PETER LILLEY is an ICU Nurse – otherwise known as a superhuman with infinite stamina and an uncanny ability to save lives – at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He took some time to tell us a little about post-UTS life.
Of all the careers in the world, why did you choose nursing?
I wanted to choose a profession that was deeply personal and highly important to people’s lives. In my later high school years, I was addicted to the television series M*A*S*H. I chose to do my work experience during high school in a High Dependency Unit in a hospital. It was during this time that I witnessed first-hand that nursing was a profession that seemed to perfectly marry the science of the human body and the art of caring for vulnerable people. I wanted to be part of that.
What does it mean to be a nurse in the ICU?
To keep it simple, the ICU is a place where the sickest people are cared for. The intensive care specialty involves a variety of supportive therapies that protects a person’s body during the worst stages of their illness in order to provide the greatest opportunity for survival possible. Intensive care nurses spend most of the time monitoring a patient and responding to changes in their condition, examining their body systems, titrating life-saving drugs and tweaking equipment that the patient’s life depends on. ICU nurses care for their patient’s body in every other way possible. In addition, nurses perform critical aspects of other areas of allied health, and at times also need to be equal parts physiotherapist, speech pathologist, dietician and social worker.
What do you love most about your job?
In intensive care, you see an extraordinary side of human life. The ICU environment is very scientific and continually causes me to reflect on the remarkable complexity of the human body. I am continually amazed that I can watch immediate physiological changes in response to treatment interventions in real-time. It is an exciting time for intensive care medicine as the last decade has seen an enormous development in many life-saving treatments that have resulted from blossoming research and technology in the field. While at work, I have resuscitated the life back into people, restored breathing to people who were suffocating, injected adrenaline into someone’s left ventricle and felt what a head feels like when the bone has been removed. Putting the fun medical science aside, nurses have a hard job, an enormous responsibility, and are exposed to a lot of human suffering. In my short time working in the ICU, I have encountered more human suffering and death than most people will see in a lifetime. These have been my most rewarding life experiences and I consider it an unspeakable privilege to care for someone in their last moment of life.
Looking back, what advice would you give your first-year self?
I would tell my first-year self to develop a strong support network among my peers to allow me to debrief from my clinical placements, and to encourage my peers to practice as ethical clinicians in the workplace.
How has UTS prepared you for a career in ICU nursing?
UTS offers a great nursing program. Top-notch teachers who are also frontier clinicians, as well as very life-like simulations and equipment that brings the hospital into the classroom made my time at UTS a valuable learning experience. You only really have one opportunity to learn the foundations and science of nursing practice, and that’s at university.
Featured image via uts.edu.au