By Kloe Sampson (RN). You can find Kloe on instagram as

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Reflecting on my nursing

Reflecting on my nursing studies

Tell us about yourself

I’m a Registered Nurse in Brisbane, Queensland and I graduated from James Cook University in 2019. COVID-19 completely changed the way graduate programs operated within the Queensland public health system in 2020. As a result, many graduate RNs were offered 6-month positions to assist with the COVID-19 response.

I was offered one of these contracts and started working in both residential transition care and interim care. These clinical areas were created for the elderly population to ease their transition from hospital back to their home after rehabilitation or into aged care. My contract ended up being extended to a year, and I was lucky enough to be able to re-apply for a 2021 graduate program.

I received an offer to work as a graduate RN in a rural Queensland multipurpose health service, which includes a small emergency department and an acute ward. I’m absolutely ecstatic and cannot wait to share my experiences with you all in six months’ time!

I was inspired to become a nurse due to a personal experience. My grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer years ago and has sadly passed away since, but I was touched by the kindness, compassion and empathy that his oncology nurses always showed him during that time. It was then that I decided to become a nurse so that I could pay it forward and hopefully have the same positive impact on another family’s life.

What does being a nurse mean to you?

Holding the title of ‘nurse’ is an absolute honour and privilege. I believe nurses play a vital role in advocating for, supporting and empowering our patients during their most vulnerable times. Being in a hospital and navigating the healthcare system is overwhelming, and nurses provide invaluable holistic care and education to our patients. There is a reason that nurses are voted the most trusted profession year after year!

What have been some classes you have taken at university?

I will raise my hand and admit to being a science nerd! I’ve always thought that the human body is fascinating and I love learning about the intricacies of organ systems and how the body operates at a cellular level. I also loved the practical aspects of my nursing studies where I was able to put theory into practice in labs and placements – I found this really helped to consolidate my learning. So with all this in mind, my favourites were anatomy & physiology classes and nursing practice classes.

You have a degree prior to nursing. What was it like going back to study?

I had completed a journalism degree before I decided to go back to university to study nursing. I remember feeling noticeably older than my peers and being a bit self-conscious, but I reminded myself that this feeling was short-term pain in exchange for long-term gain. If you’re passionate about nursing and it’s a career you wholeheartedly want to pursue, then it’s worth it and I encourage you to go for it – the three years will fly by!

I actually found studying nursing in my mid-20s beneficial as I had some valuable life experience and confidence behind me. It meant I was focused and determined to achieve high grades and I had lots of experience to draw on for my graduate applications and interviews.

Where have you had some of your placements?

I had placements in general medical, recovery/PACU, high dependency and oncology/haematology.

I was fortunate enough to have spent most of my placement time in the oncology setting, and it was such a wonderful and eye-opening experience. I learned so much about how resilient the human spirit is, and how courageous and hopeful people can still be in the face of such uncertainty and pain.

It was so humbling to witness. Oncology is quite an emotional and diverse clinical area. In one room, a patient and their family might be celebrating and awaiting discharge after successful chemotherapy administration. In the next room, the healthcare team might be providing dignified and compassionate end-of-life care to a patient while comforting their family.

What are some interesting clinical experiences you have had?

I will always remember one patient I cared for in recovery. She was a young mother and had been in an accident, and she had a very long road to recovery ahead. She awoke from general anaesthetic very distressed, worried that she was a burden on her husband and young children. Once we had her pain under control, I sat with her for about an hour, chatting to her, holding her hand and reassuring her that her family will always love her and be there for her.

Before she discharged to the ward, her family arrived to see her, they all embraced one another and they were so relieved to find out that she was alright. It was so heart-warming and I still get teary thinking about it. It reminded me that as nurses, we don’t just provide clinical care, but we also play an important role in our patient’s emotional wellbeing. Sometimes our patients just need a hand to hold and an ear to listen. We are also privy to such beautiful moments between loved ones and witness a breath-taking, raw side to humanity every day.

What has surprised you the most about university?

I don’t think I was prepared for how challenging a nursing degree would be. Between the endless stream of assignments, studying for exams and unpaid placements, it honestly was some of the hardest years of my life. But in saying that, I’d do it all again to become a nurse because it really is the best career in the world!

