Meet Claire, an international nursing student in Australia from Indonesia. She gives you a rundown of her experiences and tips as an international nursing student during COVID19.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Hello there! My name is Claire, and I’m currently in my second year studying Bachelor of Nursing at Monash University in Melbourne. I am an international student from Indonesia. I came last year, just right before the international border closed. That’s being said, this is my first time studying overseas, by myself and away from my parents.

Fun fact about me: I am a tea person! I love to try different varieties of tea; my personal favourite right now is green tea and chamomile! Drinking tea after a busy day helps me to relax; it is calming!

What does it feel like to be an international nursing student?

I think being an international student in Australia is lovely and quite challenging at the same time. I choose to study nursing here because Australia has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Moreover, Australian nurses have created a very significant contribution to the healthcare system in history.

Some hurdles that I faced as an international student were language barriers and homesickness. I came from a non-English speaking country, and this has been quite an issue for me. Sometimes, I do not understand the terms or slang used here and cultural differences. However, the most problematic one for me is homesickness; being away from your family is hard. Moreover, I could not visit them anytime soon. Whenever I felt homesick, I tried to keep myself busy as a distraction or ate my home country traditional food. Luckily, here in Melbourne, there are a lot of good Indonesian restaurants!

Another challenging thing is getting around Melbourne. Luckily, public transport is quite handy here. My suggestions are to apply for an IUSE pass to save up your money for transportation! (I cannot drive, so I am relying on public transportation 24/7) and also plan your day! (taking public transportation might take you more time)

Black Friday

Why do you choose nursing?

At first, it was due to my resolution from my personal experiences with health and healthcare systems, which made me interested in healthcare.

However, after more than a year of studying nursing, I found another answer for that. I think being able to help people is such an honourable thing to do. I always feel extremely happy whenever people smile and thank me, and it is a very irreplicable and unexplainable moment. Since a younger age, human anatomy and physiology have piqued my interest; how human’s bodywork is unique and unpredictable. I believe that health plays an important key role in everyone’s life. By being a nurse, I hope I can positively impact someone’s life journey and to wider society.

Is there any specialities area that you want to pursue in the future?

I am still in the middle of discovering my passion regarding the specialities area that I want to pursue in the future. However, cardiac, theatre and critical care nurse has been on my top lists.

What does being a nurse mean to you?

Getting involved in this honourable and rewarding job is such an honour, and I feel very grateful for that. I believe that nurses play a vital role in people’s health and the development of the healthcare system. Nurses advocate and accompany people in their most vulnerable moments; they give reassurance, education, and the best evidence-based care available to them. Moreover, nurses also become a bridge to the link between the patient and other health disciplines.

What does your course look like?

There are three types of classes: tutorials, workshops, and practicals. We also have online lectures that we can watch anytime as well.

Tutorials and workshops are pretty similar. In this class, we usually had a list of questions to do derived from a scenario. Sometimes, we create a mind map or diagram to summarise the answers. Everything is done through discussion in a group of students.

Practicals are the most exciting class for me. I can get involved directly and learn new skills that are essentials in nursing. We usually get divided into a group of students. Then the teachers will provide us with a scenario. We need to work it out together, and the mannequin in the class usually pretends to be our patient.

During my first year, I attended PASS (Peer-Assisted-Study-Session), run by previous students who have completed the unit. I found this class to help me a lot. I can learn through different perspectives and receive some tips to get through my first year. It was a pretty challenging time for me, transitioning from high school to university. Now that I’m in my second year, I applied and became one of the PASS leaders. It is my turn to support first-year students!

How do you prepare for class?

I always do my pre-class learning before classes; this helps me understand the materials better and know what questions to ask if I need further clarification.

Everyone has different studying styles; I found that creating a summary note and watching videos has been the most effective method.

I tried to create a study diary or planner to track what I needed to do throughout the weeks and ensure I did not miss anything important. We have assignments as well; I try to divide my time and start my assignment two weeks before the due date minimally.

Where have you had some of your placements, which one is your favourite and why?

