When I embarked on my journey to become a nurse in 2001, I never in a million years thought I would be where I ended up today.
I was your typical city chick, always with a made up face, in a beautiful dress and always in high heels.
Today, I sit here exhausted after being up late helping my husband pull a calf from one of our heifers. I’ve long ago ditched the heels for flats or work boots. For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Tash Hawkins and I am now a country girl!
Growing up in Brisbane I became very accustomed to the bright lights, endless choices for dining, shopping and of course the socialisation and the nightlife. So naturally, when I finished high school in 2000, it didn’t even cross my mind to venture away from my beloved BrisVegas! So I lived at home with my parents, worked part time as a Woolworths front end supervisor and put myself through university.
Upon finishing my Bachelor of Nursing at Griffith University, I undertook my new graduate program at Greenslopes Private Hospital.
I still recall my first day, petrified, unprepared and quite literally shaking in my boots. So many thoughts raced through my head that morning, but the one that I remember quite clearly was “Damn, I wish I was more attentive on clinical placement!” I still tell people that it was that first year of nursing practice that I regard as being the hardest year of my life.
I somehow survived the year and found my feet, and very quickly found myself over the next five years working up the ranks and becoming a CNS, acting NUM, and finally the new graduate coordinator.
I felt like I had found my calling. I purchased a house in Brisbane, and everything was right with the world.
Until one day I was at the Doomben races when I was quite literally swept off my feet by a country larrikin wearing moleskins, RM Williams, and a gorgeous smile. Well that was it, six months later I am hugging my mum and friends goodbye, resigning from my ‘perfect’ job in the big city and moving to the beautiful Manning Valley with my future husband. It was quite a sight I’m sure. Back then I drove a black Holden Astra convertible and in the back, along with boxes, packed in tightly was my pet Turtle ‘Peanut’ and my two pug dogs ‘Pugsley’ and ‘Lulu’. I honestly don’t think my husband Riley knew what he had signed up for.
I commenced work at the local rural referral hospital, and was very quickly given a crash course in what was expected of rural/ regional nurses.
My first shift, we were short staffed and out the window went my supernumerary time. I recall being asked by a doctor to set up for a chest drain, however I worked on a diabetic/endocrine/renal ward at Greenslopes and had not in my life set up or assisted with a chest drain.
I soon learned that in order to thrive and survive I had to become a jack of all trades, and cope with the unexpected.
In 2009, I then commenced work for the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health.
My role with this organisation is to ‘Gain, Train and Retain’ nurses in rural/regional areas. Part of this role involves supporting students who come on placement within our very large footprint, and also providing education and training to staff to try to improve the quality and quantity of clinical placements.
Having been in this job now for the past nine years, I truly appreciate the intricacies of rural practice. I appreciate the relationships and the friendships formed when working in smaller hospitals and communities.
I appreciate the immense pressure that rural nurses are placed under and day after day their resilience and vast knowledge base continues to amaze me.
I feel truly lucky to have been accepted into this community and being given the opportunity in my current role to share my love for the beautiful Manning Valley, and its nurses.
So much for my perfect job in the big city. I can honestly now say I have it all.
I have the balance between work and life.
I leave work and head home to our amazing little patch of (not so green) paradise, with my husband, two kids, two pugs, one cat, six chickens, eight pigs, and 27 cows and as of today 24 calves.
Let’s just say I would have struggled to fit that tribe into my little backyard in BrisVegas!
Tash Hawkins is a Nurse Academic, PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Health and Medicine at the University of Newcastle.