‘It’s the lack of hope that kills you.’
Mel Hyde, a nurse coordinator at Monash Health, is a big fan of Ted Lasso, the 2021 Emmy Award-winning comedy with a big heart and even bigger sense of hope. Watching the show was one of the strategies that helped her stay sane over the past two years.
In particular, she points to a pivotal moment in the show’s season 1 finale, called ‘The Hope That Kills You’ – a reference to the phrase uttered throughout the episode by dejected fans of the series’ down-on-its-luck football team. In a key scene, the show’s title character and team coach gives a pep talk in which he pushes back against this phrase, saying ‘I disagree. I think it’s the lack of hope that comes and gets ya. See I believe in hope.’
That really resonated with Mel because, like Ted Lasso, she believes in hope. ‘For me, it’s vital to have hope that [the pandemic] will end,’ she says. ‘I truly believe that it will end, so keeping that at the forefront of my mind helps keep things in perspective: this is just a moment in time; it will evolve, and it will end. Have hope.’
A scientific start
Before she became a nurse, Mel was a scientist. She had always liked biology and science and maths, but she also enjoyed working with people, children especially – her focus as a scientist was paediatric sleep and respiratory medicine. It was during a backpacking trip overseas that she had ‘a lightbulb moment’ and realised that healthcare was the perfect combination.
She chose nursing because she had always been in awe of the nurses she worked with as a scientist. So, she applied and was accepted into nursing studies, and 14 years to the day after she started working at Monash Health as a scientist, she returned as a nurse. ‘And I haven’t looked back. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it since then.’
Because of her prior focus on paediatric medicine, Mel initially thought she’d go into paediatric nursing but during her graduate year, she did rotations ‘only in adult nursing in surgical, high-dependency nursing, emergency and respiratory – and thoroughly enjoyed it.’ Since then, her career has focused primarily on crit care, emergency and surgical nursing.
Becoming a Job Rep
In May 2021, she became a Job Rep for her nursing coordinator group. Keen to do ‘anything to help our nursing workforce and be an advocate’, she put her hand up for several reasons. Protecting the workforce industrially and from occupational health and safety perspective were important considerations, but so too was staff wellbeing.
‘Chinese whispers can be quite evil,’ she explains, referring to the rumours that can arise in an information vacuum. With no Job Rep on the team previously, when issues arose and people’s emotions were running high, things could get blown out of proportion. ‘I have always been vocal about discussing concerns and trying to be solution- and resolution-based,’ she says. ‘So part of my reason for becoming a Job Rep was to try to sort out things locally, before they escalate [to the point that the union has to step in].
‘Through [the] sad moments we’ve still stood in solidarity, and we have probably been a stronger voice for ourselves. I think the future for our workforce will be far brighter for it.’
As a nurse coordinator and a Job Rep, Mel knows the importance of looking after herself as well as her staff. She doesn’t like ‘being a grumpy person who’s negative,’ she says ‘but it has happened’ – especially during the past two years. So, in addition to watching Ted Lasso, she’s maintained her sanity using a variety of strategies. Tapping into her creativity has been especially therapeutic, helping to take her mind ‘away from that high-pressure, high-stress situation of health care’. Exercise has helped too: she and her husband, an emergency services worker, even took up snorkelling!
She’s also cognisant of implementing the 80/20 rule, where 80 per cent of the time she’s giving it her all and 20 per cent she’s just letting it go. ‘Now that changes,’ she notes, with a laugh, ‘sometimes it’s 60/40 or 50/50. But just giving myself the ability to release the burden of having to give 100 per cent every time has been beneficial. You can’t, you’ll just burn out. You have to cut yourself a bit of slack.’
To her colleagues reeling from the past two years, Mel is a bit like Coach Lasso exhorting his players to believe in hope. ‘If you look at it quantitatively, we’ve had far more sad moments and challenges in the last two years. But if you’re looking at it from a qualitative point of view, through those sad moments we’ve still stood in solidarity, and we have probably been a stronger voice for ourselves. I think the future for our workforce will be far brighter for it.’