For most new nurses, their first year is about settling in, learning and finding their feet –for Charlotte Low this process happened at warp speed as she found herself on the front line of a global pandemic.
As Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service celebrated International Nurses Day this week, Ms Low reflected on an unusual first year of nursing as part of Bundaberg Hospital’s COVID-19 isolation ward.
Ms Low had graduated with a double degree in nursing and paramedic science from QUT when she returned home to start work at Bundaberg Hospital’s Medical Ward 2 in February 2020.
When the pandemic reached Australia, her ward became the specialised COVID-19 ward – restricting staff working there and isolating them from the rest of the hospital team.
“By the end of March, COVID had really hit – so (formal) education went by the wayside because we had to refocus, but we did learn a lot because as we were trusted to step up,” Ms Low said.
“It was daunting. I live with my family, so if I’d got COVID and given it to my family, I would never have forgiven myself.”
But with strong support and robust systems in place, the Medical Ward 2 team pulled together and showed what they were capable of.
Teamwork keeps Bundaberg nurses positive
The ward’s nurse unit manager, Katrina Halloran, said she was proud of her team’s adaptability and unity as they worked through the pandemic, but that this was just one example of how nurses contributed to the health of communities.
“It was very challenging – the most difficult part of leading a team through a pandemic is the shifting sands. One way to lead a team during a stressful time is be very clear in how you communicate,” Ms Halloran said.
“Each day it would be something new or different. I had to be across that, keep the team calm and keep myself calm.
“It felt a little bit isolating. We wanted to maintain safety as much as possible across the HHS, but for us that meant our focus changed and all other staff we would typically rely on heavily were kept away.
“Having that experience really did bring us closer together.”
Challenges bring variety of work for Bundaberg nurses
While 2020 was a challenging time in which to begin her nursing career, Ms Low said she loved the variety of work that each day provided and many career options she could pursue.
“Every day is different. There is so much room to move and keep studying and moving up,” Ms Low said.
“You can specialise in different areas, find something you’re passionate about and pursue it.
“I would like to explore more areas and find an area I am good at, passionate about and want to specialise in.”
Ms Halloran said being trusted every day by patients and their families to care and advocate for them was something unique to nursing and an essential part of the role.
“It’s a privilege every day to come and care for patients who are sick – not everybody can do it,” she said.
“I’m proud to be a nurse every day, I feel very fortunate to be a nurse.”
“We’re trusted by patients and their families, they trust everything we do…. (our job) is to do what we are all trained to do which is to care for patients who are unwell – pandemic or no pandemic.
“Nursing also gives you so many opportunities – there is no door you cannot enter with a bachelor of nursing degree in your pocket. I’ve worked in every Australian state, for the NHS in Norwich and a few other places in the UK, and travelled to Cambodia.”
Nurses thanked for their passion, professionalism
Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery Fiona Sewell said she was proud of her whole team, who displayed the true nursing values of resilience, courage, teamwork, professionalism and especially adaptability.
“WBHHS employs more than 1600 nurses across a huge variety of roles, and I want to acknowledge the unique and important contribution of every one of them,” Ms Sewell said.
“Every day our nurses provide outstanding care across Wide Bay as they support and advocate for their patients in an increasingly challenging environment.
“The past 18 months is a great example of that. Nurses have stepped forward even more, both with working on the frontlines and behind the scenes; delivering care and changing the way we provide care, while ensuring the provision of a safe, high-quality health care and health care system, was continued.
“They never faltered in ensuring our patients were and remain at the centre of everything they do.
“On International Nurses Day I wish to thank all our nurses for their dedication, flexibility and passion that ensures our patients receive the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”
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