Forging a successful nursing career


National Health Workforce Dataset (NHWDS) figures show almost 16,000 newly registered nurses and midwives entered the professions in 2016.

Earlier this year, 26-year-old New South Wales resident Thomas West joined the next generation when he began a 12-month transition program at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney designed to arm him with the skills and knowledge required to succeed in nursing.

He kicked off in anaesthetics in perioperative care but holds ambitions of one day working in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Growing up with Type 1 diabetes motivated Thomas to work in the health sector.

“I definitely wanted to get into an industry where I could help people and could get something from a job rather than just working the normal 9-5 cycle,” he says.

Thomas pursued nursing as a mature-age-student, suggesting that settling on the career later in life allowed him to develop clear goals and greater emotional maturity.

During a three-year degree at Australian Catholic University (ACU), he completed numerous placements, none more defining than a stint at St Vincent’s working in an outpatient clinic handling areas such as sexual health, hepatitis and haematology.

“I was the first student they had and I had such a great experience. I loved the team working there and it’s something I’m quite interested in pursuing once I get out beyond the graduate year.”

Thomas believes a successful career in nursing demands various qualities.

“You definitely have to have compassion. You also have to be able to set aside all those little prejudices that we all have, put them aside to the table and actually listen to your patients and get better outcomes.

“You also need to treat them as part of a team and take into consideration all of their wishes in terms of treatment and how they’re treated as well because if you don’t have the patient on board, no one is happy.”

Thomas adds that nurses must continually evolve and absorb new knowledge if they are to remain contemporary and progressive.

After completing his studies, Thomas applied for an early career position through NSW Health and successfully landed his first preference, the Registered Nurse Transition Program offered by St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst.

The 12-month program aims to equip early career nurses with the skills and confidence required to carry out safe, effective nursing care within a supportive learning environment.

It includes ward orientation, weekly CPD sessions, rotating across two clinical areas, extensive education and fortnightly clinical supervision/debrief sessions with a nurse educator.

Fortunately, several of Thomas’ classes throughout his nursing degree were at ACU’s clinical school, based at St Vincent’s, which afforded him a sense of familiarity due to existing relationships.

“I’m glad it’s at St Vincent’s so I can continue the relationships that I’ve built but a number of people I know didn’t get positions, which was a massive blow to their self-confidence. However, they have been able to work on whatever they felt like they weren’t successful in and have been given positions in the private sector.”

“St Vincent’s are in such a unique area and have a unique catchment. There is quite a wide range of patients that come through the doors. There’s very wealthy and there’s the poor and vulnerable.”

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