We finish up our interview with Irish blogger and nurse Terrie McEvoy Fitzpatrick by thanking her for being a part of our incredible healthcare staff; those who are risking their lives every time they go into work to battle against COVID-19. In return, she simply responds: “Honestly, I’m just doing my job”. The 30-year-old doesn’t want any praise for what she is doing, when tens of thousands of people are doing the same as her across the country. And we respect her all the more for it. So, VIP wants to take this opportunity to thank each and every nurse, doctor and other frontline worker who is going into their job everyday, apprehensive and scared about what the day will bring, and helping to save lives as they battle this deadly virus. Thank you all, so much.
In this exclusive VIP interview, Terrie provides an insight into what it’s like working on the frontline right now, and how she mentally prepares for each shift in the hospital. She also tells us how she manages to switch off in the evenings, how her husband David (the man responsible for these gorgeous pictures of her, taken by him at their new home) is her rock, and she shares the joy and calm that their newly adopted rescue dog, Jake, has brought to their lives.
Hi Terrie! You recently returned to nursing so you can help out on the frontline during the pandemic. Tell us why you made that decision?
Well, I’ve wanted to go back for a while, I’ve been saying since December that I wanted to go back because I missed nursing; I find that it keeps me grounded. Social media is such a crazy place and I’ve found that my job satisfaction from blogging just wasn’t really… hitting the spot! My job satisfaction prior to this was seeing somebody get better or seeing a wound that you’ve been dressing for a few weeks heal up. I really missed that side of things. I was in the process of getting all my documentation together anyway, then I got a call from a manager saying, “Look, they’re going to be recruiting nurses over the next few weeks. Would you be interested?” And I was like, “Yes, 1,000 per cent, I’ll come back to help.” I couldn’t sit at home with all those skills and let everybody else get stuck in. I was always going to go back; it was a no-brainer.
It’s obvious that nursing is something you are really passionate about.
I just love people. I’m such a chatterbox and I missed patients and their families…and I missed the grind! I know that’s mad and some people are like, “Are you mental, I’d much rather be home watching TV”, but I just missed it. Not that blogging isn’t tough work, Jesus it is, but it’s a different type of work. I’m used to being physical all the time, that’s the kind of work I find most rewarding.
They say nursing is a vocation, not a job, so it probably always stays with you.
Oh, you never lose it. I’ve had followers messaging me before this going, “Are you not a nurse anymore?”, and I’m thinking, “I’ll always be a nurse!”
You posted recently saying how tough all of this is. We can’t even imagine.
Yeah, it’s just mentally and physically exhausting, but we’re getting there. We’re really leaning on each other in the hospitals, I think as long as we have each other’s backs it’ll continue to get easier. It’s all about working as a team.
You’ve used your platform of over 200,000 Instagram followers to encourage people to stay at home and flatten the curve, which is a great use of social media.
It’s crazy, I still don’t know how I have that many followers! I feel like I don’t deserve it! [Laughs] But it is great to use it in a positive way, and I have so many healthcare workers to chat with on it too. They’re saying that it’s great to see somebody with such a high following get stuck in with them. It’s very encouraging. They’ve inspired me, too.
How do you mentally prepare for a tough shift?
I don’t think about it! I have a good night’s sleep, I eat well the night before, I have a good breakfast and I take things day by day. It’s hard to explain, you just don’t think about it; you just go in and get it done. Otherwise, you’ll just exhaust yourself worrying.
As you said, it’s so mentally draining…
It is. Something that I encourage all doctors and nurses to do is mind themselves. We’re all checking in with each other, asking how we’re all feeling, so I think it’s really important to check in with your colleagues.
How do you melt away the stress of the day when you walk back in your front door?
I’ve always been good at leaving it in the hospital. I listen to podcasts, like The Good Glow by Georgie Crawford, and music – the first thing I do is shower and throw on some really fun tunes, like Gerry Cinnamon and those kinds of bangers! I don’t like talking about COVID-19 when I’m at home, if David starts talking about stats and stuff I’m just like, “I don’t want to know!” I just don’t want to hear any of it on my days off. I think if you were to come home and talk about how awful your day was, you’re just manifesting those negative thoughts into your body. I think it’s really important that you lean towards positivity during such a stressful time. Another thing that I love to do is read positive quotes. I don’t know what it is, but if I’m having a really bad day, I’ll post a really positive quote on Instagram. So, if you ever see that, just know that I’m probably not okay! [Laughs]
There is something soothing in reading posts that remind us ‘this too shall pass’.
I’m a real believer in energy and I just think that you get what you give out. I’ve always been a big believer in that, even as a child and as a teenager. It wasn’t until I got older that I saw other adults living by this belief and I thought, “Oh my God, I’ve done this my whole life!” So, I think it’s really important to lean towards positivity. Don’t come home after a long hard day and watch a scary film, instead watch a Disney film! And obviously, Jake has been a major distraction; it’s been great having him around!
