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Wednesday 14 April 2010

Get well soon with Nurse Neil

Posted in: True Stories
By Daily News Staff - 14th January 2010

"It's never the same thing each day," says Neil Hellewell, who's a nurse at Christchurch Hospital. "You can go from a steady day with routine tasks, and then 15 minutes later you can be dealing with a life threatening crisis. It is great stuff!"

We like his medicine: Nurse Neil Hellewell
Like most nurses here and around the world, Neil is overworked and underpaid, but as he shares his on-the-job stories you know he takes deserved pride in his career.

"One of the experiences that really stands out for me is one shift where a patient in one of the rooms that I was working in was getting quieter and quieter. I noticed that her breathing had got pretty shallow and on checking her oxygen levels were critically low. I ended up bag-masking her for over 20 minutes until her own respiratory drive picked up again – and being pretty stoked the she avoided having a total arrest!"


Dealing with the stress of life-threatening crises is an important part of the job. "Usually you flick right into automatic mode – prioritise and do the most important things first and keep assessing every step of the way. You have to put faith and trust in the people you work with and work as a team – you just can't do it all by yourself! The stress often won't hit until afterwards so running on adrenaline helps heaps!

"Then there was one time when a really close friend collapsed on the ward," he remembers. "As soon as I saw her, I immediately when into automatic mode and even started telling medical staff what I wanted done. Once everything was all sorted and we had her transferred down to the emergency department – that is when the emotions kicked in and a couple of us had a good cry. She was fine but the fact that it was 'once of us' that we had to work on scared the crap out of all of us! At the end of the day, working together as a team and supporting each other afterwards makes nursing a job that you just cannot walk away from! It is awesome."


Neil started his career in the early 90's as a medic in the NZ Territorial force army. "After I finished my basic training and then medical specialist courses, I was keen to keep going and a friend suggested I should go nursing... so I did!

"I did the six month pre-health programme at CPIT then there was the three year nursing degree course. It included both theory and practical – so I had a wide range of clinical placements, and was around 1,500 hours clinical practice. While I was studying I was also working as a hospital aide at a local hospital, and also attending army training and exercises."


Is there anything Neil seriously dislikes about his job? "Yeah, shift work sux!" he laughs. "Most nurses work eight or twelve hour shifts, and the shifts vary from 06:45am starts, 2:30pm-11pm or the dreaded graveyard shift 10:30pm until 7am. Not that you actually finish on time generally!

"More nurses have relationship breakups, and are single then people in many other professions. It is impossible to plan your life in advance as each day you can be working a different shift and never have the same days off each week."


Many nurses say they deserve more money for the important role they play in caring for people in need. Neil agrees wholeheartedly: "There's a large amount of study that nurses are meant to undertake – ongoing education, and a yearly assessment to prove that you are maintaining NZ Nursing Council competencies. In addition, senior nurses are undertaking more roles of junior doctors, and with nursing shortages, less nurses are doing more work.

"Nursing is the key health workforce and each year nurses get more and more responsibility," he adds. "If there are less physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, speech language therapists or medical staff nurses are expected to pick up the slack, yet if there are fewer nurses no other profession steps in."


Neil says he's often worked with other LGBT folks in his team. "On the whole, nursing is a very rainbow-friendly profession," he considers. "One of the key philosophies of nursing is the respect for all people regardless of background. Nurses by nature are very accepting people."

We asked him to share some advice for people considering a career as a nurse: "Nursing is a great profession which can lead you to work in a huge variety of areas," he replies. "It will give back as much as you are prepared to put in. You can work anywhere from an oil rig to a medical word in a hospital, and will only be restricted to the limitations that you put on yourself. Be prepared to work hard though!"

   Bookmark and Share Daily News Staff - 14th January 2010