The Journey

Hi I’m Angela Steadman born and bred in a small village outside of Tamworth NSW called Kootingal. I’m currently living in Townsville QLD with my partner and 4 kids; 16, 6, 4, and 19 months.

I love any sport and play indoor netball and try to get to the gym when I have some spare time. I have previously ridden horses at pony club, gymkhanas, rodeo, and for pleasure, as well as played heaps of different sports. These days I mostly just sit on the sidelines watching my kids and partner play their sports.

A Family of Nurses

I never wanted to be a nurse. I came from a family of nurses;

Mum – RN/midwife/RAN

Dad – EEN/Sexual health counsellor/teacher of Indigenous primary health care

Older sister – Nurse (Now a paramedic)

Younger sister – Nurse/country singer

Brother in Law – EEN (Studying his RN’s)

Aunty – RN/Midwife

Cousin – RN (Emergency)

After leaving school mid way through my year 12 exams (*eye roll, I know!!), thought I had better do something with my life. I studied my Certificate 3 in aged care at Tamworth TAFE, working in a hostel/Nursing home before leaving a bad relationship and heading north to Cairns. Because, when things go wrong, we head north, right?

Once in Cairns, I was happy pulling beers in a bar living footloose and fancy free. When one day mum sent me an email congratulating me on being accepted for my Diploma of Nursing at Tropical NQ TAFE – Cairns. I’d never put in my application for it, but my mum had. We call her ‘Life coach Lynnie”. She has always known what’s best for us and we jokingly say how she likes to do budgets and plan her maternity ward patients lives for them too. She is a planner, a go getter and I didn’t want to let her down. So, I bit the bullet and started my study the following month, February 2005.

While studying full time, I worked casually at Cairns Base Hospital and full time as the only Indigenous care worker, looking after all of Cairns district Indigenous clients with OZCARE. I absolutely loved the job, and it helped me with my study. I graduated in June 2006 from my Diploma and moved back south where I worked in community nursing as an AIN while I waited for my nurses registration to be cleared.

After starting at Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital later that year, it was a challenge to say the least. With a matriarch like my mother having worked at this hospital for many years, I had standards to uphold and a lot was expected of me, this new fresh little frightened, green EEN thrown out into the big wide world of nursing.

The words, “Ah, you’re a Steadman, you would know what you’re doing” will still haunt me to this day. Needless to say, after 6 months of working in the casual pool, Life coach Lynnie, threw me straight into the fire. On our regular drive together to work, I asked if she knew where I was working today. She quickly said, “ED”, and carried on chatting while I sat there, sweaty palms, bile rising in my stomach and thinking, “How the HECK am I going to wing this?!!” She told me, “Ah, you’ll be right. They’ll look after you”. And look after me they did.

Tamworth Emergency, still my most favourite place of work, the most amazing, highly skilled, hilarious team who have taught me so much to this day and continue to.

With the skills learnt in ED, I felt I could take on the world!! Or Australia at least. So, once again I set off, this time following mum and dad. Dad was teaching at Alice Springs, mum and I were joining him. After an extremely eventful trip (car issues, hilarious now. Not so much at the time), I stayed with mum and dad in the caravan park in Alice Springs. I had the flashest tent known to man. A queen size bed, a heater for night time and an air con for the daytime, all for only $10 a week!! (Thanks mum and dad).

Defence Nursing

I stayed there for about 8 weeks before getting itchy feet and needing some more adventure so, at the time my brother had been posted to Darwin with the Army. I applied for a job on the base, never having done defence nursing before, and was given the weekend to drive the 1500kmms to Darwin and to start work on the Monday. Now, most people would freak at this, but not me. Challenge accepted!! Off I went, not knowing where I was going to live, but I’d work that out when I got there. This is me, a gypsy, the blackfella blood in me always needing adventure.

Arriving in Darwin, I found one of my best mates from school actually lived there and he offered me a bed to stay. (See? I always land on my feet as mum says). I worked on the ward at Robertson Barracks for about another 10mths, returning back to Tamworth for the country music festival in January. Then dragged my little 18 year old cousin back to Darwin with me to show her the big wide world. Defence nursing is completely different to what I was used to. I had to get used to being called ‘Ma’am’, still getting used to that.

They have such strict standard operating procedures, the people we deal with are super fit and getting used to people having pulse rates between 33-50 and BP’s of 100 systolic and below took a lot of getting used to and not trying to call MET calls.

Wagga & back to Tamworth

After Darwin, I headed back south to Wagga, sick of nursing I decided to work in a clothes shop. Because, what girl doesn’t like clothes, more to the point, discounted clothes. That lasted no more than 3 months and the boredom and dwindling bank account set in.

Back to reality I went, and back to Tamworth again. This time I was able to get a bit more experience working in Mental health, Nuclear medicine, X-ray, CT, ICU, CCU, HDU, Infectious ward, Medical, Surgical, Oncology clinics, Theatres, Day surgery unit, pre admissions clinic, clinics and community nursing. Being able to work in all these wards was amazing and gave me the opportunity to learn a variety of skills I could then take back with me to ED, where I eventually decided to study my Advanced Diploma in Critical Care.

With my partner and now 2 kids in tow, we moved to Cairns for 3 years where I worked at Cairns Private Hospital in Orthopaedics, surgical, rehab, theatres and medical. It was a lot slower paced that what I was used to, but was interesting to see the difference between public and private hospitals. Different procedures like plastic surgeries, really intrigued me and I realised there really is more to healthcare than I first thought. I then decided to study my Bachelor of Paramedics, but after a year I was unable to complete placements due to suffering from SVT and AF during pregnancy.

