I used to be a stage manager; then one day I switched on the television in time to see a passenger jet slam into a tower. We gathered, shaken, in the crew room, and spent the rest of the day glued to the screen. That night the show went on but I didn’t think that life as we knew it would. As I watched the dancers from the wings I thought – what a trivial job I have. I mean, in the event of a nuclear war, no one shouts, ‘Quick! We need someone who can coordinate stage cues!’ Do they? My job felt suddenly meaningless. I didn’t walk out that day but I did realise that stage managing wasn’t perhaps the most constructive thing I could be doing with my life. So I applied to university to do nursing.
Three years later and I’ve done it – and it still doesn’t seem quite real. And in a funny sort of way, my rationale of career choice is quite bizarre to me now. I no longer think that my choosing to become a nurse will necessarily help in the event of a national emergency but I’ve discovered other aspects of nursing that make me feel that changing careers was truly the right decision for me.
Like the way in which you can really make a difference to someone’s quality of life, just by talking with them. It is a tall order at the moment. The wards can be so hectic that taking the time to sit and talk with a patient often plays second fiddle to more task-orientated work, and runs you the risk of falling foul of your colleagues as well. But the benefits of listening – particularly reflectively listening to patients – are huge. Unfortunately, it is also unquantifiable.
I no longer think that being a stage manager is a frivolous, meaningless job. It required high levels of organisation, patience
and tact, and brought a lot
of pleasure to people. Making a difference with your life isn’t all about big, life-saving gestures
– it is the minutiae that counts
too, sometimes more than we perhaps realise.
Arabella Sinclair-Penwarden is a staff nurse in Devon