Whenever nursing students confide in me about how much they’re struggling, I reassure them that their experience is normal and valid and that we all had moments of doubt and completely overwhelmed – including me. My partner has definitely come home to find me having a meltdown more than once a mid-exam season! He learned very quickly to stock a solid supply of chocolate during these times.

What do you wish you knew before you started studying?

I wish I knew how competitive securing a graduate program would be! All I heard during my studies was, “the healthcare system is crying out for nurses, you’ll slip right into a job straight away!” This lulled me into a false sense of security because as it turns out, this isn’t entirely true and every nursing graduate in Australia is competing for a position at the same time.

However, it’s certainly not impossible, but my biggest advice would be to start your graduate applications early in third year and be really organised. Also, apply for as many graduate positions as you can, and consider moving to a different city or rurally if this is feasible.

What tips do you have for students struggling with assignments?

I definitely don’t miss those weeks from hell when you’d have five assignments due! My biggest advice is that organisation is key. I always had a physical diary that I’d write all my due dates in for the semester so that I had a visual reminder. From here, I’d take a good look at the marking criteria – this will give you great insight into what exactly the marker is looking for, and will help keep you on the right track.

Remember that your tutors and lecturers are there to guide you, so if you need to seek clarification, don’t hesitate to contact them. Lastly, invest in the time to complete all your referencing correctly. I know, referencing is the bane of our existence, but if you put effort in and do it accurately, it’s an easy way to achieve marks.

What are some mistakes you or others may have made that you suggest others avoid during studies?

Looking back, I really wish I wasn’t so hard on myself during my degree. Because I was so ambitious and passionate about becoming a nurse, I could be really self-critical and often beat myself up if I didn’t get that HD or live up to my unrealistic expectations. This just leads to me feeling defeated and burnt out, and took the joy out of learning and growing. Student nurses, please be kind and gentle to yourself! You’re going through a steep learning curve, and you cannot expect yourself to be perfect.

Make sure you’re engaging in self-care and activities you love outside of class, talk to yourself like you would a loved one and show yourself some compassion. Also, remember that getting a HD for every subject doesn’t necessarily make you a wonderful nurse. Think of the nurses that inspire you and reflect on the qualities they have that you admire. I can guarantee you it’s got nothing to do with their academic record!

Which area/s would you like to work in or specialise in and why?

I’m one year into my career as an RN and can safely say I have no idea! The beauty of nursing is that there is so much diversity, and you can try out a vast array of specialities. I’m really interested in working in critical care, like the ED or ICU, and would love to embark on some post-graduate studies in this area. I’m hoping my graduate year in rural ED will give me some clarity and insight into where I’m meant to be!

How have you financially supported yourself during your studies?

I worked as an Assistant in Nursing (AIN) in aged care throughout my degree, and I couldn’t recommend the experience enough. It enabled me to learn some great foundational nursing skills such as manual handling, safe mobilisation, falls prevention, continence management, dementia knowledge, time management, hygiene and skincare as well as communication skills with your team, the residents and their families.

Tell us about your AIN role, what is that like?

As an AIN in aged care, my role involved getting residents ready for the day (showering, grooming, dressing and oral care), helping them to mobilise safely with aids and hoists, assisting them to meet their nutritional needs, changing continence aids and reporting any issues to the RN, for example, if I noticed a change in a resident’s skin integrity.

My favourite aspect of this job was forming bonds with the residents, chatting to them and learning about their lives. Most of them have great stories to tell and it’s interesting to hear about some of the adventures they’ve been on. The most challenging part was when a resident passed away after you’d been looking after them for a while. Another confronting aspect when I first started was learning about dementia and how to manage aggression and behaviours.

What advice would you give to future students thinking about studying nursing?

I would say do your research and due diligence to make sure that it’s the right fit for you and your lifestyle, and if you find that it is, then go for it! I think it’s really important to have realistic expectations about a career in healthcare before entering into it. Nursing can be mentally, physically and emotionally taxing, and it does require a level of commitment and resilience. However, nursing is also one of the most rewarding and fulfilling careers, and it’s one of the rare jobs you can say that you make a profound impact on another human’s life each and every day!

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