I love nursing. I would say I’m a nursing geek! I really enjoy meeting new people from all walks of life, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. That’s the key to everything; if you don’t enjoy being a nurse, you’re less passionate about the profession and at times, it reflects on the care and compassion you can give to another person. The thing with nursing is, it’s changing as a profession. Treatments and interventions are always changing as technologies and medicines advance, meaning... you have to learn along the way.
I originally trained in Scotland to be a registered nurse, graduating in 1998. My first job was in Birmingham in England, working in infectious diseases and tropical medicine. After nine months, I realised that I was not a fan of bugs that come out of people! I went into cancer nursing a little ahead of my schedule of my long-term goal. I had thought I would wait until I was more grown up before becoming an oncology nurse, but it’s worked out for me.
I worked in an Oncology/Haematology Bone Marrow Transplant specialist hospital for about three years in Canada, which is where my future husband also worked as a nurse. When our contracts were completed and we had had our fill of the cold, we backpacked around North America, including Alaska, before coming to Australia. My husband is from Sydney, so we settled there for about ten years. I worked at a large metropolitan hospital first as a registered nurse, then as a specialist nurse and then as a clinical nurse consultant in oncology and haematology.
After the birth of our first child, we realised that Sydney wasn’t for us anymore. At the time, I was completing a Master of Advanced Nursing, majoring in Education at UTS, so we waited until I graduated in 2010 before moving to Port Macquarie. Initially, we were worried that moving to a regional area would mean it would be difficult to maintain our careers, as there was only one base hospital. How wrong could we be! At first, we were employed as casual nurses in the casual pool at first and very quickly, found ourselves in similar nursing positions but without the stress of traffic and beautiful beaches.
However, it’s been nine years, and we’re both still nursing! Now, I am an oncology nurse consultant within a large outpatient cancer centre. For the past year, I’ve been employed as a transitional nurse practitioner. In Port Macquarie, there has been steady population growth; this means there’s more people moving here for the same reasons we did, but the increase means that health infrastructure is presently struggling to keep up with the demand! Regional areas still depend on metropolitan services to assist with high acuity patients due to being unable to provide certain specific interventions and treatments.
As with many Cancer Centres both regionally and within the metro areas, we are treating a lot more people. The introduction and advancement of targeted and immunotherapies means we now have the capability to treat people who we never would have had the ability to treat before. Because of this, we recognised the need for a nurse practitioner in our department. Nurse practitioner, for me, is the ultimate nursing goal, but it’s the transition from being a nurse consultant to being an autonomous practitioner within my field, which is both exciting and scary.
Doing a Master of Nurse Practitioner means I can help patients in regional areas to be able to access the same services that they would in a metropolitan area without having to travel such long distances for their ongoing care. We have people who travel over 100 kilometres in a day just for a 5-minute treatment daily. It is an additional burden that could easily be addressed by a satellite clinic closer to home. By training to become a Nurse Practitioner, we can help patients feel like they have the availability of treatment closer to home so that they’re not making decisions about treatment options based on the distance that they have to travel to.
With this training and knowledge, we can provide more service and care, which is so exciting! We can do effective health promotion and education as well, and treat people at the same time without requiring them to travel so far. This can stop the system from being overloaded, it can prevent people from travelling so far so often and it can provide more of a community setting as well.
I chose to study at UTS because it is the best university to do the Nurse Practitioner course. By the time you’re choosing to study as an adult, you are fully invested not only in the course but in the outcome! You have a lot more at risk: you’ve got your family’s wellbeing, you’re paying for your course, you’re paying for your travel to and from Sydney. Because of this, you want to make sure that you’re getting the education that you want.
Furthermore, when deciding to go back to study a Master degree, you want to ensure that you’re giving it your all. I don’t want to do a mediocre job; I want to make sure that I am skilled enough and equipped enough to contribute back to the workforce. At UTS, I feel I have the knowledge and support from the teaching staff to succeed in my studies. I knew how well UTS worked for me during previous study and while I do travel a lot to attend my workshops, it was an easy choice to come here where I knew I could trust the facilities and the staff to support me.
Rochelle, the course coordinator, will check in every now and again to make sure that you are on the right track and that you’re not struggling to balance all your responsibilities. It is an intense course, and it is hard work, especially because you have to do full-time work on top of your studies and try and juggle a family and personal life.
The most rewarding aspect has been the collegial shift. While I have worked as a senior clinician in the department for a while, I’ve found that my mentors have a lot of belief and support in me. Now, they seek me out for advice and guidance! Studying this course has enriched my nursing career, and has also inspired other nurses I work with. I’m able to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained. Likewise, studying this course makes you think a little deeper, and makes you look at things a little differently. Even if you’ve been a nurse for a long time, you gain a new way of thinking.
If you’re considering doing the Master of Nurse Practitioner, I would say: Be prepared to work hard. Be prepared to learn a lot. It is very rewarding but be prepared to not sleep a lot during session!
Find out more about studying the Master of Nurse Practitioner at UTS.