Post the stint in Cairns, we moved back to Tamworth when I was 32 weeks pregnant with baby # 3 and continued working in ED for another few weeks and after bub was born. My partner then went off to the Army recruit training at Kapooka and I followed, working at Kapooka health centre in their ward and recruit clinic/ED. Then off to Albury/Wodonga for the next 3 years where I worked at Latchford Barracks and South Bandiana Barracks as a contractor for Defence. This job entailed caring for RAFF, Army and Navy personel in the acute ward, outpatients department and in the clinics. I then was lucky to secure a transfer to Townsville (Lavarack Barracks) where I’m currently employed as an EEN as well as working in the casual pool at The Townsville Hospital.

Currently I have 4 kids, work 8 shifts a fortnight, study my Bachelor of Nursing full time and have recently applied to join the RAAF as an Undergraduate Nursing Officer. I haven’t gone completely mad as yet, but I’m sure I’m over halfway there. I love a challenge. I love when people tell me I can’t do something, I always strive to prove them wrong. I have been given so many opportunities since becoming a nurse.

Vietnam Study Tour

Some pics of my recent Vietnam study tour with Charles Darwin University as part of my community placement.

We started off in Cun Pheo for 2 days treating different villagers, up to 96 people, per day. We stayed in home stays and were invited into the villagers homes to cook traditional bbq with them which was a real eye opener. We then moved on to Mai Châu hospital for 2 days where myself and some of the students got to watch caesareans, natural births, traditional medicine and renal patients receiving dialysis to name a few things.

We then headed up to our next home stay for 5 days up in the cold country/mountains of Tan Mai. The most beautiful, picturesque place I have ever seen. After catching a very old (and probably not sea worthy boat) each day for 4 days to our clinic in Tan Mai, we were asked to do some education sessions at Tan Mai school with the kids; days for girls, men who know/safe sex, hand hygiene, dental hygiene, nutrition.

We then headed to Pu Bin, up in the coldest part of Vietnam in the mountains for our next clinic. The health care is so different to Australia, lacking in a lot of ways but these people are the most grateful, happy, pleasant people you will ever deal with. Will forever remember their smiling faces, handshakes and cuddles full of gratitude for the care.

I have also received a grant from Curijo NISC, to attend the National Indigenous Students Conference in Canberra next month. This is another amazing opportunity to meet other Indigenous students and to advocate for the students of CDU to make their life and time at University a smoother one. I’ve never been without a job, I love waking up to go to work each day, I love that it is such a respected career and most of all, I love the people I get to meet.

What can nurses do to better prepare themselves for a role in your field?

I loved being an AIN first, I feel as though it taught me compassion which I find a lot of people lack these days. Join a volunteer group; St. Johns ambulance, as a first aid person at sport etc. At the time, I hated that my mum made me work in the casual pool, but instead of it being a hinderance, I just sucked it up and had a go. I learnt so much from all of the nurses I have ever worked with. How to have thick skin, thing to do and things to never ever do/correct techniques. If people criticise you, take it on board as a learning tool. Learn from your mistakes, put yourself out there, have a go and if you’re in doubt, ask. Ask as many questions as you need, it’s the only way you will ever learn. Hound people for education when you’re at work, attend seminars/conferences to keep up to date and upskill. And never, ever give up.

What is a common example of your patient population in your current role?

Lavarack Barracks have over 6500 army members on the base, not including the US Army and members from other bases Australia wide, who are here for courses or pre and post deployment. In Townsville we also have a RAAF base, although much smaller, still have quite a large population.

Night shift tips?

Patients only sleep on night shifts don’t they? Not in ED!! But when we do have some down time, I like to either catch up on some study, ask for some scenarios to be run or catch up on some mandatory training. Anything to keep me awake. Cheeseburgers also help 😉

If you weren’t a nurse…what would you be?

I always wanted to work on a cruise ship as a bar attendant or join the grey nomads traveling around Australia.

What’s in your lunch box?

I’m obsessed with Sea salt lentils chips! They’re always in my lunchbox and a nice healthy snack but very filling.

Tell me something funny!

As a newby working in ED at Tamworth, we have the most hilarious team. We had the Westpac chopper arriving and I asked the head consultant what we were expecting. He told me it was a bloke with a splinter and asked if I could go get some tweezers as he was about to be wheeled in. I thought, ‘This is really strange and such a poor use of resources, a splinter?’. As I was carrying the tweezers out to this Dr. he looked at me, polka faced and thanked me, then opened the curtain to where I found a man laying on the bed with a massive fence post straight through his chest and sticking out the back. The Dr. looked at me, clicked his tweezers and said to the other staff, ‘Everything is ok, Ange has brought me tweezers for the splinter”. I just stood there, red faced while everyone was in hysterics. I really should’ve known better, he has been known to be a joker. But even in a situation like that, he was able to make light of it. Even the patient had a good chuckle.

How do you destress?

I usually have at least a half hour drive until I hit the chaos of home so I either sit in complete silence, or listen to music full blast. There’s no in between. I love to sing, I come from a family of musicians, but everyone lives 2000kms away now, so I just sing stupidly loud in the car on the way home and release all of my tension. I walk in the front door much more relaxed and happy. If I’m feeling energetic or really stressed, then I will go to the gym once kids are in bed. Snickers also help 😉

Piece of advice for future students & grads?

Do some revision prior to starting your graduate year and practice, practice, practice. Remembering that everyone isn’t going to expect you to know everything. You are a post grad at the end of the day, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to know all the answers. Ask as many questions as you need and always ask for help if you feel like you’re drowning with your patient load, or just not coping. We are all human, we all make mistakes.

Thankyou for reading Angela’s journey! TNB hopes you enjoyed!

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