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The COVID-19 pandemic left nurses across the nation suffering from burnout. But some grew from it like never before

From a fresh graduate to a mum with five kids, the pandemic pushed these nurses to their limits. (ABC News)

Constant exposure to illness and chemicals, shifts extending beyond 12 hours and inescapable feelings of burnout.

Nursing is one of the most physically demanding and mentally taxing professions.  

Throw in a global pandemic and you've got all of the above exacerbated by hazardous work environments, lack of essential resources and inadequate staffing. 

Despite it all, some nurses have felt a sense of reward and fulfilment beyond imaginable. 

We spoke to some of those who have worked on the front line during the pandemic in recognition of International Nurses Day.

'The camaraderie of my colleagues has been incredible'

Shikha Prasad, 22, is a cancer care nurse at Metro North Health’s Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

She provides chemotherapy, education and psychosocial treatments to patients.

Shikha Prasad helps treat some of the most vulnerable patients. (Supplied: Shikha Prasad)

Often, the patients Shikha cares for are immunocompromised and have a likelihood of developing more severe complications with COVID-19 than the rest of the population.

"The camaraderie of my colleagues has been incredible. It really has been a team effort to continue to provide the quality of care we do to our community."

Despite the challenges and setbacks the pandemic has created, Shikha remains passionate about supporting patients and nurses alike.

"I’m excited to see the profession of nursing continue to evolve," she said.

'It wasn't anything new — we all just got on with it'

From a young age, Nick McGregor, 60knew he wanted to be a nurse. 

But when he first applied to be one at the age of 18, he was rejected because male nurses were unheard of.

Nick McGregor rarely had a day off during the thick of the pandemic. (Supplied: Nick McGregor)

Now a veteran of the nursing industry, Nick works in the community and aged care space at Pinangba’s Star of the Sea Aged Care Facility on Thursday Island, Queensland. 

Despite the impacts the pandemic made on his personal life, Nick says he and his team adapted quickly. 

"Our staff were already working long days in full PPE, despite very high temperatures.

"It wasn't anything new — we all just got on with it."

'In my 28 years as a nurse, I've had five children and have become a role model to them'

Melinda Daniels, 46, is the Assistant Director of Clinical Services at Buderim Private Hospital. 

She oversees multiple units, including main theatres, recovery, endoscopy and more.

With over 200 staff reporting to her, she's in the driver's seat to influence positive change and support a community of nurses.

Melinda Daniels believes that with hard work, you can have a career and a family. (Supplied: Melinda Daniels)

"I'm very proud that during my 28 years as a nurse, I've managed to fit in having five beautiful children and become a role model to them," she said.

But Melinda has also experienced her fair share of challenges during the pandemic.

"Like many, I am a working mother, my husband works away and I have five kids," she said.

Melinda says the biggest challenge for her was introducing home schooling during when schools were closed.

'No-one I know went into nursing for the money'

A Clinical Nurse Consultant in Infection Control for Central West Hospital and Health Service, Topaz Stringfellow, 28, says being a nurse means having to be "resilient and adaptable". 

"I wanted a career that would give me a sense of purpose," Topaz said. 

Topaz Stringfellow says nursing gives her a sense of purpose. (Supplied: Topaz Stringfellow)

"No-one I know went into nursing for the money."

From working in pop-up clinics with ocean views to freezing cold cities and the outback, Topaz says she never saw herself working in these areas.

"I've learned so many lessons and had lifelong experiences I never thought I would have gotten as a nurse."

'The lockdowns were a great excuse to stay home and get a few more hours of sleep'

Working at St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital in Brisbane as a graduate scrub/scout nurse, Georgia Stephens, 23, started her nursing career in the thick of the pandemic.

While she found it daunting at first, Georgia found a silver lining.

"I was so exhausted from finishing university and starting my graduate nursing year that the lockdowns were a great excuse to stay home and get a few more hours of sleep," Georgia said.

Georgia Stephens started her nursing career at the height of the pandemic. (Supplied: Georgia Stephens )

For Georgia, working in theatre meant that she already had to wear PPE, so most of the COVID-19 restrictions didn't come as a shock to her. 

"It was more that I had to start from square one again, since they don’t teach theatre nursing at university. It's a fast paced and tense environment — anything and everything can happen," she said.

Georgia doesn't deny the fact that the pandemic put a significant mental and physical strain on nurses in every field, but she remains hopeful for the future. 

United States passes grim milestone of one million COVID-19 deaths.
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Dive Deeper:
Nurses on pandemic front lines look to refill their ‘empty cup’
BALTIMORE -- Nurses gained attention during the pandemic for their work on the front lines of health care, taking on…
International Nurses Day: The North East 'angels' who are at the cutting edge of care
For International Nurses Day, we sat down with the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust's senior nursing team to talk about how…
Nurses to protest sentencing in Tennessee patient-death case
Nurses were traveling from around the country to protest outside the courtroom where a former Tennessee nurse will be sentenced…
Review launched into death of Amrita Lanka after parents claim their concerns were ignored
Amrita Lanka died 21 hours after being admitted to Monash Children's Hospital, with her parents claiming their concerns were ignored…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Meet Canberra's nurse of the year
Rebekah Ogilvie oversaw the response to the social housing outbreaks.
'Much-loved' mum, 40, dies days after heart surgery she had waited two years for
40-year-old Carlene Kershaw spent two years waiting for heart surgery to help with a leaking heart valve and tragically died…
Get all your news in one place