An Aussie ICU Nurse learns not to mess with African American Braids

Allison was born, raised and trained as a nurse in Australia. She has been a nurse for 27 years, and has worked in The United States for over 10 years, primarily in ICU. She and her husband Paul (also a nurse) became traveling nurses, fell in love with NYC and are enjoying the States while waiting for the job market to improve in Australia before heading back home.

Allison with her husband Paul

Allison with her husband Paul

What were some challenges you faced transitioning into a foreign nursing system? 
I was terrified I was going to get sued – since The US medical system has such a litigious reputation compared to home.
I came from a Neurological Trauma ICU in Australia so it was a difficult transition to clinical practice;  I was allowed to do things here that I wasn't allowed to do at home and things I was not allowed to do here were done by floor nurses at home.

 We didn't have aides/therapists so I found it hard to let anybody touch my patient here.
I felt like I was translating everything in my head, I really grew an appreciation for nurses who came to English speaking countries when English was not their native language. 

I become a walking thesaurus; I had to have at least 5 words for everything I said with my Aussie accent since “speaking Australian” was such a challenge for Americans.

 Tell me your biggest pet peeves about Nursing.
Not enough time to do nursing. Staffing ratio's and paperwork takes away our clinical time. We spend so much time filling out forms saying what we are doing, we don't actually get the time to do it. 

What do you love most about nursing? 
What's not to love about nursing? I get to have the best job in the world that encompasses so many other jobs: therapist, teacher, student, mentor/motivator, healer, communicator, diplomat, and the list goes on. If I had to pick one thing I loved most, it would be the people I have met both in and by the bedside.

 What throws you off balance about working as a nurse?
Not being able to do my job to the best of my ability. How do I know I'm off balance?  Everyone annoys me ;)

What brings you back into balance? 
I check myself. I now know I set high expectations for myself and everyone around me, which is not always achievable. So I take a breath and set both a mental and written checklist (I love a good checklist). I check one thing off at a time and accept this is the best I can do at this time and place.

If everyone is annoying me, I take a day for myself to do whatever I want, sometimes its just laying in my pajamas doing nothing.

We give so much in our profession; we find it hard to give back to ourselves in the same manner. I'm trying to be more selfish; it’s a work in progress. 

Tell me a funny story about work. 

I was working in the SICU at John's Hopkins. I received my patient from the ED with a gun trauma to the face. I’ve always said the ABC's of nursing are Appearance (the patient looks, clean and tidy), Bed space (the bed space is stocked with everything I need for whatever situation might arise) and Curtains (curtains tied back neat and tidy). She was and African American woman with these beautiful braids but they were saturated in blood. (We don’t get many African American patients with braids in Australia). I carefully proceeded to undo the braids and thoroughly washed her hair. I discovered the braids were woven into her hair and I was left with this unruly mess for the proceeding weeks in the hospital.

Lesson learned don't touch the braids.



What advice would you give to new grads starting out? 
Be proud of your mistakes, you're going to make them. Own them and learn something from them, share them with others so they can learn. A lecturer once told me 'the more you know, the more you realize you don't know'.
Be kind - To yourself and your fellow nurses. 

Allison and Paul in Central Park

Allison and Paul in Central Park

Allison’s husband Paul is also a Registered Nurse and here’s his advice to new grads:

Don’t be too picky about what you want to do. All experience is a learning experience that can help you get to where you want to go.