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Katrina—Registered nurse
General practice, vocational education and training
Metropolitan Melbourne

I swung between ‘mum guilt’ and the pull of my work. I was a nurse working in general practice when COVID reared its ugly head. I was also a single mum with two primary-aged children.

I was a little worried at first but I kept doing my job, keeping as up to date as possible on all the new developments. When lockdowns started, I continued to work. I was an essential worker. I dropped my kids off at their school—it had stayed open for the children of essential workers. I donned and doffed as I went out into the carpark to swab patients for COVID.

Then I started to feel ‘mum guilt’. Most of my friends were working from home. I could not. I felt so bad dropping my kids at school every morning. Even if I started work in the afternoon, I couldn’t drop them at lunch time—they had to be there all day and then go to after-school care.

They were scared.

I started getting scared too.

What if I got sick?

What if I ended up in hospital?

What if I had to be ventilated?

What if I died?

Being a mum took over. I decided to stay at home. Keep my kids at home. Stay safe. Then ‘nurse guilt’ kicked in. I am a trained registered nurse. I shouldn’t be at home. Then the conviction again that my family came first.

While I was home, I started a Cert IV in Training and Assessment. It was something I had wanted to do for a while. Then, as some restrictions started to ease and bills kept coming in, I realised I needed to work. I found a job as a health coach and was able to work from home. Training initially was in the city. That was strange. Going into a nearly deserted city. Then more lockdowns. I continued to train and then work from home. And I continued studying. The job was so new and I had so much to learn. There was stress, but I got through it. Finally, schools fully re-opened and my twelve months as a health coach came to an end. I’d got my qualification as a trainer and assessor. And I had survived.

I started a new job teaching Diploma of Nursing students. I discovered I loved teaching. It was initially face to face, but I had to take time off when the kids were sick. More stress. So, I found another job, still teaching diploma students, but online.

Yes, COVID took away our freedom for a short time, and my heart broke when I heard of former patients who had passed. But it also gave me personal freedom. I love my new job so much. I was burnt out from general practice nursing. Now I get to be at home for my children if they have days off or just need me. And I love being able to tell my stories and teach new nurses how to be the best nurses they can be.

COVID allowed me to prioritise both my family and my career. It allowed me to shine.