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.
After nearly a year of writing this column I have had lots of great feedback, constructive and supportive. I have been contacted and approached numerous times about how I started this column and why I do it. So, this article is a super quick insight to my journey with nursing and ACN.
Throughout my life I have been surrounded by people in the medical field, my mum being a nurse, as well as extended family members being in some aspect of health and later, my sister becoming a nurse. I was always interested in health and wellbeing and knew eventually I would end up somewhere in the health field, but I never pictured myself as a nurse. During my high school years, I had aspirations to be a professional sports player and move overseas to train and play. Unfortunately due to injuries I was unable to do so. At the end of year 12 I had no idea what I was going to do and thought if I didn’t go straight to university, I probably wouldn’t ever make it there, more so thinking if I did a travelling gap year, I would never want to come home. Nursing was an obvious choice to study at uni, even if my career wasn’t going to be in nursing, I knew the knowledge and skills learnt through nursing are a fantastic base for any career in the medical field and are also great life skills.
I studied at the University of South Australia, where for the first two years I focused on being social outside of uni, ensuring I kept my grade average high enough for international study tours. I enjoyed some of the work and most placements but was still trying to source my area of interest. In third year, I was lucky enough to be selected to travel to the Cook Islands with nine other students to complete a two-week placement as part of our primary health care topic. This was the event that sparked my interest in areas of nursing that often go unknown. The Cook Islands was a fantastic trip for me. I learnt an incredible amount about international health care, nursing and myself. After this trip, I was peer selected from this group to speak at The South Pacific Nurses Forum in the Solomon Islands. This was my first taste of a nursing forum and conference and I finally felt I had found my niche. I enjoyed public speaking and loved listening to the other presentations. A few of the representatives from across the South Pacific enjoyed my enthusiasm and were extremely accommodating and inclusive. I owe a lot, if not all, of my motivation to the people I travelled with and met during these trips. They showed me how I can use my talents to benefit nursing as a whole.
I was extremely lucky to be accepted into a graduate position. The competition for graduate positions in South Australia is fierce to say the least. I completed my program in a small but tertiary hospital just out of the city in a colorectal, upper GI and gastro ward and emergency. As mentioned in previous articles, I was originally unimpressed that I was given the surgical ward as my rotation. I had no interest in working there, however I was definitely grateful to have a position at all. I will be forever grateful for the knowledge and skills I learnt from this ward and will cherish the friendships and people I met there too. This ward was extremely challenging, it had very unstable patients, heavy workloads and a huge variety of conditions. The nurses worked incredibly hard and they taught me the importance of hard work. This ward gave me a solid foundation of skills and set me up to succeed further on in my career. My second rotation was one I was always excited about: emergency. People would often say, “You’ll love ED” or “I can see you as an ED nurse”. I know what they mean, but I am still struggling to put into words the initial stereotype that comes with being an ED nurse or an ICU nurse. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s important not to discredit those who don’t fit the original stereotype. It’s so important to have a range of skills, backgrounds and knowledge in an ED. The department was pretty similar to what I had expected. The only things I “missed out” on was trauma and strokes, as we were a cardiac speciality emergency. The things that I did see and get to learn about were fantastic and above all it was the style of nursing I enjoyed. It’s the pace, prioritising and the little more autonomy that you get in ED that makes me want to stay in Emergency. Whilst in my graduate year, I pushed to get accredited for as many things as possible, including but not limited to: Cannulation, Advanced Life Support, VAC dressings and code blue trained. Whilst doing these things I often found I got a fair bit of push back from some nurses who would complain I was not experienced enough to complete these. My answer to them is “yes, I do lack experience, can you support me as I gain experience? I plan to use this extended learning to understand my experiences better”. It’s important to acknowledge being an early career nurse, but it’s just as important to reach your potential. Never let people slow you down; instead, encourage them to make a safe environment for you to succeed.
My most recent move was to paediatrics. I’ve always loved kids and wanted to work with them but had very little to do with babies. The idea of a sick baby was terrifying. I am never one to shy away from a challenge so I decided to apply for a position in a NICU so I could learn about babies in a supported environment and become comfortable. I definitely would encourage anyone who loves babies to give special care, HDU or NICU a go. I am more interested in the ICU/HDU side, my NICU is a surgical NICU so less feeding and growing and more stabilising post-surgery. I also recently started job sharing with paeds emergency in the same hospital. I work one-week ED and one-week NICU which gives me what I think is the best of both worlds. I have the higher acuity of NICU but the pace and problem solving of emergency.
My journey with ACN started in my final year of nursing school whilst presenting in The Solomon Islands. I was encouraged to apply for the Emerging Nurse Leader Program with ACN. I had limited time to apply as it closed whilst I was still at the conference and I was pushed to organise the specifics required for the application. I did it, and thank goodness I did. ENL has opened up an entire new world to me. It has given me the support and resources to obtain my potential in my own time and in my own way. Favourite parts: having a mentor, networking, National Nursing Forum, having the support to write this column and of course being part of the Next Gen leadership team. The confidence that ENL has given me has led me to present at The South Pacific Nurses Forum for a second time, along with Catelyn Richards, run workshops and be a part of many professional development sessions. I am very proud and thankful for my nursing journey and am so excited to continue it with ACN. This year I hope to start and complete a post graduate certificate with ACN as well as complete my third year of ENL.
My advice to all early career nurses is: nursing is a big world, it stems much further than hospitals and aged care. Never stop exploring your options until you are completely fulfilled with your career.