In March when Australia first started to understand the impact of COVID-19, our medical industry was doing everything they could to prepare for the onslaught of cases. China and Italy were in bad shape, and here in Australia hospitals were ordering all the supplies they could to ensure they could cope with whatever came next.
Medical professionals everywhere were still learning about coronavirus as the first cases in Australia were diagnosed. For those on the front line, new protocols and lots of protective equipment were on the cards and Old Grammarian Rosie Eastoe (2009) a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at The Royal Melbourne Hospital shared her experience of treating COVID-19 with us and how her time at Melbourne Girls Grammar gave her the skills to face the pandemic calmly.
My job has been hard, but I think everyone’s dealing with different challenges equally. I really do feel privileged to do the job I do.
Rosie Eastoe (2009)
Rosie commenced her journey at the School in Year 9 as a boarder. With her family in Mildura, Rosie’s older brother and sister had already attended boarding schools in Melbourne. Starting at Melbourne Girls Grammar was quite the change for Rosie, starting with moving from a co-ed school to an all girls school, as well as moving from the country to the city.
“It was quite a change having to do my own washing and fend for myself and only being able to go home in the holidays or long weekends,” said Rosie. “Adapting from a country town to a city was a huge change. Not only adapting to boarding life but a new school, but I loved the easy commute in the morning.”
I learned to be independent and not to rely on others to do things for me.
As the youngest to leave home, Rosie saw the kind of opportunities available to her siblings at boarding school. When given the choice, Rosie decided to experience everything that they had before her and she was very grateful for the skills she learned coming to the Boarding House.
“I learned to be independent and not to rely on others to do things for me. Obviously, there were people to help us, but it was up to us to ensure we had a clean uniform, that we came to dinner on time and to know when our assignments were due.”
Rosie was the self confessed ‘distracting one’ in the Boarding House who loved being a part of a close knit house of amazing friends. “In the Boarding House, your other boarders become your family. You don’t get to go home very often, and they end up knowing you better than most people. Living in the Boarding House, you learn a lot about tolerance, you don’t get angry over small things because you’re all in it together. To this day, I have the best friends from boarding school.”
Now that Rosie’s a nurse, she couldn’t imagine being anything else, but when she was at school she had no idea what she might go on to do. “I think it’s one thing to know what you’re interested in but sometimes you don’t actually know what that equals in a title or an industry. I took a year off after school to travel and discover the world outside the red brick walls. I knew I would go to University but I couldn’t quite tell what I’d be yet. I’m glad I didn’t rush into anything and took my time considering my options.”
As for where she’s ended up, it speaks to Rosie’s incredible judgement, calm and rational thinking and empathetic nature that she’s an Intensive Care Nurse. “I did a placement in intensive care, where I work now, and I loved it. The ability to fix someone who was so unwell is absolutely amazing. I love the patient contact. I think it’s a motivator when you see someone at such a vulnerable time and you just do what you can to make them feel that little bit better and get them back on track – it makes me feel good!”
The hardest part for me is in being completely covered. My patients can’t see my face and expressions and I can’t reassure them with a touch. As a hospital, we’ve been really well looked after and kept safe. Now I have to use my whole body and voice to communicate with my patients.
In regards to the current pandemic, being confronted with cases is a daily occurrence for Rosie, and again something she takes in her stride. “For COVID-19 patients we spend a lot of time preparing, we have mask, gown, face shield and gloves and work in a negative pressure room. The hardest part for me is in being completely covered. My patients can’t see my face and expressions and I can’t reassure them with a touch. As a hospital, we’ve been really well looked after and kept safe. Now I have to use my whole body and voice to communicate with my patients.”
The fact that while standing in a room with a confirmed case Rosie is concerned she’s not as warm a presence says a lot about Rosie and nurses in general in the incredible caring nature and empathy they have for everyone they treat. For Rosie, the only hard part is not taking the job home with her.
“I’ve been lucky to have some normalcy in my work during this time, continuing to leave my house to care for patients means my life hasn’t changed too dramatically. I have had to stop watching the news though. You’ve just got to take every day at a time and there are challenging days, and sometimes I’m so hot in my protective wear, but I have patients to look after and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”
Ever the optimist, Rosie says she can see the light at the end of the tunnel with COVID-19. In the meantime she is prioritising her health and fitness with regular walks and exercise, treating herself to a bit of online shopping and, now that the weather is getting better, just getting outside in the sun.
While it’s common knowledge that nurses make some of the worst patients, it turns out they’re not very good at acknowledging just how much of an impact they’re making at this time. Very humbly Rosie said, “My job has been hard, but I think everyone’s dealing with different challenges equally. I really do feel privileged to do the job I do.”
Nurses are a special breed of people who manage to give so much to others, even when they’re scared or having a bad day.