Proud to introduce another contributor to The Nurse Break, James (RN/Paramedic) who writes for us below in this QnA about his unique career so far.

Write for us here

Disclaimer: Opinions/Comments are my own and not the views of my employer.

About James

My name is James and I’m a 26-year-old registered nurse and registered paramedic. I grew up in Sydney but came down to Melbourne for uni and never left. I love everything about life down here except for the weather, the weather is terrible. I finished my double degree in nursing and emergency health (paramedic) from Monash University in 2014 and started my graduate year in the emergency department at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne the year after. Since then I’ve held many diverse professional appointments and never find myself short of something new to learn. There are more opportunities than any of us can imagine.

What was your journey to starting nursing?

When deciding on a career there were some critical principles I adhered to: it must be people-focussed, it must give me the opportunity for ongoing learning, and it must be transferable to many settings and contexts. Healthcare, particularly nursing, fulfils all of these. Studying a double degree of nursing and paramedicine gave me even more opportunities, and I started this course straight after high school. Of course, during high school and university I had my fair share of dodgy jobs. From being a Vodafone sales guy during the ‘Vodfail’ epidemic to taking bets at a racecourse, I’ve tried all kinds of weird stuff, but none of them are a career.

What different areas of nursing have you worked in?

In under five years of post-registration work I’ve been fortunate enough to explore a number of really varied professional appointments. I’ve worked clinically in the emergency department at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne where I completed my graduate year. I have also worked in the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at the Royal Children’s, and the emergency department at Alice Springs hospital in central Australia. Whilst in central Australia I also did a few days as an on-set nurse for film crews. After some time overseas I returned to the emergency department at the Royal Children’s in 2018. Alongside clinical work I’ve also held some great non-clinical appointments. I’ve been a sessional lecturer for the emergency health degree at Monash University, a research assistant leading a project at Monash University, and a placement facilitator for Flinders University at Alice Springs hospital. I have just started a clinical fellowship with Safer Care Victoria, the state’s healthcare quality and safety improvement agency.

What are you doing at the moment with your career

I have recently been appointed as a clinical fellow with the Emergency Care Clinical Network at Safer Care Victoria. Safer Care Victoria is the state’s healthcare quality and safety improvement agency. It works with patients, families and carers, clinicians and health services to monitor and improve the quality and safety of care delivered across the health system. The fellowship is a fantastic blend of learning, leadership development, and project management. I am participating in a 12-month tailored learning program to develop skills and knowledge in project management, leadership, and improvement science. On top of this, I am leading the full cycle of a statewide project to identify and implement best practice management of behaviours of concern in emergency settings.

Can you share some night shift tips?

You and your colleagues are in this together; pick up each other’s slack, smile, laugh, and share snacks. Things are going to get a little weird around 3:30am – prepare for and embrace it. Acknowledge that you are not going to be at your best, so take that extra second to check your work.

What do you carry on you during a shift?

I travel very, very light. A stethoscope. That’s it. In the world of electronic medical records who even needs a pen?!

What was/is the transition from being a student to your first few shifts by yourself like?

I remember wandering around my first few shifts feeling confused, unhelpful, and exploding with questions. When I got home I would often feel totally cooked; mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. It’s hard to do when caught up in the whirlwind of it all, but try to make the most of the unbridled sense of curiosity that comes with being in a totally new environment. It doesn’t last forever. Ask all your questions to anyone that will listen, even the patients and their families. No one knows their illness better than the person experiencing it.

What’s in your lunch box! (What are some food tips/ideas for shifts)?

Three pieces of fruit every single day. Beyond that, anything is a possibility. I always plan my meals in advance. You don’t want to be stuck hungry with nothing to dine on but suspiciously shiny bane-marie meals from the hospital retailer.

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

You don’t have a career; you have a life. Maintain balance and perspective. 

What’s your 5 year plan?

I struggle with the concept of long-term plans. Life is full of so many amazing and unexpected opportunities. If you focus too far in front of you, you might miss the shiny thing that twinkles in the corner of your eye.

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

Visit Chernobyl in Ukraine. Do it. You won’t come back with an extra limb.

How do you deal with rude or mean colleagues?

Don’t buy into the madness. Allow the rude or mean colleague to say their piece, and then get on with the rest of your day. We are all working in healthcare to improve the lives of our patients and their families. When reminded of this shared goal difficult colleagues will often realise we are all on the same team.

Three things I remember every day of my working life

  1. Unless you are performing active CPR, you can go on your break. Things can wait.
  2. You are dealing with people during one of the most vulnerable and scary times of their life. This can make them act a little weird. Try to be patient.
  3. Listen first. Think second. Speak third.