Insights from an Outsider


Hi, my name is Katharina but mostly I’m called Kat. I’m 36 years old and from a beautiful eastern-German town called Leipzig. Some might know the city from European football (or soccer as it’s called in Australia).

Leipzig market place during Christmas time

(Foto credit:

Generally, I like to travel and get to know new cultures. Somehow, I combined that mostly with living abroad as I have already lived in 4 countries and 6 cities (overall 12 moves and counting). I currently live in Melbourne but also called tiny Southside (Alabama, US) and Newcastle upon Tyne (England) my home. Somehow my stays always included education such as going to high school in the US and completing my Bachelor and Master of Science degree in the UK. I am very passionate about life-long learning and education.

Graduating in the UK (Photo: Kat)

Other than that, I’m interested in a lot of things – from dancing to eating, and as a true Melbournian coffee and food (but contrary to public opinion on Germans – I dislike beer).

What are you doing at the moment with your career?

I do not really have a career in the sense of planning out from the beginning of what I will do for a living until retirement. I – so far – followed my heart and my interest. Luckily that seemed to work for me despite a few detours. Vocationally, I have an HR background where I worked as an HR manager and recruiter for a German engineering company. However, I couldn’t have the impact I liked and became bored. And with a bucket full of other reasons and dreams, I decided in 2017 to follow my passion and once again go into education. Now, I’m currently in the midst of my PhD at Monash University. I enjoy working along with curious people with many different backgrounds. I love being able to read about things I’m interested in and do a lot of thinking and debating.

Trying to make sense of some academic reading – daily life of a PhD student (Photo: Kat)

Parallel, I started teaching possible future HR managers as a tutor. Not all of the students are always interested. However, it’s very rewarding when I do reach some of my students broadening their horizons by telling stories about my own work and life experiences.

What was your journey to starting nursing research?

I confess – I rather stumbled into the world of nursing due to my PhD. Initially, it was not the main aim but quickly became to the focus. I am learning about a new world – Australia, health care, nursing, …different culture and different language but oh so interesting and exciting. I’m learning along the way how to navigate it such as the difference between RN and EN (Thanks to The Nurse Break article I think I get it now).

The PhD project looks at nurses’ personal engagement and voice at work from the perspective of registered nurses in Australia. The aim is to propose HR voice channels and opportunities which actually resonate with nurses and their work environments. With this, I’m hoping to improve nurses’ work experience increasing well-being and tackling turnover. I am not a numbers person – I’m a people person. That is why I stayed away from surveys and statistics but focus on nurses’ actual opinion. This means that I’m interviewing participants and asking for reflective diary writing to give them the opportunity to tell their stories and not impose academic opinion on them.

Project recruitment flyer.

Explaining HR

I know that HR usually doesn’t have the best reputation – they impose things, ask for a million documents and then tell you constantly what policies and processes you need to follow where not everything seems to make sense. However, we’re doing this with good intention (at least the HR professionals I know) as we’re trying to bridge the gap of business and employees. Behind doors, we’re trying to fight for our staff members. We try to understand circumstances and treat everyone fair. It’s not always obvious but we want to help.

Why I think what I am doing is important

Particularly one incident has given me confidence in my project and its importance. In April this year (2019) I had an unfortunate accident when a driver didn’t stop at a zebra crossing despite slowing down earlier. The car knocking me to the ground rolled over both my ankles which caused a triple fracture and soft tissue damage. I was very grateful I had wonderful nurses and hospital staff who looked after me when I was most frightened regarding the surgery being so far away from home. Nurses and hospital staff also saved me from the surgeon’s decision who wanted to send me home into a 2nd storey apartment without a lift on 2 CAM-boots not even 24 hours after surgery. This made me realise how crucial nurses are to society and sharing my research I saw how much it hit a spot with them.

Getting back on my feet (Photo: Kat)

Secondly, I believe educating people is important in every aspect of our life. Nurses educate their patients on how to stay and become healthy and they educate colleagues on how to give their best patient care. I would like to educate my HR colleagues on the importance of different contexts such as nursing. I would like to put the “human” back into HR and focus less on the “resource”. And maybe – just maybe – I can bring about some change and some of my research resonates with one person who then goes and changes something. My own little butterfly affect.

What is one piece of advice for students you would give?

Remain curious about what you learn.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done in your life so far?

Swimming with whale sharks at the Ningaloo Reef in April 2017. A dream coming true and paving the way for new dreams to be formed and followed – moving to Australia.

Swimming with a whale shark (Photo Credit: Sam)

What’s in your lunch box?

I try to pre-cook easy and healthy things like chicken and green veggies. But that becomes boring with time, so I go around campus for Indonesian or Thai food. The best is coming home and having my Spanish partner cook.

Seafood Paella– the best lunch ever (Photo: Kat)

How do you deal with rude or mean colleagues?

Having worked in various jobs, I’ve come across a handful of mean or even rude colleagues. When I was younger and less experienced, I just tried to swallow it and not say anything. But that made matters worse as I felt hurt and the other person just kept going. I eventually had enough and started to call out people on their behaviour by just asking them “What do you mean with this?”. Having to explain themselves in my face and sometimes in front of other people startled them and showed them they have crossed the boundaries. I try to be compassionate and empathetic of people’s emotions, however, chin up, chest out and looking them straight in the eye while kindly confronting them helps to prevent future incidences – at least for me.

If that doesn’t help – go to a trustworthy colleague and/or your HR person and bring the matter forward officially. Especially HR is there to help you even though it doesn’t always seem that way.

Life’s better with great colleagues – particularly when there’s food involved! (Photo: Kat)

Kat’s three final notes:

First, thank you, everyone, for doing what you are doing. I am aware that your job is often undervalued and underappreciated. So, by focusing my project on RNs I’m trying to say thank you for your work. Secondly, I know that nursing is about care and community. So please keep on caring for your community including your colleagues. Finally, if you are thinking about participating in the project, I have still some spots available. For more information just send me a short email ( And if you would like to know more about the PhD journey or Leipzig, send me an email as well. ???? I am happy to answer any questions.

Thank you for reading. I hope that you have a great festive season (despite possibly having to work) and a Happy New Year 2020 – keep on following your dreams!