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How nursing helped me on the high seas and beyond!

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Formerly a children’s nurse, Elin believes that nursing was perfect preperation for her 2,500 mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean

At first glance it’s difficult to see how anything I learnt from my days on the ward could have helped me while battling the elements on two of the world’s oceans. But without a doubt, it did!

In 2007 when I set into a rowing boat to set off on a 2,500 mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean, I had never been out to sea before and only had a few hours of rowing lessons. But I had been a nurse for 12 years, and all the skills and lessons that I had learnt and acquired during my days in uniform gave me the skills and ability to deal with life on the ocean! And I don’t only mean my clinical skills of cannulating for a fluid bolus mid-ocean, wound dressing for abrasions and burns, and drug administration for nausea, pain, vomiting, pain, infections and more pain!

For 77 days, 7 hours and 37 minutes I lived in a 24 foot rowing boat, with one other person, rowing and resting on a rota of 2 hours on 2 hours off, non-stop across the vast Atlantic. Apart from when the storms were so bad that we couldn’t leave the confines of our tiny cabin, that is. Not satisfied with that, fourteen months later I ventured off again on a 3,200 mile, first world campaign across the Indian Ocean, this time in a team of four.  

There are many experiences from my nursing days that served me well on the ocean:

  • Thinking on my feet and reacting instinctively and quickly
  • Forcing myself to wake up and get back on the oars when I was so tired and sleep deprived that I wanted to sleep for a year
  • Smiling and getting on with it when all I actually wanted to do was scream and go home
  • Trying my best to keep a healthy team dynamic; when even the way that my friend sipped her tea annoyed me
  • Laughing at the desperation of our situation, because the only other option would be to cry

Even though I no longer work clinically as a children’s nurse (I’m now in the comfort of a Monday to Friday office job evaluating paediatric drug development) I am reminded daily that clinical nursing gave me the best foundation, not only for my professional life but also for my personal skills. I’d hate to think that rose-tinted glasses have distorted my memories of my clinical days, and my career since but it feels to me that I personally gained as much as much as I invested.

Being a nurse gave our campaign across the Atlantic the credibility to secure sponsorship, gave me life skills to deal with the day-to-day hardship of life on the ocean and gave me the confidence to think that I could deal with whatever situation I faced. A cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe? But I’m sure that I’m not the only one to feel that what I learnt while nursing helped me far beyond the hospital walls!

Elin Haf Davies RN (Child) BSc (Hons) MSc PhD

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