Helping others has been a life-long passion for Ingham local Maria Cruickshank, who this week celebrated more than 30 years of service as a registered nurse for Townsville Hospital and Health Service.
Maria said that while she had started her career as an assistant in nursing at an aged care home, a combination of a ‘snap decision’ and following in her mother’s footsteps had led her down the path of registered nursing.
“Mum worked as a nurse in the Malaria Research Unit in Cairns during World War II, which I thought was fascinating, so I definitely grew up with nursing in mind,” Maria said.
“I started in an aged care home as an AIN and thoroughly enjoyed so I thought if I can look after geriatrics, which was heavy work back in the day with a lot less staff, I could enjoy registered nursing,” Maria said.
“It was January 1988 when I found out that the training intake at the old Townsville General Hospital closed in a week, so one day I just called up the director of nursing and asked to apply – and that’s where it started.”
After six weeks of training – where Maria was one of the older trainees despite being just 21 years of age – Maria hit the floor on ward 1AB and made some great memories with staff.
“One of my favourite memories was being in Ward 3CD and playing harmless, fun pranks on some of the patients, like dragging out the old orthopaedic equipment and pretending that we were going to operate on them in the ward,” she said.
“We also loved watching the antics at the old ‘Animal House’, which all the old Townsville General Hospital nurses will recall, where we could see parties happening from the windows of the Thoracic annex building which served as medical ward. You’d watch people spill out of the house having a great time.
“The most stressful memory was when current Ingham Health Service Director of Nursing Janine Johnson and I were newly registered and working in the male medical ward; patients arrested on consecutive nights and it was made more challenging as the communication with the hospital switch board failed, meaning the resus team didn’t arrive as expected.”
Maria said she had advice for the next generation of nurses on the wards.
“Take pride in your profession and take pride in your work and have that core instinct to do the best by your patient,” Maria said.
“Also, learn to develop resilience, because you will have days that will shock you and you’ll leave thinking you don’t want to come back but you shake off the dramas of work as you walk out the door.
“Patients and family members will remember you, though you may not recall them by name, they stop you in the community to recount the care you have given them or their loved ones in hospital.
“We as nurses do make a difference.
“So, make sure you have that vested interest in making sure you’re getting the best outcome for your patients here and that they’re leaving the hospital with a positive experience.
“I’m proud to work for the Townsville Hospital and Health Service; I am proud to be a nurse.”