marry that man’.”

For Shirley’s first few years establishing her career as a nurse in the workforce, she took on a lot of agency work. 

It wasn’t until the 60’s that she tells me her career took off in a completely different direction. 

“I ended up working in the head injury unit down at Hampstead.”

“It was the best career move that ever happened to me, I just thought it was fabulous.”

Shirley tells me it’s hard to put it into words why that job meant so much to her, but this is her attempt:

“Because you are dealing with a lot of car accidents and things like that, you can imagine there is a lot of young people as patients and although it was confronting, there were a couple of lads that really stood out to me.”

“One was my patient, Steve, who had suffered a head injury from falling off his push bike at age 12, and I believe he received quite a significant settlement.

“His family had bought a business which eventually went broke, and then they all disappeared and left Steve by himself.

“He didn’t have a very good history, but I connected with him, and for the five years I nursed for him, he would call me mum.”

Shirley is so fond of the success and impact she made on her patients’ lives whilst nursing in the Brain Injury Unit. She knows she achieved great things for the young people on her ward and is proud of it. 

“I think one of the reasons I was so successful with the young patients, was because I had teenage sons at the time, and I just knew what would work and what wouldn’t.”

“I felt I was really doing something.”

Shirley was amongst the nurses and health professionals that moved out to Julia Farr, formerly known as The Home for Incurables, when her Unit was shifted from Hampstead. 

Shirley eventually left the workforce and that’s when her second life took off…travelling.

“My children were grown up, two out of three of my children got into nursing, and my husband and I went travelling.”

“It all began because our 25th wedding anniversary was coming up.

“I said to Bob that we weren’t going to have a party because I always end up doing all the work!

“I said ‘what say we go on a trip or something’, and so, we were thinking about Bali.”

Shirley tells me that they had considered a few other places too, like Darwin or Queensland.

“Then one day Bob comes home and drops this pamphlet on the table…for the Greek islands.

“He said to me, ‘what do you think about this?’

“I said ‘when do we leave’.”

With a retirement full of overseas travel, watching her children excel in their respective careers and a sense of fulfilment from her former working life, Shirley is a very kind, happy lady with a soft and infectious smile.

Thanks Shirley.

So, here’s me:

So here’s me: With a short-lived background in nursing and the world of health care it’s no wonder that I find my writing inspiration from behind the closed but not locked doors of aged care. Write what you know, right? You are probably thinking 

“what does she mean short-lived background in nursing?”

…like why was it short lived and why on god’s green earth is she now writing a blog!? Well, let me clarify, in 2015 I was searching for a purpose and my wise and knowing late grandmothers undervalued words kept reiterating in my head

 “you’d make a great nurse one day.”

And that sentence combined with a passionate desire to do something purposeful and rewarding, drove me to study Enrolled Nursing. Within twenty-four months I had completed four placements (internships for you American yanks) in the health care industry and two of which were performed in the wonderful world of residential aged care. 

I came out the other-side of those twenty-four months with a diploma, the doom and gloom fear all students experience in the face of finding a job and somehow the unwavering feeling that I was not meant to be doing this, like I was a fraud.

I had spent the duration of my diploma feeling like I was swimming out of my depth, like I just couldn’t get it. But there was one thing I did get. People. And they got me. Some of my greatest experiences were the relationships I was privileged to make with residents. There was no way I could be a nurse, my time management was shocking!

“Elise, dear, would you like to share some Tim Tams and listen to my rock music?” 
Um, you betcha Jo!

And so my itch for my life purpose and fulfilment had not been scratched, and some part of me knew that I needed to pursue my interest in writing…
In fact, a resident I spent time with gave me more inspiration than she knows, her name was Joan.

Joan sat with me on her bed and shared a bottle of “bubbly water” which we pretended was the good stuff (champagne!) and told me her life story hours after my shift had finished. I told her:

“Joan you could write a book about your life, it is just so fascinating”

and although she hadn’t thought it to be anything other than just her childhood memories, she boastfully told her son upon his visit, 

“this is Elise, she is going to write my memoirs”.

So here I am, enrolled in a Bachelor of Journalism and Professional Writing, in a course which calls for me to write a blog. Great! Fantastic! I’m excited!
On our very first day we sit in a class room of 25 or so and painfully go around the class to announce our ideas for our blog. On our very first day.

Some poor peers are coming up with duck eggs, using the broadest terms like “football” or “lifestyle” and then here I go with this outlandish, completely unplanned, spur of the moment idea that I would like to write a blog about the stories of our older generations. My tutor loves it. She has plans for it. I am now locked in and beginning my journey of volunteering my abundance of time (Sike! I am a full time student and part time employee) in the wonderful world of residential aged care, where I hope the incredible people will open their hearts and share their lives with me.

Because I love to hear it, they deserve to tell it and we are all privileged to learn and share in these lives well lived.