I had my placements in aged care, general medicines and mental health wards.

I found general medicines to be exciting. I saw a variety of patients coming with any health issues from head to toe. I learned a lot during my placements in general medicines. I became more familiar with various diseases, medications, treatments and nursing management. I also learned to manage my time better to be more efficient as the general medicines ward was dynamic and fast-paced.

What are some interesting clinical experiences that really stuck with you and why?

I was caring for a lady in her 50s, and she had a fall recently. I was helping her with hygiene in the morning after I got my consent from her. In the middle of showering, she broke into tears. She thanked me and said that she hadn’t had a shower since she was admitted to the hospital, making her feel awful.  I wasn’t expecting her to say that to me, and I felt very touched; it made me realise that I had chosen the right career. Sometimes, even a tiny little thing can be very meaningful to someone, such as helping them with showering or ADLs.

What are your biggest tips to ace for placements?

  • Revise what you have studies
  • Know your “Scope of Practice” as a student on placements and provider guidelines
  • Prepare any paperwork that you need to complete from university
  • Plan your placement goals (and communicate this to your buddy nurse before the shift start). Create a checklist!!!
  • Take a good rest and reward yourself afterwards!

What are the things that you always bring to clinical placements?

  • Clinical portfolio from my university (assessment, reflection, pharmacology and clinical activity log)
  • Pen, highlighter and a mini notebook
  • Nursing pouch, stethoscope, penlight and nursing FOB watch
  • Hair tie and clothes for changing (before and after the shift)
  • Lunchbox, water bottle, snacks and supplements/vitamins
  • Hand cream (in nursing, we constantly wash/clean our hands, and this can damage your skin, I always bring a hand cream in my pocket so I can use it after cleansing my hands)

What does it feel like to be in clinical settings during covid-19?

The hospital that I attended increases its infection control prevention. We were required to wear tier 1 PPE when providing direct care to the patient, including a google/face shield and an N95 mask. We need to get ourselves fit tested to see which N95 is compatible. As a student on placement, we were not allowed to provide care to patients suspected of/ having covid. Nowadays, the hospital also prevents visitors from coming and visiting the patient unless they have exceptional circumstances.

How has covid-19 affected your studies?

I started my study last year in 2020, and I began my life as a university student online. It was pretty hard for me, who came from outside Australia, and I didn’t know anyone in here. I am very glad that social media is widely accessible right now. I met some of my friends through online classes and groups on social media. We occasionally had online study sessions or gatherings via zoom or another platform throughout the lockdown. All of my lectures, tutorials and workshops were online, but practical classes continued to be delivered on-campus.

My placement is get affected by the pandemic because fewer healthcare providers want to accept students. Some of the students got their placements cancelled or delayed multiple times; even worse did not get allocated at all.

Can you share your experience as a RUSON?

RUSON stands for Registered Undergraduate Student of Nursings. I began my work as a RUSON in February this year. I worked in a brain injury rehabilitation ward. The duties of RUSON in this ward is similar to AINs role; these include assisting patient with activities of daily livings (hygiene, eating, mobility/transfer), restocking supplies and infection control (i.e., cleaning).

The challenging part of this job is when you need to balance between work and study. In the beginning, the new ward environment and colleagues also contribute a significant factor. However, as time went by, I found this ward quite interesting. I learned a lot from my job; I feel more confident in communicating with patients and colleagues and am familiar with clinical situations.

Iā€™m off to work!

How do you support yourself?

I work as a RUSON and PASS leader, and it helps to cover my living costs. When summer/winter break started, I took more shifts as a RUSON because, during holidays, international students have unlimited working hours. I also received a scholarship to help me pay for my accommodation.

What are some of the things that you wished you knew before entering the nursing field?

Sometimes, we might encounter some unpleasant or harmful experiences in clinical settings. I always tried to reflect on this and think about what I could learn and improve next time. I believe it is important to remember that we need to take care of our health and safety as healthcare workers. If we feel unsafe or uncomfortable, we need to raise this. For example, we can escalate and talk to our buddy nurse or nurse educator if we are placements.