Who am I?

Originally, I am from the USA and my family are from NE Tennessee. We came to Australia in 1971 when I was young. Most of my childhood was spent around Bairnsdale apart from three years in boarding school (1980-82). AFL and cricket are my passions as a spectator (I have no talent there), I play golf when I can, socially or alone if I want some time to myself. I enjoyed Motorbike touring but don’t have the time anymore. Finally, I have finches and aviaries where and they are very relaxing to watch.

How I came about nursing

I was casually employed for a few years after leaving school as jobs in the country were hard to get. A friend suggested doing my EN at Bairnsdale and if I didn’t like it, would have something to fall back on. At the time I started nursing, not many males were either being trained or wanting to be trained. Prior to nursing I worked for three years as a casual postie in Paynesville.

Where did you do your graduate program and what was it like?

I didn’t actually do a formal graduate program when I finished my BN. However, due to previous experience in the clinical sphere, I needed to complete the theoretical component of the program which I completed in 2007-8

I originally started my BN in VUT at Footscray in 1997 and transferred to Monash (Peninsula) in 1998. As I got sick halfway through my Masters and needed to recover, so I completed my Masters in 2012.

Where do you currently work?

I joined Monash University in February 2010 as a mental health nursing academic for the undergraduate nursing and midwifery students.

I don’t practice anymore and sometimes miss this role as there were some autonomous aspects of mental health nursing I enjoy. I do clinical supervision with current MHN practitioners and usually they are advanced in their roles.

What are the most rewarding parts of your current role?

I find that teaching the next generation/s of nurses (& MHN’s) not only rewarding but humbling as well. Watching many students develop, professionally and personally, and having a small role in this advancement never ceases to amaze me.

How do you destress after a shift and selfcare?

When I would finish a shift, I was usually wired and needed a few hours to get my head together which after a PM shift meant I’d go to sleep around 2-3AM. Unfortunately, part of the reason I was sick for over two years was I didn’t look after myself, so now I have no choice (& an awesome GP). 

To better answer the question, I seek a balance between work, rest and activities.  

What different areas of nursing have you worked in?

This is a good question and to be honest, every area of nursing I have worked in has been difficult. As an EN, I worked a lot in palliative care and even for terminal children nursing. I work in aged care where a lot of patient’s had long standing behavioural issues and challenges. In mental health, I mostly did acute nursing and the same with community CATT and the ED as an RN.

The least difficult time I did in nursing was being clinical facilitator for 2 years. 99.99% of students were a delight to have and made the job a joy.

What is some advice/thing’s nurses can do to better prepare themselves to get a job and work in your field?

I firmly believe that honesty and self-awareness are crucial to succeed in any field of nursing. Some of the most successful nurses I have worked with can accept responsibility for errors, discuss with the team how to prevent them in the future and accept clinical supervision to advance their practice.

If you plan to have a long career in nursing, knowing how long your “shelf-life” is for certain roles helps too. We can all find a person who is burning (or burnt) out from staying too long in a role. 

Can you share some night shift tips?

I worked 12 hour night shifts in mental health during my undergraduate and for long periods after graduating, however never felt comfortable doing nights. I could stay awake for more than 24 hours on my first shift so it wasn’t too bad. If I were to do night shift now, I’d probably fall asleep.

What would you do if you weren’t a nurse?

I left and did large corporate superannuation for 2 years before returning and doing MH nursing. I honestly don’t know what I would do outside of nursing.

What do you carry on you during a shift?

I would always have a pager in my last clinical role.

What’s in your lunch box!

As I never knew where I would be or at what time, I usually didn’t take lunch or dinner.

Can you think of a funny situation you’ve had while nursing?

There are so many funny moments I’ve had right back to 1985 when I lived in the nurses residence in Bairnsdale. Two nursing student groups before me had a female nurse who kept breaking beds with her “activities” and they had to replace her bed at least three times. The last two times the bed broke, the bed was strengthened and reinforced to prevent malfunction or breaking, to no avail.

Since the nurses residence had strict rules concerning visitors, she would sneak her boyfriend up at odd hours of the day and night. She was slim and so was her boyfriend but they managed to break it for a fourth time. After this occasion, the hospital rushed her through her “make-up time” and were so happy to see the end of her.

My training time in the hospital was hard work but so many funny times … better not go further here.

What is one piece of advice for students you would give who are worried about starting a graduate year?

This is normal and we all have moments when we stress out starting a more advanced role. The good thing about this is it will keep you focussed. I realised quickly that while I am assessing patient’s, they are also assessing me too.

I keep learning in every role I have done and will continue to do so. This is what made me solution focussed and kept me relevant in practice.

What is it like being a nurse in a female dominated profession?

Even though there was another male in my group and two in the groups before me, nursing was female dominated. I remember my first ward report and the Charge Nurse saying; “Nurse Robinson, you are receiving a bad report not because you are a bad nurse, but because you are a male entering a female career” I took this on board and decided that I could prove this right or wrong.

Today, from the event that occurred in 1985, I always advise nurses to find their own style, not copy another nurses. This way, gender or cliques do not determine the nurse you are going to be.

Once I started in mental health, many female nurses would say; “Great, we have a male nurse to deal with the more aggressive patients”. However, there is now more balance between male and females so gender is less noticeable.

My advice to men thinking about nursing, is that it is a great choice and nice to see mature men who look past the female stereotype. I suggest getting good clinical role models and enjoy the journey.

Attitude, observation and communication

In my career, I have often looked back and wondered how I got to where I am now. There were three things that I could always control and work in my favour; attitude, observation and communication. As a result, I would manage the most difficult patients and even succeed in the most toxic clinical teams.

As a result, my passion in nursing would be also my greatest challenge; changing the culture between patients and nursing teams. To be able to get some seriously unwell patient to not only get well but to own the success is so gratifying, along with watching attitude changes from nursing staff who would be less intimidated by mental health.

Finally, I learnt the hard way to take good care of myself and my stress through a couple of pneumothoraces, pain syndrome and realising that my career, health and serenity is more important that ignoring the warning signs


RN, MHN, GCHPE (Grad. Cert. of Health Prof. Ed.)