By Liam Jackson MACN, Stage Five ACN Emerging Nurse Leader
I obtained my Bachelor of Nursing from Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane in November 2016. I was the first person in my family to go to university and always desired to become a children’s nurse. However, whilst my fellow classmates were starting their new graduate nurse roles in January/February of 2017, I was still working as an assistant nurse without a graduate position. I had, as my parents put it, placed all my eggs in one basket and was unfortunately unsuccessful in applying for a pediatric new graduate role.
To say I was gutted was an understatement. Three years of hard gruelling work, juggling a full-time job and study load, doing assessment after assessment and completing over 800 hours of unpaid clinical placement and I was without a job to show for it. My mother, the wise woman (and nurse) she is, advised me to never give up and to apply for every and any registered nurse job available. I could hardly remember the number of applications, resumes and cover letters that I wrote. I applied for general practice clinics, aged care homes, rehab hospitals and all medical places in-between.
I was fortunate enough to get a job as an agency Registered Nurse (RN) in aged care, which eventually led me to a permanent job as a Clinical Manager/RN in a lovely aged care home in Brisbane. Whilst aged care was on the other end of the life-span to which I desired to nurse, I loved the residents, staff and facility that I worked for. As I began to become comfortable in my new workplace, I was offered the opportunity to undertake the portfolio of infection prevention and control. I obtained a postgraduate certificate in the area which helped my understanding and enabled me to assist in the successful re-accreditation of the standard within my workplace.
As 6-months passed at my new workplace, mid-year new graduate jobs had been advertised. And whilst I enjoyed my aged care workplace, I still envisioned my ultimate nurse role to be within the area of paediatrics. With great support and encouragement from my family, friends and understanding colleges. I was fortunately successful for a mid-year paediatric new graduate program at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane (Now Queensland Children’s Hospital).
My interviewing panel was blown away at my resilience, perseverance and determination which I had gained since my previous interview and could tell that I was driven by a strong passion for paediatric care. They had seen that even when presented with rejection, I had come back, equipped with more knowledge, skill and clinical practice to enable me to successfully obtain a job.
I began my new graduate role in August 2017 and started on the paediatric medical isolation and oncology ward. My previous skills obtained from my aged care position were invaluable throughout my transition year. I was able to confidently work well under pressure, liaise well with family members of my patients, and understand complex situations such as the palliative or dying patient. It made me realise that aged care and paediatrics aren’t so different after all, and in fact, they share a wide number of similarities as both the aged and young are known to be vulnerable populations within our society.
Now almost four years on from registration, my career has taken me many places. From aged care to paediatric oncology to working with critically unwell children in the paediatric Intensive care unit. I completed further studies with a postgraduate certificate in child and youth health whilst undertaking a role as a school health nurse, bringing me back to my primary and community care roots which I began my career in.
I eventually moved from Brisbane to Sydney to work for the paediatric oncology/bone marrow transplant service at the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, where I completed my Masters of Advanced Nursing Practice specialising in paediatric care.
I have been lucky enough to work with other early-career nurses, students and new graduates, many of whom, have expressed to me their uncertainty in their skills, abilities and knowledge in nursing. They have expressed their desire to work in paediatrics, but think they are not good enough, don’t have the right grades or failed at that important new graduate interview…..
The best advice I can give to them is to cherish the journey that their career takes them on and remember that nursing is not a marathon not a sprint. It is important to savour the clinical experiences and knowledge that you learn throughout your student and transition years. It is also important to remember that getting your first preference, whilst great, isn’t the be-all and end-all. If you truly desire to get that ‘dream role’ all that is required is hard work, determination and the ability to focus on what is needed to get you prepared to come back, prepared for that job – better than ever.
Get a mentor, a friend or a family member to read that cover letter, resume or job application. Make sure to read, re-read and read that job description again and again. Pay attention to the key points and don’t forget a good spell check!
Try to smile in your interview, take a few deep breathes… it is okay to pause and have a think. Remember. everyone has had to interview in the past, they know that you are nervous. Take it easy and remember to breath! Relax…. you got this!
I know that I would not be the nurse that I am today without my career’s complicated beginning. Those six months of aged care ensured that I was a confident, safe and caring nurse, with good time management and assessment skills. Without that foundation I am positive that I would not have had the confidence to pursue further postgraduate study,or be prepared for changing clinical roles or even moving interstate to work for a major tertiary children’s network.
At the risk of sounding like a cliché…
Everything happens for a reason and I wouldn’t change a thing 🙂