Yes, Jake, the rescue doggie you both just adopted!
We adore him! So, the day before we went into lockdown, my friend sent me a picture of Jake and it was a very bad picture, but I love scruffy, crazy-looking dogs. I love the underdogs! Give me all the madness! He was in the pound and straight away, I knew I’d take him. His personality is lovely, he’s such a gorgeous little soul and so friendly and clever.; I just think it was meant to be. When I come home from work, I have him to look forward to! Obviously, I have David too but… [laughs]
Is David being an absolute rock right now? We have him to thank for these gorgeous photos, he’s a talented man!
Yeah, he’s amazing. David and I have been together for seven years, even before the blogging and nursing, so he knows me inside out! If I get in the car after a shift and I don’t say much, he knows not to ask, so he knows me better than I know myself. I came home the other night and he asked if I wanted anything to eat and I said no… but then he brought me over some toast and I just wolfed it down! He knew I was hungry!
You two seem like you have such a fun relationship. How important is it to have someone who makes you laugh at a time like this?
Yeah, we’re definitely messers, so it’s great to have that lightheartedness and to be easy-going, especially when life gets tough.
You just got your wedding photos back – it must be lovely to have all those happy memories flooding back?
Yeah, and we got our full wedding video, we watched it a few weeks back, and I was sobbing because I never got to see the ceremony the way everyone else did. It’s crazy, I remember on the day just walking down the aisle and I thought that I had died because everyone was just crying! I was like, “Oh my God! Has something awful happened?!” I don’t remember much of the ceremony and it started raining as we were leaving, so I didn’t get to take it all in. So, it’s amazing that we have photos and videos from the wedding now, to sit down and enjoy.
It really did look like a good let-your-hair-down kind of wedding…
Oh, it was so good! It was such good craic, that’s all it was. We wanted everyone to have a good time and to be well looked after. Lots of people said on the day that it was a very Terrie and David type of day!
That’s what you want, for your wedding to reflect you as a couple.
Yeah, exactly. The little things didn’t bother me. For example, it started raining when we were going down to do our photos on our way down to the beach. The photographers were panicking and David was getting a bit angsty and I was like, “Do you know what? We’re going back up to the party!” He was like, “What about the photos, what about the photos?” and I was like “No, this is fake fun, let’s go have real fun.” So we didn’t do the photos! The photographers said we could do them in a day or two down by the beach, so I did my hair and makeup again, we went down on the Sunday and took photos in my dress! [Laughs] You only get one chance at the day, feck the photos!
Following the wedding, you both moved home from Australia…
Yes, we had given up our apartment just before we came home because we knew we’d be home for six weeks to two months, and rent in Sydney is just so expensive, so we didn’t want to be spending all that money when we weren’t actually there. So, we got rid of the apartment, put some stuff into storage and gave other stuff to friends and then when we got home, I was like, “David, I just can’t go back.” I was getting really homesick while we were over there and when it came time to go back, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t face the journey back; I was ready to come home. He was just like, “Whatever makes you happy, let’s do it,” so it was a bit of a shock to the system and obviously finding somewhere to live here was stressful, but we’re really lucky to have the support of our friends and family. They were there to accommodate us while we were getting our feet off the ground, but we got there in the end.
You must be glad to have made the call to come back here considering how much life has changed.
Yeah, and it’s nice to be helping out in the Irish health service too, rather than the Australian. It’s nice to be home too because obviously I worry about my mum and dad, and David’s dad. They’re a bit older, so if anything were to happen with COVID-19 – touch wood – it’s one less worry being here. I think Irish leaders have been incredible too, Leo (Varadkar) has been brilliant. When all this is over they need a long deserved break! I’d say they don’t sleep, they must be exhausted. I’ve so much respect for them.
Speaking of sleep; in our last issue, Vicky Phelan told us that when she struggles to nod off at night, she goes to her ‘happy place’, the ocean. Where might yours be after a hectic day on the COVID wards?
I do this weird thing that helps me to fall asleep; I think of a route in my mind, somewhere I’ve walked to before – even the shop! – and I make my way there. I’ve always done it and it makes me sleepy everytime.
This crisis has made us very grateful for good health. What else has it made you become grateful for?
That’s a tough one because I always try to practice being grateful for everything, I always go by the mantra that life is short. Seeing so many awful things in the hospital over the years has made me fully appreciate it. But one thing I am grateful for is just being home. I keep saying it, but I’m so glad we made the right decision, and clichéd as it may be, I’m happy I followed my heart.
IntervIew: Niamh Devereux
Photography: David Fitzpatrick