I decided it was time to look for work in a completely different field. Living the stereotype of a young Aussie in London, I ended up waitressing in a restaurant with several other young expats and Australian mates. The saddest part about this was that I was actually earning more money than I had been as an HCA, when I was using my degree and prior skills, and responsible for people’s lives.
It wasn’t long before I was managing shifts and had the responsibility of coordinating a team of ten to fifteen people, counting the takings, banking, resolving customer complaints, and liaising with suppliers and other managers. I supplemented this work with regular shifts through the nursing agency in a privately owned hyperbaric chamber at a private hospital in North London. I am eternally grateful to have finished my London experience working in this job, as it was a completely different working environment. The chamber was directed by an Australian who had been involved in a hyperbaric unit in Melbourne. I still firmly believe that the direction of the Australian-trained leader at this facility was what made all the difference to both patient care, and the working environment.
Patients were always number one and at the centre of our work. The principles of compassion, empathy and professionalism that I had been indoctrinated with were expected every second of every day. The team was cohesive, supportive, informed and above all, loved what they did.
Through this job I had the pleasure of meeting many people from all over the world – from scuba divers with ‘the bends’, to patients with non-healing wounds, to royalty. I had the opportunity to teach courses that the chamber ran; utilising my nursing skills. I had the reward of seeing others learn life-saving techniques and become confident in helping those in need. As an Australian nurse, this is what I had expected workplaces to be like in a developed country. As it was, I had to search for other Australians within the NHS who shared my values, ethics and professionalism we had all been taught back home.
On returning home to Australia, thoroughly dissuaded with nursing and not feeling safe to return to the ward, I re-evaluated my priorities and started work as a paralegal in a property law firm in Melbourne. To say I was scared of nursing would have been an understatement. I was convinced that I would never return to the field again after having the experiences that I had on the wards and homes of London.
For a year I resettled back into life in the world’s most livable city, spending the majority of my time devoted to my newest passion – rowing. Work was merely something to fill in the time between morning and afternoon training sessions. However, as they say, “once a nurse, always a nurse”, and it wasn’t long before I felt a longing to utilise my skills and make a difference to peoples lives again.
As fate would have it, I have ended up here, at Ausmed Education, combining my love of nursing, patient care and education, with time left in the day to keep up my rowing. The fundamental ethos here is centred on professionalism and patient-centred care.
I have often pondered what brings about such polar attitudes and differences between the nurses I have met in both countries. Is it purely the poor funding and model of the English NHS? Is it the nurse:patient ratio? Is it a different focus in education?
A graduate nurse in Australia is fully qualified and expected to provide holistic, evidence-based, compassionate and professional care to our patients. We are solely responsible for the emotional wellbeing, physical state, and coordination of care for our patients on our shift. It is for this reason that we are life-long learners, always looking to improve our practice and remain current. Intrinsically we are conditioned to appreciate the value and role that nurses have to play in our society. We will all require medical attention at some point, or a loved one will, and so we all understand that without nurses, we will not have the expected care delivered to us. In the UK however, this basic underpinning of the profession just does not seem to exist.
From what I could see, nursing was still perceived as a vocation in London – rather than a profession. UK graduate nurses seemed severely restricted in their skills, competencies and authority on the floor. The entire model of the NHS does not support the nursing profession – nurses are not held accountable for their care, basic nursing wages are appalling when compared to entry level Nurses in Australia, and the ward structure does not allow for holistic management of patients.
Without having had the experience that I did, I would still be in my comfortable, lucky bubble, not realising how patients elsewhere could have their care improved simply through education and support of their care providers. This is what spurs me on each day to be the best nurse that I can be. And what it all comes down to, I have realised, is having your eyes opened.