By Lucy Osborn MACN (ENL)
This column, The Scrubs that Fit, is all about the highs and lows of being a junior nurse, from the perspective of an ACN Emerging Nurse Leader. The aim of these blog posts is to help ease the transition from university to grad years and beyond. Find Lucy on ACN’s neo and on Instagram @aussie_nurses.
Sometimes the most rewarding moments in life comes from places you least expect. This was certainly the case for me during my first graduate program rotation. In this Scrubs that Fit column, I tell the story of how an unwanted placement in Colorectal and upper gastrointestinal (GI) shaped the nurse I am today.
I’ve always wanted to be an emergency nurse, my mum and sister were both emergency nurses and loved what they did. They spoke about their jobs with such passion and I had decided — even before university — that was the career path for me. For every university placement we were asked to place preferences and I always put the Emergency Department (ED) first. Whilst I was never lucky enough to get my first preference, I always made the most of the different areas I was placed in as a student.
After I received an offer for a graduate position in a hospital I had the chance to request preferences for where I wanted to work. I wasn’t interested in going anywhere else besides ED. With the exception of geriatrics, Colorectal and upper (GI) was at the bottom of my list. The thought of dealing with faeces all day was not one I had envisaged when imagining myself at work. So of course I was placed in surgical colorectal upper GI and gastro for my first rotation. I was totally gutted, I even sent an email to the coordinator pleading to complete a full year in ED, but to no avail. I chose to think positively, it was only for a six month rotation and I hoped there I would still have the opportunity to learn. And learn I did as the placement was one of the most valuable experiences of my career!
Like any new nurse I was terrified on my first day. There were new faces and our ward was big, busy and at times heavy. I was pleasantly surprised at how much there was going on, there were all levels of activity which included a few High Dependency Unit (HDU) beds. The allocations were 4:1 and you could have a variety of different patients. Even though we were only meant to specialise in colorectal, upper GI and gastro, we often had outliers too. There was always something to learn on this ward and there were a lot of very knowledgeable nurses.
The skills I learnt during this rotation set me up to be a very well-rounded nurse. Whether it be stoma care, fluid and electrolyte imbalances, VAC dressing, nasogastric tubes, code blues, diabetes, catheters, liver management, you name it I saw it. I finished with all of my competencies signed included cannulation.
The rotation experience meant that when I finally started in ED I had the skill set to really thrive. I found myself being able to concentrate on the pace of the work and the acuity of patients rather than having to spend time learning about their conditions. Overall I was so happy that my career started the way it did, it was really eye opening and shaped the nurse I am today. Even though I was certain I was going to be an ED nurse, I currently job share between a paediatric ED and a surgical Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), my skills from my first grad rotation are used every day within both areas. I still love ED but I love the NICU just as much.
The best part of my rotation in this ward was the support and friendship of the staff. Three years later and I am still friends with the nurses and doctors I met. I will be forever grateful to the team and hope they know how important their time with me was in shaping my nursing career.
My advice to those applying for positions is do not discriminate areas of nursing, even if you are 100% sure that you belong in a different area. Give them all a chance, nursing skills are transferable across many areas, take advantage of every opportunity you are given and do it all with a smile.